PCBs and Dioxins

Illustration of Factory Smokestack.What are PCBs and Dioxins?

PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyls) were widely used chemicals used in electrical and mining operations. Due to their hazards to human health, production of PCBs was stopped in the 1980s. However, trace amounts of PCB have persisted in the environment, and may accumulate in fatty animal tissue. The term Dioxin actually represents a collection of hundreds of toxic by products of industrial processes. These chemicals mainly form in reactions that involve, chlorine, incineration, pesticide manufacture, and bleaching, and are among the most hazardous chemicals currently known. Check your state advisories to avoid potential risks from seafood and fish.

art credit: UVM Safety Graphics Library

NOAA Reports decreased levels of toxins in molluscan shellfish

October 26 ,2006 - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that data through 2003 showed that mollusks collected at 250 sites nationwide, particularly mussels and oysters, showed decreased levels of chemical toxins. This decrease has been attributed to the bans and restrictions that have been placed on polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), chlorinated hydrocarbons, tributyltin and cadmium in past years. For more information, read the NOAA press release

Statistical Report:

Notes on the Media Response to the Hite Report on PCBs, by Trevor Butterworth. This Adobe PDF file is from George Mason University's STAT

Farmed vs. Wild Debate

New Quebec study shows farmed salmon and trout just as safe and healthy as wild

March 23, 2005 - A joint study by the National Health Institute of Quebec and Laval University shows both farmed salmon and farmed rainbow trout are as safe and nutritious as their wild counterparts. Researchers found heart-friendly omega 3 fatty acid levels were similar in farmed and wild salmon, approximately 800mg per 100g of fish. Omega 3 levels in farmed trout were 730mg per 100g, about five times higher than those in wild trout. In both farmed and wild salmon, environmental contaminants such as PCBs, dioxins and furans were generally far below safety guidelines set by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. No pesticide residues were found in either salmonids.
The full press release can be found here For further information contact Ian Roberts, (250) 830-8923 or www.farmfreshsalmon.org;

Ohio Farm Raised Fish to be Tested for Contaminants

According to a January 23, (2005) News Release issued by Ag Answers, a collaborative effort by the Agricultural Communication at Purdue University and the Section of Communications and Technology at The Ohio State University, titled "Research to determine safety of farm-raised fish," which states in part that " ... Ohio farm-raised fish will soon be tested for contaminants in a statewide Ohio State University Research and Extension project designed to help determine the safety of consuming Ohio aquaculture products. Laura Tiu, an Ohio State University Extension aquaculturist with the university's South Centers at Piketon, said the project is still in its proposal stages, but researchers are looking to research and report on contaminant levels in a variety of fish, including perch, trout, bluegill, largemouth bass, as well as shrimp ..." - The complete news release. Questions may be directed to Laura Tiu at.

California PCB Suit

California Proposition 65 Legal Action to be brought against " ... manufacturers, distributors and retailers of farmed salmon over potentially dangerous levels of cancer-causing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in the fish ..." according to a January 22 news release, titled "Groups plan California Lawsuit against Farmed Salmon over PCB Levels," which notes that " ... The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) have filed legal notice under California's main toxics law, Proposition 65, of plans to sue the manufacturers, distributors and retailers of farmed salmon over potentially dangerous levels of cancer-causing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in the fish. Read [the January 23] San Francisco Chronicle Article The complete news release can be found here.

Coverage in 2004

Study results detailing contamination of farmed salmon made 38th on Discover Magazines annual top 100 stories in science (January 2005). The research, performed at SUNY Albany tested over 700 fish from North America, South America, and Europe, and found 14 organochlorides that are known carcinogens. The study has been contested by American salmon farmers.

"New Studies Show PCB Levels In Farmed Salmon Comparable to Wild: Here's the New Data"

is the title of an October 21(2004)News Release issued by the Salmon of the Americas (SOTA) a trade association representing " ... salmon-producing companies in Canada, Chile and the United States ..." More on this article The news release states in part " ... The latest round of PCB monitoring carried out by Salmon of the Americas (SOTA) show levels of PCBs in farmed salmon at about the same levels as those from wild Alaska Chinook and sockeye salmon. This should put to rest any fears that arose from the notorious Hites study that appeared in the journal Science in January 2004 proclaiming farmed salmon to have higher levels of PCBs than their wild cousins. The current SOTA testing found PCB levels in farmed salmon to be 11.5 ppb. These levels are virtually identical to those from the most recent study done by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), which found PCB levels in wild sockeye and Chinook to be 10 ppb and 8.2 ppb, respectively ... The benefits of salmon far outweigh the risks. Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 Other Benefits, which have been shown to stave off heart attacks, minimize symptoms of arthritis, help control blood glucose levels and reduce the incidence of Alzheimer's ..." The complete SOTA News Release. The August 31 News Release issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, titled "Good News: More evidence that Alaska fish are healthy to eat" is posted Here - Questions may be emailed to , or to Bob Gerlach at the Alaska DEC at (907) 269-7635.


  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences