Discovery Guides Areas


Methylmercury Contamination in Fish and Shellfish
(Released February 2007)

  by Laura Griesbauer  


Key Citations





While these health advisories are targeted mostly at women and children, the exact effects of mercury accumulation in the body over time are not yet know. More studies are being conducted to determine the risks. Most adverse effects in adult humans have only been seen with toxic doses of methylmercury, such as with the Minamata incident where fish had mercury levels of 20 ppm. The FDA level of concern for mercury in fish is 1 ppm. Fish with levels higher than this should probably be avoided by everyone. However, the consumption of fish and shellfish should not be completely eliminated because they are an important part of a healthy diet. Balancing the risks of mercury exposure and the benefits of fish consumption is essential to proper nutrition.

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  1. Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), United States Food and Drug Administration. (2004). What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish.

  2. Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), United States Food and Drug Administration. (2006). Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish.

  3. Clarkson, T. W., & Magos, L. (2006). The toxicology of mercury and its chemical compounds. Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 36(8), 609-662.

  4. Environment Canada. (2004). Mercury and the Environment.

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  6. McCurry, J. (2006). Japan remembers minamata. Lancet, 367(9505), 99-100.

  7. Sakamoto, M., Kubota, M., Liu, X. J., Murata, K., Nakai, K., & Satoh, H. (2004). Maternal and fetal mercury and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids as a risk and benefit of fish consumption to fetus. Environmental science & technology, 38(14), 3860-3863.

  8. Senkowsky, S. (2004). Fear of fish: The contaminant controversy. Bioscience, 54(11), 986-988.

  9. Shea, K. M., Perry, K. L., & Shah, M. (2004). Health effects of methylmercury. Physicians for Social Responsibility publication. Washington, DC: Physicians for Social Responsibility.

  10. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2006). Mercury.