Fish Oil And Contamination With PCBs Is Now The Subject Of A Lawsuit.

Chemical contamination is everywhere. Even in our oceans, and the results are that those of us who recognize the health benefits of taking the essential fatty acids found in oil from fish known as DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) may be getting an unexpected dose of PCBs with our morning Omega3 supplements. There is now an established link between taking capsules of fish oil and contamination with chemicals like PCBs, and more.

A Californian laboratory tested 10 well known brands of what are generally known as quality fish oil supplements, including some big names such as Nature Made odorless fish oil and Twinlab Norwegian cod liver oil, and found levels of PCB contamination at worrying levels.

PCBs are a particularly pernicious chemical banned in the US since 1979. There are hundreds of different variations, most of which are considered to cause cancer.

In California under proposition 65 it is a legal requirement that consumers be warned of any levels of chemical contamination in excess of certain levels. This is a health measure to warn the general community of worrying levels of contamination with various nasty chemicals, including PCBs.

Proposition 65 sets “safe harbor” limits for upper levels of contamination of PCBs, and the levels found in many of the supposedly high quality fish oil supplements exceeded these levels in some cases, and this was not disclosed to consumers of the products.Fish Oil and PCB Contamination

As a result a lawsuit has now been launched against various manufacturers of fish oil supplements alleging that their “highest quality fish oil” supplements don’t meet the standards required by Proposition 65, and that consumers are not warned of this.

Omega 3 supplements go by a range of descriptions, including “ultra-refined fish oil”, “pharmaceutical-grade fish oil” and more, but none of these is a guarantee of contamination free Omega 3 supplements. None have any legal definition. There is even a set of standards called the International Fish Oil Standards which set maximum levels of chemical contamination, but these are not binding and many people consider the levels for these toxins to be too lax.

Fish oil contamination with PCBs is a serious health concern. There is no doubt now that Omega 3 supplements offer a wide range of recognized health benefits such as a reduction in the risk of heart related health problems such as heart attack and stroke, a reduction in the risks of Alzheimers disease, and much more.

But you don’t want to be getting a dose of PCBs with your Omega 3 essential fatty acids, or you may be doing more harm than good.

Unfortunately this is an ongoing issue. The contamination of our oceans will only get worse, and many of the toxic contaminants dumped in our oceans last for many many years. It isn’t a problem that is going away.

Of course fish don’t know this, fish eat whatever fish eat, and if what they eat is contaminated then fish become contaminated as well. And if we eat that fish then the contaminants pass to us.

And of course it’s not just PCBs, there is a very wide range of industrial toxins which are accumulating in our oceans all the time. One of the more worrying ones is Corexit which was used to help clean up the Gulf oil spill, and which did so.

However although it may have helped clean up the Gulf oil spill there are now questions about how much Corexit is left in the ocean and for how long it will remain there. (And of course there is also the issue of contamination from the oil itself, and no one is 100 percent sure how long oil residue will last and how much of it will find its way into fish).

There’s some vexing issues here for humanity to address. Of course we don’t seek to try and address the issue of industrial contaminants in our waterways on this website, all we seek to do is to try to highlight the problem as it relates to fish oil supplements and give you some guidance.

It is quite possible to test for contaminants in fish oil, as you seen from what we’ve written above tests have shown some capsules to be contaminated.

In our view any consumer of Omega 3 capsules should make the cleanliness, or in other words the absence of toxins, their principal consideration. There is no point in taking supplements for your health if they contain ingredients which are bad for your health.

Part of the solution lies in where the fish are caught that supply the oil. Oceans around areas of heavy population are much more contaminated than oceans in much more remote parts of the globe. We would always prefer to use fish oil supplements that are manufactured from fish oil that comes from fish caught in the most remote location.

And in our view that’s still not sufficient. You should see on the website of the manufacturer a Certificate of Analysis which demonstrates that the capsules you’re considering buying have been independently tested and found to be completely clean.

Otherwise you may be getting a little dose of PCBs in your capsules.


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Taking fish oil pills is good for you. Or is it?

There has been much discussion lately about whether taking fish oil pills can be dangerous to your health. But why in the world could fish oil supplements be dangerous, aren’t essential fatty acids meant to be good for your health?

There is ample evidence that taking Omega 3 supplements containing fish oil, which is high in the essential fatty acids known as DHA and EPA, is good for your health. The health benefits of essential fatty acid supplementation are well recognized and such organizations as the American Heart Association recommends that we all have minimum levels of intake of essential fatty acids, because doing so attracts a wide range of heart health benefits.

Of course we can do that by eating plenty of oily fish but for most of us this means taking fish oil pills.PCBs in fish oil

And as well as the beneficial effects of essential fatty acid supplementation to the heart there is also a wide range of beneficial health effects more generally. In fact the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids go on and on.

So why could taking fish oil pills be dangerous to your health? The debate raging over the last few days is about the presence of PCBs in fish oil supplements.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) are industrial chemicals that are man made. They have been linked to various types of environmental contamination as well as to a range of health risks to people who consume foods containing PCBs. They are considered to be carcinogenic and can also lead to reproductive toxicity and are extremely persistent, meaning that they do not break down in the environment and that they can make their way up the food chain.

This has been well-known for quite some time and the manufacture of PCBs has been banned in the US for around 30 years.
PCBs in fish oil debate

The reason that there is a current discussion about PCBs in omega 3 fish oil pills is that a lawsuit has recently been launched against some manufacturers of fish oil supplements alleging that contrary to the provisions of Proposition 65 under California law they have failed to alert the public to the risks of PCBs in their products. The law requires that consumers be warned where the fish oil supplements contain levels of PCBs in excess of a prescribed amount.

Although not all brands of fish oil capsules have been tested a number have and there is a wide discrepancy between different brands of omega-3 fish oil pills in the levels of PCBs discovered. Some brands had significantly higher levels than others.

Under proposition 65 there is a recommended maximum level for PCBs as a cancer risk but the risks of PCBs to reproductive toxicity are less well understood and there is no maximum levels set.

Therefore it would seem to make sense, when consumers are seeking to buy omega 3 fish oil supplements, that they seek to buy the supplements with the lowest level of PCB contamination. This seems to be the object of the lawsuit and in the backgrounder it states that “the only guideline consumers can follow is that less is safer”. This would make sense.

How do you determine the level of PCBs found in your essential fatty acid supplements? If you’re looking to buy high quality Omega 3 fatty acids supplements you should be able to find a Certificate of Analysis or the fish oil used in the capsules, which would commonly be available on the website, and it should specify the level of PCBs detected on testing.

A different question is how much PCBs are acceptable. There are different organizations offering different maximum levels of PCBs to be found in fish oil pills.

The testing that led to the court action has found significant levels of PCBs in a number of different brands of fish oil pills.

This suggests to us that as well as being the best fish oil supplements on the market they also have an extremely low level of PCBs present under current methods of scientific testing, substantially lower than the brands tested, and perhaps none at all.

However to satisfy yourself should visit the website of Xtend Life and read their information about the cleanliness of their fish oil supplements yourself. And you will see their explanation on that page of why their test results are so clean.

So to summarize, there are clear benefits of fish oil supplementation. There is little doubt about that. However there can also be risks of contamination from PCBs (and other toxins too) in some brands, and it pays to do your research to find out the cleanest fish oil pills on the market.

But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are clear fish oil supplementation benefits, there is now little doubt about that. Don’t let the current controversy about PCBs convince you that you should stop taking fish oil pills. Just make sure that your essential fatty acids don’t come with some unwanted additions.

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