Skip to comments.Studies seem fishy to mercury experts
Posted on 10/20/2006 3:24:09 PM PDT by SJackson
This was a grand week for fish eaters - especially fish eaters at high risk for heart disease.
The reason: A study released by the Institute of Medicine concluded that the benefits of consuming seafood at least twice a week far outweigh the risks posed by mercury and other dangerous contaminants found in many fish species.
Another study, this one by researchers at Harvard, not only supported those findings but said that people who eat one to two servings of fish a week - particularly fish high in omega 3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon - may cut their risk of fatal heart attacks by 36 percent (!) and their risk of death in general by 17 percent.
And the threats posed by mercury, PCBs and other toxins? Inconclusive, the studies said.
Bluegill and other fish found in Madison Wis Monona Bay have been found toxic with high levels of mercury . If all that sounds too good to be true, well, guess what? It probably is.
Or so suggests Eric Uram, a local mercury expert who groaned when I asked him about the studies this week.
"Seems like all they've done is added to the confusion" says Uram, a former Sierra Club representative - he's now a private consultant - who's spent the last couple years trying to alert the public about the alarming levels of mercury not only in certain fish but in the environment as a whole.
He's not alone. A recent story in Time magazine noted that a growing body of research suggests that exposure to medium to high levels of mercury can harm adults and children and can lead to everything from fatigue and tremors to brain and kidney disorders.
The Time story also noted that researchers testing song birds in the Northeast "have found creeping mercury levels in the blood of more than 175 once-clean species. Others have found the metal for the first time in polar bears, bats, mink, otters, panthers and more."
So why would researchers at the Institute of Medicine and Harvard downplay the risk of eating mercury-contaminated fish?
Uram says he's as bewildered an anyone. The studies also seem to send a contradictory message, he says, since they support Food and Drug Administration recommendations that women of childbearing age and children under age 12 avoid certain types of fish: shark, swordfish, tilefish and mackerel. And that they limit their intake of albacore, or white, tuna.
Uram believes that's sound advice for everyone. In addition, he says, fish lovers should consume no more than one meal a month of game fish (muskie, walleye, pike and bass) caught in Wisconsin waters.
In fact, as I noted in a previous column, Uram and other mercury experts feel so strongly about it that they've been urging the FDA and state governments to require all stores that sell fish to post mercury warnings on their display cases.
But while that campaign has been unsuccessful, Uram says several "health-minded" grocery chains - notably Trader Joe's and Whole Foods - have "seen the light" and are doing it on their own.
Uram, incidentally, is a devoted fish eater himself - but not, he emphasizes, because he thinks it will fend off heart disease, as the Harvard study suggests.
Keep in mind, he says, that a Finnish study just last year concluded that middle-aged men who eat a diet rich in fish tend to have higher levels of mercury in their bodies and, in fact, are more prone to heart attacks.
"So the jury's still out on that question," Uram says.
Until next week anyway.
Seems like all they've done is added to the confusion...why would researchers at the Institute of Medicine and Harvard downplay the risk of eating mercury-contaminated fish...
Perhaps because the research didn't confirm the risk, an unfortunate finding if one has spent the last couple years trying to alert the public about the alarming levels of mercury not only in certain fish but in the environment as a whole, but apparently a fact none the less. Of course I won't be seasoning my walleye with mercury
a former Sierra Club representative
My guys (hubby and son) do a lot of fishing in the Gulf. There's lots of fish in the freezer, but we mark the type of fish on the label of the freezer bag and then try to follow these recommendations put out by the State of Florida. They recommend the frequency a particular species of fish should be eaten depending on the mercury level.
For instance, we have some cobia in the freezer, but the recommendation on it is only to be eaten once per month (probably because large fish have significantly higher mercury levels than small fish.) On the other hand, the snapper can be eaten twice a week. So we do eat fish at least twice a week, but try to follow the guidelines.
Here's the link.
"may cut their risk of fatal heart attacks by 36 percent (!) and their risk of death in general by 17 percent."
last time I checked, risk of death was nearly 100%
Well I am certainly not Sierra Club, but I do age-based toxicology health research on heavy metals and therefore have a two cents to offer up. Limiting mercury is a real good idea particularly for the young (especially embryos exposed via the moms). It is good to get the very beneficial Omega-3 FAs some other way as in supplements, etc. without overdoing it on the mercury, PCBs, etc.
And then what, flavor some old shoe leather and cook it up?? (kidding, couldn't resist)
D@mn. The local grocery had 40-packs of Fish Stix on sale two-for-one last week and I nearly took the bait! ;)
We have a freezer full of fish (Blue Gill, Crappie, Walleye) and venison, wild turkey and I think some squirrels...but I'll eat "fuzzy tailed tree-rats" as a LAST resort. ;)
I guess I just need to stick with flourescent-colored fruity-flavored Cheerios and eating at McDonald's versus risking a teeny-tiny bit of mercury or some other "Toxin Of The Week" getting into my "killed and grilled" food supply. *Rolleyes*
I've often wondered, but never bothered to look it up, what exactly is "hooey"? :-)
I’m bumping this old article because the USA Today has a front page article on the threat that mercury poses to fish in fresh water lakes and rivers, supposedly caused by coal fired power plants.
Never mind that mercury is a naturally occurring element that is prevalent in areas of former volcanic activity.