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Sushi and Mercury

2009 February 5

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

The other day I was working on some multilingual materials designed to increase awareness on the high levels of mercury in certain types of fish. My family likes to eat fish especially when we eat out. Given that fish is low in saturated fat and an excellent source of protein, I was not overly concerned. However, when I started to review the EPA-FDA fish advisories more closely, I saw the information from another perspective given our family’s eating habits.

First of all, we often go to a sushi restaurant near home. It’s one of the few restaurants we all agree upon. My three older daughters “of child-bearing age” all love to eat sushi and my youngest’s favorite dish is ikuradon, a bowl of rice topped with salmon roe. While I knew we were not regularly consuming fish in the high-mercury category—king mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish, the advisories do not make special reference to mercury levels in fish eggs. Exposure to mercury at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidney, lungs, and immune systems of people of all ages. Yet, fetuses, infants, and children are at a greater risk of impaired neurological development given the fact that their internal organs and systems are developing at full swing.

Was I subjecting my daughters, especially my youngest, to an unhealthy diet? I did some Web surfing to find specific info on mercury in fish eggs. Not much luck. I decided to consult one of my EPA colleagues who helped allay my concerns. I want to share the information with my fellow bloggers. I was happy to find out that fish eggs don’t have particularly high levels of mercury. In general, fully grown fish higher in the food chain are the prime suspects when it comes to bioaccumulative contaminants. Some of these contaminants like PCBs and DDT tend to settle in the fatty areas of the fish (like the liver), but mercury is found throughout the fish. Salmon fish roe, Ikura, (イクラ) in Japanese, shouldn’t be a problem. To be on the safe side, I’ll encourage her to eat more grilled salmon which she also enjoys. In the meantime, I’ll have some more wasabi and picked ginger. Arigato.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Tina Chen permalink
    February 6, 2009

    I like the blue ocean seafood guides and they have a sushi guide too!! http://www.blueocean.org/seafood/seafood-search-result?type=all

    also, i use the fishphone service when i don’t have my guide handy…great options! http://www.blueocean.org/fishphone

    EPA should consider creating more text messaging services….

  2. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 9, 2009

    Thanks for the links. I will share with comments.

  3. GotMercury permalink
    February 10, 2009

    People worried about mercury ingestion from fish can estimate exposure by entering their weight, fish choice and serving size into the new gotmercury.mobi calculator for cell phone browsers. It’s based on current U. S. EPA and FDA guidelines, weak as they are. Learn more about mercury-laden fish at http://www.gotmercury.org or http://www.diagnosismercury.org

  4. Tuy permalink
    April 27, 2009

    Mmmh, sushi! I love sushi. I eat sushi quite a bit in Phoenix. A restaurant my girlfriend and I will always agree on eating.

  5. Jon Verde permalink
    April 8, 2011

    I get most of my fish through fish oils.
    But I do love me some sushi! I had to stay away from most fish when I was on the HCG diet because of the high mercury levels.

  6. Ana J. Smith permalink
    April 14, 2011

    Its a good topic you discussed here. It brings awareness and from now on I have to be extra careful choosing my fish. I’m a sushi lover and for I’ll just get my sushi kit and make my own sushi.

    Thanks for the post Lina!

  7. Eamon Clarke permalink
    August 26, 2013

    Great piece. I really think it’s important we actually understand WHAT we are ingesting. We have known about this for a while now but no one seems to be acknowledging it even at this day, this article was written how many years ago? And still no one questions mercury ingestion.

    I look forward to more blog posts like this!

    Regards,

    Eamon

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