Love fish? Hate Mercury? American consumers are becoming increasingly more interested in the toxicity of the seafood they are eating and taking steps to avoid mercury and contaminants.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA), mercury occurs naturally in the environment and can be emitted into the air by human activities, such as manufacturing or burning coal for fuel. When precipitated from the air, mercury can then reach and accumulate in bodies of water as methylmercury.
Nearly all fish and shellfish appear to contain traces of mercury from absorbing methylmercury in the water, yet larger fish like sharks, swordfish, tuna and king mackerel, typically contain more. Eating large amounts of these fish on a regular basis can put individuals at risk for mercury poisoning and low amounts are particularly toxic to the nervous system of unborn babies or young children.
So, which fish are safe for consumers to eat? The answer to this question varies depending on the frequency of consumption and the geographic source of the fish purchased. The routine consumption of any fish that are high in methylmercury can result in its accumulation within the bloodstream over time. The EPA and FDA therefore offer recommendations for limiting the quantity of fish per week. The Turtle Island Restoration Network also offers a Mercury Calculator for estimating exposure based on limited consumption.
In addition to the frequency of consumption, the conditions of the fishes' living environment significantly contributed to the toxic pollutants they absorb. Geographically, wild-caught fish are often preferred to farm-raised fish, depending on the environmental impact of the wild harvest and the source and conditions of the farmed fish. Currently, there are no official USDA Organic standards for fish, however aquaculture is on the cusp of reaching guidelines as proceedings are underway in 2014.
Many environmentally conscious vendors have adopted strict farming standards and are working with environmentalists to ensure sustainable aquaculture. Whole Foods Market is one vendor that has made large efforts to ensure clean farming grounds, free of artificial chemicals and preservatives, and implemented stringent eco-standards.
Check out the following list of Seafood with low mercury levels and the suggested sources for Safe purchase.