What are the facts on mercury and fish?

We have all ready concerns about mercury levels in fish. How worried do we need to be about it?


Mercury is a natural element that is present in the air, water, and soil.


Mercury can build up however in fish and shellfish. This can result in mercury exposure to humans.


Fish that have high mercury levels include mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, swordfish, ahi, tilefish,  shark, and bigeye tuna. Many of these are fish used in sushi.


High levels of mercury can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system. Infants and children are at higher risk.


Signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning can include visual disturbance, abnormal sensations (pins and needles), problems with coordination, speech impairment, and weakness.


Mercury levels can be checked from hair, blood, or urine samples.


Mercury toxicity is treated with “chelation therapy”, which removes mercury from the blood.


Mercury poisoning is very rare. For people who eat a normal amount of fish, there is very little concern.  Overall, fish are a healthy and important part of our diet, and add vital nutrients.


For child-bearing women or children however, the current recommendations are not to eat shark, swordfish, mackerel or tilefish as they contain high levels of mercury. In addition, child-bearing women and children should not eat more than two seafood meals per week.


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