written by: Niki Fears•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 5/23/2013
Find out where mercury in fish comes from and what roll coal plays in poisoning our oceans.
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As the fishing industry ravages the oceans in a brutal and destructive fashion some conscientious consumers are becoming aware of the problems of consuming fish and other seafood from an environmental stand point; however, given the current levels of mercury found in the majority of that seafood many consumer advocacy groups and those with public health concerns are starting to see the need to dramatically reduce or eliminate the amount of seafood that you include in your diet.
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The Mercury Problem:
The reason why mercury is of a such a concern is that mercury poisoning can be extremely dangerous, even deadly. Like other heavy metals, mercury has a devastating effect on the human brain and nervous system which can lead to a variety of problems including vision problems, memory loss, tremors, loss of concentration, high blood pressure, psychosis, and even death. Exposure to mercury can also damage the liver and kidneys and is extremely dangerous to the development of an unborn child. Mothers exposed to mercury while pregnant pass this deadly poison on to their baby through the placenta. Once in the baby's system mercury can effect the child's brain and developing body which can lead to a large number of health problems and disabilities including cerebral palsy, brain damage, and other illnesses and disabilities.
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Where Does the Mercury Come From?:
When marine life such as fish and shell fish feed and live in waters that have been contaminated by mercury, the heavy metal settles into the tissue of the fish's body which is then consumed by humans, entering into their system where it also builds up so that over time the more contaminated fish that you eat the larger the exposure and the more severe the effects. But how exactly does the mercury end up in the water to begin with?
Mercury is used in a variety of products such as thermometers, pharmaceuticals, and making electrical equipment; however, the largest sources of mercury contamination come from burning coal, as well as chlorine plants, and recycling of auto metal scrap. When coal is burned it releases several types of hazardous materials that pollute the air including heavy metals such as selenium and mercury. This air pollution then makes its way into the water supply, rivers, streams, and of course the ocean where it then contaminates large quantities of fish and other seafood consumed by humans. The more that we use this fossil fuel, the more we are poisoning our oceans to the level that is no longer safe to consume large amounts of seafood which otherwise would be part of a very healthy diet.
So not only are we exploiting the ocean's marine life to a dangerous point but we are poisoning ourselves in the process.