New Study Finds that the Benefits of Eating Fish May Outweigh the Risks

If you need proof that mercury levels in fish have reached harmful levels, there are plenty of resources in other posts and scattered across the web (read "One Boys Experience with Too Much Mercury" written by one of my fellow classmates).

So is the solution to just stop eating seafood all together? A new study has found that although the harmful influence of mercury in a fish-laden diet are real, we still need these lean meats in our diet. Mercury can be extremely dangerous, and the mercury in fish has terrible consequences, but cutting out fish entirely is also not ideal.

Fish and other sea and freshwater creatures are full of omega 3 fatty acids, are generally leaner than other meats and sources of protein (source).

Seafood has been a key part of the human diet for millions of years, and some rural coastal villages depend on seafood as the cornerstone of their diets. It seems, then, that simply giving up on the issue and banning seafood from the human diet is not a viable option.

If you want to find ways to limit the mercury in your diet as much as possible for you or your family, while still enjoying fish and all of their important benefits, there are options. It is possible to get all of the omega 3 fatty acids we need from vegetarian sources such as flax seed, and certain types of fish and seafood contain lower levels of mercury than others. For example, catfish are relatively safe, while canned albacore tuna should only be eaten in moderation (source).

Of course, for people who rely on fish containing high levels of mercury in their diets, such as rural villagers in fishing villages in Japan, the only solution is to fish the problem at its roots and stop the contamination of our food sources. 

How should we deal with mercury?

According to WHO, the use of mercury in the industrial industry has increased significantly after the industrial revolution. Mercury has been used in making electrical appliances, industrial and control instruments, laboratory apparatus and as raw material for mercury compounds. Despite its useful role in the industry, the consequences and health effects that mercury can bring to both animals in the water and people are undeniable. Over the last decade, the level of mercury deposits has increased rapidly without any sign of slowing down. Wansford Health reports that in Wisconsin, reductions in the loon chick production have been found in lakes where mercury concentrations in eggs exceed concentrations that are toxic in lab studies. Even though, we know what the problem is,
 there still not a clear answer on how to deal with mercury
pollution effectively.

In the mean time, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency suggested that manufacturer and solid waste management facilities can reduce mercury entering the environment from products that contain it by keeping mercury out of the waste stream, together with pollution control equipment. In addition, the EPA has listed out several steps that need to be carried out, including treating waste that cannot be recycled before disposing it. We, as a society also plays a part in keeping mercury out of the environment by buying mercury-free products and dispose mercury-containing products at hazardous waste facilities. Together, we can help keep our water free from mercury and keep our children safe.

Too much Dungeness Crab?

           When I was a teenager my stepfather would go crabbing off the Oregon coast and bring home fresh Dungeness crab. It was such a treat to have this fresh crab since we were a lower income family while I was growing up and could not afford to buy crab. Plus, fresh crab is always better than store bought, frozen crab. This happened for many years during the first part of the year. I was never really worried about mercury poisoning, probably because neither my family nor I knew much about it. That was up until I became pregnant with my daughter. I became pregnant in November and carried on with my pregnancy as a typical pregnancy goes. In January, my stepfather went on his routine crabbing trip and as usual brought home a tremendous amount of fresh crab. I was in pure heaven with crab delight. I started out slow and modest but increasingly developed a rampant craving for crab meat. I indulged in plush white, salty crab meat every chance I got. I remember my mother making a simple comment about maybe I shouldn't be eating so much crab because pregnant women are advised to limit seafood intake. I believe I ignored that comment and continued on with my indulgence. Eventually the crab was gone and I carried on with my pregnancy, giving birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl who strangely enough loves seafood, specifically crab as well.

            Looking back on this and now exploring the topic of mercury poisoning, perhaps I should have taken my mother more seriously and done some research regarding the topic and how safe crab is for pregnant women and children. According to "Get the Word on Seafood That's Safe to Consume", Dungeness crab contains a moderate amount of mercury and should only be consumed by pregnant or nursing women and children once a month. We rarely have crab these days. Only when we are by the coast and can pick it up fresh which only happens a couples times a year but it's still good information to have and know. I think that is extremely important to know which seafood's contain what amount of mercury. Seafood is a great part of a balanced diet and people need to know that as well as being educated about what seafood to eat, when to eat it and how much of it to eat safely.


How are fish poisoned by Mercury? What can we do about it?

It's been a common thread in the topic of fish that you shouldn't eat too much of any one kind due to mercury poisoning. We've heard this caution for so long many people are left thinking it's just a fact of life, and we aren't questioning how to make this better. So where do we start?

The two biggest problems we face with this issue are first, that mercury is not only distributed into the fishes systems by man, but also by nature. And second, that mercury does not pass through the fishes digestive system, it stays there and gathers over time until the toxicity is so high that the fish either dies or infects other fish around it. (For more information on the origins of mercury in fish, please click here.)

The largest portion of mercury is introduced into the fishes habitat through chemical plants, coal-fired power plants, cement plants and steel production plants. It is released into the air or water supply and makes its way into rivers and oceans, giving the fish small to large doses of mercury every day. The larger fish have a higher chance of mercury poisoning through the food chain; A small fish gets mercury into its system and is eaten by a larger fish. This larger fish eats many small fish, each with a low level of mercury. Over time, the small amounts of mercury in all the smaller fish build in the large fish until it dies, or is caught and sold to humans for consumption.

Photo courtesy of

So what are some preventative measures we can take to keep mercury out of the water supply and effectively out of the fishes digestive system? One promising start is to filter the mercury out of the waste at the power plant it's produced at. There are several methods, one being a simple filter to catch mercury particles that would have entered into the air. Others being similar filters for water and waste treatment to specifically attract mercury particles out. (Even some as small as a sponge!)

On an individual level, we need to practice moderation when eating certain types of fish. The Natural Resources Defense Council and FDA websites have very helpful charts to tell what fish are the most or least toxic. The NRDC even categorized them by level of toxicity, you can find that information here. The more we learn the healthier we can be!

One Boy’s Experience with Too Much Mercury

It is often hard to believe that mercury in fish is a real problem. It’s understandable - there’s so much confusion surrounding our health. What’s actually good for you? What isn’t? Are we making too big a deal out of these issues or not big enough? It’s important to do research and investigate to find your own answers. However, it’s also important to pay attention to signs and happenings around you. Here is an example that is startling: a story of a young, intelligent boy losing his grip in school:
One by one, Matthew Davis's fifth-grade teachers went around the table describing the 10-year-old boy. He wasn't focused in class and often missed assignments, they said. He labored at basic addition. He could barely write a simple sentence. 
"Our jaws dropped," says his mother, Joan Elan Davis, describing a teachers' meeting she had requested in late 2003, when her son abruptly lost interest in homework. Matthew had always excelled in school. In the fourth grade, he had written and illustrated a series of stories about a superhero named Dog Man. 
Ms. Davis noticed something else: Her son's fingers were starting to curl, as if he were gripping a melon. And he could no longer catch a football. 
A neurologist ordered tests. They showed Matthew's blood was laced with mercury in amounts nearly double what the Environmental Protection Agency says is the safe level for exposure to the metal. Matthew had mercury poisoning, his doctors said. 
The Davises had pinpointed the suspected source: tuna fish. For a year or so, starting in late 2002, Matthew had gobbled three to six ounces a day of white albacore tuna. Based on Food and Drug Administration data for canned albacore, he was consuming a daily dose of mercury at least 12 times what the EPA considered a safe level for a 60-pound child. The Davises' doctors' prescription was simple: Matthew should stop eating canned tuna.
Click here to read full article

Please make sure to click that link above and read the full article, it's a great report of an incident but also helps to give a deeper understanding of the mercury toxicity situation at hand.

It's one thing to research and learn about mercury toxicity in fish, but it's another to actually believe it's a situation in need of change. The trauma this boy and his family went through (and others like it) are why we are researching and learning about this topic, and why we should believe. Once we truly believe, we can more easily spread the word and, eventually, make those needed changes.

Fish Consumption for Children and Pregnant and Nursing Mothers

Fish and shellfish are important in anyone’s eating habits.  They contain high-quality protein, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids.  These combine to get a food that is hard to get anywhere else.  Fish is especially important in young children’s and pregnant and nursing mom’s eating habits.  They enable young children to have proper growth and development. 

While fish is very important in young children and pregnant and nursing mothers, it can also be dangerous to them, or anyone, if the wrong kinds of fish are eaten too much.  Nearly all fish contain some mercury and some fish can contain dangerous levels of it if they are eaten too much.  Young children and pregnant and nursing mothers are even more susceptible to it than most people.  Too much mercury from fish or anything else can harm the nervous system of a developing baby or young child.  The most dangerous fish that contain the highest mercury levels are shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.  Some of the most commonly eaten that contain the lowest amounts of mercury are shrimp and pollock.  A good amount of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury to eat is about 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week.  This can lead to healthier babies and children if these guidelines are followed.  


Last night I went to the Cheesecake Factory with my family who is in town from Ohio and California. We hadn't had the whole family together since my brother got married 4 years ago. We got a huge table with 18 chairs, and 3 high chairs. The family rarely gets together, so when we are all together it's important that it is documented by pictures. Our server was a very nice, young man. He heard us talk about wanting to get a picture taken of all of us at the table. Every chance we got to ask him, he would quickly walk away before we were able to express it.

Finally after our whole meal was done, and our table was pretty much cleared up, we were finally able to get his attention. We asked him if he could take a minute and take a picture of all of us with our phone. His response shocked all of us.

He told us that he refuses to touch a cell phones or take pictures because they radioactive, and he believes that it causes a lot of mental diseases. It really made me think! Just thought I would share this:)

What are the impacts of mercury on human health?

Over the years, hundred if not thousand chemical substances were disposed into the water around the world. These substances could be anything from PFC, pesticides, petroleum, metal and solvent from industrial work, though one of the most toxic chemical substance that can have a long-lasting damage to both water and human is mercury. So, what is mercury? According to the U.S EPA, mercury can be found naturally in environment and exists in different forms, including metallic, organic and in-organic form. In the last couples of years, companies and corporations started to use mercury to manufacture different types of products, such as thermostats, barometers, thermometers, and many more. Even though the metallic mercury used in these products is not harmful, it becomes quite a threat when it is released into lakes, rivers and oceans by industrial facilities. Once mercury entered the water, it was taken in by bacteria and then converted it into a type of chemical called methyl mercury, according to U.S EPA.

This transition of mercury has an important impact on human, since people who consume methyl mercury will become defenseless of its effect. Once mercury consumed by small fishes, it then moves its way up the food as larger fishes consume contaminated smaller fishes. Instead of breaking down or dissolve, mercury tends to accumulate at a higher level and will cause serious side effect on human, especially children and pregnant women. This is due to the fact that children's brain is relatively fragile and still budding during the first several years of life, prenatal or infant mercury exposure can cause deafness, blindness, and mental retardation according to Mayo Clinic. Not only does mercury poses a health threat to children and pregnant women, it can also effect fertility as well as blood pressure regulation and heart disease in adult. Despite its useful role in the industrial industries, mercury contamination in water is gradually becoming a huge threat to both animals in the water and the people who consume it, especially pregnant women and children.

For more information about mercury contamination in water, visit

Life and Struggles

The other morning, I got woken up by a very loud and screeching scream of a one year old. Clearly, something is wrong because it isn't the normal "I'm upset and need food, or change my poopy diaper" tone of scream parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc. are using to hearing. My nephew is in town from Ohio, and he stayed the night with me last night. I woke up instantly from the scream and nothing seemed to work or help in that, I felt like nothing was going to make him better. I tried very hard to do whatever possible and it seemed as though something was hurting him, or causing him a great deal of pain. He's usually a tough little guy, so seeing him break down wasn't fun. This carried on for what seemed like hours, and I couldn't get a hold of either of his parents.

I tried to give him a bath and make him relax in my arms. Nothing worked! I didn't have any of his insurance cards or even know who his insurance provider may be, so I didn't take him to the doctor or  emergency room, just yet. I took him to the store with me to pick up some juice and soup. I thought maybe he had a tummy ache or something along those lines. He fell asleep in the car, but continued to be somewhat fussy and just wasn't having a good time. I felt bad, and didn't know what I was really doing. I'm not a mother, so those natural "mommy instincts" don't really come all that natural to me.

A few hours later, I got a call from his mom and she told me to take him to a near by clinic by my house. While still bawling his little sad eyes out, I took him in my arms and we left. Once we got there and got checked out, he threw up all over the doctors scrubs. I was starting to get extremely worried at that point. He asked me to trace back to what he had to eat in the last 24 hours, and I told him everything. We realized after a long time, that he is severely allergic to peanuts because the day prior we had got some take out from a local Chinese restaurant and there was some peanuts in the noodles, and he just ate them. After he threw up, he seemed to be much better. It seemed as though, it just needed to get out of his system.

Through it all, I felt extremely helpless, I didn't know how to make him stop crying, or even how to help. I had read the previous blog about the mercury toxins, and I kept thinking of it when I was handling all this. We rarely realize the toxins we put into our bodies when we are intaking them. These toxins are so dangerous for our bodies. Our bodies can sometimes, fight them off and we can be okay again, but for babies, they are helpless. It's so important to me now, after experiencing this that I read exactly what is in the food that I intake, and to ask what people are putting in this food.

You're Not Alone

We’ve all heard about mercury in fish and high levels of toxicity, but it’s not necessarily front page news. There isn’t a new article or popular media discussion addressing the issue at every turn like there was recently for Ebola. There are some fish that many of us consider staples, like tuna, that actually have moderate to high levels of mercury toxicity. I for one have come to consider albacore tuna salad as quick convenient alternative to fast food. I just pack a mix of tuna and dressing with some crackers and I’m good to go.
Unfortunately according to the NRDC tuna is actually rather high in mercury. Canned chunk light and skipjack tuna are listed as containing moderate levels of mercury and the suggested servings are six or less a month. Canned albacore and yellowfin tuna have higher levels of mercury and it is suggested that we eat no more than three servings a month. And finally, bigeye and ahi tuna are listed as extremely high in mercury, meaning they should be avoided.
Just like we can feel helpless in understanding how to eat right healthy in our busy lives, we can feel helpless in discovering the ins-and-outs of both the issues surrounding mercury toxicity in fish and what that means for us. But don’t panic. You don’t need to do it alone. Over the next couple of months the Ecomerge team will explore some of the ins-and-outs of mercury toxicity and present some healthy protein packed alternatives along the way.
For the NRDC’s complete list of mercury levels in fish please go to

Types of Mercury and Their Effect on Humans

The severity of Mercury's effect on human health depends on the following things: the chemical form, duration, and dosage of the Mercury, and the age and overall health of the exposed person. There are three chemical forms of Mercury: Methyl-, Elemental, and compound Mercury. Each has their own symptoms of poisoning. Methylmercury (absorbed through ingestion of food items containing Mercury) mostly causes vision and speech impairment, unusual sensations, lack of balance/coordination, and muscle weakness. Elemental Mercury causes effects (through vapor absorption in the lungs) such as tremors, emotional swings, insomnia, and neuromuscular changes. Other mercury compounds (both organic and inorganic) often cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract (where it is absorbed), the kidneys, and the nervous system.

Tessa Schwass (Primary: Creative, Secondary: Client Liason)

Types of Mercury and Its Toxins

There are three different kinds of mercury and mercury poisoning; it just depends on how you are exposed to it. The first kind is metal mercury which is what you find in thermometers which is why they say if it breaks in your mouth its dangerous. The second kind of mercury is Mercury salts, which can be found around industrial environment where someone would breathe it in hurting the kidneys rather then the nervous system like metal mercury effects. Thirdly there is organic mercury, which is found in food. This happens from chemical plants releasing the mercury into the water where it then gets into the fish. Mercury is toxic because it harms parts of the body with the main parts being the kidneys and the brain especially the nervous system.