Dangerous Delicacy: Contaminated Sea Turtle Eggs Pose a Potential Health Threat

By Tibbetts, John | Environmental Health Perspectives, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Dangerous Delicacy: Contaminated Sea Turtle Eggs Pose a Potential Health Threat


Tibbetts, John, Environmental Health Perspectives


The eggs of the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and other sea turtle species are a popular food in areas such as Peninsular Malaysia--so popular, in fact, that nesting populations in the region have declined by more than 80% since the 1950s, largely because of their eggs being collected for human consumption. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and heavy metals have been reported in the eggs of a number of C. mydas populations. Now a team of Australian and Malaysian scientists reports that the concentrations of POPs found in C. mydas eggs from markets in Peninsular Malaysia could pose a considerable threat to human health [EHP 117:1397-1401; van de Merwe et al.].

In August 2006, the investigators surveyed 33 markets along 730 miles of coastal Peninsular Malaysia. C. mydas eggs were available in 9 of these 33 markets. A random sample of 3--13 eggs was purchased from each market where they were sold. In total, 55 eggs were collected and frozen until they could be analyzed.

The eggs were analyzed for numerous POPs, among them 83 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), 23 organochlorine pesticides, and 19 polybrominated diphenyl ethers. Eggs were also analyzed for zinc, copper, cobalt, selenium, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. For each metal and category of POP, the authors calculated the percentage of the acceptable daily intake (ADI) found in the eggs, providing an estimate of potential human health risks involved in consuming the eggs. …

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