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Toxicology. 2007 Feb 12;230(2-3):219-26. Epub 2006 Nov 19.

Benefits and risks of fish consumption Part I. A quantitative analysis of the intake of omega-3 fatty acids and chemical contaminants.

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Laboratory of Toxicology and Environmental Health, School of Medicine, Rovira i Virgili University, San Lorenzo 21, 43201 Reus, Spain.


In recent years, and based on the importance of fish as a part of a healthy diet, there has been a notable promotion of fish consumption. However, the balance between health benefits and risks, due to the intake of chemical contaminants, is not well characterized. In the present study, edible samples of 14 marine species were analyzed for the concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a number of metals and organic pollutants. Daily intakes were specifically determined for a standard adult of 70kg, and compared with the tolerable/admissible intakes of the pollutants, if available. Salmon, mackerel, and red mullet were the species showing the highest content of omega-3 fatty acids. The daily intakes of cadmium, lead, and mercury through fish consumption were 1.1, 2.0, and 9.9microg, respectively. Dioxins and furans plus dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) intake was 38.0pg WHO-TEQ/day, whereas those of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated diphenyl ethers (PCDEs), polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) were 20.8, 39.4, 1.53, and 1.50ng/day, respectively. In turn, the total intake of 16 analyzed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was 268ng/day. The monthly fish consumption limits for human health endpoints based on the intake of these chemical contaminants were calculated for a 70 years exposure. In general terms, most marine species here analyzed should not mean adverse health effects for the consumers. However, the type of fish, the frequency of consumption, and the meal size are essential issues for the balance of the health benefits and risks of regular fish consumption.

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