Thursday, January 24, 2008

High Mercury Levels Are Found in Tuna Sushi

This article is notable for many reasons. First, eating fish can give you mercury poisoning--so why aren't we doing anything about coal plant emissions and things that CAUSE high mercury?

Second, they are, prudently, warning pregnant and breastfeeding women to NOT eat fish because the mercury can harm their baby...and yet INJECTING mercury and other heavy metals (at least through the digestive tract, there are certain detox mechanisms, but you bypass them all if you inject it directly) into pregnant moms and babies is 100% safe? Hello? Also, if you start with a large mercury burden in your body, give birth, then add a few pieces of sushi's worth of mercury, aluminum, etc., into a newborn, I think Grandma would say, that just can't be good...

Unfortunately, we've contaminated a perfectly healthy source of food. FertiltiyBitch's suggestion is to stay away, FAR AWAY, from tuna altogether.
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From the NY Times:

Recent laboratory tests found so much mercury in tuna sushi from 20 Manhattan stores and restaurants that at most of them, a regular diet of six pieces a week would exceed the levels considered acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sushi from 5 of the 20 places had mercury levels so high that the Food and Drug Administration could take legal action to remove the fish from the market. The sushi was bought by The New York Times in October...

“The owner of a restaurant whose tuna sushi had particularly high mercury concentrations said he was shocked by the findings. “I’m startled by this,” said the owner, Drew Nieporent, a managing partner of Nobu Next Door. “Anything that might endanger any customer of ours, we’d be inclined to take off the menu immediately and get to the bottom of it.”

Although the samples were gathered in New York City, experts believe similar results would be observed elsewhere.

“Mercury levels in bluefin are likely to be very high regardless of location,” said Tim Fitzgerald, a marine scientist for Environmental Defense, an advocacy group that works to protect the environment and improve human health.

In 2004 the Food and Drug Administration joined with the Environmental Protection Agency to warn women who might become pregnant and children to limit their consumption of certain varieties of canned tuna because the mercury it contained might damage the developing nervous system. Fresh tuna was not included in the advisory. Most of the tuna sushi in the Times samples contained far more mercury than is typically found in canned tuna.

Over the past several years, studies have suggested that mercury may also cause health problems for adults, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and neurological symptoms.

No government agency regularly tests seafood for mercury.

At Blue Ribbon Sushi, Eric Bromberg, an owner, said he was aware that bluefin tuna had higher mercury concentrations. For that reason, Mr. Bromberg said, the restaurant typically told parents with small children not to let them eat “more than one or two pieces.”

Scientists who performed the analysis for The Times ran the tests several times to be sure there was no mistake in the levels of methylmercury, the form of mercury found in fish tied to health problems.

The work was done at the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, in Piscataway, a partnership between Rutgers and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School....

In general, tuna sushi from food stores was much lower in mercury. These findings reinforce results in other studies showing that more expensive tuna usually contains more mercury because it is more likely to come from a larger species, which accumulates mercury from the fish it eats. Mercury enters the environment as an industrial pollutant.

A number of studies have found high blood mercury levels in people eating a diet rich in seafood. According to a 2007 survey by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the average level of mercury in New Yorkers’ blood is three times higher than the national average. The report found especially high levels among Asian New Yorkers, especially foreign-born Chinese, and people with high incomes. The report noted that Asians tend to eat more seafood, and it speculated that wealthier people favored fish, like swordfish and bluefin tuna, that happen to have higher mercury levels.

The city has warned women who are pregnant or breast-feeding and children not to eat fresh tuna, Chilean sea bass, swordfish, shark, grouper and other kinds of fish it describes as “too high in mercury.” (Cooking fish has no effect on the mercury level.)

Dr. Kate Mahaffey, a senior research scientist in the office of science coordination and policy at the E.P.A. who studies mercury in fish, said “We have seen exposures occurring now in the United States that have produced blood mercury a lot higher than anything we would have expected to see,” Dr. Mahaffey said. “And this appears to be related to consumption of larger amounts of fish that are higher in mercury than we had anticipated.”...

The current advice from the F.D.A. is insufficient,” said Dr. Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health and chairman of the department of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark. “In order to maintain reasonably low mercury exposure, you have to eat fish low in the food chain, the smaller fish, and they are not saying that.”

Some environmental groups have sounded the alarm. Environmental Defense, the advocacy group, says no one, no matter his or her age, should eat bluefin tuna. Dr. Gochfeld said: “I like to think of tuna sushi as an occasional treat. A steady diet is certainly problematic. There are a lot of other sushi choices.”

read more here.

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3 comments:

itofoto said...

NO no no...that is terrible news! But I guess the good news is that I'm not pregnant or planning to be. I LOVE TUNA SUSHI.

Katie said...

Thanks for your post on the New York Time’s local story about mercury in sushi. Oceana, an international marine conservation organization, published an even more extensive on mercury levels in fresh tuna, swordfish and tilapia from supermarkets, and tuna and mackerel from sushi restaurants. The good news is that mackerel and tilapia are low-mercury fish and can be eaten safely. The bad news is that swordfish and fresh tuna have high levels of mercury and consumers should be leery.

The Food and Drug Administration has recommended that women of childbearing age and children completely avoid eating swordfish and limit consumption of fresh tuna to six ounces or less a week. Even if people are familiar with this advice concerning mercury, they probably don’t readily carry it while dining out or shopping for their weekly groceries. Additionally, Oceana’s study found that 87 percent of seafood counter attendants couldn’t provide shoppers with the FDA warning, so you shouldn’t rely on them to give you the government advice either.

Posting signs in grocery stores would provide this crucial information in a way that is accessible and easily understood. Major grocery companies like Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons are posting the FDA advice at their seafood counters. Still other grocers, like Costco, Publix and A&P, refuse to post a sign and give this important information to their customers. There is no reason to cut seafood totally out of your diet, but it is important to know what kinds of fish are potentially harmful and how to avoid them. Check out Oceana’s new report and get the full story at http://www.oceana.org/mercury.

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