If your hair is thinning and you can't remember where you left the car keys, last night's fish fillets just might be to blame. According to a new study released by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), over a seven-year period, scientists found mercury in every single fish they tested from streams across the country.
This study should put to rest once and for all the old fish story that fish is a "health food."
From 1998 to 2005, USGS scientists tested more than a thousand fish collected from nearly 300 streams nationwide. All the fish were contaminated with mercury, and more than a quarter of them--27 percent--had mercury levels that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency's safety limits for the average fish-eater. Numerous other studies have also found worrisome levels of mercury and other contaminants in farmed fish and lake and ocean fish, including tuna and swordfish.
Mercury is a documented poison that can cause learning disabilities in children and neurological problems in adults. Elevated mercury levels can lead to brain damage, memory loss, exhaustion, depression, joint pain, hair loss, gastrointestinal disturbances and numbness in the hands and feet. Some studies suggest that mercury exposure can also cause vision loss and increase the risk of a heart attack.
If you don't think Americans suffer from mercury-related health problems, think again. When college student Luke Lindley arrived at StanfordUniversity, he started eating canned tuna as an inexpensive alternative to meals in the campus dining hall. This formerly bright student suddenly found himself struggling to read and study. "I would study four times as long to retain the same information that should have taken me a very short amount of time," Luke told USA Today. "Each day was an ordeal."