Fish-Counter Sting Operation Suggests Illegal Mercury Levels May Be Widespread

>There's something fishy in our fish: mercury. A California-based campaign called Got Mercury? has revealed high levels of methylmercury in several kinds of fish, GOOD reports, often well above federal limits. Mercury in seafood has long posed risks, especially to pregnant women, and comes from pollution. Although the exact level at which mercury becomes dangerous remains a source of debate, the news does not bode well, especially for the swordfish-lovers among us:

The campaign explains that they "randomly selected 41 grocery stores in California to purchase fresh and frozen samples of swordfish, ahi tuna or yellowfin tuna, and salmon," which they then submitted to laboratory analysis. Their findings include the startling fact that more than a third of the grocery store fish studied had levels of methylmercury in excess of the the FDA do-not-sell limit of 1 part per million, with swordfish being by far the worst offender. In fact, only 6 of the 32 swordfish samples analyzed came in below 1 part per million, and one fish, purchased at a Ralph's in Los Angeles, had 3 parts per million.

Full details on where each sample was purchased and how it fared during testing are available in Got Mercury?'s "Operation Safe Seafood" report [PDF], which also includes a list of recommended next steps for both legislators and individual consumers, as well as the link for a handy app that helps you calculate your mercury exposure.

Read the full story at GOOD.

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John Hendel is a writer based in Washington, DC, and a former producer at The Atlantic.

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