Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) is providing guidance to clarify the issue regarding mercury and fish consumption. A report recently released by the Institute of Medicine highlighted the many health benefits of fish consumption. People may be confused about how to incorporate the recommended amount of fish in their diets while limiting their exposure to mercury. Levels of mercury in fish are of most concern for women who are or may become pregnant or are breast feeding, and for children.
"Fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet for all people, including pregnant women," noted Pamela Schnepper, toxicologist at DES. "However, nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury so it is important to provide an accurate and clear fish consumption message."
By following these three recommendations for selecting and eating fish or shellfish, women and young children will receive the benefits of eating fish and shellfish and be confident that they have reduced their exposure to the harmful effects of mercury.
- Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.
- Eat up to 12 ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.
- Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
- Another commonly eaten fish, albacore ("white") tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.
- 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 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don’t consume any other fish during that week. See www.des.nh.gov for New Hampshire’s advisory.
Adult males, women (who are not going to become pregnant) and older children should select a variety of seafood if they are going to consume more than two meals per week. Seafood is a heart-healthy choice with cardiovascular benefits.
DES is working with the NH Grocers Association to post informative posters at seafood counters in grocery stores to assist consumers in making healthy decisions.
For more information contact Sherry Godlewski at (603) 271-6801 or Pam Schnepper at (603)271-3994.