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Insider Reveals How FDA Demolished “Safe” Mercury Levels

Dr. Jane Hightower explains the dubious history of safety standards concerning mercury levels. Current levels of "safe" mercury content are now based on this misleading data. You can view her giving more information on the subject here.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Due to the health risks of mercury in seafood, the EPA and FDA have long advised women and children to limit their consumption of what had previously been one of the healthiest foods on the planet, fresh fish. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, recently changed its tune and urged the government to amend its advisory, saying that most people should eat more fish, even if it contains mercury!

Even the EPA was alarmed by this irresponsible move, saying in internal memos that the FDA was "scientifically flawed and inadequate" and fell short of the "scientific rigor routinely demonstrated by EPA."

This is a profound understatement, considering the information revealed by Dr. Jane Hightower in the videos above.

The FDA’s Safe Mercury Levels are Seriously Flawed

Four years ago, the EPA and FDA issued a joint advisory warning to women of childbearing age, and warned pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children to stop eating swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel, and to limit their consumption of other mercury-contaminated fish to a maximum of 12 ounces per week.

Though they are now backpedaling and saying that these high-risk groups should eat more than 12 ounces a week, even their initial “safe levels” were flawed.

As Dr. Hightower explained, the FDA is still relying on a 1971 study of mercury poisoning from tainted grain in Iraq as a reliable indicator of how much mercury-contaminated fish you can safely eat!

So this is really a buyer beware situation. If you decide to eat fish, you are doing so at your own risk, because the FDA’s advice is likely not going to protect you. As Dr. Hightower states:

"We've known for years that mercury is toxic to your brain and other organs in varying amounts depending on the individual's status. For FDA to suddenly change the equation to say that benefits outweigh risks is like once again declaring the earth is flat after discovering it was round.

"Patients in my private medical practice, as well as at other doctor's offices around the country, have been diagnosed with mercury toxicity from eating too much fish. Ignoring the presence of a known neurotoxin in one's diet is simply asking for trouble."

One has to wonder whether the FDA is looking out for your health or the financial health of agribusiness and the seafood industry. If you suspected the latter you could be on to something. Dr. Hightower has actually researched this topic extensively, and you can find out all the details of the seafood industry's interference in public health policy in her book Diagnosis: Mercury: Money, Politics and Poison.

Why is Mercury in Fish Dangerous?

Thousands of tons of mercury are released into the air each year through pollution and waste. Once in the environment mercury can be converted into organic mercury, which is known as methylmercury, and accumulate in streams, oceans, water and soil.

This form of mercury also accumulates in fish, and the larger the fish, the likelier they are to have high levels of this toxin. The National Resources Defense Council points out, for instance, that predatory fish such as large tuna, swordfish, shark and mackerel can have mercury concentrations in their bodies that are 10,000 times higher than those of their surrounding environment!

When you eat these contaminated fish, the mercury acts as a poison to your brain and nervous system. This is especially dangerous for pregnant women and small children, whose brains are still developing. If infants or fetuses are exposed to mercury, it can cause:

• Mental retardation
• Cerebral palsy
• Deafness
• Blindness

And even in low doses mercury can interfere with a child’s development, leading to shortened attention span and learning disabilities. These risks are incredibly prevalent, as a 2005 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 17 women of childbearing age have mercury levels (above 5.8 micrograms per liter) that could harm a developing fetus.

In adults, mercury poisoning can be a serious risk as well, and has been linked to fertility problems, memory and vision loss, and trouble with blood pressure regulation. It can also cause extreme fatigue and neuro-muscular dysfunction, as experienced recently by Chicago actor Jeremy Piven, who had a fondness for sushi.

Is There a Way to Really Know Whether Fish is Safe to Eat?

In an ideal world, fish would be a near-perfect food -- high in protein and full of essential nutrients and fats. But our world is not perfect, and, sadly, neither is our fish supply. Therefore, it is my strong recommendation to avoid eating most fish other than very small fish or those grown in minimally polluted areas like the Arctic, Antarctic or Alaska

If you insist on eating typical, store-bought fish, however, and want to know more about the extent of your mercury exposure, I urge you to check out the online mercury calculator at to get an idea of the risks.

Just because the fish in the 21st century are nearly universally contaminated, that does not erase your genetic requirement for omega-3 essential fats. Just get them by taking a high-quality krill oil or fish body oil, instead of risking your health by eating contaminated fish. 

If you haven’t read my article on cod liver oil, please do so as I no longer advise it as a good source of omega-3 fats, as most have unacceptable levels of vitamin A.

+ Sources and References