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SF Bay Area Seafood is High in Mercury; Mothers Advised to Exercise Extreme Caution

San Francisco, CA A report released today by the public health project, GotMercury.org, confirms fears that Bay Area supermarkets continue to sell seafood that is dangerously high in mercury. The organization purchased tuna, sushi and swordfish from markets around the San Francisco Bay Area; an independent laboratory found numerous instances of mercury poisoning above FDA levels of concern. For example, all samples of swordfish (purchased from Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Molly Stones and Safeway), exceeded the FDA Action level of 1.0 ppm—with some results higher by over 50%.

“Mercury is a potent neurotoxin and can cause developmental disorders in fetuses and newborns who consume breast milk,” said David McGuire, Director of the GotMercury program. “For the sake of their children, mothers and mothers- to-be should avoid eating these mercury-laden fish.”

This study extends GotMercury’s watchdog research, which last year conducted a national investigation—with startling results. Dubbed “Operation Safe Seafood”, the study tested 184 samples of seafood purchased at retail, 100% of which contained detectable amounts of Mercury. (For a summary of the results please click here.) A key finding was that 71 percent of the samples of swordfish, often viewed as a “health food” because of its rich concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, registered high levels of mercury, and 19.7% of those swordfish samples were more than two hundred times above the maximum acceptable levels set by federal food safety officials. The investigation was conducted in Florida, California, New York, Iowa, and Nevada.

The effects of mercury poisoning aren’t limited to infants and fetuses. “In 2009 I became ill with symptoms including severe chronic fatigue,” said Menlo Park resident, Nova Lee. “Testing revealed that I had mercury poisoning from fish. I’m lucky that, after giving up fish and undergoing extensive therapy, I generally healthy again. But Mothers or women planning childbirth should be on high alert to avoid swordfish and tuna.”

According to the Got Mercury.org Fish calculator, a woman who weighs 140 pounds and eats a six-ounce portion of fresh tuna this week will be exposed to a mercury level that is 144 percent above government exposure guidelines. GotMercury.org has been seeking legislative action with the FDA to increase health advisories and lower the action level for commercially caught fish to meet that of the EPA.