PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are chemicals that were used in the past to make fluorescent lights, paint, transformers, pumps, and much more. Unfortunately they are toxic and they stick around in the environment very persistently. Reading this morning about PCBs leaking from old fluorescent light fixtures in schools* reminded me of another common route of exposure- eating salmon.
Many toxic chemicals including PCBs are found in farmed salmon at levels 10 times as high as in wild salmon. If you eat more than ½ meal of farmed salmon per month, your toxin intake may be too high according to EPA estimates.**
So, try to eat wild salmon, but also think about the bigger picture. Manufacturing is always going to use chemicals, and they are going to end up in our environment- and not just when you throw the product away. Leftovers from the manufacturing process end up somewhere, and it’s all too frequently in the water and the air.
Say no to buying new gadgets. In addition to recycling, reduce and reuse. Recycling old appliances and plastic bags is good, but the new ones you buy were made in factories that generate all sorts of chemical waste so reusing is better. Help make sure that there will still be some fish around clean enough for your grandchildren to eat and with all the money you save, you’ll be able to afford local, organic food.
*New York Times 2/4/11 A17; **Science 1/9/04 303:226