Seafood and Mercury: Which Fish Are Safe?

Seafood and Mercury: Which Fish Are Safe?

Food & Drink

Seafood and Mercury: Which Fish Are Safe?


By Cari Martens

Fish is full of healthy nutrients, including heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but many species also contain potentially dangerous levels of mercury.

Which kinds of fish, and how much, are okay to eat?

Species that are considered ‘safe fish’ are salmon, cod, tilapia, and haddock. The ones to be especially careful of are swordfish, sea bass and fresh tuna. (Canned turn appears to be less of a threat, but consumption should be limited.)

Released into the atmosphere by industrial pollution, mercury contaminates water systems when it rains. As fish feed on one another, the mercury stores up in their bodies. The toxic effects of mercury are especially dangerous to young children and fetuses. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one out of 17 women of childbearing age in the U.S. has mercury in her blood above the level that could pose a risk to a developing fetus.

The good news is that some regions are taking action, instituting new rules to limit mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, one of the largest mercury polluters. It will be years before researches know how much the new regulations are helping. Until then, take advantage of the healthful benefits of fish—just choose your fish carefully.

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