In a famous scene in the 1960's movie The Graduate, a young Dustin Hoffman is told that the key future wealth and power could be summed up in just one word, "Plastics." And the plastics that revolutionized consumer products made 50 years ago depended on just one chemical ingredient, polychorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs.
PCBs Were Once Used Everywhere
Manufacturers of literally hundreds of thousands of consumer and industrial products use PCBs to make soft substances hard. PCBs are used in glues and cements to make them harden and stick. They were used for paints and waterproofing, for fire retardants and for insulation, and inside batteries large and small. Only one company, Monsanto, made PCBs in the US, but nearly every industrialized country had one of more company making PCBs for making plastics.
When scientists finally learned (or admitted) that PCBs were toxic, these substances had accumulated in soil and water all over the world.
Even though plastics do not dissolve in water, the polychlorinated biphenyls inside them can leach out into the environment and accumulate. Trash dumped into rivers and along the coasts found its way into giant maelstroms of rubbish in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The heat of the sun and the churning of the water free PCBs into the ocean environment.
PCBs and Cancer
Scientists knew that PCBs could kill sea birds as early as 1970. They did not know that PCBs could act in some of the same ways as estrogen until the 1980's. Estrogen plays a role in breast, uterine, and cervical cancer in women and prostate and testicular cancer in men. After famous lawsuits in the US, PCB production was gradually shut down.
The UK and USA banned PCB production relatively early, but production continued in Eastern Europe until the end of the Communist era. Thousands of sites in the USA, Ireland, Belgium, and the Czech Republic have had to be condemned and the soil literally scooped from the ground and carried away to decontaminate the earth.
There is no similar procedure for decontaminating the sea. Every fish in the sea does not carry PCBs, but many do. Testing is necessary to find out which fish are safe.
Making Sure Fish and Fish Oil Do Not Contain PCBs
The New Zealand health products manufacturer Xtend-Life has led the way in PCB testing. Unlike some companies that don't do any testing at all, or others that test for just the seven different kinds of PCBs required by international law, Xtend-Life tests for all 45 polychlorinated biphenyls and rejects products that test positive.
Xtend-Life rejects any product that contains even the lowest detectable levels of 2.5 parts per billion of a PCB, while strictest government regulations (California's Prop 65, for example), allow up to 90 parts per billion. Xtend-Life just says no to PCBs.
If you have been using a fish oil made by another company, you have not necessarily been contaminated. But if you use a fish oil made by Xtend Life, you can be sure it's PCB-free.