If you love your fish but are starting to wonder just how healthy it is with all the reports of mercury content in some seafoods, don’t despair. While fish is one of the healthiest sources of lean protein there is growing concern that mercury levels in some seafoods is having a devastating impact on the health of many. What is a person to do? Avoid fish altogether? Well, le’ts not get too extreme, and while I would say that some precautions are necessary I will also say that you can enjoy your fish. However lets’ set a few parameters to ensure our own health according to what is being reported as “safe consumption.”
The fact that mercury is getting into our seafood is maddening enough. But how does it get into our fish? Water pollution! Fish absorb low levels of mercury as a result of water pollution, and over time the accumulation of methylmercury can concentrate in their bodies, serving you up a meal of this highly toxic substance. NO THANK YOU!
But here is some hopeful news. The amount of mercury in fish is largely dependent not only on the pollution levels in their environment, but also on the species fish. It seems that some species show higher concentrations of mercury than others. Overall your larger fish and the ones that tend to have a longer life span contain higher concentrations. These species include swordfish, shark, fresh tuna, and mackerel.
Now what about pollution levels in water sources that are home to so many fish? One study that was done from 1998 – 2005 tested the mercury levels in 291 streams from around the US. This study concluded that 27% of fish from these streams contained more than the recommended mercury limit. (1) I’m sorry but I actually get STUCK at reading “recommended limit!” We seriously have a RECOMMENDED limit of consumption of what is known to be a highly toxic substance. Okay then . . . !
In 2017 the EPA-FDA published what is their advice on the safe consumption of fish and shellfish. I’m including the reference below for those of you who want to read the full article however I’m condensing the highlights here (2):
1. Women in their child-bearing years, which they include 16-49 years old should eat fish lower in mercury.
2. Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding should eat fish that are lower in mercury.
3. Young children should eat fish that are lower in mercury
Really?! Well I certainly feel a whole lot better now, don’t you!? Sorry if my irritation is coming through in my typing, but as I sit here reading this, I can’t help but think . . .
. . . perhaps, MAYBE just perhaps, what we should be sharing with the public is that all of us who love fish need to be consuming only those species showing lower concentrations of the HIGHLY TOXIC methylmercury! And maybe . . . just MAYBE what needs to be a priority course of action is to do something about the increasing levels of pollution in our oceans and streams! Maybe . . . but that’s jut my opinion.