Unpalatable facts

Published: Saturday 15 June 2002

-- Mothers to-be, infants and children: beware of eating shark, swordfish and marlin! This alert has been sounded by the uk Food Standards Agency in the wake of studies which reveal that these types of fish carry high levels of mercury in them.

The agency carried out a survey that analyzed 336 fresh, frozen and processed seafish and shellfish. It found that shark had the highest levels of mercury, while those in swordfish and marlin were also high.

Earlier, the us Food and Drug Administration (fda) had issued a similar warning in January 2001. It advised pregnant women and women of childbearing age not to eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. The survey identified high levels of methylmercury in only three species. Methylmercury can harm the nervous system of an unborn child and also of growing children. Apart from natural sources, mercury is released into the environment by human activities such as pulp and paper processing, mining operations, burning garbage and use of fossil fuels.

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