Direct Relationship Found Between Mercury Levels and Fish Consumption
Researchers in North Carolina released results in February of the nation’s largest study ever on the effects of mercury on the U.S. population. It analyzed hair samples from more than 6,600 women from all 50 states and found that one in five women of childbearing age exceeded the EPA’s recommended limit of 1 microgram of mercury per gram of hair.
The hair samples came from public mercury-testing events sponsored by the Sierra Club and Greenpeace and individuals who ordered testing kits online and mailed a couple inches of hair to the lab. The samples were analyzed by Dr. Steve Patch and fellow researchers at the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. Researchers found a direct relationship between mercury levels and fish consumption.
Coal burning is the main way mercury gets into humans—rainfall brings the mercury into waterways, where it accumulates in fish and makes its way up the food chain. Mercury contamination is especially dangerous for women of childbearing years because mercury exposure in the womb can cause neurological damage and other health problems in children.
Find out more about what fish are most contaminated with mercury in the Sierra Club’s handy pocket-sized Mercury Survival Guide. To download the guide, take our “Test Your Mercury I.Q.” quiz at sierraclub.org/mercury.
Illustration by Adrian Cotter
Up to Top