Love Fish? Tips to Avoid Mercury Poisoning

Mercury poisoning is a serious problem.  Children under six and women of childbearing age are at greatest risk of suffering from health issues associated with elevated levels of mercury.  Here are a few guidelines from the National Resources Defense Council to keep you and family safely enjoying the health benefits that fish can add to your diet.

Avoid contaminated fish.  Some types of seafood are higher in mercury than others.  Limit your consumption of ahi, bigeye, yellowfin and canned tuna, tilefish, swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy and fish caught in any waters that are subject to a mercury advisory. (For more information see the National Resource Defense Council’s guide to mercury levels in fish.)

Raw tuna and other sushi fish might be tempting for a fast go-to lunch or dinner, but exercise caution.  Often the apex predators of the food chain, these fish tend to be high in mercury. Study this list and order carefully.

Kids love tuna sandwiches but it’s important for parents to limit their children’s consumption to less than one ounce of canned light tuna for every 12 pounds of body weight per week, in order to stay below the level of mercury the EPA considers safe.  Avoid albacore or white tuna because the levels of mercury are higher.

Check Your Mercury Level. To obtain a quick estimate of your mercury intake, use NRDC’s Mercury Calculator. For a more accurate reading, consider a blood mercury test. Women with a high blood mercury level who are planning to start a family may decide to postpone pregnancy for a few months until levels drop; often this occurs within six months.

So what’s safe to eat?  Salmon, clams, shrimp, scallops, oysters, catfish, tilapia and sole are all great choices!


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