LifeSource Vitamins's Fish Oil: Safety Is Our Top Priority!
Bruce Brightman - founder, LifeSource Vitamins
Polychlorinated biphenyls or PCB's, are a group of odorless and tasteless
synthetic (man-made) organic chemicals that contain 209 possible individual
chlorinated biphenyl compounds, called congeners (varieties). They exist in
many chemical forms; oils, solids or vapors. Since there are no known
natural sources of PCBs, all sources are related to commercial manufacture,
use, storage and disposal. They are toxic industrial compounds that pose
serious developmental health risks to the unborn, babies and children from
prolonged or repeated exposure. These chemicals are harmful to adults as
well and were classified in 1979 by the EPA as probable human carcinogens.
Although they were banned from manufacture in the United States and in most
of Europe at that time, it wasn't until the Stockholm Convention Treaty of
2001 when intentional production of PCBs was banned worldwide. Even then,
the treaty did not go into force until 2004 when 50 nations had ratified
it. By May, 2009 most counties of the world (189/195) have ratified the
treaty. However, during this time, the continued use of existing PCBs was
not banned. Thus PCBs containing material is still in use today.
Source of PCBs
PCBs are also known by the trade name of Aroclor. These PCBs can be mixed
in various combinations to yield different Aroclor mixtures that are
chemically stable, nonflammable with high boiling points and electrical
insulating properties. These properties made PCBs popular for a variety of
industrial applications, including use in electrical transformers,
hydraulic fluids, lubricants and carbonless paper. More than 1.5 billion
pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States before they were
banned in 1979, and some electrical equipment (e.g., transformers) in use
today still contains PCBs with a life expectancy of 30 years or more.
PCBs are found everywhere in the environment; air, soil, sediments, water
and animals. Unfortunately, the same properties that made PCBs ideal for
industrial use make them slow to degrade (break down) in the environment.
Most PCBs do not mix with water and instead settle into riverbeds, lake
bottoms and coastal sediments where they can enter the food chain and
bioaccumulate in fish, birds and mammals, including people. The types of
PCBs likely to bioaccumulate in fish and bind to sediments are the most
carcinogenic PCB mixtures.
Sources of PCB Exposure - Primarily Fish
Exposure to PCBs is predominately through diet, especially from fish and
seafood products. However, red meat, eggs, and dairy products also may be
important sources. Industrial and municipal discharges, agricultural
practices, and storm water runoff can all deposit PCBs into the water where
fish can absorb these directly from the water, suspended sediments, and
their food. Since PCBs are slow to degrade, they are highly persistent in
the environment with half-lives (time required for 50% of that compound to
degrade by natural processes) in soil and sediment ranging from several
months to greater than 20 years which can, in some cases, lead to
accumulation at potentially dangerous levels. They are highly lipophilic
(fat soluble) and can be rapidly accumulated by aquatic organisms. Through
the aquatic food chain they can bioaccumulate in the fatty tissues of fish
and other animals. Concentrations of PCBs can be from 2,000 times to more
than a million times higher in aquatic animals than the concentrations
found in surrounding waters. High-fat containing predatory fish such as
shark, bluefish, king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish and Great Lakes salmon
and lake trout have potentially the highest concentration. These high
concentrations can pose potential health risks to people who frequently eat
Based on available data on PCB concentrations in fish, the Environmental
Defense Fund recommends limiting consumption of certain fish. In general,
wild caught fish tend to have lower levels of PCBs. For example, 4 servings
per month of wild Alaskan salmon are considered safe while 1 serving per
month of farm raised salmon is the recommended safe consumption amount.
Although banned for many years, PCBs are found all over the world, with an
increasing frequency of PCB-contaminated fish. For example in the US, the
EPA's National Listing of Fish and Wildlife Advisories increased 177% for
PCBs between 1993 and 2003 with more than 39 states issuing advisories.
Statewide freshwater advisories have been issued in several states while 7
states have issued coastal advisories for PCBs. Statewide advisories urge
people to limit their consumption of all fish and shellfish from freshwater
or coastal areas.
Health Risks Associated with Eating PCB-contaminated Fish
According to the EPA, contaminated fish are a persistent source of PCBs in
the human diet. PCBs are readily absorbed through the gastrointestinal
tract (75 to 90%) and distributed throughout the body. Because of their
lipophilic (fat soluble) nature, they accumulate in body fat, liver and
breast milk. PCBs are not highly toxic in a single dose (i.e., a single
meal), but continued low levels of exposure (for example, eating
contaminated fish over an extended period of time) may be harmful.
Retention in body fat is linked to the degree of chlorination of the PCBs.
Lower chlorinated PCBs have half-lives between 1 to 6 years while higher
chlorinated PCBs have half-lives ranging from 8 to 24 years.
EPA rates PCBs as "probable human carcinogens," since they cause cancer in
laboratory animals. Other tests on laboratory animals show damage from PCBs
to their circulatory, nervous, immune, endocrine and digestive systems. A
number of studies indicate that PCBs may cause harm to the unborn and young
children are especially susceptible to the effects of PCBs on their
developing nervous systems.
* Children of mothers who ate fish with large amounts of PCBs from the
Great Lakes had smaller head size, reduced visual recognition and delayed
* A mother's exposure to PCBs and other chemicals was linked to the child's
birth weight, short-term memory, and learning disability.
* Older adults (49 to 86 years old) who ate fish containing PCBs and other
contaminants had lower scores on several measures of memory and learning.
Reducing the Risk of Eating PCB-contaminated Seafood Environmental Defense
Fund suggests limiting consumption of certain fish and recommends proper
cooking methods to help reduce your exposure:
* Before cooking, remove the skin, fat (along the back, sides and belly)
and internal organs where toxins accumulate.
* When cooking, drain the fat away and avoid or reduce fish drippings.
* Grill or broil fish, frying seals in chemical pollutants that might be in
the fish's fat, while grilling or broiling allows fat to drain away.
* For smoked fish, fillet the fish and remove the skin before smoking.
Fish Oil Supplements - Safety
Nutritional supplements made from fish oil are growing more popular as
consumers discover the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Most dietary
supplement companies take potential health risks from contaminated fish oil
supplements seriously. These companies have implemented purification
processes to reduce levels of environmental contaminants including PCBs.
Most companies use processes such as molecular distillation and steam
deodorization while other companies use absorbent technology. These
technologies are designed to help remove contaminants such as PCBs. The
processes use a combination of low pressure and high temperature or
absorbent materials such as clay, silica and charcoal to separate PCBs from
omega-3 fatty acids.
There are a variety of standards for allowable limits of contaminants in
food (including dietary supplements) While allowable levels of PCBs vary
greatly from the FDA's standard of 2,000 parts per billion (ppb) in fish to
the State of California's uniquely stringent Proposition 65 limit at only
90 ppb, the most world-recognized standards are those of the USP/EC (United
States Pharmacopeia / European Commission), which are based on WHO (World
Health Organization) toxicity equivalents. These are safety based limits
and are more stringent than the FDA limits for fish, but are substantially
different than Prop 65 levels. The world-recognized PCB limit for consuming
fish oil supplements are more than 20 times lower than the limits allowed
for consuming fish. In other words, a single 8-ounce serving of fish is
allowed to have 20 times more PCB exposure than a single 1000 mg fish oil
capsule. And there are other contaminants present in fish at concentrations
greater than fish oil supplements. Consequently, fish oil supplements
represent a significantly safer source of omega-3 fatty acids when compared
Sources of Fish Oil Supplements
A number of different fish species are processed for fish oil. In general,
fish oil for supplements comes primarily from fisheries in Norway, Peru and
Chile and, to a lesser extent, Europe, Africa and the United States. These
fisheries catch fish specifically to make fish oil and fish meal (which is
used mostly in animal feed). Most fish caught are small species such as
anchovies, sardines, mackerel and menhaden. These fish reproduce quickly,
making them relatively resilient to fishing pressure, and thus a better
choice when considering environmental impact. They also don't live as long
as some other species, reducing their lifetime exposure to and accumulation
of environmental toxins such as PCBs.
Consuming fish oil supplements to obtain omega-3s is clearly preferable to
eating those fish that Environmental Defense Fund rates as being the Worst
Choice. Some of our Worst Choice fish, such as farmed Atlantic salmon, are
fed large amounts of fishmeal and are raised in problematic environments.
Fish oil supplements from the better brands are adequately purified and
safety tested. Consumers should take fish oil supplements from companies
that meet the USP/EC standards that are based on accepted toxicity studies.
In a survey conducted by Environmental Defense Fund, more than 80% (61 out
of 75) of companies with fish oil supplements met the strictest U.S.
standards for contaminants (those set by the EPA and the State of
California Proposition 65).
In summary, most fish oil supplements appear to be adequately purified and
safe. Consumers who take fish oil supplements should consider purchasing
them from companies that verified they have met the strict USP/EC standards
for contamination by PCBs.
By reading this article I hope you see the importance of taking Fish Oil,
Omega 3, Super Omega 3, 6 & 9, for your diets. We at Lifesource
Vitamins highly suggest every adult take one of these supplements. We work
hard to earn the trust of all of our customers by searching & creating
these articles so you can read them for yourselves.
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are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
As always, consult your physician before taking any and all
LifeSource Vitamins. Individual results may vary.
All the information contained throughout this website is based upon the
opinions of the founder of LifeSource Vitamins, Bruce Brightman, and the
entire team at LifeSource Vitamins whose relentless research and studies
have been ongoing since 1992. Other articles and information are based on
the opinions of the authors, who retain the copyright as marked in the
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