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Maternal Mercury Levels

The resulting loss of child intelligence linked to maternal fish consumption is estimated to cost billions in lost productivity.

December 3, 2009 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Images thanks to bframe and Montse PB.


In a study of the links between fish consumption and infertility, levels of mercury were measured in vegans, for the first time ever. They took hair samples from fish-eaters and vegans, and this is what they found. Ten times more mercury contamination in the bodies of those who eat fish.
In fact if you take meateaters and put them on a vegetarian diet, within just 3 months the levels of mercury in their bodies drops significantly, as well as other toxic heavy metal levels such as cadmium and lead. (What’s this one going up? That’s magnesium—that’s a good thing.)
Whereas the more fish meals we eat per month, the higher our mercury levels climb. Just one or more fish meals a week, and 1 in 4 childbearing women exceed the EPA mercury safety limits.
What’s the big deal about mercury? Hundreds of thousands of American babies poisoned by their mothers’ fish consumption every single year. So much mercury coming from their mothers—measured straight from the umbilical cord blood, that they’re born with brain damage.
The resulting loss of intelligence that will plague these kids for the rest of their lives because their moms ate fish, is estimated to cost our nation billions of dollars in lost productivity. We’d be billions of dollars more productive had these hundreds of thousands of kids been born smarter if their moms had been smarter and not ate fish during pregnancy. Of course, you can’t blame the mothers if they simply didn’t know how much they were damaging the brains of their children with every bite.

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 veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out theother videos on fish and mercury. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For some context, please check out my associated blog post: Heading Shrinking from Grilling Meat

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on fish and mercury. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • Kaye Carpenter

    What great education on this topic of mercury from fish
    and poisoning children.

  • santabarbariana

    Does this have anything to do with the rise in Autism?

  • annabella

    I love your website but have to disagree with you about fish. There are other studies that show fish in pregnancy raises the IQ level of children. I ate fish throughout my pregnancies and fed my 3 sons a lot of fish. One has a PhD in Molecular Biology, one is a medical doctor and the other is doing his PhD. Nothing wrong with their brains!

  • Amy

    I thought I was eating healthy for years, eating only chicken and fish for meat. When I got pregnant I did what I was told to do and did not drink alcohol or caffeine, didn’t take any kind of medication, didn’t eat soft cheeses or raw fish, so no sushi and limited my cooked fish intake to 1-2 times per week. My son was born with an Intellectual Disability (ID), his cognitive ability is in the 1%. MRI’s and EEG’s show no gray matter, he did not have any brain trauma or infection. They believe his ID happened during early fetal development. Could eating mercury laden fish be the cause of his ID? Maybe, maybe not, we probably will never know but the maybe is something I have to live with for the rest of my life. I am now a plant based vegan so I can live as long as possible to care for my son who needs me to be alive as long as possible. Perhaps I can prevent one more child from being born with an ID by posting this. Think before you eat!

  • Kristen

    @annabella. Our oceans are much more polluted now that they used to be. Just because your children turned out okay 30+ years ago doesn’t mean they would today.

  • N Nichols

    Study: No Link Between Mercury Exposure and Autism-like Behaviors

    How are we to reconcile the contradiction between sources??

  • Miriam

    Wow that’s crazy but makes sense. Glad I’m vegan