Can Mercury in Fish Have Health Hazards?

Are you a fish lover? Do you love having fish in your diet most of the times? Well! Then learn about the most important facts about the mercury contents in the fishes that can have health hazards. In this article we will talk about the topic; “can mercury in fish have health healthy hazards.”

Can Mercury in Fish Have Health Hazards?

Health Hazards of Mercury:

Mercury can be toxic at times to the human health. It is known that elemental or metallic mercury and methyl mercury are dangerous and can be real toxic to the central as well as the peripheral nervous systems. Inhaling mercury vapour can produce serious effects on the nervous system, digestive system and also the immune system and also have harmful effects on lungs, kidneys etc. Apart from this, the inorganic salts of mercury are corrosive to the eyes, skin as well as the gastrointestinal tract and also may induce kidney toxicity if ingested. Let us take a deeper look on the health hazards of mercury in the following portion.

  • Health Hazards of Methyl Mercury: Consuming more of methyl mercury can cause serious health hazards; one of the most common being the methyl mercury poisoning. Symptoms of such poisoning include loss of peripheral vision, lack of coordination of movements, muscle weakness, impaired speech, walking, hearing etc, feelings like “pins and needles” in the hands, feet and around the mouth.
  • Children who are exposed to methyl mercury while they are in their mother’s womb can have impact on their cognitive thinking, attention, language, memory, fine motor skills, etc.
  • Health hazards of Elemental or Metallic Mercury: Metallic mercury or elemental mercury also can cause health hazards and create symptoms like insomnia, emotional changes, tremors, neuromuscular changes like weakness, twitching etc.; disturbances in sensations, headaches, changes in nervous response etc. High exposures of elemental or metallic mercury can also cause kidney effects, respiratory failure and even death.
  • Health Hazards of the Inorganic Salts of Mercury: There are chances of damage of the gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, kidney etc. with greater exposure to inorganic mercury. High exposure to inorganic mercury may generate symptoms like skin rashes and dermatitis, memory loss, mental disturbances, muscle weakness, mood swings.

Can Mercury in Fish Have Health Hazards?

Here in this section we will be talking about the fish and the health hazards of mercury content in the fish.

Before we talk about this; let us inform you that mercury content in fish does not actually affect all populations in the equal way. Young children are more likely to suffer from the harmful effects of mercury in the fish. It is also noticed that in USA, 16.9% of women who are Native American, Asian, Britain and Pacific Islander; showed neurological issues because of their mothers who consumed pilot whale meat during their pregnancy. Medical studies have examined the link between fish consumption and health problems, especially in the child development, issues in digestive system, nervous system, gastrointestinal system, etc. Researchers found that native people in the US suffer more from mercury poisoning and illnesses than any other cohort group in the nation.

Most of the people love to eat the fish and shellfish in their diet; in fact, they are an important part of a healthy diet. These fish and shellfish contain rich amount of protein and various other essential nutrients, contain omega-3 fatty acids, and contain a low amount of saturated fat which make them a healthy diet. Fishes can make a well nutritional diet, especially for young children and women.

However, almost all the fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. Most people would not find any health risk from mercury present in the fish or shellfish they eat. However, there are particular fishes and shellfishes which contain higher levels of mercury and this may cause hazardous effect to them. Pregnant women taking such fishes or shellfishes containing higher mercury content may also cause unknown harm to the unborn baby, especially in developing their nervous system.

The highly toxic organic compound of mercury, known as the methylmercury is present in the bodies of fishes and the shellfishes which can be highly dangerous to the human health. Symptoms that can make one know about his/her exposure to high level of methyl mercury may include disturbed or blurred vision, speech and hearing, lack of coordination, muscle weakness etc.

The risks from mercury content in the fish depend on the amount of fish eaten and also the levels of mercury the fish contain. Thus, there are clear instructions and advises from FDA and the EPA or Environmental protection agency, that women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and the young children should avoid these types of fishes and shellfishes containing large amount of mercury and may go for the fishes having low mercury content.

How to Keep Safe from Health Hazards of Mercury in Fish?

So we are known to the fact that certain fishes and shellfishes can cause health hazards because of their high mercury content. Now what? Are you going to leave consuming fish? No! It won’t impress you to leave taking fish only because some percentage of fish can be harmful. So, here we can find some of the ways to keep safe from health hazards of mercury in fish. Go through the following tips that would help you select and eat fish or selfish that would be beneficial and not cause harmful effects to the health because of the mercury content in their body.

  1. Avoid taking fishes containing high levels of mercury in their bodies. Shark, Tilefish, Swordfish, King Mackerel etc. are some of the fishes you should not eat.
  2. Consume about 12 ounces or 2 average meals a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that have low content of mercury in their body. Shrimp, salmon, canned light tuna, Pollock, catfish are some of the fishes you can eat as they contain lower mercury content.
  3. Check with your local advisories, about the safety of the fish you purchased for your diet. If you cannot find any advice then restrict your diet to up to 6 ounces per week of the fish.
  4. Consult with medical professional in case you find any symptom that might link to the mercury content of fish you might have consumed.


Q: How Can Eating Fish With More of Methyl Mercury Harm Women Who are not Pregnant but Can be Pregnant in Future?

A: When fishes containing high amount of methyl mercury are taken regularly, it can accumulate in the blood stream over time. Thought methyl mercury is removed out from the body naturally; it may take over a year for the levels to drop significantly. So, it may be present in women while they get pregnant and this may cause harm to the baby in their womb then.

Q: Where can I find help if I do not Find the Fish I consume in the Local Advisory?

A: You can find information about various types of fishes you eat from the website of FDA food safety and the EPA website. You can look for

Q: Is it okay to Take Fish Sticks and Fast Food Sandwiches?

A: Yes! They are made of fishes that are low in mercury content. So it is okay to eat them.

Q: What if an Individual Eats More than the Recommended Amount of Fish in a Week?

A: One week’s consumption of fish more than the recommended amount will not change the level of methyl mercury in the body much at all. However, it may be harmful if it continues for more than 2 weeks.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 6, 2018

Recent Posts

Related Posts