BP Oil Spill

A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives by researches from the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) includes some shocking information in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The research concludes that the FDA underestimated the risk possible from eating seafood where cancer-causing contaminants may have accumulated.

The FDA allowed up to “10,000 times too much contamination” according to the study titled, “Seafood Contamination After the BP Gulf Oil Spill and Risks to Vulnerable Populations: A Critique of the FDA Risk Assessment,” and failed to properly identify the human health risks, especially for children and pregnant women.  The agency also used a mean weight of 176 pounds to set the level of concern. More than 75 percent of women in the U.S. weigh less than that, and most children under age four weigh less than half of that.

The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most productive fishing regions in the U.S., and according to the study, became heavily contaminated with the carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) known to accumulate in seafood. The FDA’s level of concern underestimated the severity of the risk, and the agency was overall more lax on scientific standards surrounding the Gulf spill than in the case of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989.

Citing the flawed oversight as a failure to incorporate substantial scientific data and putting already vulnerable populations at risk, the NRDC is calling on the FDA to set new safety limits for PAHs in food.

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Image: jim.greenhill