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Consumer Protection Lawsuit: Fish Oils Contain PCB

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 03, 2010 12:50 PM

Consuming some fish oil supplements might not be as good for your health as you initially would think. A group of environmental advocates, led by Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation, filed a consumer protection lawsuit on Monday, looking to force manufacturers of fish oil to warn consumers.

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, the subject of the fish oil safety warning would relate to the fact that that many fish oil supplements contain a banned substance, known as polychlorinated biphenyl compounds, or PCB's. The fish oils in question are sold at several well known drugstores, including CVS Pharmacy and Rite Aid. The two pharmacies are named in the consumer protection lawsuit, as well as five makers of the supplements, including General Nutrition Corp (GNC) and Omega Protein Inc., the self-proclaimed "world's largest producer of omega-3 fish oil."

The consumer protection lawsuit alleges that under California's Proposition 65, makers and sellers of fish oil supplements are required to inform consumers that the pills contain PCB.  The plaintiffs tested several products and found them all to contain PCB, although the PCB level varied.

As for what level of PCB's would affect fish oil safety, currently, no scientists have agreed on what constitutes a safe level of PCB consumption. As a result, argues the plaintiffs' lawyer, all products containing this hazardous substance should contain an adequate warning.  

PCBs are found in many waterways, despite environmental efforts to clean up the water. As a result, PCBs are still found in many fish. The exposure to PCBs from eating fish is not as consequential as the hazard from taking fish oil, since most people don't eat fish every day but may take fish oil daily. 

PCBs are known to cause cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects and damage to the nervous system. 

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