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Food Sources of Flame Retardant Chemicals

Other than pet food and fish, which may be most contaminated, how do fire retardant chemicals (PBDE) and polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCN) concentrate in the American food supply?

October 29, 2012 |
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Transcript

What are they eating in New York? I bet its more than just big apples. You may remember me covering this study a few years ago, which showed that the primary source of flame retardant chemicals in the American diet (with the exception of infants, who get all the pollution straight from their moms) is meat, fish, dairy, and eggs.

But which kind of meat is the worst? We didn't know, until recently. We know fish is the worst. And this is for halibut, which is actually one of the least contaminated. But in terms of other meats. Second only to fish in terms of contamination, poultry, then pork, then beef.

What's this one here, though, between chicken and fish? Turkey.

So bottom-line, white meat is more contaminated with flame retardant chemical pollutants than red. Though the highest concentrations, are actually found in our dogs and cats food

What about polychlorinated naphthalenes? Until this study was published “Information on the occurrence of toxicologically significant [industrial pollutants] in food, or on human exposure, [was] sparse. “ PCNs are chlorinated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a potentially vast group of little-known environmental contaminants of human origin, whose chemical structure “can bestow a dioxin-like mode of toxic action. Say no more.

Though banned in many countries, which aisle might we still find the most in the grocery store? The bread shelves? Dairy case? Deli? Egg section? Fish counter? Produce department?

The worst was fish, with the worst of the worst, farmed salmon, followed closely by organic salmon. Then comes poultry and eggs. Let's zoom in a bit. Red meat has less… the worse being lamb. then comes dairy, and at the bottom of the food chain, vegetables, fruit, and bread, so about ten times less than meat dairy eggs, and about a hundred times safer than fish, which gives as an idea of the route we might want to take through the supermarket.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

My mention of New Yorkers is a reference to Friday’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Pollutants in Californian Breast Tissue. The PBDE video I then refer to is Flame Retardant Chemical Contamination. The highest levels of pollutants in fish should come as no surprise. Everything eventually flows down into our oceans, which have become humanity's de facto sewer. This is exemplified in videos such as Food Sources of PCB Chemical Pollutants, Is Distilled Fish Oil Toxin Free?, and Xenoestrogens & Early Puberty. Then there's the whole mercury issue. For videos on that, see Nerves of Mercury, Hair Testing For Mercury Before Considering Pregnancy, and The Effect of Canned Tuna on Future Wages. Tomorrow we look at how much of the banned pesticide DDT we're still passing along to the next generation in DDT in Umbilical Cord Blood.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Pollutants in Californian Breast TissueProtecting Our Babies From PollutantsWhy Are Children Starting Puberty Earlier?, and Fukushima Radiation and Seafood

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

    My mention of New Yorkers is a reference to Friday’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Pollutants in Californian Breast Tissue. The PBDE video I then refer to is Flame Retardant Chemical Contamination. The highest levels of pollutants in fish should come as no surprise. Everything eventually flows down into our oceans, which have become humanity’s de facto sewer. This is exemplified in videos such as Food Sources of PCB Chemical Pollutants, Is Distilled Fish Oil Toxin Free?, and Xenoestrogens & Early Puberty. Then there’s the whole mercury issue. For videos on that, see Nerves of Mercury, Hair Testing For Mercury Before Considering Pregnancy, and The Effect of Canned Tuna on Future Wages. Tomorrow we look at how much of the banned pesticide DDT we’re still passing along to the next generation in DDT in Umbilical Cord Blood.
     
    If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Jean

    That’s depressing.

  • BPCveg

    What are the health effects of the concentration of flame retardants in the US population?

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      If only!
      ;-)

    • Jacquie RN

      Flame-retardent mixture ʺFiremaster 550ʺ is made up of four principal component chemicals and is used in polyurethane foam in a wide variety of products, ranging from mattresses to infant nursing pillows. The flame-retardant mixture was developed by Chemtura Corp., and was first identified by the research community in 2008. It was developed to replace a class of fire retardants being phased out of use because of concerns regarding their safety.

      A new study represents the first public data on whether Firemaster 550 has potential health effects. Firemaster 550 is an endocrine disruptor that causes extreme weight gain, early onset of puberty and cardiovascular health effects in lab animals, according to a new study spearheaded by researchers from North Carolina State University and Duke University.“Accumulation and Endocrine Disrupting Effects of the Flame Retardant Mixture Firemaster 550 in Rats: An Exploratory Assessment”
      Authors: Heather B. Patisaul, Natalie Mabrey and Katherine A. McCaffrey, North Carolina State University; Simon C. Roberts and Heather M.
      Stapleton, Duke University; Robin B. Gear and Scott M. Belcher, University of Cincinnati; and Joe Braun, Brown University
      Published: Online Oct 2012 in Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology

  • Thea

    Thank you for including the note about pet food.  Concern about chemical contaminates is one of several reasons I give my dog a vegan kibble (v-dog).  (Which if anyone is wondering, he thrives on.)  Having my concerns validated in this video is nice.

    Also, the info about fish is very, very important.  So many people think that fish is good for you because of the omega 3s.  But as the enlightened people know, food is a package deal…

    • Wiselder2000

      Dogs are not vegetarians. They are carnivores.

      • Thea

        Interesting assertion.  I’ve consulted 7 vets across the country who have all assured me that dogs are omnivores.  It is worth noting that my dog’s health dramatically improved several years ago when put on the vegan kibble.  With all of that, I think it is hard to argue that dogs are carnivores, especially not in the way that cats are.

        That said, I’ve been doing some study and thinking on the subject lately.  I don’t think the categories of carnivore vs omnivore for animals (human or otherwise) are as clear-cut as people think.  It’s a not a black or white thing, more of a continuum.  Thus, it may be more a matter of opinion than a hard fact.  If you want to believe that dogs are carnivores, that would be perfectly legit.  You just want to be aware that others believe the evidence puts dogs into the omnivore category.

        • Wiselder2000

          Several years ago I too fed my dog a vegan diet, because I was a vegan at the time. She got sick. I started studying species appropriate food for dogs and cats. I found that raw meat and bones and some veggies is the dogs natural diet. I too network with other Vets and they feel Dogs need meat and bones in their diet. When I think about my dogs being out in the wild, they would kill varmints, eat the bones, meat and intestinal contents of the animal and would eat some greens. But I would not see them choose grains if varmints were available. Meat and bones are nutrient dense. There are amino acids in meat that you don’t get from grains. Even those I was a diehard vegan at the time, I have always been ashamed of my decision to feed that dog of mine a bunch of grains and taking out the meat and fats. We can go back and forth about this all day. But I have been in both camps on this. I saw the evidence in feeding dogs meat and bones verses grains. I saw what happened. 

          • Thea

             Again, very interesting.  As I said my dog’s health dramatically improved on several fronts after
            going to the vegan kibble from a well respected meat kibble.  That makes me wonder if the food you chose to use was not complete as opposed to the problem being that it was a vegan kibble. 

            I’m glad your dog is OK now.  Dogs are important.  You have to do what you think is best for your dog.  That is what I do too.  (Feeding my dog a vegan kibble has nothing to do with my diet.  He went vegan before I did.)

            Good luck.

          • HemoDynamic, M.D.

            What would happen if I just fed my dog Peanut Butter with occasional celery?  Would he go nuts?
            It’s his favorite food! 

            All kiddin’ aside we humans (and dogs) even need meat (or poop) in our diet (My dog loves the eating poop part).  If we were truly supposed to be 100% Vegan our bodies would make B-12 for absorption, not in our lower intestine where once it is made we just poop it out. 
            On the other had maybe we were supposed to eat our own feces for the B-12 nutrition much like Apes do?
            Interesting discussion for sure!

          • Veganrunner

            I laughed so hard I spit out my coffee!

          • HemoDynamic, M.D.

            I hope your computer was unscathed.
            Sorry about the ‘crappy’ subject but I couldn’t resist!
            ;-}

          • WholeFoodChomper

            “Talk amongst yourselves.”

      • JAH

        I believe dogs are omnivores. Cats are true carnivores…

  • Dawn Kimble

    Thank you for this information. I thought our exposure to flame retardant chemicals was primarily from the foam in upholstery. I’m glad to know that my vegan diet has protected me and my family from the largest share of these toxic chemicals.

  • R Ian Flett

    The massive variation between the US and other countries re flame retardant residues in fat cannot even be remotely explained by dietary factors. The 50% difference between Californians and New Yorkers is not because New Yorkers eat double the farmed fish or turkey. By far the biggest risk in the supermarket is the halogenic retardants in the supermarket’s building materials and furniture. It goes in through the nose, not the mouth. California is better than NYK because it has started to recognise the building materials problem and to do something about it.

    The dietary factors are definitely worth knowing, but they account for only a small fraction of this particular environmental contamination in the US.

    Now we have a disciple telling us that dogs secretly yearn to be Vegans. Those films of wild dogs chasing down game in Africa are just for the camera and when the camera turns away they jump back into the trees and graze on fruit and leaves.
    In science we are supposed to work from the data and evidence to the conclusion; not the other way around.

    • BeetsBeansButts

      That is really interesting. I’d love to know more about inhalation of flame retardant chemicals.

      That would help explain the difference between NY and CA. 

      Maybe we should start avoiding old buildings? :)

      So you are saying that the dietary contribution in foods is negligible compared to inhalation from contaminated air?

    • Mike

      Uhh, FYI, nothing you said was “scientific”. First claim provides no evidence whatsoever, and second claim relies entirely on emotionally loaded language (which is the opposite of the scientific method).

      • R Ian Flett

        The evidence was provided by Dr Greger 2 posts ago in the graph “Levels of flame retardant chemical pollutants (PBDE) in the tissues of women from around the world are compared.”
        These results are impossible to explain by diet. The diets between CA and NYK do not vary by anything like the multiples (2x) shown in the graph and the rest of the world (up to 20x). Do you really believe the European women eat twenty times less fish meat and dairy than New Yorkers?
        The emotive content is from people who impose their own ideology and tastes on the natural instincts and needs of their pets.

  • Etinamax

    How does one protect themselves from flame retardants in furrniture and other contaminated household products?  buy organic, ok but organic furnitrue is very unaffordable.

    • Liz McGavran

      You need to vacuum with a hepa filter vacuum cleaner to get the dust that comes out of the foam furniture cushions. So clean the furniture and then the floor and tables. Especially important for homes with babies or pets crawling on the floor where they put fingers or paws in mouths.

  • Sarah

    Do the same contamination risks apply for kosher fish and meats?

    • Toxins

      Yes, it is about what is ingested, not how they are slaughtered.