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Fish Are Loaded with Gasoline

In the past, we used to think tiny pieces of plastic, called microparticles or “microplastics”, stayed in a fish’s guts or liver. But research now clearly indicates that these microplastics migrate into its flesh, and does not eliminate the risk of eating plastic when you eat fish.


The story begins almost 50 years ago with a group of scientists studying in the North Atlantic Ocean. Their work began to take a turn when they detected tiny fragments of plastic turning up in their plankton and seaweed samples which began accumulating over the next 50  years. These toxic gasoline-derived chemicals are consumed by all of the plants and fish in the water and encoded into their flesh. 

The migration of these tiny bits of plastic (a gasoline derivative) into the flesh of fish happens the same way it does in humans. Since we are both rich in fat, plastic is absorbed very easily into both marine and human skin and abdominal fat. The problem is fish and humans cannot use the plastic for energy.  Instead, plastic is stored inside of fat deposits, blocks the intestines from functioning properly, punctures the organs, and fills the body up with toxic waste it cannot easily remove (Carbery et al., 2018). With the body of marine life and humans full of plastic, it essentially starves cells to death.

When we inject plastic in the form of fish and fish derivatives (i.e., fish oil capsules, fish sauce, dried, wild, farmed), remember you are consuming a toxic concentration of gasoline. It doesn’t matter if the fish is raw (i.e., sushi), fresh or locally fish, IT IS FULL OF GASOLINE.  

After bottled water and air, seafood is the 3rd largest contributor of ingesting plastic for Americans. Yes, you read that right. Our air is also full of small plastic particles (more information on this coming in a future blog post). The sad truth is that plastic is a part of our food system and daily life. The majority of plastic debris comes from “single use” products such as bottles, bottle caps, straws, food boxes, and bags. The journal Environmental Science & Technology estimates that Americans are eating, inhaling, and drinking at least 74,000 pieces of microplastic a year (Cox et al., 2019). The numbers are actually much higher since no one is measuring the excess exposure of plastic derived from consuming the major food groups: meat, dairy, and refined grains (i.e., wheat, corn, soy). 

There are very few standardized tests available to help consumers better understand their current exposure to microplastics and other gasoline derivatives. I personally recommend using Great Plains Laboratory’s Toxic profile urine test to gain the best insight.  It screens for the presence of 173 different toxic chemicals including gasoline derivatives, organophosphate pesticides, phthalates, benzene, xylene, vinyl chloride, pyrethroid insecticides, acrylamide, perchlorate, diphenyl phosphate, ethylene oxide, acrylonitrile, and many more.  This profile also includes a valuable marker to assess for cellular function and mutations of mitochondrial DNA. These mutations are caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, and can lead to serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, chemical sensitivity, autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, autoimmune disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

How did it all get here?

Since the 1950s more than 9 billion tons of plastic has been produced. Today about 40% is used for packaging, mostly for single-use food and beverage containers. The volume is insane.  Satellites can actually pick up trash floating in the ocean; it’s the size of an island! 

Researchers estimate that some 14 million tons of plastic makes its way into our oceans each year. Photo from Pixabay.

Lakes and rivers are the world’s major transportation routes. As such, they transport a massive amount of plastic every day, with up to 14 million tons reaching the ocean each year (Jambeck et al., 2015). We are expected to see a tenfold increase by 2021 with the lack of current management practices encouraging more plastic use.  

Plastics, of all sizes, take hundreds of years to break down in marine waters, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces, which litter the sea surface by the trillions (Eriksen et al., 2014). They are everywhere on Earth: from the deepest ocean trenches to the remote reaches of the Arctic. 

Fish, like all marine species, mistake microplastics for food, filter feed them by accident, or consume them by ingesting contaminated prey lower on the food chain. Freshwater species also absorb these plastics through their gills and skin (De Sá et al., 2018; Rochman, 2018). Plastic is killing fish. Humans are killing fish species.  

The Bottom Line: There really is no safe fish to consume now. They are super polluted with gasoline and other toxic chemicals that are body do not gain any benefit, only harm. 

In 2019, an international researcher team identified more than 900 chemicals associated with plastic packaging, including 16 linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and other health hazards (Groh et al., 2019). Since plastic manufacturers safeguard their recipes as “proprietary”, and often do not even know for certain the final product of their chemicals’ reactions, they are extremely unlikely to disclose the true health hazards. 

In pregnancy, studies have clearly demonstrated that plastic easily crosses the placenta to the fetus. In a presentation on microplastics at Rutgers University, nanoplastic particles (defined as smaller than a micron, about the width of a human hair) were tracked by a research team with fluorescent labels to see their movement. When the team exposed rats to the particles (for only 2 weeks), the particles traveled from the lungs of pregnant rats to several tissues in the mother and to the fetus. This supports earlier published studies showing that plastic does cross the placenta donated by women after their babies were delivered (Wick et al., 2010).  Plastic does cause babies harm in utero. 

Dr. Bhandari and the Advanced Health Team Are Here to Support Your Health.

Our expert team of integrative holistic practitioners work with patients suffering from chronic health concerns.  We help our patients reverse disease by better understanding how the body optimally functions and providing personalized treatment plans. To learn more and book an appointment, contact Advanced Health or call 1-415-506-9393. 



Carbery, M., O'Connor, W., & Palanisami, T. (2018). Trophic transfer of microplastics and mixed contaminants in the marine food web and implications for human health. Environment international, 115, 400-409.

Cox, K. D., Covernton, G. A., Davies, H. L., Dower, J. F., Juanes, F., & Dudas, S. E. (2019). Human consumption of microplastics. Environmental science & technology, 53(12), 7068-7074.

De Sá, L. C., Oliveira, M., Ribeiro, F., Rocha, T. L., & Futter, M. N. (2018). Studies of the effects of microplastics on aquatic organisms: what do we know and where should we focus our efforts in the future?. Science of the total environment, 645, 1029-1039.

Eriksen, M., Lebreton, L. C., Carson, H. S., Thiel, M., Moore, C. J., Borerro, J. C., ... & Reisser, J. (2014). Plastic pollution in the world's oceans: more than 5 trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tons afloat at sea. PloS one, 9(12), e111913.

Groh, K. J., Backhaus, T., Carney-Almroth, B., Geueke, B., Inostroza, P. A., Lennquist, A., ... & Warhurst, A. M. (2019). Overview of known plastic packaging-associated chemicals and their hazards. Science of the total environment, 651, 3253-3268.

Jambeck, J. R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T. R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., ... & Law, K. L. (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347(6223), 768-771.

Renzi, M., Guerranti, C., & Blašković, A. (2018). Microplastic contents from maricultured and natural mussels. Marine pollution bulletin, 131, 248-251.

Rochman, C. M. (2018). Microplastics research— from sink to source Microplastics are ubiquitous not just in the ocean but also on land and in freshwater systems. VOL 360 ISSUE 6384. Retrieved from: 

Rochman, C. M., Tahir, A., Williams, S. L., Baxa, D. V., Lam, R., Miller, J. T., ... & Teh, S. J. (2015). Anthropogenic debris in seafood: Plastic debris and fibers from textiles in fish and bivalves sold for human consumption. Scientific reports, 5, 14340.

Wick, P., Malek, A., Manser, P., Meili, D., Maeder-Althaus, X., Diener, L., ... & von Mandach, U. (2010). Barrier capacity of human placenta for nanosized materials. Environmental health perspectives, 118(3), 432-436.

Wilcox, C., Van Sebille, E., & Hardesty, B. D. (2015). Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is global, pervasive, and increasing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(38), 11899-11904.

Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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