When mercury builds up to toxic levels in the human body,
it can cause permanent
neurological damage. If you are pregnant, mercury is
dangerous to your developing fetus and later to your breast-feeding baby. A
fetus exposed to mercury during pregnancy is especially likely to suffer mild
to severe nervous system damage. In the same way, young children who eat a lot of
fish containing mercury can suffer permanent brain damage.
occurs naturally in the environment and also as a result of industrial
pollution. It is in our water, air, soil, and food. Fish are the most common
source of mercury in the human diet. You can best protect your child from
mercury exposure by avoiding high-mercury fish before and during pregnancy and
when breast-feeding and choosing foods for your young child.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) have issued the following advisory for pregnant women, women of
childbearing age, nursing mothers, and young children:1
Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by
family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice
is available, eat up to
6 oz (170 g) a week (one
average meal) of fish caught from local waters, but don't eat any other fish
during that week. Also check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website for mercury advisory updates at
Mercury will slowly leave
the body over time in the urine, feces, and breast milk. If you are concerned
about your own or your child's mercury level, talk to your doctor or local
health department about testing.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2004). What you
need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish: 2004 EPA and FDA advice for
women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, young
children. Available online:
July 23, 2012
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
& Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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