Friday, February 27, 2015

Where do we see the toxins?

The toxins are everywhere without people noticing. We go through our everyday life not quite understanding that the toxins are all around us because we're so consumed by it, we don't even take time to notice it. We also don't try to find ways to eliminate the toxins because they're everywhere. Mercury toxins are a natural element that are passed through the air, soil, and water. They can obviously vary in the location that an individual may be in. In regards to water, this points to large masses of water. It's passed through water because of the fish that live there. The fish pass it along until it comes to land, which then it reaches individuals. The toxins are mainly in the fish or other animals that consume fish.

Too much consumption of these toxins can result in harm to the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and the immune system as a whole. It can also effect young children or babies in their bloodstream which will effect their nervous system negatively. The toxins can be found in many places. It's been seen to be most common in those who consume a large amount of fish.


Source:
http://www.medicinenet.com/mercury_poisoning/article.htm

What NOT to Do In Case of a Mercury Spill

As previously stated, many products in our home may contain mercury. Of course we should always handle these with care and caution at all times. However, accidents happen and you may find yourself in a situation where you have, for example, broken a mercury filled thermometer or light bulb.

According to the EPA, here is what you should NOT do:

  • Never use a vacuum cleaner to clean up mercury. The vacuum will put mercury into the air and increase exposure.
  • Never use a broom to clean up mercury. It will break the mercury into smaller droplets and spread them.
  • Never pour mercury down a drain. It may lodge in the plumbing and cause future problems during plumbing repairs. If discharged, it can cause pollution of the septic tank or sewage treatment plant.
  • Never wash clothing or other items that have come in direct contact with mercury in a washing machine, because mercury may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage. Clothing that has come into direct contact with mercury should be discarded. By "direct contact," we mean that mercury was (or has been) spilled directly on the clothing, for example, if you break a mercury thermometer and some of elemental mercury beads came in contact with your clothing.
  • Never walk around if your shoes might be contaminated with mercury. Contaminated clothing can also spread mercury around.

Depending on the size and/or amount of the spill, you will want to take different actions when cleaning it up. It is very important to take the right actions when doing so, as this is not stuff to play around with. For a full list and instructions of how to clean different types of mercury spills visit the EPA's website at:

http://www.epa.gov/mercury/spills/index.htm

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Where Else Can Mercury Be Found?

Where Else Can Mercury Be Found?

Sometimes we don’t consider that the element Mercury surrounds us at close proximity in common products. Not only does it linger in polluted air or is found in fish, but it is also found in items that are used daily inside homes, schools and offices. If not handled or disposed carefully, mercury can contaminate other items or surroundings. Since it is difficult for consumers of fish to escape from mercury, we sure can escape it this way.

Knowing where mercury is found other than in fish can help increase our awareness and decrease exposure to the element (by inhalation or ingestion) as much as possible. Although a selection of mercury-made products still exist, there are now more ways and alternatives to prevent risks of exposure to these items.

Photo credit:Google Images.
Mercury is found in common products such as:
  •         Thermometers*
  •         Thermostats*
  •          Household Lamps*
  •          Batteries*
  •          Paints*
  •          Athletic Shoes*
  •          Disinfectants*
  •          Barometers*
  •          Clothing Irons*
  •          Pesticides*
  •          Antiseptics*
  •          Blood Pressure Gauges*
  •          Microwave Ovens*

    *indicates that there are available mercury-free or other alternatives

Be sure to check product labels for mercury (methyl mercury) and do research to find out if there are available products that have alternatives and/or are mercury-free.

Source:

Diagnosis Mercury Book Part One Of Two

This is the first blog of two that discuss the book “Diagnosis Mercury” by Jane Hightower.  The author is a doctor.  She begins the book discussing clients that are sick because of mercury sickness from eating too much high mercury fish.  She at first did not know what her clients were suffering from and is one of the only doctors noticing people suffering from mercury sickness.  She starts to discuss this sickness with others.  She starts to spread information about mercury sickness.  She speaks in front of other doctors and they show interest.

She discusses the history of mercury being used as a medicine.  One type of medicine containing mercury discussed is calomel.  She also writes about history of mercury used as a way to make money.  She gets invited to speak about mercury sickness at a conference discussing mercury sickness.  She gets her speech mentioned in the newspaper.  At the conference she is surprised to see so many people studying mercury in fish.  She speaks with many of the people studying and starts to make more progress. 

She begins to take steps to get tuna labeled as having mercury.  She finds opposition from the tuna industry.  She works with medical societies. She begins to make more progress in increasing the amount of people that know about mercury in fish.  This is some of what the first half of the book discusses and is a good read for anyone looking to learn more about mercury sickness from fish.  The second part of this book will be written about soon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Mercury Levels On The Rise

With so much concern about the levels of mercury in fish, one might think about just how much worse we are now than 100 years ago. Studies have been done to test mercury levels in fish; but without extensive annual or biannual testing on a specific region, we don't have enough information to exclusively say what fish species are worse and how much of a positive impact we have made thus far.
According to a research study done by Drevnick, Lamborg, and Horgan, on Pacific yellowfin Tuna caught near Hawaii, mercury levels are rising as much as 3.8% per year. If we had this type of test results available for multiple locations and for several fish types, more people could gain awareness for this issue and their health.
If we don't begin making a real positive impact on the levels of mercury, our health and the health of everyone after is in jeopardy. We have a foundation to start with: We have petitions and websites to voice our opinion and make chemical plants and power plants diminish their mercury output over time with regulations and filters. The more plants abide by these rules and install these filters the less mercury will be in the environment by human impact.

Image courtesy of The Artisanal Gold Council

This will leave us with the second part of the problem: the mercury that is currently in the environment and fishes. Once we drastically decrease the levels of mercury that are output by chemical and power plants, we can focus our energy on what the best way to get mercury out of the environment might be. This gives the room to engineers and designers to come up with new filters or processes to safely eliminate the mercury from our water and fish supplies. I don't know about you, but that's the kind of world I would like to live in.


For the article regarding tests done on the Pacific yellowfin Tuna, click here.



Source:

Drevnick, P. E., Lamborg, C. H. and Horgan, M. J. (2015), Increase in mercury in Pacific yellowfin tuna. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. doi: 10.1002/etc.2883

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fish and Mercury Awareness Event

The 2015 Winter term EcoMerge team is proud to announce our Fish and Mercury Awareness event!

We know that it’s difficult to make effective change in our busy lives. Because of this the EcoMerge team is going to supply you with quick easy facts, and solutions to help make living a low-mercury lifestyle easier. Join us on Facebook and Twitter over the next 3 weeks for fast, easy solutions available on social media.


Like us, follow us and join us while gaining both knowledge and solutions regarding mercury levels in fish including: the effects of mercury on humans (especially children and pregnant women); tasty recipes for low-mercury fish and Omega 3 alternatives; and ways to get involved with reducing mercury pollution of the environment.

The event will take place online from February 22nd until March 14th.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for: Simple Sunday, Mercury Free Monday, Tasty Tuesday, What’s your Question Wednesday, Omega 3 Thursday, Fact Friday and Sweet Tooth Saturday.

Fish You Should Avoid - COMPLETELY

Everyone who reads this blog should know by now that National Resources Defense Council recommends that we limit our consumption of certain types of fish.
What many of us may not be away of is that a few specific kinds of fish should be avoided entirely, according to every major health organization that has studied the issue (source).


Even fish with high levels of mercury like canned albacore tuna can be eaten less than 3 times a month, but these fish should be avoided entirely:

  • King Mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Orange Roughy 
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • Ahi and Bigeye Tuna

Friday, February 20, 2015

Dentist Offices and Mercury Waste

Over the years, mercury concentration in certain areas around the United States continues to rise. Manufacturers and corporations are still manufacturing products that result in high levels of mercury waste in the water, yet what is surprising is that dentist offices are one of the largest sources of mercury in waste water. One study suggested that dentists are the third largest user of mercury in the U.S. It is accounted for over 20% of the estimated 200 metric tons used as of 2012 and nearly over 40 metric tons of mercury released into the environment. So why are dentist offices considered one of the largest source of mercury wastes? According to the EPA, dental amalgam, a tooth filling material that is 50% mercury, is one of the leading intentional use of mercury in the US. Yet, most amalgam waste gets flushed down the drain without proper protocols. This mercury waste amounts to about 3.6 tons each year, most of which escapes into landfills, while some is incinerated, either pollinating the air and polluting fish and wildlife by seeping into the waterways.
Despite the EPA announced a rule requiring dentist offices to conduct management practices back in 2010,  the rule has been only applied to 11 states as of 2012. There should be a stricter rule that regulates dentist offices if they continue to use dental amalgams. As suggested by the EPA, mercury management at dentist offices are relatively inexpensive and can be done by an amalgam separator, which is a separator that installed at the source, which then can remove 95-99% of the mercury in the waste water and if necessary, dentists can switch to an alternative materials for filling. Though, these solutions will take a while to be in full effects since the American Dental Association still supports the use of dental amalgam uncontrollably, according to a recent report. However, we, as consumers can help push this rule into effect a bit faster by bring up this issue to our dentists and encourage them to apply the solutions suggested by the EPA.

For more info about dental amalgam, visit
http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/mwu/epas_common_sense_rule_on_merc.html

http://www.epa.gov/mercury/dentalamalgam.html

For more info about amalgam separator and where to purchase one, visit
http://www.healthfirst.com/dental-waste/Amalgam-Separators/index.html

Actions the Consumer Can Take to Combat Mercury Contamination

I fondly recall hand washing and drying dishes for my family of eight people when I was a child. As I watched the sudsy dirty waste water journey down the drain, I would think about where that water went. Where did that waste water end up? I had recently attended an outdoor center environmental class at my inner city school. An instructor there took me and my classmates outside the city limits, showing us--many for the first time--the wild streams and tributaries snaking through our local landscape on their way to the nearby river. I specifically recall the naturally occurring dirty “soap suds” building up on top of some of these local streams--especially at the bottom of a waterfall. I was convinced that this was where my dirty dish water ended up and that my actions directly contributed to this phenomenon. I felt a very deep remorse that my actions affected the local tributaries and streams in this way and probably poisoned the fish and other creatures living in these waterways. Of course, I later learned that there were water waste treatment plants between my house and our waterways but I still made the connection. The "treated” water still must be discharged into the local river. This was the exact moment in my life--age nine--that I first became aware of our environment and the likelihood that my actions had an impact on this. I saw the cycle of water and realized that all waste goes somewhere whether it be into the air, waterways, or landfills.


According to the Journal of Environmental Monitoring, two of the biggest sources of mercury pollution in our environment are airborne: coal-fired power plants and cement kilns. Nearly 50 percent of electricity generated in the United States comes from coal-fired power plants. Since mercury exists naturally in coal, this alone attributes to the 50 tons of mercury emissions annually in the U.S. alone! This airborne pollutant eventually settles onto our land and into our waterways contaminating our fish. According to the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice, cement manufacturing kilns in the U.S. expel 23,000 pounds of mercury into the air annually from the coal and limestone sources they use to make concrete. Both are natural sources of the heavy metal mercury. Although there are fewer kilns nationwide than there are power plants, some of the kilns emit one and a half times more mercury than the most-polluting coal-fired power stations. Stricter mercury emission controls must be enforced by law to prevent further airborne mercury pollution.

The modern day consumer must realize how their own lifestyle impacts the environment. The consumer has the power to make better choices to greatly reduce the mercury problem. One person can make a huge difference when one assumes a new methodology of living in an environmentally conscious manner. The main problem is that most consumers are ignorant of the ramifications of their modern lifestyles. There are two specific ways in which consumers can take action. The first call to action is for every electricity consumer to call their local power company and find out exactly how their electricity is obtained through their local supplier. Consumers can inquire about buying green power as an alternative option to the electricity obtained from coal-fired plants. Most electric companies now offer green alternatives such as wind, solar or hydroelectric power. By demanding alternative green renewable energy sources, consumers can greatly affect and reverse the pollutive effects of mercury stemming from the burning of coal. The second call to action is to locate nearby cement kilns and lobby local officials to place political pressure on the kilns to clean up their mercury emissions. In my next post, I will highlight more examples of ways in which consumers can take action to combat the global mercury contamination problem which ultimately ends up in our fish on our dinner tables.


Information Sources About Green Energy and Mercury Pollution:






Wednesday, February 18, 2015

App-ly Mercury Toxicity Awareness on the Go

With today’s technological advancements, I think that this is an awesome and convenient way to make sure you are eating the fish you want without risking the effects of mercury. I’ll get to that in just a second! Monitoring the fish you eat and the mercury levels they contain can minimize the consumption of mercury in fish and whether or not it will harm your body (or the body of those you love). 



The article, written by Beth Lipton on Yahoo! Health, recommended an app that you can download for FREE from the Apple Store or Google Play Store, called the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app! I downloaded it right away and so far, it looks pretty awesome. I’m always on my phone, love fish and eat out from time to time. The app helps me find out what fish is a “Best Choice,” a “Good Alternative,” or fish to “Avoid.” If the app seems too overwhelming, Health’s contributing health editor, Cynthia Sass, RD recommends that “you can limit your options by eating only from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Super Green List.” I suggest you give it a shot at it!
Click here to read the article!

If you don’t have a smart phone, you can also do your search using the Seafood Watch site.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mercury Pollution Threat

Mercury pollution can be a serious health threat

Mercury is emitted to the air by power plants, cement plants, certain chemical manufacturers and other industrial facilities. Also it has been used in household items for example a light bulb or glass thermometer, these products release mercury especially when being disposed. 
Mercury pollution released into the environment becomes a serious threat because it gets into the waters and then into the fish we eat.




Mercury in Fish

Once mercury enters the water, naturally bacteria will absorb it and convert it to a form called methyl mercury. Mercury then works its way up the food chain as large fish consume contaminated smaller fish. Instead of dissolving or breaking down, mercury accumulates at ever-increasing levels.

For more reading on this subject:
 http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/effects.asp
 http://www.hrw.org/dangers-of-mercury

Testing for Mercury Toxicity


We have all heard about the dangers of mercury toxicity and how to avoid toxicity by monitoring the amount of fish that we eat as well as other precautions to avoid mercury toxicity but what happens when it is already too late? What does a person do if they are suffering from symptoms associated with mercury poisoning?

First course of action should be to schedule a doctors appointment for as soon as possible. Mercury levels can be tested through blood and urine and sometimes hair specimens, though hair is not a common test. Blood tests check for the levels of methyl mercury as well as inorganic and metallic levels of mercury.

For the latter two forms of mercury testing, they must be performed within days of suspected exposure due to the fact that the amounts will be cut in half approximately every three days because the mercury moves to organs like the kidneys and brain. Other blood tests such as a complete metabolic panel and a complete blood count are used to assess other organs that could be affected by mercury toxicity. The best test for metallic and inorganic mercury are urine tests. Urine tests are unable to detect methyl mercury though. Hair testing is used to check for previous exposure to methyl mercury but it is fairly complex, hence why it is rarely used. It has been shown that mercury also shows up in nails, breast milk, stool and breath.

It can also be determined whether the mercury exposure has been recent, which is called "acute exposure" or over a long period of time, which is called "chronic exposure". Mercury testing can also be implemented regularly for someone who is exposed at their place of work.

According to Lab Tests Online, symptoms signifying an acute exposure include:

· Burning in the mouth and lungs
· Cough, difficulty breathing, chest tightness
· Difficulty urinating and decreased urine output
· Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramping
· Increased heart rate
· Fever or chills
· Dizziness
· Headache

Symptoms signifying a chronic exposure include:

· Problems with hearing, taste and smell
· Blurry vision or sometimes tunnel vision
· Tingling or tremors in the arms or legs
· Difficulty walking
· Irritability
· Memory loss

Low levels of mercury in blood and urine are normal. Elevated levels in blood signify a recent exposure and a 24 hour urine specimen can give an average historical look at exposure to inorganic and metallic mercury.

You may be thinking "what happens after testing, what is the treatment for mercury toxicity"? Well, the first and foremost is to stop the exposure. The second is to discuss treatment with your doctor which may include something called chelation therapy. Chelation therapy is a chemical that is given in pills or by injection which assists the body in getting rid of the mercury toxins.



Be aware please that this information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/mercury/tab/test/
http://pediatrics.med.nyu.edu/conditions-we-treat/conditions/mercury-toxicity
http://www.holistic-medical.com/english/?page_id=57
"MercuryFoodChain-01" by Bretwood Higman, Ground Truth Trekking. - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Shizhao using CommonsHelper.(Original text : From www.groundtruthtrekking.org:Source URL: http://www.groundtruthtrekking.org/Graphics/Large/MercuryFoodChain-01.png:Source Page: http://www.groundtruthtrekking.org/Graphics/MercuryFoodChain.html). Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MercuryFoodChain-01.png#mediaviewer/File:MercuryFoodChain-01.png

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mercury Levels in Fish

A common source of protein and fats for people who combine their fitness routines with a healthy diet are usually taken from fish due to their essential nutritional elements like omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein.
However, due to the increasing amounts of mercury being found in many kinds of fish, it becomes a question of whether the benefits of nutrition gained from fish outweigh the harms of mercury poisoning contained in them. It becomes more and more difficult to make the right choice when some of our most nutritional foods continue to rise in toxicity.
Do all fish contain toxic mercury? Does this mean that we should avoid consuming fish at all costs and find nutrients from something else?
Well, yes and no. While nearly all fish contain traces of mercury, there is still room to consume a recommended amount (12 ounces/2 meals per week) of fish that contain smaller amounts of mercury in them.

Below is an infographic that displays the different types of fish and the amount of mercury found in an average specimen which can help you decipher the better option when it comes to consuming fish.

http://i.imgur.com/U9mCW.jpg

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Background on the Discovery of Methyl Mercury in Fish

The discovery of methyl mercury toxicity in fish has an interesting background.  
Mercury was used as an antifungal agent for seed grains.  
In Sweden predatory birds were developing neurological disorders. It was found that these birds were getting the neurological disorders because of mercury poisoning. They were at the top of the food chain that began with small mammals eating the grain that had mercury used as an antifungal agent.  As a control in finding mercury toxicity in the birds, Swedish investigators checked mercury levels in fish-eating birds, which their mercury levels were thought to be low. Their mercury levels were surprisingly found to be high, though they had no connection with eating things connected with the treated grain. 
This led to the discovery that microorganisms in the aquatic environment are capable of converting mercury to methyl mercury. The methyl mercury bioaccumulates in different underwater creatures.  Here is a link to the journal article that discusses this, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3455231.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How to have your fish and eat it too.

With all this information flying around about mercury and toxicity levels in fish and shellfish, how do we know what type to eat for their healthy omega-3's and nutrients and what to avoid? This information isn't put on the labels of canned tuna or fillets of salmon at the grocery store.
Stay informed when shopping and eating with this list of the healthiest fish to eat while taking in the least amount of mercury:


1. Tilapia
     A fish with many uses in the kitchen, tilapia can be introduced to a wide variety of recipes. Having one of the lowest levels of mercury, this fish is very safe to consume. Try out a few of these tasty recipes from CookingLight.com and enjoy a great seafood dinner while staying healthy.
Image courtesy of www.globalfoodtrading.com

2. (Wild Caught) Alaskan Salmon
     Alaska has very strict guidelines for their salmon fisheries, giving their fish optimum levels of nutrients and low mercury toxicity. As a staple in many diets, it would be a shame to lose such a delicious option when their is definitely room to enjoy it in moderation. For a list of recipes, check out EcoFish, dedicated to sustainable and healthy seafood, fisheries, and marine conservation.

Image courtesy of www.adfg.alaska.gov
3. Catfish
     A large influence in southern cooking, this fish is a delicious option for trying new recipes. It has a very low mercury toxicity level so it perfectly safe to consume in a normal diet, and in moderation for pregnant women and young children. Flatten it out to try a po-boy sandwich or bake a fillet for a flaky and filling dinner. For a list of recipes to try, visit EatingWell.com.
Image courtesy of www.usbr.gov
4. Haddock
     One of the most commonly used fish, haddock can be sold smoked, frozen, fresh, dried, and even canned. A very popular choice for fish and chips in Britain, and a staple ingredient in several multicultural dishes, haddock is a great choice for enjoying a seafood meal without the threat of high mercury toxicity. AllRecipes.com has a wide variety of recipes to try, the options are limitless!
Image Courtesy of britishseafishing.co.uk
5. Crab
     We can't ignore the shellfish! While all life in the ocean is in danger of chemical toxins, crab is among the lucky few that have very low levels of mercury toxicity along with their non-fish friends clams, oysters, and shrimp. Take a few tips from CoastalLiving.com for some tasty recipes and tricks!
Image courtesy of www.devoncrab.com

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Voice your opinion!

Getting these huge conglomerations, corporations, and plants to stop harming the environment seems like such a big task, especially for one person to try stopping. It feels as though your voice will get lost in the noise and no change will ever happen. Don't lose hope, one person can make a difference.

One person can share their story and let the information ripple out through word of mouth, keeping your thoughts and opinions locked away for fear of failure will do nothing. If you try, you are making a positive change. There are several online petitions and standardized letters you can sign and send to congress, or even the President to have your voice heard. 








Thousands of people care enough to write their government officials for help, or even donate money towards the cause. But it simply isn't enough. Getting the word out and getting more people involved is the answer. 
We need to rally together to not only give power plants restrictions on mercury pollution, but to make finding a solution to the current levels of mercury a priority. We need to invest in new ways to filter mercury out of the power plants before it reaches the environment, and ways to get the current mercury out of the environment it has already tainted.

Just having a general rule of how much mercury companies are allowed to dump is unacceptable; Releasing a toxin this deadly into the environment at all should not be tolerated, while we have made steps towards helping the environments mercury levels (Such as the mercury standard set by President Obama) we as a community of people sharing this planet need to be more proactive in finding ways to protect and save it. 


Image courtesy of USA Today

Many informational sites you can find will have facts and figures that are over a year old. (See this USA Today post on the highest concentration states for mercury from 2011) This shows how few people are getting involved with this important effort; Fewer and fewer studies are being done showing our toxicity levels by region, living near power plants, coal plants, and chemical plants is a hazard and the managers of these plants need to be held responsible for what they are putting back into the environment. 


What the Seafood Consumer Needs to Know About Omega-3's and Mercury

The same dilemma occurs every evening: what kind of easy, nutritious meal shall I prepare for dinner?  Tuna casserole seems to be my comfort food of choice. Tuna casserole is nutritious, easy to prepare, and usually a hit with everyone assembled at the dinner table. The nutrition panel on the label of my large can of albacore tuna boasts of a plethora of nutrients, among them niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, vitamin D and selenium. Tuna, like all seafood also contains essential omega-3 fats. Canned tuna is possibly the most perfect inexpensive food. While preparing my tuna casserole, I cannot help but think about an environmental toxin lurking inside my can of albacore: methyl mercury. Mercury, or any mention of mercury, is clearly absent from the product label.

Both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend that we consume at least 2-3 servings (8 ounces) of seafood per week to assure that we obtain a healthy dose of omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are touted for their widespread health benefits: lowering blood pressure, reducing triglycerides, slowing the development of cardiac disease by reducing plaque in arteries, and anti-inflammatory properties as well.  Nutritional aspects aside, one persistent question remains in the mind of every seafood consumer. Just how much mercury is present in my can of tuna or other seafood that I consume?

According to the USDA, white albacore tuna contains some of the highest levels of mercury--40 mcg/4 ounce serving--three times the amount in "light" canned tuna. Conversely, salmon (all varieties) contains some of the lowest levels of mercury to be found in any seafood--2 mcg/4 ounce serving. The primary safety concern over mercury is its potential risk to infants and unborn children. If consumed in high enough quantities by their mothers, mercury can impair neurological development in the brains of developing fetuses during gestation, as well as infants who breast feed postpartum.

The key is to weigh the benefits against the risks of seafood consumption. USDA-conducted studies conclude that the health benefits derived from moderate consumption of cooked seafood outweigh the risk associated with mercury, including women who may become or are pregnant, nursing mothers, and children ages 12 and younger.  However, the Federal advisory board specifically states that these groups should not eat or should limit their intake of large predatory fish. Predatory fish--sharks, tilefish, swordfish, and mackerel--are known to contain excessively high levels of mercury in their flesh.

Another option for those who choose not to consume fish is to take omega-3 fish oil supplements. Interestingly, no studies have been conducted by the USDA on omega 3 supplements and their potential to also contain mercury.  Truth is, supplements of any kind are taken by consumers in blind faith. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that the label of all supplement bottles (omega-3's, vitamins, minerals) include the following disclaimer: "This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” The reason for this government disclaimer is because the supplement industry is widely unregulated. Manufacturers and distributors do not need FDA approval to sell their dietary supplements, including fish oil.  The government does not analyze supplements to assure their quality or purity. This lack of regulatory control in the billion dollar supplement industry leaves the consumer in the dark to wonder if that hefty dose of omega-3's in pill form is also contaminated with mercury. Just because the label says so does not necessarily mean so.

Again, moderation is the key to proper nutrition. Too much of one thing is not a good thing. For maximum nutritional benefits from seafood, the USDA recommends the selection of seafood species that are higher in omega-3 fatty acids while lower in contaminants such as mercury. An informed consumer is the best consumer.

Links to more information: