Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water and food. Most people are exposed to mercury via food. Fish take up mercury from streams and oceans as they feed. This mercury is in the more toxic, methylmercury form. It binds to their tissue proteins (such as muscle). Food processing, preparation and cooking techniques don’t significantly reduce the amount of mercury in fish.
However, there is no restriction on the amount of salmon, including canned salmon, which is eaten. Yummy!
Fish with lower mercury levels include:
Fish as part of the diet
Fish is an important part of a healthy diet. Some of the health benefits of fish include that it is:
For healthy adults and children, mercury from most fish sold in Australia is not a health risk, when fish is consumed as part of a normal diet. However, fish with high levels of mercury, like shark (flake), should probably not be eaten more than once a week.
Mercury and the unborn baby
Unborn babies are at increased risk from mercury. The mercury in fish can lead to raised mercury levels in the mother. This mercury can be passed on through the placenta to her developing baby.
The foetus appears to be most sensitive to the effects of mercury during the third and fourth months of a pregnancy. The effects on the brain and nervous system may not be noticed until developmental milestones - such as walking and talking - are delayed. Memory, language and attention span may also be affected.