Fish consumption by New Yorkers has led to high blood mercury levels

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Some 25% of New York City's adults have elevated mercury levels, according to the city's Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which was released on Monday. Mercury poisoning, which can result from eating contaminated animals, leads to a wide range of conditions, including kidney and neurological damage, fatigue, vision problems, and tremors.

Fish consumption by New Yorkers has increased their blood mercury levels.
Image: Jastrow.

As one example, the report found that New York City women between 20 and 49 years old had an average level of mercury of 2.64 micrograms per liter, compared to a national average of 0.83 micrograms per liter among women in a similar age group. Mercury exposure in humans can result in brain damage, birth defects, severe neurological consequences, mercurial drooling, Minamata disease, and certain behavior abnormalities.

The high blood levels of the toxin were related to higher fish consumption. City's authorities said that children under six years old and pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid fish with high mercury contents. The types of fish that were found to have especially high levels of mercury were Chilean sea bass, swordfish, and fresh tuna. A 2006 study by the National Wildlife Federation found that, in the United States, the animals of many different species, not just fish, are contaminated with mercury at levels higher than previously thought.