Mercury – Serious Problem?
Inside the Outdoors, January 01, 2010

I was contacted recently by an area resident who not only expressed her concern about mercury, but told me she and her husband quit eating fish because of the bulletins that are in the news concerning frequent contamination.

I have to confess, I have heard about mercury over the years, but never gave it much thought. In doing investigation about the subject particularly in fish, I was educated, and hope what I found will be enlightening and worth sharing with others.

First, from a website, mercuryfacts.org, comes this revelation: “Between 2000 and 2006, more than 250,000 U.S. children were born at risk of IQ deficits because of their mothers were afraid to eat fish.”

The folks who spelled out the information said “Mercury science continues to confirm that fish is a health food. This nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom backs its findings with a list of facts from which it arrived its conclusions.

  • Americans who consume twice as much mercury as the FDA recommends are still protected by a 500-percent cushion. The same generous safety margin applies to the Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury “Reference Dose.”
  • The U.S. government’s Institute of Medicine (a division of the National Academies of Science) warned in a major 2006 report that a “spillover effect” from one-size-fits-all fish warnings could deny most consumers the health benefits of seafood consumption.
  • There are no scientifically documented cases of Americans developing mercury poisoning from eating commercially available fish.
  • The federal government’s mercury-in-fish recommendations are based largely on a single study whose participants were exposed to mercury by eating whale meat – not fish.
  • A twelve-year study conducted in the Seychelles Islands (in the Indian Ocean) recently found no negative health effects from exposure to mercury through heavy fish consumption.
  • In February 2007, The Lancet, the United Kingdom’s most prestigious medical journal published U.S. government-funded research demonstrating a clear health benefit to children whose mothers ate large amounts of fish while pregnant. Mothers who ate the most fish had children with the highest IQs.
  • Studies published in 2005 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that even eating small amounts of fish each week can result in a 17 percent lower risk of stroke. The Omega 3 fats found in fish can also protect against Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, breast and prostate cancer.
  • Researchers at Harvard University concluded that the health benefits of fish “greatly out weigh the risks,” including those from trace amounts of mercury.
  • Over 40 years of scientific research has established that selenium, a plentiful nutrient in fish, can effectively neutralize the toxicity of trace amounts of mercury in seafood. 16 of 25 the best sources of selenium are ocean fish.
  • Finally, there’s solid scientific evidence that the amount of mercury in fish has remained the same (or even decreased) during the past century.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Fishing Summary Booklet annually list consumption advisories for waterways affected in the state. Check the references where mercury may be a contaminant and the meal frequency of fish caught.

According to Tom Qualters, waterways conservation officer for the PFBC, Southwest Region Somerset office, “It takes years and years for mercury to build up in one’s system. Seniors don’t have to worry about it at all. They’ll never live long enough to feel its affects.”

I think that sums it up in a nutshell!


- Paul J. Volkmann
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