February 17, 2010 marks the beginning of Lent, a religious tradition for many people of Christian faith. During the Lent season, a common custom is to abstain from all meat on Fridays with the exception of fish.
Fish can be a source of nutrients, but not all fish are equal when it comes to dangerous levels of the neurotoxin methyl mercury. Got Mercury is encouraging people who practice Lent to choose a “Mercury Free Lent” by learning about mercury levels in fish and selecting seafood options that offer the nutrients without the dangers of a neurotoxin.
“Seafood sellers are not required to warn fish buyers about mercury or label mercury-laden fish, leaving the burden of knowledge and awareness on the consumer. The free on-line Got Mercury calculator can help take the guess work out of choosing lower mercury fish,” said Buffy Martin Tarbox, Campaign Coordinator for Got Mercury.
The mercury calculator can be found at www.gotmercury.org
Mercury contamination of seafood is a widespread public health problem, especially for women of childbearing age, pregnant and nursing women and children. The Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings to avoid swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel because of their high mercury content. The FDA also warns women and children to limit their consumption of tuna, including canned tuna due to mercury levels.
Exposure to mercury can be especially hazardous for pregnant women and small children. During the first several years of life, a child’s brain is still developing and rapidly absorbing nutrients. Prenatal and infant mercury exposure can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness. Even in low doses, mercury may affect a child’s development, delaying walking and talking, shortening attention span and causing learning disabilities.
In adults, mercury can aversely affect fertility, blood pressure regulation and can cause memory loss, tremors, vision loss and numbness of fingers and toes. A growing body of evidence suggests that exposure to mercury may also lead to heart disease.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the number one source of mercury ingestion is consumption of fish. It is not necessary to remove fish completely from the diet, but it is important to know which fish to avoid.
“For those that honor the Lent tradition of eating fish on Fridays, Got Mercury suggests selecting fish that are lower in mercury and pose less of a health hazard,” said Ms. Martin Tarbox.
About GotMercury: The Gotmercury campaign 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, GotMercury developed the free online mercury-in-fish calculators that have received millions of hits since 2002. For more information visit: www.gotmercury.org or www.gotmercury.mobi