There may be a good reason today for you to be wary of your favorite tuna or to skip it altogether. This reason is called mercury in fish.
A study by the U.S. Geologic Survey shows that following China’s rapid industrialization, mercury contamination in tuna and other Pacific fish sources has increased by 30% since 1990. It can climb up to another 50% by 2050, says research, if China sticks to its current rate of as many as one new coal-powered power plant built per week.
Top natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola is also sounding the alarm bells, grieving that tuna – “one of the healthiest foods on the planet” – has been “virtually devastated” with mercury toxicity. He says that streams, lakes, oceans and the environment have been contaminated with millions of tons of mercury, which could be bioaccumulated to very high levels in tuna and most fish.
Doing the Math: Is There Really Mercury in Fish?
Dr. Mercola says that the figures can speak – or scream the nasty truth – for themselves.
• U.S. officials say that 75 percent of human exposure to mercury comes from eating fish
• Contaminated Pacific tuna alone accounts for 40 percent of this human exposure
• The United States alone release 40 tons of mercury each year by burning coal for electricity
• A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in 2005 says that one in 17 women of childbearing age have mercury levels of above 5.8 micrograms per liter, an amount that can directly harm a developing fetus
• The National Academy of Sciences calculates that 600,000 newborns a year are at risk of learning disabilities because of mercury exposure during their mothers’ pregnancy
Emitted from coal-fired power plants and other mining machineries, mercury in the air “rains down” into bodies of water and is converted by bacteria into a dangerous form called methylmercury. It then finds its way into species of fish and is especially accumulated in those that are situated high up the food chain.
Tuna, for instance, is a widely popular fish in the United States. In 2007, canned tuna ranked second among the most eaten seafood, nearly three pounds of it consumed by the average American that year.
Dr. Mercola drops the bomb: tuna exhibits some of the worst mercury contamination, standing alongside seabass, marlin, halibut and many others.
The Toxic Truth about Mercury and Your Health
Fetuses and developing infants are hit hard by mercury exposure, which negatively affects language, attention span, visual-spatial skills, memory and coordination. Even in low doses, mercury can affect development, shortening attention span and causing learning disabilities.
Mercury in the fish you eat also especially harms your central nervous system, inducing health problems such as:
• Arrhythmias and cardiomyopathies
• Blurred vision
• Irritability and personality shifts
• Slowed mental response
• Unsteady gait
Can I Still Have My Share of Tuna?
“In a perfect world, fish would be a near-perfect food – high in protein and full of essential nutrients and fats. But our world is not perfect, and, sadly, neither is our fish supply,” Dr. Mercola mourns, recommending that you skip the tuna and all other fish unless you’re sure that they’ve been lab-tested and proven free from mercury and other toxins.
2007-released laboratory tests in New York have shown that 10 percent of the tuna samples were unsafe and contained above 1.0 ppm mercury levels. They discovered that the tested tuna sushi had so much mercury that those 2-3 pieces a week at some restaurants proved to be hazardous to one’s health.
But you still have options. You can choose, for instance, to consume smaller fish like anchovies and sardines because their small size makes them less likely to be contaminated by mercury. You can also try the wild red salmon which is caught in the cold, clean North Pacific region.
The health benefits from fish, says Dr. Mercola, can also be acquired from other clean sources. You can obtain Omega-3 fats and antioxidants from safe products including high-quality krill oil, which is made from krill or a shrimp-like crustacean found in the cold oceans of the world.
Dr. Mercola adds that you more than tuna and other seafood, you should also watch out for your other food sources and be always on-guard for different forms of toxicity. If you are what you eat, then what does mercury in your fish reveal about you?