Dangerous levels of Mercury in fish! What fish is safe to eat?
Fish has always been the best source for the animal-based omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
However, as the understanding of mercury’s toxic effects has grown, it has become even more critical to ensure you are choosing the right fish so you can receive the benefits of the healthful fats that many low mercury fish provide.
About 70 percent of tested wild caught fish consumed in the US contain relatively low levels of mercury. However, fish like tuna, marlin, shark, barracuda, and swordfish have some of the highest levels of contamination.
This is due to the fact that the oceans and thousands of water bodies have been seriously polluted. As a result, pregnant women who should be especially careful to consume the right types of fish.
That’s because the toxic heavy metal can cross the placenta to harm the rapidly developing nervous system, including the brain. Studies have associated prenatal methylmercury exposure with impaired development of sensory, motor, and cognitive functions, resulting in learning difficulties, poor coordination, and inability to concentrate.
About 10 percent of the US population—including many children, pregnant women, and women of childbearing age, in particular—have mercury levels above the levels currently recommended for fetal and child health.
Parents: Beware of Feeding Your Child Too Much Canned Tuna
A 2012 report by the Mercury Policy Project offers risk management advice for schools and parents, and warns that canned tuna is a major source of mercury exposure in children. Based on average contamination levels in tested samples, small children should eat light tuna no more than twice a month, and albacore tuna should be avoided entirely. The report also recommends that if your child eats tuna once per week or more, you should have their blood tested for mercury. If the result is over 5 micrograms per liter (ug/L), his or her consumption should be restricted.
Keep in mind that methylmercury harms a person’s nervous system to differing degrees, depending on how much mercury you’ve accumulated. At above average doses, brain functions such as reaction time, judgment, and language can be impaired. At very high exposures, mercury can affect your ability to walk, speak, think, and see clearly.
Don’t stop eating fish, make smarter choices!
To take advantage of the health benefits of fish, avoid eating large predatory fish that are high on the food chain. An excellent choice is wild-caught Alaskan salmon. The reason for this is that it contains some of the highest amounts of beneficial omega-3 fats, in combination with being among the least contaminated.
Here is a Guide to mercury levels in different varieties of fish and shellfish
LOW-MERCURY FISH AND SHELLFISH
Shrimp Pollock, Sardines, Atlantic Mackerel, Anchovies, Herring & Shad, Oysters & Mussels Flounder, Sole & Plaice, Clams Crabs, Scallops Pike, Salmon, Crayfish Catfish, Freshwater Trout Squid, Ocean Perch & Mullet, Whitefish
MODERATE – MERCURY FISH AND SHELLFISH
Pacific Mackerel (Chub), Smelt Halibut, Sea Trout, Cod, Canned Light Tuna, Spiny Lobster, Sea Bass, Skate, American Lobster, Freshwater Perch, Freshwater Bass, Bluefish
Canned Albacore Tuna King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel Swordfish, Fresh/Frozen Tuna, Shark, Grouper, Marlin, Tilapia, Butterfish, Atlantic Croaker, Carp & Buffalofish, Atlantic Tilefish, Sablefish, Lingcod & Scorpionfish, Snapper, Porgy, Sheepshead Pacific Croaker, Haddock, Hake, Monkfish, Gulf Tilefish, Tuna Sushi/Bluefin Tuna, Orange Roughy
Source: MercuryFactsAndFish.org, an information resource of the Mercury Policy Project.