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Can I get mercury poison from eating fish?

Marco Di Buono
Nutrition & Dietetics

Fish is a very important source of healthy fats (long chain polyunsturates), but some fish can contain mercury. The vast majority of North Americans do not have to worry about mercury exposure as a result of fish consumption.

Fish can accumulate mercury through absorption from the surrounding water but mostly from the prey that they eat. This implies that mercury can concentrate up the food chain. Therefore, predatory fish that eat lots of other fish for food tend to contain higher levels of mercury.

Health Canada suggests limiting consumption of fresh/frozen tuna, shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy and escolar to no more than 150g per week. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should limit to 150g per month and children should consumer even less (visit http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/chem-chim/environ/mercur/cons-adv-etud-eng.php for more information).

The US Food and Drug Administration suggests avoiding shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel altogether.

Canned tuna is one of the most popular types of fish for many North Americans. The fish used in canned tuna products are generally younger and smaller and have significantly less mercury than fresh or frozen tuna, so that most North Americans don't need to be concerned about consuming canned tuna. However, for those who consume large amounts of canned albacore tuna, there is some potential for exposure to higher levels of mercury than is considered acceptable.

Health Canada has specific recommendations for canned albacore tuna on its site at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/chem-chim/environ/mercur/cons-adv-etud-eng.php.

 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.