Study: Some Pregnant Moms Eating Too Much Fish

Monday, February 20, 2012

Newborn infants of some immigrant mothers from the Caribbean have relatively high mercury levels in their blood.

A new study looked at the habits of pregnant women in central Brooklyn and found 16 percent of their babies’ umbilical cords had enough mercury to land in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s warning zone.

Professor Laura Geer, from SUNY Downstate, said the toxic metal most likely comes from eating too much of certain kinds of fish, like tuna and shark. Larger fish typically have higher mercury content, because they’re higher up in the food chain.

“It’s what’s available in the fish markets, it’s what they’ve been eating since they were children in the Caribbean, so it’s part of their everyday culture and habit,” Geer said.

Mercury can impair neurological development in fetuses, infants and children, according to the EPA. Pre-natal exposure can impact cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills.

The study also looked at whether Caribbean-born women were absorbing mercury from tooth fillings, workplace hazards, illegal skin-lightening creams and certain traditional religious ceremonies. Those have been concerns in the past, but the latest research points to fish consumption as the main culprit, Geer said.

Geer said fish can be a great food, but pregnant mothers and their care-providers need to get the latest information on the proper type and serving size of fish to eat. Once they do, they’re often receptive to making changes.

 “They were fascinated to learn which fish were healthier than others,” Geer said. “Just a small amount of information can go a long way, because it’s something, obviously, they’re going to be very concerned about.”


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Comments [4]

murray from Brooklyn, NY

The Monterey Bay Aquarium provides both information on fish that have high levels of mercury (see the fish marked with a red asterisks) as well as fish that are sustainably harvested or farmed and those that aren't. So its a guide for eating fish based on both human health as well as the health of fisheries (many of which have been impacted by overfishing).

Feb. 20 2012 10:23 PM
Clara from Bx

(In response to Theresa)

Here is the web address for a chart of 'safe' seafood found in the NE US:

And thanks to Mom, who has been sending these to her dispersed offspring for years...)

Feb. 20 2012 05:50 PM
Clara from Bx

See this web address:

Feb. 20 2012 05:47 PM
Teresa from New York

Um, so which fish tend to have lower levels of mercury?

Feb. 20 2012 11:21 AM

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