Got Mercury?

sushi-tuna-swordfish-mercury-web-250x250In a perfect  world, fish would be a near-perfect food. It’s high in protein and full of essential nutrients and healthy fats. But we don’t live in a perfect world– and, unfortunately, nearly all fish is contaminated with mercury.  Because it’s bioaccumulative, mercury is found in higher concentrations in larger, older fish and predatory species like shark, tuna, and swordfish.

If you frequently eat fish, you probably want to know how much mercury you may be ingesting. Now, there’s now an easy way to find out. has created a calculator to do just that. It also has a series of fact sheets on the affects of mercury on us — and the food chain. 

Fill in your weight, along with the type and amount of fish you consume each week. It will instantly tell you whether you are over the EPA’s recommended limit and what that might mean for your health.


Is Mercury Bad For You?

Health effects include damage to the central nervous system, heart and immune system, and the developing brains of young and unborn children are especially vulnerable. Once in the human body, mercury acts as a neurotoxin, interfering with the brain and nervous system.

Exposure to mercury can be particularly hazardous for pregnant women and small children. During the first several years of life, a child’s brain is still developing and rapidly absorbing nutrients. Even in low doses, mercury may affect a child’s development, delaying walking and talking, shortening attention span and causing learning disabilities. Less frequent, high dose prenatal and infant exposures to mercury can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness. Because mercury can harm a young child or an unborn baby’s developing nervous system, the FDA has issued advice for women of child-bearing age and children to avoid or limit their consumption of certain fish that are contaminated with elevated levels of mercury.

In adults, mercury poisoning can adversely affect fertility and blood pressure regulation and can cause memory loss, tremors, vision loss and numbness of the fingers and toes. A growing body of evidence suggests that exposure to mercury may also lead to heart disease.

About 6% of U.S. women, or about 3.8 million people, exceed the amount of mercury that the EPA says is safe for fetuses. A study conducted by the EPA also predicts that approximately 630,000 American babies are born each year with levels of mercury high enough that it may affect their health.

How can I protect myself from Mercury toxicity?

Since the highest risk of mercury exposure is from fish, most Americans can minimize their exposure by avoiding fish that are high in mercury.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises pregnant women, nursing mothers and women who may become pregnant to limit their fish and seafood consumption to two , 6 ounce meals per week. They should avoid all consumption of shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish, and no more than one of the weekly meals should be albacore or white tuna.

The population less sensitive to mercury toxicity (Men over 17 and woman over 45) should eat fish like tuna no more than twice per week and avoid combinations of high mercury fish- including several types of sushi.

Mercury dose and exposure relative to health advisories can be calculated for common types of fish using the Got Mercury calculator at Levels of mercury in many common types of fish we have tested for mercury can also be found on their website,


Guest Contributor

Self-Reliance Central publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of SRC. Reproduced with permission.