Mercury Contaminated Fish

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Mercury Contaminated Fish Essay

Summary: This is a 7 page paper on, Effects of Mercury Contaminated Fish on Consumer’s Health. The paper further summarizes how mercury contaminated fish’s effects on consumer’s health, and results of this contamination due to consumption.



Effects of Mercury Contaminated Fish on Consumer’s Health

Effects of Mercury Contaminated Fish on Consumer’s Health

Mercury is found naturally in environment and exists in different forms. These forms can be divided into three categories, metallic mercury, organic mercury and in-organic mercury. Metallic mercury is a shiny silver white metal and is liquid at room temperature; it is the pure form of mercury. The organic form of mercury known as Methyl mercury (MeHg) found in fish and caused neurological problems in children bare in the womb and females. Burning of coal in power plants containing mercury is the major source of environmental pollution.Mercury Contaminated Fish Essay

The only assessment of health risk from mercury is for neurodevelopment effects. The National Research Council (NRC) estimated that “60,000 newborns annually might be at risk for adverse neurodevelopment effects form in uterus exposure to methyl mercury”. Fish is afar evaluate as a source of many nutrients very important to the developing newborn, some of which may in fact increase growth of the nervous system in newborn and young children. Prevalent infectivity of fish with toxic mercury, though, has cast a shadow over the nutritional benefits of fish. (Cook)

Exposure in uterus can cause many problems such as, delay in mental development of child, lower memory and neurological problems. A contaminated fish which is consumed by a pregnant woman can seriously damages the brain of her baby.

As a National Academy of Sciences panel definitively warned last year, some children exposed in uterus by their mother’s fish consumption are at risk of falling in the group of children “who have to struggle to keep up in school and who might require remedial classes of special education.” (Cook)


In past years, many companies have used mercury to manufacture a wide variety of consumer products including thermometers, thermostats and automotive light switches. While the metallic mercury in these products hardly ever poses a direct health risk, industrial mercury contamination becomes a serious threat when it is released into the air by power plants, certain chemical manufacturers and other industrial facilities, and then settles into oceans and rivers, where it builds up in fish that we eat. Children and pregnant women are most at risk. (Learn About Mercury and Its Effects)Mercury Contaminated Fish Essay

Formerly mercury enters into oceans and rivers; naturally stirring bacteria take in it and convert it in to a type called methyl mercury. This transition is particularly important for humans, who absorb methyl mercury easily and are especially defenseless to its effects. (Learn About Mercury and Its Effects)

Mercury then works its way up the food chain as large fish consume contaminated smaller fish. Instead of dissolving or breaking down, mercury accumulates at ever-increasing levels. Predatory fish such as large tuna, swordfish, shark and mackerel can have mercury concentrations in their bodies that are 10,000 times higher than those of their nearby habitats. (Learn About Mercury and Its Effects)

Humans risk ingesting hazardous levels of mercury when they eat polluted fish. Since the toxic is unscented, unseen and accumulates in the meat of the fish, it is not easy to spot and can’t be avoided by trimming off the skin or other parts. Once in the human body, mercury acts as a neurotoxin, snooping with the brain and nervous system.

Exposure to mercury can be particularly harmful for pregnant women and small children. During the first several years of life, a child’s brain is still budding and quickly absorbing nutrients. Prenatal and infant mercury exposure can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness. Even in low doses, mercury may have an effect on a child’s development, delaying walking and talking, restriction attention span and causing learning disabilities. (Learn About Mercury and Its Effects)

In adults, mercury poisoning can harmfully affect fertility and blood pressure regulation and may cause of memory loss, tremors, vision loss and lack of sensation of the fingers and toes. A growing body of facts suggests that contact to mercury may also lead to heart disease. (Learn About Mercury and Its Effects) Mercury Contaminated Fish Essay

A July 2005 report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that one in 17 women of childbearing age have mercury in their blood above 5.8 micrograms per liter of blood — a level that could pose a risk to a developing fetus. This is an improvement from the prior report in 2003 which showed that one out of 12 women had mercury in their blood at this level. Newer science indicates, however, that mercury actually concentrates in the umbilical cord blood that goes to the fetus, so mercury levels as low as 3.4 micrograms per liter of a mother’s blood are now a concern. Nearly one in 10 women of reproductive age in the United States has mercury in her blood at or above this level, according to the new CDC study. (Learn About Mercury and Its Effects)

Dr. Jane Hightower, a doctor of internal medicine at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco also linked fish consumption to high mercury levels when she tested her own patients. Her 2003 study found that 89 percent of the participating patients — chosen because of their fish-heavy diets — had high mercury levels. Many had levels as much as four times that which the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe. (Learn About Mercury and Its Effects)

An international group of scientists issued a world wide warning about the risks to health for the consumers who are using mercury contaminated fish frequently. However, British scientists argue against it, last month they found pregnant women who ate the most fish had children who were more advanced, with higher IQs and better physical abilities. (Laurence, 2007)

They said that while mercury is known as it preventing the brain of infants to be developed, fish also contain omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients which are necessary for brain development. They studied 9,000 families taking part in the Children of the 90s project at the University of Bristol and concluded, in The Lancet, that the risks of eating fish were outweighed by the benefits. (Fish contaminated with mercury ‘pose worldwide threat to health By Jeremy Laurence, Health Editor, Thursday, 8 March 2007)

The US scientists paying attention on the risks of mercury which they say now represent a “public health problem in most regions of the world”. In addition to its toxic effects on the human fetus, new verification shoes that it may increase the risk of heart disease, particularly in adult men. (Laurence, 2007)Mercury Contaminated Fish Essay

The nervous system is highly attractive to mercury contamination. In this type of poisonous incidents that occurred in other countries, some people who consumed fish contaminated with large amounts of methyl mercury or seed grains that are affected with methyl mercury or other organic mercury compounds developed severe damage to the brain and kidneys. Permanent damage to the brain has also been shown to occur from exposure to adequately high levels of metallic mercury. Whether exposure to inorganic mercury results in brain or nerve damage is not as certain, since it does not easily pass from the blood into the brain. (Public Health Statement for Mercury, 1999)

Mercury is also severely affect to the kidneys of consumers of mercury contaminated fish, because it accumulates in the kidneys and causes higher exposures to these tissues, and thus more damage. All types of mercury, whether they are organic or in-organic can cause kidney damage if sufficient amounts enter the body. If the harm caused by the mercury is not too great, the kidneys are likely to recover once the body clears itself of the contamination. In addition to effects on the kidneys, inorganic mercury can damage the stomach and intestines, producing symptoms of nausea, diarrhea, or rigorous ulcers if swallowed in large amounts. Effects on the heart have also been observed in children after they accidentally swallowed mercury. Symptoms included rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure. There is little information on the effects in humans from long-term, low-level exposure to mercury. (Public Health Statement for Mercury, 1999) Mercury Contaminated Fish Essay

Mercury contaminated fish are not just dangerous for children and pregnant women but it is also dangerous for adults. The toxic destroys the nerve tissues and affects the visual cortex and the cerebellum, a brain part that manages complex movements and balances. It also effect attention and language deficits, seriously disturb the memory of consumer and he or she is unable to quickly call memory, and impaired visual and motor function. Adults who frequently use mercury contaminated fish may have decrease concentration, deftness and verbal memory. Women who eat severely contaminated fish may give birth to children with birth defects including cerebral palsy and mental retardation. (Mercury-Contaminated Fish Poses Health Risks to Adults, 2003)

Researches shows that fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, that helps reducing the risk of heart diseases, though a new study questioned that consuming fish contaminated with mercury may increase the risk of heart diseases in addition to reduce other healthy benefits. It is found that men who had heart attack had 15 percent higher mercury levels that men who don’t yet experienced heart diseases. A research shows that men with higher level were more than twice as likely to have had a heart attack as compared with men with the lower mercury levels.Mercury Contaminated Fish Essay

Children might be at risk due to consumption of mercury contaminated fish, consumption of mercury contaminated fish is that enters into pregnant women can also pass into the developing child. Mercury can also pass from mother’s body into breast milk and into a nursing infant. The amount of mercury in the milk varies, depending on the exposure level of and the amount of mercury that enters into pregnant women body. Mercury can also gather in an unborn baby’s blood to a concentration higher than the concentration in the mother. The harmful health affects seen in children are similar to the affects seen in adults. High exposure to mercury causes lung, stomach and intestinal damage due to respiratory failure in severe cases.

Mercury problems are very serious, but the solutions are fairy simple one have to watch his consumption of mercury contaminated fish, and also help force power companies and other big users of mercury to find substitute of mercury to help prevent environment from pollution. Children and women who are pregnant and are likely to get pregnant in future are the most in danger to mercury’s harmful affects. They should avoid using certain fish from their diets, including mahi or big eye tuna, tilefish, swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy and fish caught in water that are polluted by mercury. Mercury Contaminated Fish Essay


The above discussion shows that consumption of mercury contaminated fish is very dangerous for consumer’s health. It is the source of different diseases especially in children and pregnant women. Mercury is not just dangerous for children and pregnant women it also dangerous for adults. Consumers have to control their fish diets. It is recommended that they regularly check their mercury levels and if they found their mercury levels higher they have to consult with their doctor immediately. Exposure with mercury cause disease like, destruction of nerve tissues, it also affects the visual cortex and the cerebellum. It also effect attention and language deficits, seriously disturb the memory of consumer. Adults who frequently use mercury contaminated fish may have decrease concentration, deftness and verbal memory. It also affects the blood pressure and fertility in adults. Women who eat severely contaminated fish may give birth to children with birth defects including cerebral palsy and mental retardation. It cause delay in mental development of child, memory problem and neurological problems. Fish provide important health benefits to the developing fetus, and pregnant women should be encouraged to eat fish with consistently low methyl mercury levels. Authorities need to take much stronger steps to protect a far greater portion of the population. They must move beyond their antiquated safeguards designed to protect an average woman from an average amount of methyl mercury in fish and take a realistic and protective stance against dietary exposure to methyl mercury.Mercury Contaminated Fish Essay


Jeremy Laurence, (8 March, 2007) Fish Contaminated With Mercury ‘Pose Worldwide

Threat to Health, The Independent Retrieved on 24th March, 2008.


Ken Cook, (2001) Retrieved on 23rd March, 2008


Learn About Mercury and Its Effects, (2006) Natural Resource Defense Council,

Retrieved on 23rd March, 2008.

Mercury-Contaminated Fish Poses Health Risks to Adults, (2003)

Retrieved on 25th March, 2008.


Public Health Statement for Mercury (March,1999) The Encyclopedia of Earth,

Retrieved on 24th March, 2008.


Mercury Contaminated Fish Essay