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Now that we are aware of mercury fish poisoning, we need to know about the different types of fish and what mercury levels they contain. Here is a breakdown to help you learn more about what you eat: Some of the more popular fish containing the least amount of mercury, less than .09 per million, are on the following list. You can eat as much of these fish as you desire:
Enjoy these fish: Anchovies, Atlantic Croaker, Atlantic Haddock, Butterfish, Calamari/Squid, Catfish, Chub Mackerel, Clam, Crawfish/Crayfish, Domestic Crab, Flounder, Freshwater Trout, Herring, Mullet, North Atlantic Mackerel, Ocean Perch, Oysters, Pacific Sole, Pollock, Wild Salmon (both canned and fresh), Sardine, Scallop, Shrimp, Tilapia, and Whitefish.
We are not done yet. There are a variety of fish containing what is known as a moderate amount of mercury. By moderate we mean from 0.09 to 0.29 parts per million. The recommended amount to consume of these fish is 6 servings or less per month. This list consists of the following: Alaskan cod, Atlantic Halibut, Black Bass, Carp, Freshwater Perch, Jacksmelt, Lobster, Mahi ahi, Monkfish, Pacific Halibut, Sablefish, Sea Trout, Skate, Skipjack Tuna, Snapper, Striped Bass, Tuna (Canned chunk light), White Pacific Croaker
For the next list we have the fish having a high mercury content. They are known for containing from 0.3 to 0.49 parts per million of mercury. It is recommended that you eat three servings or less per month:
Bluefish, Canned Albacore Tuna, Chilean Sea Bass ( Red Lobster never serves this fish due to its being overfished. Red Lobster is adament about conserving our environment now and for future generations.), Gulf Mackerel, Grouper Spanish Mackerel, and Yellowfin Tu na
And, finally, the fish containing the highest mercury levels are contained in the following list. They are known to contain more than .5 parts per million of mercury. It is recommended to avoid eating them (or limit your consumption dramatically): Ahi Tuna, King Mackerel, Marlin, Orange Roughy, Shark, and Swordfish.
The FDA tests fish for mercury while the EPA determines which levels of mercury are considered safe.
There is still much research that needs to be done on mercury consumption. The medical community is learning more about it every day. However, there are some health risks that we know about due to mercury contamination.
First of all, mercury is known as a neurotoxin since it affects our brain functioning and nervous system functioning. It has been shown to affect fetal development as it accumulates in the umbilical cord leading to the fetus.
Hair loss, fainting spells, and stomach upset are symptoms of mercury consumption.
Pregnant women and women of childbearing age take note: As a child's brain is developing during the first several years of life, it is also rapidly absorbing nutrients. Prenatal and infant mercury exposure can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness. Even when consumed in low doses, mercury has been known to cause a child to have a shortened attention span (resulting in learning problems), affect a child's overall development, and cause a delay in walking and talking,
As far as adults are concerned, fertility and regulation of blood pressure can be affected by mercury poisoning. And, there are recorded cases of memory loss occurring in those consuming mercury. Other health problems from consuming mercury include: tremors, vision loss and numbness of the extremities (fingers and toes). More recently, there have been studies done showing that mercury exposure may lead to heart disease.
See how important it is to eat fish that is either low or moderate in mercury contamination? You do not want to risk eating any that is heavily mercury-laden. Know what you are eating.
Here are some facts about mercury poisoning that are worth knowing:
Recent studies report that across the United States, mercury pollution is known to have contaminated 30% of the total wetlands, lakes, and estuaries. This amounts to a mercury contamination of an astonishing 12 million acres. As far as streams, coasts, and rivers go – 473,000 miles contain mercury contamination. Plus, remember that this number pertains only to those streams, coasts, and rivers which have been tested. There are many other waterways which have not been tested.
At particular risk for mercury fish poisoning are those sport fishermen who eat their catch. That is, of course, if their catch was taken from a mercury contaminated body of water.
As recently as 2003, there were fish consumption advisories issued by 44 states to their citizens. The citizens were warned to limit their consumption of certain types of fish which were caught in the waters known for their mercury contamination.
Tuna is the most common source of mercury fish poisoning. It is not because tuna contain the highest levels of mercury, but simply because they are the most highly consumed out of the fish with mercury contamination. (Other mercury-laden fish include shark and swordfish).
If you are curious about the levels of potential mercury fish poisoning you are consuming, there is a wonderful calculator found on the National Research Defense Council's website (www.nrdc.org).
Mercury levels in fish is a concern to all involved. It is an environmental, medical, and ecological concern.
Young children are advised by the FDA to not eat any of the mercury-laden fish, considered having a heavy mercury content. The EPA, on the other hand recommends that young children limit their consumption to one meal per week. That is, of course, if the fish is caught by family and/or friends. Store bought fish high in mercury should not be eaten at all.
The elderly are to follow the same recommendations as young children, listed above
For nursing mothers, the same recommendations from both the Environmental Protection Agency and Food & Drug Administration as those given to young chldren should be followed. Once again: Do not eat any storebought fish that is known to be mercury-laden (swordfish, shark, and king mackerel – for example). If you catch your own, limit consumption of these fish to one meal per week.
For women of childbearing age, or pregnant women, the FDA recommends not eating any mercury-laden fish such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel or tilefish. They are advised by the FDA to eat 12 ounces per week of cooked fish such as shellfish, canned fish, smaller ocean fish, or farm-raised fish. A typical serving size is 3 to 6 ounces. If you eat smaller portions than this, you can eat these types of fish more often. Just do not choose any of the fish that is on the heavily mercury-laden list. The EPA still recommends that women of childbearing age and pregnant women limit their consumption of fish caught by family and friends to one meal per week. It goes without saying that all consumers are recommended by both organizations to follow the basic nutritional guidelines.
Tuna is known for being moderately high in mercury contamination. So, you want to eat tuna but are unsure about a safe level of mercury? According to the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of tuna you can consume safely is based on your weight. The tuna is broken down per albacore or canned chunk light variety. Here are recommendations for safely consuming tuna:
This list is most important for pregnant woman, or those of childbearing years, and children. Everyone else can follow it to limit their mercury levels in tuna.
If you weigh over 150 pounds, for instance, it is recommended that you not consume more than one can of albacore tuna every 9 days, canned chunk light every 3 days.
If you weigh 140 lbs, do not eat more than one can of albacore tuna every 10 days, canned chunk light every 3 days.
If you weigh 130 pounds, do not eat more than one can of albacore tuna every 10 days, canned chunk every 4 days.
If you weigh 120 pounds, do not eat more than one can of albacore tuna every 11 days, canned chunk every 4 days.
For those weighing 110 pounds, it is 12 days for albacore tuna, 4 days for canned chunk.
For those weighing 100 pounds, it is 2 weeks for albacore tuna, 5 days for canned chunk.
If you weigh 90 pounds, it is 2 weeks for albacore tuna, 5 days for canned chunk light tuna.
For those weighing 80 pounds, do not eat more than one can of albacore tuna every 2 weeks, canned chunk light tuna every 6 days.
For those weighing 70 pounds, do not eat more than one can of albacore tuna every 3 weeks, canned chunk light tuna every 6 days.
For those weighing 60 pounds, do not eat more than one can of albacore tuna every 3 weeks, canned chunk light tuna every 7 days.
For those weighing 50 pounds, do not eat more than one can of albacore tuna every 4 weeks, canned chunk light tuna every 9 days.
For those weighing 40 pounds, do not eat more than one can of albacore tuna every 5 weeks, canned chunk light tuna every 11 days.
For those weighing 30 pounds, do not eat more than one can of albacore tuna every 6 weeks, canned chunk light tuna every 12 weeks.
For those weighing 20 pounds, do not eat more than one can of albacore tuna every 10 weeks, canned chunk light tuna every 3 weeks.
Well, there you have it. You can still eat your tuna, but just know what you are eating. Watch out for the mercury levels in fish.
We have all heard about the risks involved with eating fish containing mercury. Like many other consumers, you have probably been wondering how mercury gets into fish. Here is a little background information:
According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), the mercury in our fish come from different sources. The biggest offenders are coal-fired power plants, chlorine chemical plants, auto scrap recycling businesses.
Coal-fired power plants emit around 50 tons of mercury pollution annually. This is because coal is naturally contaminated with mercury. So, as it is burned to generate electricity, mercury is released into the air through the smokestacks. In turn, the air particles containing mercury eventually fall into the waters where fish thrive.
Older chlorine chemical plants are another source of mercury contamination. These plants use a large amount of mercury to convert salt to chlorine gas and lye. These ingredients are used in soaps and detergents, plastics, and in the paper-making process. According to various sources, every year these plants lose over 20 tons of mercury in the manufacturing process. Again, the mercury is emitted into the air during the manufacturing process. The same cycle as above occurs.
As far as mercury contamination coming from auto scrap businesses, this is because some auto parts are mercury based (on older cars). As the parts are recycled, the pollutants enter the air and begin the mercury contamination process. As can be seen, mercury fish poisoning begins with our air becoming polluted with mercury. Mercury contamination, overall, is an important issue affecting our entire world. It is not to be treated lightly.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|