Marin Youth & Got Mercury Discover High Mercury Levels in Locally Purchased Fish As part of the Marin School of Environmental Leadership project, five students teamed up with the seafood health watchdog Got Mercury, purchasing locally bought fish and testing for the environmental toxin methylmercury. Methylmercury is a neurotoxin that causes a range of symptoms including fetal development and cognitive disorders and other illnesses in adults who consume high mercury seafood.

Five students, all aged 17, purchased seafood in local restaurants and markets and had them analyzed at a certified laboratory, presenting the results as part of a course in environmental leadership. A Biology/AP Environmental Science program at Terra Linda High School, the youth sampled seafood from local markets including Costco and sushi bars. All swordfish samples had levels of mercury exceeding federal advisory guidelines. The highest sample- Swordfish from Paradise Market in Novato- measured 60% above the action level for mercury in seafood set by the FDA, but the students also found levels of concern in tuna from a popular sushi bar. “We wanted to do the study, because we are big fans of seafood, an we wanted to know what was in our favorite foods. We learned that there is more mercury in larger fish, like sword fish and tuna, so you should be wary when eating those types of fish.” Said Cheyene Biel, the leader of the student team.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued a joint advisory warning about the dangers to women and children about methylmercury in seafood. The federal mercury advisory tells women and children to limit their consumption of tuna and to eliminate four other species of fish in their diets including swordfish. “The students shared their findings in a presentation to their peers and community members. The drove home the connection between body weight, mercury content, and health impacts, and provided health information to their audience members.” Said project leader Claire Fitzgerald.

This investigation lead by students comes at the heels of a more comprehensive study by the Marin based non profit Got Mercury who recently tested over 30 samples of fish from major markets in Marin County. “Like the samples the students tested, we detected mercury in all but one fish sample and measured levels of concern in many samples of swordfish and tuna in store-bought sushi.” Said Got Mercury program Director David McGuire who advised the SEL students. Consumers, especially children, women who are nursing, are pregnant, or even thinking of becoming pregnant should be very cautious about the fish they consume and avoid these high mercury fish.” “As a woman hoping to start a family, I don’t think I will ever eat a bite of swordfish again.”