Methylmercury exposure: fishing for answers

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Methylmercury exposure: fishing for answers

Publication Date
Jul 24, 2001
  • Medicine


For more information about the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists For more information about the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists or to find a service in your area, call (866) 626-6847 or visit us online at: Methylmercury and Pregnancy This sheet talks about the risks that exposure to methylmercury can have during pregnancy. With each pregnancy, all women have a 3% to 5% chance of having a baby with a birth defect. This information should not take the place of medical care and advice from your health care provider. What is methylmercury? Methylmercury is a toxic form of mercury found mostly in water, soil, plants and animals. Methylmercury (organic mercury) is different from elemental mercury (thermometers, dental amalgams). Where does methylmercury come from? Mercury is found in the air and comes from a variety of natural and man-made sources. When mercury enters water such as lakes, rivers and streams, it is changed into methylmercury. How can I be exposed to methylmercury? You can be exposed to methylmercury by eating contaminated fish. Fish absorb methylmercury through the water in their gills and from their food. Almost all fish contain at least small amounts of methylmercury. Methylmercury in small amounts is not likely to be harmful, but large amounts have been found to be toxic to humans. Do some fish contain more methylmercury than others? What are some of the fish that I should be concerned about? In general, eating fish is an important part of a healthy diet. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises pregnant women, women who are planning to become pregnant within one year, nursing mothers, and children under the age of 6 years to avoid fish that contain high levels of methylmercury. Fish that are large, have long life spans, and eat other fish are more likely to contain high

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