Mercury Affects Fetuses and Young Children's Brain Development

In anticipation of the upcoming website (to be announced in more detail soon) we’ve decided to answer your questions. To ask a question use #MercuryToxQuestion. We will answer as many questions as possible.

We were asked last week, “Who is most effected by mercury in fish?” The short answer is that it mostly effects fetuses and young children. Fetuses are greatly impacted by the mercury consumed by the mother. This means that women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should be aware of the types and amount of fish they consume.

Methylmercury (the organic form of mercury) is the most common type of mercury humans are exposed to, and it is more easily absorbed by the body. It effects brain development by interfering with the way nerve cells form together. This causes abnormal brain development that affects cognition - the way we think, learn and process information about the world. It also causes problems with attention, memory, language, fine motor ability and visual spatial skills.

Children are affected by much smaller amounts of mercury than adults, and because of this children from communities and families that depend on fish for food are more likely to be impacted. But this doesn’t mean that families who only consume fish once a week are not at risk. The type of fish also matters. Please check out the NRDCs list of safe and dangerous fish. You may be surprised at what you find.

For more information please visit websites from the EPA and WHO