Shocking Fact of the Day: Inuit Breast Milk is Hazardous Waste Material

From Jared Diamonds book, “Collapse:How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive“. (page 518, paperback).

 A more sinister example of bad things transported from the First World to developing countries is that the highest blood levels of toxic industrial chemicals and pesticides reported for any people in the world are for Eastern Greenland’s and Siberia’s Inuit people (Eskimos), who are also among the most remote from sites of chemical manufacture or heavy use. Their blood levels mercury levels are nevertheless in the range associated with acute mercury poisoning, while the levels of toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)  in Inuit mothers’ breast milk fall in the range high enough to classify their milk as “hazardous waste” (my italics).

This happens because their diet is solely fish based and those fish in turn eat other smaller animals that concentrate these waste products that are found distributed throughout the sea.  We get a hit of this stuff too, but in much smaller amounts because of the proportionately smaller amount of fish we eat.

One thought on “Shocking Fact of the Day: Inuit Breast Milk is Hazardous Waste Material

  1. People should be aware of both the risks and benefits of seafood. The decision of what fish to eat can be a challenge and often contradictory. At the very least, people should know that FDA and EPA have issued advisories about mercury contamination in commonly-sold fish. The problem is, this information is hard to find and is not usually available where it is most necessary: your supermarket.

    Oceana, a conservation group, is trying to get major grocery companies to post this government advice at their seafood counters. Thanks, in part to their work, Whole Foods, Safeway stores, and Wild Oats voluntarily agreed to post the FDA’s recommendations and they have had positive responses from customers and no loss in seafood sales. But other companies like Costco and Giant Eagle have refused to do so. Oceana has a list of which companies care about their customers’ health enough to post this advice, as well as a list of companies that don’t. You can get the Green List and Red List at their website.


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