’s Operation Safe Seafood finds 35 percent of Long Island grocery store fish contains toxic levels of mercury

By September 21, 2010Got Mercury?
High levels of mercury found in Long Island
Supermarket swordfish and tuna: Mothers and children should not eat
mercury-contaminated fish

Long Island, NY- An investigation led by a concerned mother and citizen of Long Island found hazardous levels of mercury in grocery store swordfish and tuna samples taken from 11 local supermarkets. Of the 20 fish samples, thirty five percent contained mercury levels exceeding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) mercury action level of 1 part per million.  One piece of swordfish registered 200 percent over federal mercury limits.  To read the results and the full report please click here

“Eating swordfish or tuna is a toxic gamble with your health.” said Buffy Martin Tarbox, Campaign Coordinator for, a public health advocacy group.  “Residents of Long Island should be very concerned about the dangerous levels of mercury found at grocery store seafood counters.”

The fish samples were tested for mercury levels by an accredited laboratory.  Most of the samples were high in mercury, a known neurotoxin dangerous to infants and children and should be avoided by pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant.

An analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency found that women living on the Atlantic Coast had much higher mercury levels than those living on the Pacific or Gulf Coast.

With scientific evidence showing that women on the East Coast have higher concentrations of mercury in their blood, the results of the investigation of Long Island swordfish and tuna should be of great concern to mothers, public health agencies and policy makers.

“As a consumer I want to know about the contaminants in the seafood I purchase, especially mercury,” Susan Silbernagel who volunteered her time to collect the samples.  “I encourage people to use the calculator to get a better understanding of mercury levels in the fish they eat. As a mother and avid seafood eater myself, I find it useful when making seafood choices for my family.”

All the samples contained mercury, a troubling finding since eating fish is the number one source of mercury exposure in the United States according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).   In its own studies, the EPA has detected mercury in every fish sample within the continental U.S. The EPA has set a mercury action level at 0.5 ppm for recreational fish, half the level of the FDA standard for commercial fish.

This testing was conducted as part of national effort initiated by called Operation Safe Seafood. Mercury testing is occurring in communities across the U.S. A similar investigation conducted in California and Iowa found over forty percent of fish being sold in grocery stores exceeded the FDA’s mercury action level.

About works to protect people and the environment from mercury.  Because of the ubiquitous nature of mercury in the environment and because federal and state public health agencies are not doing enough to raise public awareness and protect the public from mercury, developed the free online mercury-in-fish calculators that have received millions of hits since 2002.

According to the calculator, a woman who weighs 140 pounds and eats a six-ounce portion of swordfish will be exposed to a mercury level that is 273 percent above government exposure guidelines.


The FDA has issued a warning to women of childbearing age and young children to not eat swordfish and to limit consumption of tuna due to high mercury levels.

Mercury contamination of seafood is a widespread public health problem, especially for women of childbearing age, pregnant and nursing women and children.  Mercury ingestion can lead to memory loss, developmental and learning disorders, vision loss, heart disease and, in extreme cases, can result in death.

Currently there are no federal legal requirements to warn people about mercury in fish. has been seeking action from policy makers and the FDA to mandate mercury in fish warning signs at grocery stores and restaurants but government has been slow to act.