New study on widespread mercury contamination

The new issue of Ambio, a journal of the human environment, summarizes findings from scientists around the world showing how widespread mercury contamination is in major fish supplies. The Globe and Mail also had some good reporting on this issue.

In a nutshell, world experts on mercury toxicity and accumulation in our environment met at the University of Madison in Wisconsin in August 2006 to assemble research on mercury contamination of seafood, among other things. As they noted in the opening article of the Ambio issue, "Despite gaps in our knowledge on new bioindicators of exposure, factors that influence [mercury] uptake and toxicity, toxicokinetics, neurologic and cardiovascular effects in adult populations, and the nutritional benefits and risks from the large number of marine and freshwater fish and fish-eating species, the panel concluded that to preserve human health, all efforts need to be made to reduce and eliminate sources of exposure."

As with many fisheries concerns, choosing smaller fish or fish that are lower on the food chain will help consumers avoid mercury. But eliminating the root sources of this mercury--coal fired power plants, chlorine manufacturing, etc.--is the only way to begin reducing the mercury load in our food.