You are what you eat: Scientists discover toxic chemicals in animal feed used for farm-raised salmon

Scientists have tracked the presence of a class of synthetic flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) to animal feed used for farm-raised Atlantic salmon. The toxic chemicals were once used to increase fire resistance in consumer products such as electronics, textiles, and plastics.  PBDEs are known endocrine disruptors (hormones) and children are especially sensitive to exposure to these chemicals. 


 

Livestock feed accurately predicts toxic chemicals in food

 

Overview of findings

Scientists have tracked the presence of a class of synthetic flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in feed used for farm-raised Atlantic salmon.

The dangers of PBDE chemicals in animal feed

PBDEs are known endocrine disruptors (hormones); children are especially sensitive to exposure to these chemicals.

The study

Scientists compared a variety of factors to find the best predictor of PBDEs in farmed salmon, including pollutants inhaled through gills, how the fish metabolized and eliminated pollutants, and of course, the concentration of pollutants in the feed.

Testing other food sources for toxic chemicals

Scientists say the model could be modified and applied to other fish with high global trading volumes such as tilapia or red snapper. It could also be used to predict pollutant content in livestock or feeds produced in contamination “hot spots.”

Why we should be concerned about these findings

The United States and much of Europe banned several PBDEs in 2004 because of environmental and public health concerns…The Stockholm Convention, an international environmental treaty established to identify and eliminate organic pollutants, listed PBDEs as persistent organic pollutants in 2009. Despite restrictions on their use, PBDEs continue to be released into the environment because of their long lifetime and abundance in consumer goods. They are particularly dense in areas such as China, Thailand, and Vietnam that process a lot of electronic waste and do not regulate much of their recycling…

Why should people living outside of China care?

“The international food trade system is becoming increasingly global in nature and this applies to animal feed as well. Fish farming operations may import their feed or feed ingredients from a number of countries, including those without advanced food safety regulations.”  –Dr. Carla Ng, researcher

 


 

Journal Reference:  Carla A. Ng, Amélie Ritscher, Konrad Hungerbuehler, Natalie von Goetz. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether (PBDE) Accumulation in Farmed Salmon Evaluated Using a Dynamic Sea-Cage Production Model. Environmental Science & Technology, 2018; 52 (12): 6965 DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b00146

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