Mercury in Fish (& How Safe is it to Eat?)

Mercury in Fish – Is fish still safe to eat?

How Mercury gets into Fish

How Mercury gets into Fish

Mercury toxicity in fish is now fairly common knowledge but how toxic is our fish and should we still be eating it?

Headlines like “40% of U.S. imported fish tested positive for banned drugs” makes it hard to know which fish is safe to eat.

Below I have provided a list of Mercury in fish levels and the amounts it’s safe to eat.

With radiation from the 2011 Fukishima Nuclear disaster in Japan also entering into the mix, along with the already known pollutants, such as Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB’s), Mercury, Dioxins and Drugs, that question is getting harder to answer.

Back in 2011, Brett Hall, Deputy Commissioner for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries stated: “I can tell you right off the bat that 40 percent of the imported fish we test is positive for banned drugs that are not safe for human health.”

A study by the Bioresearch Diversity Institute in 2013 found that 84% of the world’s fish tested was not safe to eat more than once per month. Mercury in fish studies point to the potential for mercury poisoning. In the US the study only looked at one fish: Alaskan Halibut. They found 43% of Alaskan Halibut was only safe to eat once a month due to mercury levels.

Mercury in Fish – So Which Fish Tested Highest For Mercury?

The U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council has compiled a list of fish in terms of risk, both to humans – and to the fish in terms of sustainability as many varieties of fish are over fished to the point of collapse. These are marked with an asterisk. Their data is according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (F.D.A.) and the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.):

LEAST LEVELS OF MERCURY IN FISH:

Enjoy these fish:
Anchovies
Butterfish
Catfish
Clam
Crab (Domestic)
Crawfish/Crayfish
Croaker (Atlantic)
Flounder*
Haddock (Atlantic)*
Hake
Herring
Mackerel (N. Atlantic, Chub) 
Mullet
Oyster
Perch (Ocean) 
Plaice
Pollock
Salmon (Canned)**
Salmon (Fresh)**
Sardine
Scallop*
Shad (American)
Shrimp*
Sole (Pacific)
Squid (Calamari)
Tilapia
Trout (Freshwater)
Whitefish
Whiting

MODERATE LEVELS OF MERCURY IN FISH:

Eat six servings or less per month:
Bass (Striped, Black)
Carp
Cod (Alaskan)* 
Croaker (White Pacific)
Halibut (Atlantic)*
Halibut (Pacific)
Jacksmelt
(Silverside)
Lobster
Mahi Mahi
Monkfish*
Perch (Freshwater) 
Sablefish
Skate*
Snapper*
Tuna (Canned
chunk light)
Tuna (Skipjack)*
Weakfish (Sea Trout)

HIGH LEVELS OF MERCURY IN FISH:

Eat three servings or less per month:
Bluefish
Grouper*
Mackerel (Spanish, Gulf)
Sea Bass (Chilean)*
Tuna (Canned Albacore)
Tuna (Yellowfin)*

HIGHEST LEVELS OF MERCURY IN FISH:

Avoid eating:
Mackerel (King)
Marlin*
Orange Roughy*
Shark*
Swordfish*
Tilefish*
Tuna (Bigeye, Ahi)*

* Fish in Trouble! These fish are perilously low in numbers or are caught using environmentally destructive methods.
** Farmed Salmon may contain PCB’s, chemicals with serious long-term health effects.

About the mercury-level categories: The categories on the list (least mercury to highest mercury) are determined according to the following mercury levels in the flesh of tested fish.
• Least mercury: Less than 0.09 parts per million
• Moderate mercury: From 0.09 to 0.29 parts per million
• High mercury: From 0.3 to 0.49 parts per million
• Highest mercury: More than .5 parts per million

Source: http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/guide.asp

We now know that levels of mercury in fish can be toxic, but by drinking some wines you may be ingesting up to 50 X’s more chemical and heavy metals toxins than found in fish:

Heavy Metals Found in Wine – 50 X’s More Toxic Than Levels Found In Fish

So What Toxins Are In Our Fish?

That depends on whether the fish is Wild or Farmed and from which part of the world they’re sourced from.

Banned drugs found in Farmed Fish include:

Nitrofurans (used as an antibiotic) which was banned by the European Commission in 1993.
Fluoroquinolones which are a family of broad spectrum antibacterial agents.
Anti-Parastics.
Colour Dyes. (Yes, farmed Salmon is fed on modified corn and other unnatural food stuffs. This results in the meat being grey, so it’s dyed pink.

Toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury and nickel and vanadium have been found in sea fish. For more on the effects of toxicity from heavy metals see my blog post: https://www.howtodetoxheavymetals.com/mercury-thimerosal/

PCB’s (along with heavy metals) are also found in ocean fish, particularly along shipping lanes, are synthetic organochlorine compounds derived from industrial and commercial processes like waste incineration, pesticides and plastics. PCB’s are included in the class of environmental toxins known as Dioxins (the chemical name is Tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin). Such toxins are hormone disruptors. For an example of the effects of these toxins see further down this page.

Which Countries Have the Most Toxic Fish?

China, not helped by it’s acute water shortages and water supplies contaminated with sewage, industrial waste and agricultural run off, doesn’t have a good record when it comes to toxic fish. Fish farmed in such toxic waters have found to contain illegal veterinary drugs and pesticides.

The Bioresearch Diversity Institute study found, in a study of 15-20 fish per country, that mercury concentrations in fish from sites in Japan and Uruguay were so high that NO consumption is recommended.

mercury-percentage-in-fish

In Italy, Japan, Uruguay and Portugal, 100% of the fish tested was only safe to eat ONCE per month.

The 2010 Gulf of Mexico B.P. oil rig disaster has had a marked impact on fish from the Gulf region which supplies 40% of the fish to the U.S. Apart from some seafood catches being down to 10% of what they used to be before the spill, mutations, due to the oil and chemical agents in the sea included: tumours and missing or deformed parts of the anatomy – no eyes sockets, missing gills, crabs missing claws.

Fish from the Pacific Ocean is now also subject to the radiation (Caesium in particular) from the Fukishima Nuclear disaster.

Larger chain fish such as Marlin, Tuna, Swordfish and King Mackerel have the tendency to be higher in mercury and other toxins because toxins are bio-accumulative. That is to say, the toxins found in smaller chain fish work their way through the fish food chain to the largest fish because toxins already absorbed by small fish are then eaten by medium chain fish (with their own load of toxins) that are then eaten by the larger chain fish.

The abundance of plastics in the marine environment has risen tenfold every decade in some locations, with swathes of the Pacific ocean now covered by a great garbage patch of debris from Fukishimas’ tsunami, eating fish from these areas is not advisable. Plastics and other toxins are absorbed in the fatty tissue of fish (just as they are stored in humans) and are known hormone disruptors. Molluscs found in the English channel have been found to display both sexes. That is, the toxins in the sea had so badly damaged the hormonal endocrine systems of this sea food, that the molluscs had become hermaphrodites.

If you trust the Environmental Protection Agencies estimates of how much mercury is “safe” to consume is based on a persons body weight and is equal to 0.1 micrograms per kilograms per day. There is a calculator to measure the amount of mercury in fish that is safe:
http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/calculator/calc.asp

If the complexities of deciding which fish to eat are too time worrying or consuming there is a simple solution: Eat only wild fish like Alaskan Salmon or don’t eat fish! You can derive your protein and fats from organic whole plant foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices.

40 percent of the imported fish we test is positive for banned drugs that are not safe for human health, – See more at: http://www.fairwarning.org/2011/07/imported-fish-with-banned-chemicals-reaching-u-s-consumers

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