New Study Says FDA Underestimated Seafood Contamination Risk After BP Oil Spill


A new study suggests that following the BP oil spill, the FDA “seriously underestimated the cancer risk from contaminants that can accumulate in seafood,” according to a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) press release.

The study, “Seafood Contamination After the BP Gulf Oil Spill and Risks to Vulnerable Populations: A Critique of the FDA Risk Assessment,” was published this week in Environmental Health Perspectives. It found that the FDA allowed “up to 10,000 times too much contamination” and didn’t identify the risks to children and pregnant women posed by contaminated seafood.

The NRDC has filed a petition with the FDA asking them to set an upper limit for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in seafood. The NRDC said PAHs can “cause cancer, birth defects, neurological delays and liver damage.”

The study also found that the FDA’s “scientific standards [in 2010] were less stringent than those used by the agency in the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, which occurred in 1989,” according to OnEarth.

This is not the first time that the government’s seafood testing standards in the Gulf have been questioned. Last December, a toxicologist with a team challenging the FDA’s seafood testing said, the “FDA simply overlooked an important aspect of safety in their protocol,” reported MSNBC.

An NRDC survey last year also found that Gulf residents were consuming seafood at rates “far higher than those being used by federal and state regulators to determine if contamination levels pose a risk to human health,” according to The Times-Picayune.

Last summer, Stephen Colbert joked that his “mouth [was] watering already,” after hearing that Gulf seafood “tested below the level of concern for health risks.”

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