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Avoiding Mercury in Fish - Topic Overview

Should a woman who is not planning a pregnancy be concerned?

Mercury accumulates in your bloodstream over time and slowly leaves the body through urine, feces, and breast milk. If you eat a lot of fish high in mercury, it may take up to a year for your mercury levels to drop after you stop eating the fish. If you decide to become pregnant or if you have an unplanned pregnancy, you may have high levels of mercury. While elevated levels of mercury usually do not cause significant health problems, they may affect a developing fetus. If you are of childbearing age, try to follow the guidelines above when you eat fish.

Where can you get more information?

For specific information on:

  • The amount of mercury in commercial fish, see www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/product-specificinformation/seafood/foodbornepathogenscontaminants/methylmercury/ucm115644.htm.
  • The fish or shellfish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas, see www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/states.htm.

For general information on mercury in fish, see:

  • Your local health department or environmental agency.
  • The EPA mercury website at www.epa.gov/mercury/exposure.htm.
  • The FDA seafood website at www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/Seafood/default.htm.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 04, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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