As a follow-up to new news of toxics in salmon, today’s Seattle P-I brought an excellent op-ed by a commercial fisherman in Bellingham, Washington, pointing out that salmon is just another example of the ubiquitousness of PBDEs and other toxics in our environment and our food supply—even in the purest of foods, breast milk.

“Further inquiry shows us that traces of PBDEs also are found in milk, beef and other far more staple parts of the American diet….

“There is no adequate substitute for breast-feeding an infant, and the health benefits of eating fish are well documented. Discouraging those practices likely would increase malnutrition, especially in poor and minority communities that have less access to alternatives.

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  • “Rather, we must insist that all efforts are made to clean up existing pollution and to remove chemicals from production. … Rather than pointing fingers and blaming the messenger, we need to push legislators for stricter controls and higher standards. Once these chemicals get out, we now know they will come back to haunt us. It’s a message we ignore at our peril.”

    The presence of toxic chemicals in breast milk, for example, turns out to be all the more reason to breastfeed, because it appears that much of the damage these chemicals cause may take place before birth, when developing infants are most vulnerable. Breast milk contains so many factors that are beneficial to infant health and development, and those factors may help counteract the negative effects of prenatal toxics exposure. See our fact sheet on the issue.

    As ecologist and mother Sandra Steingraber-who spoke in Seattle several months ago-wrote in her memoir, Having Faith, the questions around toxics point to this truth: “Protecting the ecosystem inside my body required protecting the one outside.”