Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mercury from Uranus?

If you eat tuna apparently the answer is a qualified "yes." Most of the mercury (a proven neurotoxin and carcinogen) in the tuna you eat will accumulate in your fatty tissue, but a small percentage will be excreted. But that's not the really big news, this is

NEW YORK: Recent laboratory tests performed for The New York Times found so much mercury in tuna sushi that a regular diet of even two or three pieces a week at some restaurants could be a health hazard for the average adult, based on guidelines set out by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Eight of the 44 pieces of sushi The Times purchased from local restaurants and stores in October had mercury levels so high that the Food and Drug Administration could take legal action to remove the fish from the market.

Tests find hazardous levels of mercury in tuna sushi in New York - International Herald Tribune


Valerie said...

Yikes, that is scary. Where is all the mercury coming from? And why are certain types of fish higher in mercury than others?

citqs said...

Varying mercury levels in regional waters would affect the amount that gets into that region's fish.

The NYT sushi tuna likely came from regional waters where industrial pollution jacked up the mercury levels.

Everyone could be more careful and find out where the fish you eat comes from . . . even if it's sushi or sashimi grade (whatever that means).

cea608b said...

In New York I've read that sushi grade means it has been frozen to kill parasites.

Crazy Raven Productions said...

Ack! Guess what I had for dinner last night! I'm in Upstate NY, too...

Bob del Grosso said...


I believe you are correct.

Mercury gets into the water via a variety of ways
-as runoff from mining
-runoff from lanfills that contain electronic and other devices that contain mercury
-fallout from fossil fuel burning powerplants

and more.

Fish that contain the highest levels of mercury are all predators who, I think typically must eat approx 10 pounds of meat to gain 1 pound of body mass. So if a tuna eats 10 pounds of fish with say 1 microgram per pound of mercury in it's fatty tissue, the tuna will end up with 10 micrograms per pound.

Tags said...

From Paul Johnson's "Fish Forever"

The three tuna canneries that dominate the canned tuna market-Bumblebee, Star Kist, and Chicken of the Sea-prefer to can large mature albacore because large fish yield more meat per pound, and the meat appears solid white when cooked. But it is these larger, older, mature albacore that are most likely to test high in mercury because mercury is bio-accumulated over time...

...Low-mercury white-meat albacore is available under labels such as Pacific Fleet, Carvalho's, Dave's, Lazio, Vital Choice, Wild Planet; others can be found on the internet. The label should read "low mercury," "minimal mercury," or "caught and canned on the U.S. Pacific Coast."

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

Scotty said...

The story was on the Today Show this morning, but it came on while I was out with the girls waiting for the School Bus.