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How often to eat fish with all the pollutants?

Caroline posted a good post in the thread I initiated called "organic produce: a beautiful lie"

Caroline wrote "Many pesticides (and DDT is only one of them) are extremely long lasting, and once introduced into the ecosystem they are damned near self perpetuating. Seafood is a good expample of the problem. The food chain in the ocean is that fish are ever eaten by bigger fish, and the farther up the food chain you go, the more concentrated the pollutants (mercury, etc.) are in the fish we catch and eat. Top-of-the-food-chain fish such as swordfish, tuna, salmon, well, all of the "big guys" are hazardous when eaten more often than once every week or two. And sometimes maybe even when eaten that little. I don't know of any fisherman or agency who will divulge that information completely. "

Caroline's post got lost in the thick of the organic produce thread, and I thought the topic on fish deserved a separate thread. I've heard all the benefits of fish, particularly salmon and better yet wild salmon. Yet, I've been worried for years about mercury. How dangerous is mercury anyways? I've been trying to eat more fish, but now I'm full of doubt, thanks Caroline, j/k. :)

Can someone help me out and confirm or mitigate my fears about fish?

edit: I found out selenium can help against mercury, not sure about the other toxins though.

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  1. Here's a site which will give you some info on sustainable fish: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

    Under Che Tools, click on buyer's guide at the bottom of the page and it will give you an extensive list of fish to eat & avoid

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cherylptw

      I followed your instructions and got the results you implied. In the buyer's guide, I see a lot of tuna. I'm surprised there is so many variants of tuna. Just when I thought I figured out one tiny puzzle, I find the puzzle is o so much more complicated. Such is a life long learner's task.

    2. Unless you are extremely old or young, or pregnant, I wouldn't worry about the mercury content of seafood unless you were eating copious amounts of the stuff per day -- e.g. something ridiculous like 5% of your body weight.

      And if you eat the typical 6-8 ounces of fish, 3-4 times a week, the benefits outweigh the risks associated with the ingested mercury.

      But read more about it here: http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/pr... and decide for yourself.

      5 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        A co-worker of mine WAS eating solid white tuna and an orange every single day at work a while back...I pointed out a few articles to her and she's changed her ways and has thanked me...said her doctor also thought it would be good to NOT eat it every single work day. sheeesh...I totally don't get it how people can eat the same exact thing every single day and not suffer from food boredom, ya know?? I'd go out of my mind.

        1. re: Val

          Do you have any idea where your friend decided this diet was a good idea? I ask because I had a coworker who was on the same diet- canned white tuna and orange juice every single day at work, possibly twice a day. Needless to say I was not a fan because he'd have his first portion at 10am and stink up the kitchen area for the rest of the day. He suffered from severe mood swings and I can't help but wonder if that had something to do with the mercury in the tuna.

          1. re: queencru

            Queencru, I have no idea where she got the idea of tuna and oranges...truly...I wondered too but did not ask...I just felt she should know about solid white albacore tuna and the risk of eating it 5 days a week!!!!

          2. re: Val

            I read about a woman who loved tuna and ate it every day. She developed an allergy to it.

          3. My husband is a fisherman ( and I come from a long line of fishermen) and we eat fish at least twice a week, sometimes 3 times depending on his catch. We had a scientist in Bermuda talking mercury content in fish, but what he also said was it is an organic form, most fish are born with it and you can eat swordfish everyday for your entire life and never have enough mercury content to harm you. I personally would be more worried about the pesticides on fruit and vegetables, that’s if you do not by organic.

            Thank you ipsedixit, and I totally agree the benefits outweigh the risks associated with the ingested mercury!

            There are two fish called white tuna

            Albacore tuna, - the pale-fleshed tuna favored by the canning industry, also known as shiro maguro, bin-naga maguro, or bincho maguro

            Escolar, - which is a snake mackerel, not a tuna, eating too much will have a laxative effect.

            1. Bottomless,

              Mercury obviously is not a good thing. In fact, it is very toxic. However, I would say most Americans do not eat enough fish to be concern. That is not to say all Americans should not be concerned. If you only eat fish once a week, then I wouldn't worry, especially if you don't eat the same fish over and over.

              I absolutely agree with your statement about swordfish and shark. I won't worry as much for tuna and salmon. Another thing I like to point out is the health benefits (therefore tradeoff) of salmon. Salmon on average has a very high level of omega-3 fatty acid, about 5-10 times of many other fishes like catfish, mahi mahi, and cod. In effect, you can eat salmon in 1/5th or 1/10th portion of other fishes and and get the same amount of omega-3.

              In addition, most of the recent posters and articles I read put salmon low on the mercury level, unlike swordfish and shark.

              http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/eohp/fish/h...
              http://www.americanpregnancy.org/preg...

              For disclosure, I don't work in the salmon industry. :) Just so you know.

              1. I can only contribute that when I was a wee girl living on the naval air station in Millington Tennessee, the CO had the base sprayed nightly in the summer by trucks that poured out huge clouds of fog as they drove through the base. We used to run in the fog behind the truck until our parents caught us but I had several trips under my belt by that time. That's a lot more exposure than you get from eating contaminated fish, but so far I've lived to tell the tale. That's all I got.