Scientists Call for Worldwide Warning: Be Wary of Eating Fish

I have been warning about the health risks associated with eating mercury-contaminated fish for some time, and now the world’s leading mercury scientists are calling for worldwide attention to this serious issue.

After a year-long effort to review and synthesize the major mercury science findings, every member of four scientific panels endorsed "The Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution." Its findings warrant a worldwide warning to the public -- especially to children and women of childbearing age -- to be careful about how much and which fish you eat.

The declaration confirms that eating fish is the primary way most people are exposed to highly toxic methylmercury, and exposure to this toxin now constitutes a public health problem. Other concerning findings include:

  • On average, three times more mercury is falling from the sky today than before the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago.
  • There is now solid scientific evidence of methylmercury's toxic health effects, particularly to the human fetus.
  • New evidence indicates that methylmercury exposure may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly in adult men.

It is very sad, as fish would otherwise be an incredibly healthy food, that pollution has made it very difficult to find safe fish. The only way I advocate eating fish is if you first have it lab tested to make sure it is free of mercury (and other harmful pollutants like PCBs). Otherwise, it simply is not worth the risk. Meanwhile, if you have been eating fish you can calculate your mercury risk if you are interested.

AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment: Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 62–66

EurekAlert March 8, 2007