Environmental Protection

Mercury Levels in Women of Childbearing Age Dropped by 34 Percent

A recent EPA report shows that blood mercury levels in women of childbearing age has decreased by 34 percent from a survey conducted in 1999-2000 to follow-up surveys conducted from 2001 to 2010. Additionally, the percentage of women of childbearing age with blood mercury levels above the level of concern decreased by 65 percent.

EPA’s study provides a nationwide perspective on trends in mercury levels based mostly on consumption of ocean fish. It does not reflect trends in mercury levels in communities that depend on locally caught fish for subsistence. EPA and states recommend that people check local advisories before eating fish caught from local waterways.

Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. For most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern. Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system. The risks from mercury depend on the amount of fish and shellfish eaten and the levels of mercury in the fish.

EPA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advise women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children to avoid some types of fish and to eat fish and shellfish that are low in mercury for the health benefits and to reduce exposure to mercury.

EPA and FDA recommend not eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish because they have high levels of mercury. People should only eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) per week of a variety of fish and shellfish low in mercury. Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.

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