Are There Toxins in Your Meats and Fish?

Some metabolism-wrecking toxins, such as processed foods, hydrogenated fats, and high-fructose corn syrup, are easy to avoid because they're listed on food labels. But some — polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins, for example — aren't. These pollutants, by-products of manufacturing, found their way into our lakes and streams long ago, with the result that they've now entered our food supply through animal products.

Despite being outlawed for more than 30 years, PCBs have managed to stay in the food supply thanks to landfill leaks and other sources. They're often found in farm-raised salmon and many types of freshwater fish. A study found that women who regularly ate fish caught in Lake Ontario, which is known to have high levels of PCBs, had significantly more of the toxin in their breast milk than women who didn't eat fish from the lake. It's not just Lake Ontario, either — all across the United States, state health services periodically issue fish-consumption advisories because of PCBs. Long-term consumption of these chemicals may raise the risk of cancer and reproductive, immune system, and neurological problems.

Dioxins are a by-product of incineration and other industrial processes. Livestock absorb industrial pollution from incinerators, and dioxins build up in the animals' fatty tissues. So if you eat a high-fat diet, you are more likely to consume dioxins, which have been linked to cancer and developmental, endocrine, and immune system damage.

How can you avoid dioxins and PCBs? Always buy wild-caught salmon and pay attention to state fish-consumption advisories. Use the Natural Resources Defense Council's Sustainable Seafood Guide and the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Guide to find the safest types of seafood in your area. Always look for organic meats and dairy products, buy products with the lowest fat content possible, and remove visible fat and skin from meats. Start protecting yourself from these poisons now!

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