About 30 years ago I decided to stop eating meat. Ibecame a vegan for awhile but when that paled after several months, I reverted to eatingchicken and fish and have continued to do so since both are relativelycheap and plentiful. Local fishermen sometimes dropped off a beautiful wholecod which lasted me a week. On vacation on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick, I answered the farmhouse door one morning and was offered a huge pink and silver salmon.“Wanna buy a fish, Mrs.? Only seven dollars.” And I did and have never tastedanything so wonderful before or since. Today it’s a different story.

Reading about contaminants in farmed salmon is disturbing. DavidCarpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at theUniversity of Albany, led a team of American and Canadian researchers thatexamined 700 whole fish and fillets from around the world.

The level of toxins they found fell below the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationwarning levels but don’t let that lull you into a sense of security. Fishfarmers claim toxicity standards are too strict. For whom? The levels of PCBs and dioxins found in farmed salmon are l0 times greater than those foundin wild salmon. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines tell us thateating fish twice a week should contain no more than four to six parts perbillion of PCBs. And farmed salmon have 30 parts per billion, whichaccording to FDA standards is acceptable!

I have a feeling (make that I know) we’re being manipulated and not only inwhat we eat, although that is just about the most important facet of ourhealth, along with clean air and water, both now in questionable supply.I feel manipulated because, for example, the cases of “Wild Pacific” salmonthat I have always bought as a large part of my diet now bear the label“Pacific” salmon. Does this mean they were raised near the Pacific? In thePacific? And if so, why are they not “Wild Pacific” anymore?

That I cannot buy, for the most part, food guaranteed GMO free, or that Icannot find ethically-produced fresh or canned food — with the exception offood from that wonderful institution, the Farmers’ Market — is turning meinto a skeptic. That I suffered many sleepless nights and tormented days foryears with my little dog who had extensive and expensive veterinarytreatment for a skin condition only to discover that when I took her off“allergen free” specially prepared food pellets she found peace for thefirst time in her nine years.

Who are we to believe? The FDA? The EPA? The manufacturers of so-calledreputable brands of this and that? I don’t think so. I think we should voiceour concerns more and more and demand more and more. Healthy, uncontaminatedfood, water and air are vital. There are lots ofcomplaints about today’s seniors causing problems for our health services but justwait until today’s teens are in their forties.

Since I probably can’t eat salmon anymore, and chicken may be next on our list of foods to avoid, I’ll have to resort to my occasional meal of groundsoy which looks just like ground beef. Can I rely on the fact that the soybeans are not genetically modified? I’m allergic to wheat and ryebread isn’t always available so I can see it coming. I’ll have to go back toeating those discs of styrofoam labelled “rice crackers.” Who do they thinkthey’re fooling!

In an effort to assuage my frustration and to make a positive contribution in changing the status quo, I have joined the P.E.I.Environmental Health Co-op which actively promotes increased respect for therights of the environmentally sensitive andadvocates on behalf of the vulnerable to influence change when problems ofair or water quality arise.The Co-op also works with others to educate the general public aboutthe health effects of the many contaminants in our environment, frompersonal care items to household cleaning products to pesticides.

Denial is dangerous. A few years ago, I became ill working ina new college building in Australia. Specialists said I had been poisoned byinsecticides, herbicides and fungicides. The college administration saidthat wasn’t so. The flock of ducks we had purchased to live happily on thecollege pond all died at the same time I became ill. We had them autopsied.They all contained insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. Collegeadministration said that had nothing to do with what I was suffering, whichthey thought might be all in my head if it wasn’t an allergy to pine trees.I — a Canadian — who had lived in a forest of pine trees for years!

On a positive note. I welcome the smoke-free environment we now havein P.E.I. and in other provinces. As a non-smoker at a time when I worked with 20 otherpeople who all smoked, I begged for the right to have smoke-free air. Myco-workers called me a troublemaker. So it is with some satisfactionthat I see improvements in some areas. Let’s hope this positive trendcontinues.