3 Weird Problems With Your Seafood

Check out—and avoid—these new seafood threats.

August 6, 2012

Seafood favorites are at risk due to humans' mainland activities.

The seafood aisle can work for you or against you. The right fish can do wonders for your health, while the wrong type could slowly be poisoning you. By now, you've probably heard that mercury-tainted fish is a no-no…but what about seafood hopped up on caffeine? Scientists are figuring out that the mainland activities of humans are affecting ocean critters, causing questionable chemicals to turn up in the seafood we love to eat.

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Here's the latest research:

Lobsters are eating mosquito spray.
West Nile virus is generally not life threatening, but its early emergence this year is causing state and local authorities to ramp up aerial pesticide sprayings to control the mosquito population. Wiping out the bloodsucking critters comes at a price, though. Tests conducted by the Connecticut State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in 2012 found methoprene, a go-to mosquito-killing chemical, inside lobsters harvested in Long Island Sound. The chemical readily sinks to the ocean floor, where lobsters dine, and has been a major suspect in the rapidly declining New England lobster population. Miniscule amounts of the chemical can harm lobsters, who are a relative of the mosquito.

Take Action: No matter where you live, urge your local government to adopt a less-toxic mosquito control program. Check out Defend Yourself from Mosquitoes—and Mosquito Abatement Programs for more nontoxic ideas.

Caffeine could be stressing out your favorite mollusk.
Research data finding caffeine in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon means our seafood could be buzzed. The only problem is scientists aren't sure what that means yet. Some preliminary data shows that caffeine causes stress to mussels, but more research is warranted to figure out exactly what Americans' caffeine addiction is doing to our oceans.

Take Action: Not willing to quit coffee? Use this news as a wake-up call, reminding us all that what we dump (or flush) down the drain often finds its way into the food system via the oceans. Cut back on unnecessary ingredients that have also been detected in the ocean, including "fragrance" or "parfum" in shampoos and soaps (check the ingredients list). These hormone-disrupting chemicals also put aquatic life at risk.

Your favorite fish could be chowing down on plastic chowder.
Your plastic obsession could be coming full circle, and not in a good way. You might think your plastic bottles and containers are landfill or recycling plant bound, but in reality, the amount of plastic trash we lose is comparable to 40 loaded Navy aircraft carriers' worth being lost at sea each year, says Ed Humes, author of Garbology. Much of it winds up in the ocean, where the sun and waves break down plastic into minute pieces and it acts as a magnet for toxic pollutants waiting to latch on to something. As fish eat this plastic soup, it winds up in the food chain—with unknown implications for human health.

Take Action: Set a positive example in your home and go as 12 Fish You Should Never Eat