< class="art-postheader">EPA: Gulf Seafood not 100% Safe

I was interested to come across a video produced by medical educator Trisha Springstead, RN the other day which illustrates the extent to which the BP oil spill poisoned the Gulf. Here’s the gist of it:

The EPA says that an adult person who weighs 176 pounds may safely eat 13 grams of shrimp per day, 14 grams of oysters per day, and 49.9 grams of any type of finned fish (excluding shark) per day. These are the maximum allowable safe levels, according to our government.

Grams? Who knows how much a gram is, unless you’re a drug dealer or a scientist? Certainly not me, until I saw Trisha’s video. Here’s a visual explanation of exactly what that means:

Save Levels of Shrimp

The safe daily allowable amount of shrimp is one and a quarter shrimp:

Safe Daily Amount of Gulf Shrimp

So, that’s a maximum of 45 shrimp per month, or two or three decent meals. If you live on the Gulf Coast and shrimp is a staple of your diet, you’re out of luck.

Safe Levels of Gulf Oysters

According to the EPA, the maximum safe allowable level of oysters is 12 grams per day. The average healthy oyster weighs about 14 grams, so that means that if you want to practice safe oyster consumption, you must eat less than one oyster per day.
Safe levels of Gulf Oysters

So if you’re an oyster fan, this means you can safely eat a maximum of about 25 oysters per month. That’s maybe two good appetizers. I know when my family is on vacation in Florida, we devour huge plates of these things on a daily basis. Every restaurant serves them down there–they’re a seafood staple on the Gulf Coast. Not Good.

Safe Levels of Fish

Finally, if you’re fan of fish (and who’s not? The Omega 3 is so good for you), the EPA says you need to be careful about how much fish you eat from the Gulf. The maximum safe daily allowable limit of finned fish is 49.9 grams per day. That’s the equivalent of 1/4 of an average-sized piece of fish.

Safe levels of fin fish

It’s hard to get a sense of scale in this picture, but you get the idea by looking at the size of Trisha’s hand in relation to the fish.

So basically, you can safely eat about 7.5 pieces of Gulf fish per month. Obviously fish is a Gulf coast staple, and a lot of people eat more than one piece of fish per meal, which means southern families will have to exercise extreme vigilance to avoid going over the safe allowable limits of these foods.

More on the Numbers

Remember, these safety estimates apply to an adult person who weighs 176 pounds. If you weigh less than that, your safe portions of these foods would be much smaller. And children may not safely eat anywhere close to these amounts of seafood.

Chemicals in the Food

Chemicals of concern include napthalene, fluorene, antrhacene/phenanthrene, pyrene, flouranthen, and various forms of benzene.

The EPA classified benzene as a Class A carcinogen, meaning the government is aware that it causes cancer. Benzene makes up about 1% of crude oil. Pyrene is a hydrocarbon consisting of four fused benzene rings. Napthalene is a hydrocarbon consisting of two fused benzene rings. Anthracene is a hydrocarbon consisting of three fused benzene rings. Remember, there is no question that benzene causes cancer.  Click here to see the actual chemical concentrations found in the Gulf.

Bottom Line

Nobody sits down to a meal and eats 1/4 a piece of fish, one piece of shrimp, or one oyster. And even if they did, many experts will tell you those small amounts are still not even safe.

As an attorney who formerly defended those who died as a result of benzene exposure, I can tell you that many peer-reviewed studies say the only safe level of benzene exposure is no exposure at all. Anyone who is genetically pre-disposed to develop benzene-related cancers may do so after only minimum exposure.

Please exercise caution when eating Gulf seafood, and write your congress-person and demand that the United States government hold BP accountable for damages. In July, BP announced that they wanted to stop payouts from the $20 billion fund set aside to clean up the mess. Make your voice heard and let our leaders know this is not acceptable. Lives and livelihoods are on the line.

See Trisha’s Video Here.

Find out more about the legal thriller, Black Oil, Red Blood here. A portion of the proceeds benefits Gulf People Helping People. Read for fun and help out a good cause.