Disease Proof

Mercury in Fish, Better Alert the World!

Mankind has a lot of nasty habits. Arguably the worst is our tendency to pollute. We pollute the air with smog, television with American Idol, and the ocean with Mercury. And, mercury contamination probably goes unrealized by millions of people everyday. This report by EurekAlert confirms it:
The health risks posed by mercury contaminated fish is sufficient to warrant issuing a worldwide general warning to the public — especially children and women of childbearing age-to be careful about how much and which fish they eat. That is one of the key findings comprising "The Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution" published today in a special issue of the international science journal Ambio.


Developed at the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant last August in Madison, Wis., the declaration is a synopsis of the latest scientific knowledge about the danger posed by mercury pollution. It presents 33 principal findings from five synthesis papers prepared by the world's leading mercury scientists and published in the same issue of Ambio. The declaration and supporting papers summarize what is currently known about the sources and movement of mercury in the atmosphere, the socioeconomic and health effects of mercury pollution on human populations, and its effects on the world's fisheries and wildlife.
Dr. Fuhrman has been screaming about the dangers of mercury contamination for a long time. He issues a lot of warnings in Eat to Live, take a look:
Fish is a double-edged sword, especially because fish has been shown to increase heart attack risk if polluted with mercury.1 It seems that the cardioprotective effects of eating a little fish is lost when you eat lots of fish, most likely because lots of fish exposes you to high mercury levels, which can promote lipid peroxidation.3 Lipid peroxidation plays a major role in the development of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis…


… Higher levels of mercury found in mothers who eat more fish have been associated with birth defects, seizures, mental retardation, developmental disabilities, and cerebral palsy.2 This is mostly the result of women having eaten fish when they were pregnant. Scientists believe that fetuses are much more sensitive to mercury exposure than adults, although adults do suffer from varying degrees of brain damage from fish consumption.3 Even the FDA, which normally ignores reports on the dangers of our dangerous food practices, acknowledges that large fish such as shark, swordfish, and yellowfin and bluefin tuna, are potentially dangerous. Researchers are also concerned about other toxins concentrated in fish that can cause brain damage way before the cancers caused by chemical-carrying fish appear.
Now, I barely eat any animal products anymore, but, from time to time I do like a nice piece of fish. So, what’s safe and what’s not safe to eat? Back to Eat to Live:
Fish with Highest and Lowest Mercury Levels

Highest
  • tilefish
  • swordfish
  • mackerel
  • shark
  • white snapper
  • tuna
Lowest
  • salmon
  • flounder
  • sole
  • tilapia
  • trout
Okay, even though Dr. Fuhrman points to these five varieties of fish as safer choices, he still warns that people shouldn’t eat fish more than twice a week.
1. Salonen, J. T., K. Seppanen, K. Nyyssonen, et al. 1995. Intake of mercury from fish, lipid peroxidation, and the risk of myocardial infarcation and coronary, cardiovascular, and any death in eastern Finnish men. Circulation 91: 645-55.

2. Shamlaye, C. F., D. O. Marsh, G. J. Myers, et al. 1995. The Seychelles Child Development Study on neurodevelopmental outcomes in children following in utero exposure to methylmercury from a maternal fish diet: background and demographics. Neurotoxicology 16 (4): 597-612; Rylander L., U. Stromberg, and L. Hagmar. 1996. Dietary intake of fish contaminated with persistent organochlorine compounds in relation to low birthweight. Scand. J. Work Environ. Health 2 (4): 260-66; Does methylmercury have a role in causing developmental disabilities in children? 2000. Environ. Health Perspect. 108 (supp.3): 413-20.

3. Clarkson, T.W. 1997. The toxicology of mercury. Crit. Rev. Clin. Lab. Sci. 34(4):369-403.
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