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Hair Testing for Mercury Before Considering Pregnancy

The EPA safety limit on mercury in fish may not sufficiently protect pregnant women in the United States. This has led to a recommendation that fish-eating women get tested for mercury before considering getting pregnant.

May 28, 2012 |
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Because, as editorialized in the Journal of Pediatrics last year, “Almost all fish contain some mercury,“ women who plan on getting pregnant may want to first get tested for mercury. Due to the considerable uncertainty, they showed that specific guidelines for number of servings of fish, which are quote-unquote "safe for women of reproductive age,’’ may not be sufficiently specific to practically prevent fetal risk.” so, They conclude, "Analysis of hair mercury may be warranted before pregnancy in women who eat a lot of fish. It’s simple test. All they need is a hair sample, because mercury contaminates your whole body when you eat it.
The reason they are so concerned is because they found that “even at the number of fish servings recommended by the FDA as safe, there were women with hair mercury levels above the lowest observable adverse effect level of 0.3”
And some question federal safety limits. A recent review from researchers at Harvard and elsewhere on the adverse effects of methylmercury notes that the U.S. EPA limut suggests an adult should be exposed to more than 50 micrograms. But if that's the case then seafood bette contain less than 0.1 per gram and “current regulations in the United States and the European Union allow up to 10 times as much mercury in fish as the EPA limit allows. And they go on to ciricize the EPA safety limit as being way too high. They argue “Thus, (based on new data), the exposure limits estimated by the U.S. EPA and international bodies would need to be halved. So our fish is allowed to have 20 times more mercury than may be considered safe.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena Mylchreest

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

There is so much more mercury in fish compared to other foods that it can be used as a biomarker for fish consumption--see Hair Testing for Mercury. How much mercury exposure is there from fish as compared to amalgam fillings and vaccinations? See Amalgam Fillings vs. Canned Tuna and Mercury in Vaccinations vs. Tuna. Fish aren't the only source of toxic heavy metals, though. Mercury has been found in both high fructose corn syrup-containing products (see Mercury in Corn Syrup?) and Ayervedic dietary supplements (Get the Lead Out). There are also videos on aluminum in cheese, arsenic in chicken, and a thousand other nutrition subjects.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Mercury Testing Recommended Before Pregnancy, Heading Shrinking from Grilling Meat and Fukushima Radiation and Seafood

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    There is so much more mercury in fish compared to other foods that it can be used as a biomarker for fish consumption–see Hair Testing for Mercury. How much mercury exposure is there from fish as compared to amalgam fillings and vaccinations? See Amalgam Fillings vs. Canned Tuna and Mercury in Vaccinations vs. Tuna. Fish aren’t the only source of toxic heavy metals, though. Mercury has been found in both high fructose corn syrup-containing products (see Mercury in Corn Syrup?) and Ayervedic dietary supplements (Get the Lead Out). There are also videos on aluminum in cheese, arsenic in chicken, and a thousand other nutrition subjects.

  • Jenay Brooke

    I think it is likely that many, many people have mercury poisoning and don’t realize it. When I started losing my hair about six years ago, I went to an integrative medical doctor who, among other things, tested me for heavy metal poisoning. I thought the test was unnecessary, but I went along with it. When the test came back, a score of nine in the mercury category was considered toxic. My score was 39! Mercury poisoning can cause hair loss, dry skin and mental confusion among other things.

  • D.A.

    This pregnant woman is so adorable! No makeup, bare belly, plain hair and completely stunning from the inside out. Absolutely inspirational. Hug her for me.