How to Reduce Mercury Exposure from Seafood and Marine Fish

Do you and your family like to eat sea fish or other seafood such as shrimp, crab, squid, and others? If so, then you have to be careful with the chemicals that may be present in the seafood you eat. One of the most harmful substances to the body is mercury.

What is mercury?

Mercury is a chemical substance that is the result of waste from various human activities, such as burning, agriculture, and waste from factories that use mercury. Household waste and waste from factories are usually discharged into rivers and end up in the sea. In water, mercury turns into a substance called methylmercury. Then the methylmercury binds to the protein in the fish muscle

If you eat fish or seafood that contains mercury, the mercury will also be eaten and cause various bad effects on health. Mercury that is ingested will accumulate in the body, it can even affect breast milk in mothers who are breastfeeding. The amount of methylmercury that has accumulated can be toxic to the nervous system which can cause health problems and even impaired growth and development of fetuses whose mothers eat fish contaminated with mercury.

Do all marine fish contain mercury?

In fact, almost all fish and other seafood sources have been contaminated with mercury. However, basically seafood is a good source of food and is high in protein and various other nutrients such as minerals, unsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids. For healthy people, consuming sea fish or seafood contaminated with mercury will not cause problems. For example, in America, it is known that people who often eat marine fish have levels of mercury in their blood that are considered safe, which is less than 5.8 mcg per liter.

A study once reported that there are people who eat sushi twice a day for a decade, who then feel symptoms such as numbness in several parts of the body and impaired balance and coordination, it turns out to have mercury levels as much as 72 mcg per liter in their blood, where the figure is 12 times higher than the safe limit that has been determined. The more fish or seafood that is contaminated with mercury, the more mercury will accumulate in the blood. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to the age group that is very vulnerable to the effects of mercury contamination. One of them is the baby and fetus in the womb because mercury can interfere with the growth and development of the child’s nervous system.

Who should be vulnerable to the effects of mercury content from seafood?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend reducing the consumption of various marine food sources for some groups that are susceptible to mercury, such as:

1. Women planning to get pregnant
2. Pregnant woman
3. Mother who is breastfeeding
4. Baby

This group is particularly vulnerable to mercury, so they should not eat fish that are high in mercury and should only eat low-mercury seafood a few times a week.

To be safe, how often can we eat seafood?

The process of preparing and cooking seafood will not be able to reduce the levels of mercury in the food. Therefore, you must know what types of fish are low in mercury and are not harmful to the body. Here are tips for eating safe seafood :

1. For seafood that contains high mercury, namely shark, king mackerel, bigeye tuna, swordfish or swordfish, and yellowfin tuna, these types of fish are better avoided. Especially for groups that are prone to mercury, it is not recommended to eat fish.
2. Consumption of a maximum of 340 grams in one week. Fish that can be consumed as much as 340 grams or about two servings per week are salmon, shrimp, sardines, canned tuna, pollock fish, anchovies, trout, and herrin.
3. Maximum consumption of 170 grams or one serving per week. To avoid mercury poisoning, it is recommended to eat fish as much as 170 grams in one week, except for fish that are known to have high mercury.

If you already eat one type of fish or seafood as much as one serving in one week, you should not eat other types of seafood sources in the same week. However, consumption of seafood in excess of the recommended amount in one week actually will not directly change the levels of methylmercury in the body. This recommendation is only a guideline for the portion that is safe to eat, you may not eat seafood the following week if you have eaten a lot of seafood in the previous week.

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