Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 PUFA) rich oils derived primarily from fish are frequently consumed as supplements. Due to the tendency of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to accumulate in exposed organisms, n-3 PUFA supplements can contain sufficient POPs to present a risk to consumers. Here we investigated PCB concentrations and aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) agonist activity in 17 n-3 PUFA supplements available in Canada. PCBs ranged from <0.8 to 793 ng g(-1) oil, with salmon- and seal-derived products yielding the highest values. AhR agonist activity from a reporter gene assay ranged from 1.3 to 72.2 pg TEQ g(-1) oil, with salmon and tuna yielding the highest values. When consumed at the recommended doses and as a supplement to the average Canadian diet, seal-derived oil can contribute to exceedance of the tolerable daily intake of 20 ng PCBs kg-BW(-1)day(-1), and salmon-, tuna-, and sea herring-derived oils can contribute to exceedance of the tolerable daily intake limit of 2.3 pg TEQ kg-BW(-1)day(-1). The beneficial properties of fish and n-3 PUFA supplements, and the results of this study suggest that it is prudent to consume supplements derived from small, cold-water fatty fish. Further research will be necessary to draw firm conclusions.
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