Question about Heavy Metals : Mercury in fish and fillings

Scott Sudweeks sudweeks at mindspring.com
Tue Mar 16 22:56:07 EST 1999


In response to your questions, this is my opinion as a toxicologist:

>Should I avoid fish because of the mercury content?

Fish are a great source of nutrition with many benefits. You should NOT stop
eating fish because of concerns about mercury.  There are many ways to
reduce mercury in fish by following simple preparation methods like removing
the skin and fatty tissue along the belly, and baking or broiling the fish,
throwing away the drippings.

How much mercury is in a particular fish depends on many things, like how
old and big it is (older, bigger fish may have accumulated more
contamination), how contaminated the area was, and whether the fish was farm
raised, and the kind of fish (bottom-feeders like catfish accumulate more

The concern from mercury in fish is really if you are pregnant or a young
child. It takes eating lots of fish with  high mercury levels over a long
time for you to really be at risk.  Commercially bought fish are required to
be under FDA guidelines for mercury levels. The concern is really from
regularly eating fish you catch yourself.

>I was eating some pollack tonight, and I noticed a silvery sheen...would
that be the mercury?

The sheen is part of normal coloration. Mercury in fish is NOT the silvery,
metallic form.  The chemical form is invisible and present in tiny amounts,
mainly in the fatty tissue.

> How would I be able to cleanse my body of mercury? Does it accumlate, or
is it metabolized by the liver, etc.?

Metallic mercury is not easily absorbed. Over 99% ingested passes out in the
feces. Breathing mercury vapors can damage the nervous system (never vacuum
a spill).  The organic form, methyl mercury (also the kind in fish) can
build up in your body fat.  It will slowly be eliminated over time.

>Should I ask my dentist to remove my fillings and replace them with
porcelan ones?

Talk to your dentist about this, because there is quite a bit of controversy
surrounding amalgam fillings and removal. My opinion is that removing
existing amalgam fillings may result in releasing more mercury and is not
worth it. Leave what you have in.  Get composite (porcelain) filllings in
the future.

Hope that helps!

Scott Sudweeks
NH Department of Health

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