Washington health officials have been testing shellfish from an area believed to be contaminated with arsenic. China banned all imports of shellfish from much of the west coast after finding high levels of arsenic in geoduck clams harvested near Tacoma in October.
The Department of Health says that shellfish harvested from the area are safe to eat, though they do contain arsenic. DOH tested more than 50 geoduck clams. They studied all the different parts of the clams – their necks, their mantles, their skin, even their gut balls. Dave McBride oversaw the testing for the DOH.
McBride: "The levels in the gut and the tissue and the edible meat tissue I wouldn’t characterize as high at all."
The levels for almost all the samples were below Chinese limits, but one sample was over the limit, and two others were close. Arsenic is a carcinogen. The U.S. has not set a safety standard for arsenic in food. The shellfish test results have been shared with Chinese officials. The Department of Health says they do not plan on doing any follow up testing for arsenic in shellfish in the area. A copper smelter operated near the site for more than 100 years. The shellfish beds were just opened for harvest in 2007.
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