The Mackie Report

More Fish and Mercury Tales



In last month's column, I discussed the issue of mercury-laden fish and how its consumption could have a detrimental effect on childbearing women and their infants. Some recent studies have attempted to establish a connection between methyl-mercury and various types of developmental ailments that affect pregnant women and their offspring. However, a new study suggests that this may not be the case at all.

This new study was conducted in the Republic of the Seychelles, a group of small islands in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of East Africa. Because of its proximity to the ocean, fish have been a staple of the Seychelles people's daily diets for many generations. According to an article in The Lancet, a medical journal from Great Britain, mercury levels don't appear to have as serious an effect as previously thought.

The study's lead researcher was quoted in a recent article as saying no substantial evidence was found that would support a link between fish consumption by pregnant women and developmental problems in their babies. The study team had been looking for a mercury contamination link in American women for about 30 years, but found that the vast majority of them have relatively low contact with methyl mercury. However, another study did suggest that about 8 percent of American women have blood-mercury levels above the acceptable limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

So what can I suggest? If you are in this potential at-risk group and are concerned because you consume large quantities of fish, check with your doctor for appropriate advice and follow-up. That's always the best thing to do, especially when you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant.

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