Warning: Most Fish Now Contain Mercury!
- A federal study conducted by the US Geological Survey (released in August 2009) found traces of methylmercury, a form of mercury that is readily absorbed, in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country.
- In around a quarter of those fish, the amount of mercury was above the level set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe for human consumption.
- More than two-thirds of the fish exceeded the EPA level for fish-eating mammals, such as mink and otters.
Where Is The Mercury Coming From?
The leading source of mercury is pollution from coal-burning power plants, which accounts for 40% of all domestic mercury produced as by-products of human activities. Mercury is released from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants, cement kilns, and certain types of mining activities, and deposited in rain and snow, making its way into the water. From there, it is converted by bacteria into methylmercury, which is absorbed by fish, especially in fish that are up the food chain.
The larger the fish, the likelier they are to have high levels of this toxin. The National Resources Defense Council points out that predatory fish, such as shark, swordfish, and mackerel, can have mercury concentrations that are 10,000 times higher than that of their surrounding environment!
Mercury Is A Major Health Risk
When you eat contaminated fish, the mercury poisons your brain and nervous system. This is especially dangerous for pregnant women and small children. Mercury in the mother’s body passes to the fetus where it accumulates. It can also pass from the mother to a nursing infant through breast milk. If fetuses or infants are exposed to mercury, it can cause:
- Mental retardation
- Cerebral palsy
Even in low doses, mercury can interfere with a child’s development, leading to shortened attention span and learning disabilities.
In adults, mercury poisoning can be serious too, causing psychological, neurological, and immunological problems. It is linked to:
- Trouble with blood pressure regulation
- Fertility problems
- Memory and vision loss
- Neuro-muscular dysfunction
Further, mercury bonds very firmly to structures in your central nervous system. Mercury has an extremely long half-life (time to reduce level by 50%) of somewhere around 15 years in the body.
Types Of Seafood To Avoid
Sadly, most fish is no longer a healthy food choice. Contamination of our oceans and waterways is so severe that it is no longer safe to eat the following fish and shellfish on a regular basis, especially if you are pregnant or nursing:
-Bass (black, stripped)
-Blue crab (Gulf coast)
–Chilean sea bass
–Oysters (Eastern, Gulf coast)
-Salmon (Great Lakes)
–Tilefish (golden bass/snapper)
–Tuna steaks and canned tuna
Note: The bold ones are among the worst varieties.
Farm-Raised Fish: Not An Environmentally-Friendly Or Healthy Alternative
Farm-raised fish contributes to the degradation of marine ecosystems.
- Farm-raised fish are fed great quantities of fish meal, which comes from wild-caught fish. The Organic Consumers Association pointed out that for the 10 species of fish most commonly farmed, it takes 1.9 kg of wild fish to produce 1 kg of farm-raised fish. The growing environment at fish farms is similar to the animal factory farms everywhere – overcrowded, sickly, infected animals being fed whatever it takes to grow them as large as possible in as short a time as possible.
- Farm-raised fish, like factory-farmed meat, is pumped full of antibiotics, hormones, and even chemicals to change their color, such as to make salmon appear pink.
- Studies have consistently found levels of PCBs, dioxins, toxaphene, and dieldrin, as well as mercury, to be higher in farm-raised fish than wild fish.
Therefore, steer clear from farmed-raised fish as they are clearly not a healthy food choice.
Fortunately, there are still some safe, unpolluted areas out there, such as in certain pristine waters in the Arctic, Antarctic, and Alaskan waters. Safe choices of fish to eat regularly are:
- Wild Alaskan salmon
- Smaller fish, like anchovies, herrings, and sardines, which are lower in the food chain and less likely to be contaminated.
Finally, if you decide not to risk your health by eating contaminated fish, you should remember that your body still has a requirement for omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats support heart health, reduce inflammation, improve cellular integrity, and are vital for memory and nervous system functioning.
- Take a high quality fish oil supplement, one that is free of detectable levels of harmful contaminants like mercury, dioxins, lead, and PCBs.