Top 15 Contaminated Fish You Shouldn’t be Eating

Photo credit: bigstock

Photo credit: bigstock

It used to be that eating seafood and fish regularly was a pretty safe nutritional bet. Fish was packed with protein, healthy monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, all those good things (read more about benefits of fish oil). Unfortunately, due to our continued poisoning of the environment and the Fukushima power plant meltdown, many fish are now loaded with unsafe levels of mercury and radiation.All fish, every single fish on this planet, have some level of mercury; however, some have much higher levels than others.


Take a look at our list of the top 15 most contaminated fish on the market today. Avoid eating these or eat them in very small quantities, unless you are an expectant mother, in which case, avoid these fish entirely. However, we will list the best fish to eat at the end of this article, too, so keep reading!

1. Shark

This means any type of meat eating shark such as Longfin Mako, Shortfin Mako, Blacktip, or common Thresher shark. Because sharks are at or near the top of the food chain, they consume other types of fish as their main source of food. This means whatever mercury and contaminates are in the fish they eat accumulate in the bodies of sharks.

It’s ironic that many people eat shark products such as soups, health drinks, pill supplements, and even shark steaks, believing that shark is a healthy meat. In fact, this terrible misconception is so prevalent that one of the world’s largest insurance companies added shark steaks, while at the famous Taste of Chicago food fest, as one of their recommendations as a “healthy” food.  In fact, if you read the numerous studies available on this subject, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that eating shark, or taking supplements in any way, will provide any medicinal benefits whatsoever.

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  • namora

    The article is wrong in that solid light tuna is available but you have to look for it or pester your grocery store manager for it. Many things that used to be commonly available The large size of no mix Adams peanut butter, frozen grapefruit juice , real cost savings on each, are no longer available,Brands of light chunk tuna I have been able to find are Polar from Thailand and Dabrovia from Tunisia. The Dabrovia Tuna is not labeled “light” but it isn’t albacore and tastes like light tuna.

  • H J

    trust no one

  • Thunderchild

    Bluefish a BOTTOM FEEDER?!?! Where in the world do these people get their information. That statement is totally false and it lends the rest of the article suspect in the least!

  • disqus_VDMOBiuPfw

    This article is one massive lie. Furthermore, the fishing industry should sue the pants off this website for libel.

    • kennyg7

      This is disinfo u r correct. Notice there is no testing for radiation.

      • Melting Sky

        Yeah, some of their details are quite off. Most of what they said is true though on the whole.

    • Melting Sky

      No, it is more like one massive partial truth. Some of the details are off but in general what they are saying is correct. Most of the fish on their list are predatory and do have dangerous amounts of mercury in them if eaten regularly. Their tuna information is pretty dodgy. Some tuna do have very unhealthy amounts of mercury in them particularly when you consider how often tuna is eaten by people but its quite difficult to determine which species and which region the fish in a given can came from. Heavy metals are insidious poisons in that they are cumulative and work their way up the food chain and guess what species of animal is at the very top of the world’s food chain. I’ll give you a hint. It’s the only one that can read and write.

      • disqus_VDMOBiuPfw

        How do you know what the mercury levels are and how they get concentrated as they move up the food chain? They never show the test results or describe that. I demand facts and statistics, not self serving politics.

    • Spacechick

      They just need to sell advertising….looks like they hooked me in to read the website – hook, line and sinker! Gulp.

  • Randy Russell

    Wrong, wrong wrong!!!! Where the hell do these people get their information?

  • chris

    I think the food police are a bunch of idiots because from one week to the next, they change their minds about what we shouldn’t eat. They tell us to not eat red meat because it is full of chemicals (hormones, antibiotics), which aren’t good for us, the same for pork. Chickens are stressed because they are caged and fed antibiotics and hormones, so they are bad for us. They said to eat fish instead because it is healthier for us. Now we shouldn’t eat fish because of the mercury in most of the fish available to us. They never say what the mercury levels are, and at what point they become toxic.
    Also, we shouldn’t eat fruits and vegetables because they are laden with herbicides and pesticides, unless they are organic. Anything that is labeled “organic” is more highly priced than the other “bad” stuff, of course.The fact is, organic food has become a wildly lucrative business for Big Food and a premium-price-means-premium-profit section of the grocery store. Organic is very profitable, In 2012 the total size of the organic food market in the United States was about $30 billion (out of the total market for organic and natural consumer products being about $81 billion).As of 2012, most independent organic food processors in the USA had been acquired by multinational firms. (Don’t get me started on the complicated labeling system used to determine how “organic” a product is or isn’t).
    I agree that organic farming is a good thing for us and the ecosystem, and I buy it when I can, but why do organic products have to cost 20-40% more? I mean, if they aren’t using expensive fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics or hormones, shouldn’t stuff be cheaper to grow and produce, especially since multinational firms have taken over the industry? (My own thinking, just saying)
    I wish the FOOD POLICE WOULD LEAVE US ALONE! We are not idiots and we can make good food choices all by ourselves.

    • D28acoustic

      Have you ever taken into consideration that organic farming is significantly more work, produces significantly smaller crop yields, and has a lot more waste/un-marketable products, as well as a shorter shelf-life on the produce that is marketable?

      • Hugh Jazzole’

        You are totally misinformed.Organic produce has large yields ,& lasts longer w little or no refrigeration.
        How much do the chemical companies pay you for spreading these lies

        • D28acoustic

          Are the trolls so bored that they now are trolling comments from year old articles? While I normally wouldn’t even waste my time replying, I will. I work for a large chain of grocery stores, if organic lasts longer, why exactly is it that we can’t give the stuff away before it spoils? Why is the number one source of losses in produce unsold organic fruits and vegetables? Why is half of the organic product received by our warehouse rejected due to quality? What credibility do you have that your opinion means more than a crap stain on a toilet? If you’d like I can get you some contacts for organic farmers that our corporation works with, I think they would laugh you right out of town if you try to tell them they have higher yields than farmers using gmo seed. I prefer all organic everything for your information you self inflated twat, so you can gtfo with that “what are the chemical companies paying you garbage”. You are the one who is misinformed.

          • Stevie

            You’re an idiot and a dick.

    • Russell Hopkins

      Isn’t it ironic that the organic foods cost more when it takes less effort and the cost of growing is less because no commercial pesticides or fertilizers are used. Yet the processed and so called dangerous foods are much cheaper. The FDA is behind most of this effort as they are in collusion with the major players in the food industry to force us to eat what will make us sick. Why? $$$$$ They make billions off the seed they use which is genetically altered. Eating this bad food causes many of our physical ailments and disease forcing us to see our family physician. This is all part of a greater threat. They genetically altered crops are killing off the honeybees which are responsible for the pollination and propagation of all fruits and vegetables. Without the bees no fruits and veggies. Acid rain, air and water pollution all add more of the toxins our bodies can’t get rid of leading to our sickened physical state. Know what’s in your food. It could save your life.

      • Marvin Zinn

        You have good logic. I make things simple:

        1. Any change from how God created it is a defect.
        2. The cheaper the food, the more money goes to doctors.

    • PoorCitizen

      A word of caution. Eating many predatory fish species that are heavily contaminated with mercury WILL make you an idiot. Mercury poisoning directly affects the growth, development, and function of nervous tissue.

      Mercury is toxic at ALL concentrations, with the effect increasing with increasing concentration. Predatory fishes are dangerous precisely because they are predators. They consume other species, which may themselves have consumed other species. Mercury like many substances is readily accumulated in the body in its activated form and consequently will be present in higher concentrations among top predators as a result of bioaccumulation. If you eat these species, the mercury concentrated in their flesh will be absorbed into your body. It is not excreted, but builds up over time. The higher the concentration, the greater the toxicity.

      If you are going to be cavalier with respect to your eating habits because of political ideology, the choice is yours. However, at least be cognizant of the damage you may be doing to your children. The developing nervous systems in infants and young children are far more susceptible to the damage mercury causes to their developing nervous systems and because of their relatively smaller size, the same amount of mercury leads to a higher concentration in the body.

      Please don’t blame your ignorance on others. It is everyone’s responsibility to educate themselves. Be thankful that there are many, who will be glad to help you, but ultimately you have to be open-minded enough to help yourself.

      • chris

        I am not cavalier about my eating habits and political ideology has nothing to do with the choices I make. I eat as healthy as I can and I read a lot about different foods, so I do educate myself. I am always looking for healthier alternatives (I do not get my information from this website). I absolutely love fish. I have known about mercury in fish since the 70′s and I have never had any of the fish listed in this article (American eel-do people actually eat this?), because either they are not available locally where I live or they are so highly priced that I wouldn’t consider them anyway. I always look for fresh, wild caught fish and stay away from anything imported (except from Canada). I do read labels carefully. I do not have small children to worry about. My whole point here was that the information in this article is not new, it is also incomplete in that it doesn’t say what the amounts of mercury are in these fish–only that they have high levels of it. It does say that all fish contains mercury and that the FDA cannot possibly test every single fish that comes into the country, so only a very small fraction is ever tested. If that’s true, then how does the Food Police know how high the levels are in these fish? This article should have been researched better and there should be links to research studies to back up their story.The only study they reference is this: “Recent studies have shown that excessively high blood levels of mercury can be traced to high or frequent consumption of swordfish. One study was performed in San Francisco and involved 123 subjects”. Only 123 subjects out of billions of people? How is that a realistic cross-section of the population?

        The fact is that much of the food we eat today contains something that is probably not good for us–starches, high-fructose corn syrup, sugars, salt, hormones, antibiotics, dyes,…etc., and it is up to us to us to decide if we are going to buy these products and eat them. If we care about what we eat, the majority of us will decide to read labels, to buy organic when we can, limit processed foods and to not eat fish that is high in mercury. People make food choices based on their individual tastes and cost. The Food Police should stop making us paranoid about what we eat and drink and focus on what they can do to make our food better and safer by lobbying against companies that produce these products that are bad for us instead of writing articles about it. There is a lot of information out there educating us about what is wrong with our food, but little about what is being done to make it better.
        Last thought–everything in moderation.

      • Leftout

        Perhaps we should have fish farms and feed them agricultural feed, veggies and increase farming and run offs to the seas, perhaps we should just eat manna , small insects….ooops, these insects are probably contaminated from rotting humans who decided not to eat at all. Humans will adapt as Darwin proposed. Enjoy life and STFU.

  • stephen byrne

    Brought to you by the American Cattleman’s Association and the U.S. Pork Producers Council. Give me a break here! This reminds me of what Spicoli’s stoner friend said to him about the drug Spicoli was using possibly causing brain damage: “Only if you take it everyday for a month.” With all that mercury in my body, when I have a fever I’ll take my own temperature.

  • Alwuhush

    Going by the photos, I wouldn’t even feed those Pacific Ocean Perch to my CAT…

    • PoorCitizen

      Then you had better stop eating fish sticks, which make up a significant fraction of the fish in fish sticks.

  • Osama bin Login

    “many fish are now loaded with unsafe levels of mercury and radiation”

    No. Radioactivity, not Radiation.
    Radioactivity is stuff that is radioactive. Regular stuff but some of the atoms in it are ready to pop, and when it pops it shoots out a particle or two. Each of those particles is a ‘pop’ on a geiger counter. Or, the particle can fly through your body, causing a few mutations along the way. That’s the ‘radiation’ they’re trying to talk about.
    From fukushima and other reactors, the big dangers are Strontium 90 and Caesium 137. Sr90 acts like regular strontium, which acts like calcium. It gets into your bones. Caesium acts like Potassium which is more in the soft tissues.
    If you’re afraid of radioactivity, get a geiger counter. Far more accurate than anything you’ll read about. It’s like having a thermometer in your home, instead of reading the weather to figure out the temperature in your home.

    • Julian Baird

      Great comment!


    We as a species are self destructing Big Time, and leaving a horrible world to the next generations!!!


    • ClingintoBibleandGuns

      Saw that film good also Forks and Knives.

  • D28acoustic

    Is it just me or does this read like more of an article from an environmentalist trying to scare people off of eating fish that may or may not find themselves on the endangered list. A few of these are in fact accurate, but some are just ridiculous, and towards the end you should have noticed a trend of talking more about the fishes population problems than the health risks.

    • Julian Baird

      You are so right, D28a. That’s a great guitar, by the way!

  • mikeyz99

    Lists Pacific Ocean Perch as being among the lowest in mercury. Atlantic Cod as well.

    You are full of crap.

    Does anyone at this site ever actually check facts?

  • cal3301

    The problem is all fish have a degree of mercury, PCB’s, and various other chemicals from rain and irrigation runoff into streams. I trout fish and the state posts how many it is safe to eat a month. Most of the contaminants are found in the fatty part of the fish and are told to be removed before cooking.

  • tancrave

    i feel like they just pull fish names out of a hat and rank them

  • Sagesteve

    Let’s seeeeee…Japanese people are supposed to live the longest, right? They eat a TON of fish and it’s caught from all around the world. Hmmmmmm, enough said. This IS a “plant” article by the lefties with ulterior motives.

  • Ajax

    Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks is the only fish I eat! Always fresh n’ crispy! You can trust Mrs Paul! She’s got my back!

  • ClingintoBibleandGuns

    Excuse me,but I have been reading labels and avoiding Pacific fish including Alaskan
    because of the radioactive crap from Japan. I figured Atlantic fish was the lesser of two evils but this article confuses me. Will someone enlighten me?

    • Excelsior

      Don’t be worried about Pacific fish. Lots of testing has been done and it’s safe. The radioactive isotope Cesium, which was released in Fukushima, has been detected in some fish but it’s at levels that are 1,000s of times lower than what the FDA considers safe. Scientist had to concentrate all of their samples to even detect a trace of the element. Unless you plan on eating over two tons of tuna a year then the amount of Cesium you will get is ridiculously small.

      The East Coast on the other hand is a different story. Pollution being pumped into the waters is far greater than what you will find on the Pacific due to industrialization and the concentrations of pollutants being dumped into the Atlantic. Just look at the Potomac, the Delaware, and every River in New York to get an idea. There are also a far greater number of watershed in the Atlantic that have levels of mercury and other toxins in high enough numbers that any fish caught there is considered catch and release only. Mercury, pesticides, and PCBs pose a far greater danger to Atlantic fish than ones you find in the Pacific. Fish caught nearer to the coast are even more susceptible to having high concentrations of toxins. At this point, Pacific fish are generally safer to consume.

      • Chewbacka Grizelda

        You keep telling yourself that…

        • Excelsior

          I bet you think vaccines give children Autism.

    • Clambroth

      Excuse me? Did you burp or something? To get a slightly hazardous dose of radiation from Pacific Ocean fish you would need to eat 2.5 tons – THAT’S TONS – of tuna a year. Even the IDIOTIC little red hen isn’t worried about that.

      • Chewbacka Grizelda

        ClingintoBibleandGuns might be from Canada. They just talk differently up there. You don’t have to yell at people you don’t know.

        • Clambroth

          Yeah, my family is Canadian

    • Marvin Zinn

      Yes, I buy only salmon wild near Alaska, especially no where near China. I also avoid tuna because of too much mercury in the Atlantic ocean.

      • Chewbacka Grizelda

        The radiation migrated towards Alaska. It’s already been tested in the waters just off the Alaskan shores.

  • John Galt

    I am sick and tired of being told everything is bad for you. The Japanese have a very heavy fish diet and their cancer rates are much lower then here. I had swordfish last night, and today for lunch I had a burger.

    • Cliff Reed

      By the way, DON’T BREATH THE AIR!!!

  • Thomas Riggins

    They seem to be wrong about Swai. It is catfish (not in the US due to lobbying by US producers). It is also inspected and is as healthy and clean as US catfish. The only difference is it is cheaper and tastes better. Cf
    Is Vietnamese Swai and Basa Safe? – Chef’s Resources

  • Wesley P. Mallett

    this sounds like the BEEF people whote this propaganda

  • Pam Gigous

    shouldn’t be eating fish at all. They are intelligent and can feel pain, Our oceans are being destroyed because of over fishing. Start thinking more about our planet than yourself.s

    • chris

      Really?? How do you know fish feel pain?? You should stop watching “Finding Nemo” The fish brain does not contain the highly developed neocortex needed to feel pain, so do not experience it in any meaningful way like humans.Fish are able to experience unconscious, basic instinctive responses.

    • Greg

      Ok Pam.
      Does the tree feel pain also when I pick an apple or an orange to?

  • peter grigore

    mercury, i heard, disappears at the first ray of sunlight. where in this us of a can someone buy catfish these days? it’s too cheap and it becomes a threat to other fish, not as tasty, but pricey.

  • Bill

    This article convinced me. I’m Done! lol

  • Alfred Moniot

    You Green Tree Hugger AHs need to be NUKED!

    fmr LCDR MC USNR NUKE – resigned 4 July 1978 after 8.5 years active/4.5 as a LCDR NUKE

    retired expatriate MD: NBME; ABIM; ABNM; ABR w/spec comp NR

  • jayeffcee

    You guys are totally full of crap. The list you made (up) reads like a list of popular edible ocean fish. I am sure that you are also convinced that the oceans will rise 50 ft. in the next 10 years due to “climate change”, and that it is a sin to eat any but free- range chickens. Bugger off, you leftist whackos!!!

    • Marvin Zinn

      Your objection to obvious proof will cause you great regret for medical treatment later.

      • Chewbacka Grizelda

        True that!

  • Cliff Reed

    Is there enough mercury in these fish to use as a thermometer? I mean an ORAL thermometer ?

    • PoorCitizen

      No and even if they were, human tissue is not confined to a specific volume like mercury in a tube, so it wouldn’t permit calibration as you see in a thermometer.

      Just out of curiosity. Have you ever thought about how a thermometer actually works? Reading wikipedia can do a lot for those who don’t have training in even the most basic of science.

      • Cliff Reed

        I know how a thermometer works. What I wrote is called humor.

  • PoorCitizen

    Please note! The name orange roughy refers to species of the genus Hoplostheus of the family Trachichthyidae. As the article notes it is found in deep waters and fishes heavily in southern Oceans. Unfortunately, the fish in the photo is not an orange roughy, but rather Helicolenus dacytlopterus, of the family Scorpaenidae.

    Thanks to the Obama administration the FDA and NOAA have tightened regulations concerning the use common names of fishes for food products, as well as for use in federal publications mean to educate the public. In fact, it is now a crime for restaurants and fish merchants to sell mislabeled products. Given the nature of mercury poisoning and its increasing concentrations in fish flesh throughout the world as a result of pollution, this is a very good thing, even for republicans who hate regulations, since it at least allows the customer to be aware of precisely what it is they are buying and so that they can make meaningful choices with respect to risks.

    Unfortunately, these regulations do not solve the problem of representatives of the news media of being largely untrained in science and thus largely incapable of accurate reporting. In this area, the reader must remain extremely vigilant and perhaps would do well to advocate on behalf of more spending on education and scientific literacy. We now live in an increasingly polluted and increasingly warming world in which because of higher temperatures, pollutants will disperse and find their way into fish tissue more readily. Consequently, education concerning environmental issues and environmental science is more important than ever, since the life of you and your family depends upon humans collectively doing things wisely and accurately.

    • [email protected]

      It still has that ‘fishy’ smell to it when cooked!

  • Sharon L.Brooks

    why would Red snapper from the GULF OF MEXICO be any safer??????

  • 1LTLos

    I stopped reading when I got to the letters EPA If anything is a bottom feeder is an alphabet agency in this administration. Eat and enjoy!

  • Steve

    Today eggs are safe, tomorrow, they’re unsafe, fish is good for you, now it’s not, beef is good, now no more than 3 ounces twice a week….. Never ending food crap!

    My great grandfather lived to 62, my grandfather lived to 79, today my dad is 86, my mom is 80. Obviously we are living longer. As my dad says, worrying about what you eat is more harmful for you than just eating it. My mom says, “Enjoy the Chicken fried steak, would you like extra gravy on that? Save room for the pie and ice cream.” Hey, it’s working for them.

    Maybe all this worry about mercury, cholesterol, etc. is contributing to all the stress people have, and the stress, not the mercury is why people are keeling over from heart attacks. Just sayin’…

    • Greg

      Well put Steve. Bravo.

  • jack reynolds

    Swordfish is a “tropical” fish?

    • [email protected]

      I dunno…

  • Greg

    Just out of curiosity. What fish do these people recomend eating then? They just named some of the most eaten fish in this country. The way I look at it. Keep eating what you have been eating. We have been eating these fish for years. Unless of course you pull up a two headed one? Then you might want to throw it back? LOL

  • Steven Wegener

    Kinda surprised pollock isn’t on the list maybee mcdonalds payed em off

  • Robert Mehoff

    you people that think this is wrong have no common sense—-look in the fishing regulation hand book for starters in Florida it gives you mercury warning—the bigger fish get higher levels of pollutants from eating smaller fish—–I’m sure you can find the research online somewhere if you look. or if you are really worried about poison and contamination have the waters test by an independent lab—-Bcauce I know for a fact that the many rivers that feed the gulf are highly polluted. many of them have industry run off—-and some of the fish I caught hare sick and inedible their insides looked like jelly same with the meat parts—–I know for a fact they used many dispersants to clean the gulf —those are highly toxic and much of the oil sank to the bottom—-and the radiation has reached Calif.——And in the middle of the ocean there is a trash pile floating around the size of California——–So if you think about it things might be worse than they are telling you

  • Leftout

    This article was written and paid for by the International Vegetarian Society. And EPA. There are too many humans, passing methane and Co2. No humans, no nagging complainers. We need more non government funded self abortions for humans .
    Vegetarians are promoting more agriculture and more run offs to the oceans that poison their fish. Abolish Vegans.

  • Jeffrey Madruga

    The epic misinformation and half-baked insinuations in this article are nothing if not hilarious, and are apparently intended mostly for DIY food fools. The only point I’d say is worthy of seconding is that “imported catfish” (aka. Swai and/or Basa) is the cheapest fish in your market, and there’s a reason for that. But do your homework folks, and *triple* check your sources and science, because there are hordes of unqualified Chicken Little’s out there more than happy to scare just for notoriety.

  • Anthony P.

    Yes, the food police are alive & well I see. Don’t eat this, don’t eat that. Apparently none of these food freaks had parents who told them “everything in moderation”.

  • Mary Eileen Gardner

    Can’t you see that the people who write these articles condemning fish, chicken and meat are vegan. Although the fish mentioned have been proven to contain mercury I think would need to eat large quantities daily to suffer from heavy metal poisoning.

  • Clambroth

    Really, the only thing safe to eat these days are Carp, Suckers and Snakeheads

  • Tara Gilbert

    umm they left out the most dangerous on,,, FISHFINGERS

  • zeogiannes .

    Salmon which I love to catch and eat if I could, are not on this list and all of them are poisoned with PCB’s, mercury and other pesticides. More hazardous, biological and chemical wastes are dumped in all worldwide oceans, seas, rivers, streams and lakes than is publicized. Have you ever heard of MTBE, look it up and read about what it is doing to the environment and us? If you don’t believe it, you keep eating the fish and enjoy, but don’t sue and blame other people, companies and restaurants after you find out that your sick.

  • mikedoe

    WTF. I guess I will just stick with Mrs. Pauls.

  • Liar

  • Robert

    I can tell you why I eat tuna instead of salmon, I hate the taste of salmo, and it always has a lot of tiny bones you have to pick out before you can eat it.

  • Olive Greenz

    This all sounds really awful for the fish!

  • sclibertymom

    I was sure that they were referring to the 15 fish that are still alive in the Northern Pacific.

  • Saint Joseph

    Hi Folks,
    Having read the entire article, and some 12 comments,
    I will continue to consume fish as I’ve done for decades!!!

  • Chewbacka Grizelda

    What about salmon? Are they full of radiation from Fukishima?

    • [email protected]

      Farm raised salmon is ARTIFICIALLY injected with ‘SOME TYPE Of CHEMICAL” for it to have a fairly ‘pink’ complexion…I do not buy or eat Farm Raised Salmon!!!

  • [email protected]

    I NEVER eat Tilopia!!!

    • [email protected]


  • dennycrane

    It’s better to tell us which ones are not poison. Probably none. I had some canned pink salmon that I ate over a couple of days. The contents were salmon and water.

  • David H. Sterling

    They should have listed Atlantic Salmon and Tilapia! Both are farmed and very bad.

  • Hey You Guys!

    Tilapia, a fish used to eat the feces of Atlantic farm raised salmon, did not make this list? How did that happen?

  • Hey You Guys!

    Also, I have read some reports that basically say “why don’t these fish die if they have such high levels of mercury?” The report suggest the fish have created an antigen. And when you eat the fish, you also digest the antigen along with the Mercury. Don’t know how true this all is, but if all these Mercury laden fish are on the brink of extinction, what better way to scare the masses with a “poisoning” farce……just saying…….