FISH AND MERCURY: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CHILDREN

Fish-Mercury-Levels

FISH AND MERCURY: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CHILDREN

Fish are part of a healthy eating pattern and provide key nutrients during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and/or early childhood to support a child’s brain development:

  • Omega-3 (called DHA and EPA) and omega-6 fats
  • Iron
  • Iodine (during pregnancy)
  • Choline

Choline also supports the development of the baby’s spinal cord. Fish also provide iron and zinc to support children’s immune systems. Fish are also a source of other nutrients like protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and selenium.

Eating fish can provide other health benefits too

Fish intake during pregnancy is recommended because moderate scientific evidence shows it can help your baby’s cognitive development.

Strong evidence shows that eating fish, as part of a healthy eating pattern, may have heart health benefits. Healthy eating patterns that include fish may have other benefits too. Moderate scientific evidence shows that eating patterns are relatively higher in fish but also in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, lean meats, and poultry, nuts, and unsaturated vegetable oils, and lower in red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains are associated with:

  • Promotion of bone health – decreases the risk for hip fractures
  • Decreases in the risk of becoming overweight or obese
  • Decreases in the risk for colon and rectal cancers

Choose a variety of fish that are lower in mercury

While it is important to limit mercury in the diets of those who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children because of its potential effect on developing brains, many types of fish are both nutritious and lower in mercury.

This chart can help you choose which fish to eat, and how often to eat them, based on their mercury levels.

Fish and childrenTable 1 – Which fish to eat?

To prevent children from exceeding the RfD for mercury, these are recommended serving sizes (after rounding) of fish for various age groups when eating fish 2 times a week from the “Best Choices” category:

Age 2: 1 ounce per serving
Age 6: 2 ounces per serving
Age 9: 3 ounces per serving
Age 11 and up 4 ounces per serving

Screening Value of Fish Categories

The screening value (Table 1) is the highest allowable average amount of mercury in fish at a given consumption rate. Therefore:

Highest allowable average mercury concentration in fish per serving when eating 3 servings per week = 0.15 µg/g. Any fish with an average mercury concentration less than or equal to 0.15 µg/g was placed in the “Best Choices – eat 2 to 3 servings a week” category.

Highest allowable average mercury concentration in fish per serving when eating 2 servings per week = 0.23 µg/g. In order to be protective, any fish with an average mercury concentration greater than 0.15 µg/g up to 0.23 µg/g was placed in the “Good Choices – eat 1 serving a week” category because it could not be eaten 3 times a week without exceeding the reference dose.

Highest allowable average mercury concentration in fish per serving when eating 1 serving per week = 0.46 µg/g. Any fish with an average mercury concentration greater than 0.23 µg/g up to 0.46 µg/g was placed in the “Good Choices – eat 1 serving a week” category. Any fish with an average mercury concentration greater than 0.46 µg/g was placed in the “Choices to Avoid” category.

Weekly fish servings Screening value (µg/g) Chart category
0 > 0.46 Choices to Avoid
1 ≤ 0.46 Good Choices
2 ≤ 0.23 Good Choices
3 ≤ 0.15 Best Choices

Table 1. Screening Values for Fish Categories

Table 2 is sorted by MERCURY CONCENTRATION MEAN (PPM) from fish with the lowest levels of mercury to the highest levels of mercury. You may also sort the table by SPECIES in alphabetical order.

SPECIES MERCURY CONCENTRATION
MEAN (PPM)
NO. OF SAMPLES SOURCE OF DATA
SCALLOP 0.003 39 FDA 1991-2009
CLAM 0.009 15 FDA 1991-2010
SHRIMP 0.009 40 FDA 1991-2009
OYSTER 0.012 61 FDA 1991-2009
SARDINE 0.013 90 FDA 2002-2010
TILAPIA 0.013 32 FDA 1991-2008
SALMON (CANNED) 0.014 19 FDA 1993-2009
ANCHOVIES 0.016 15 FDA 2007-2009
SALMON (FRESH/FROZEN) 0.022 94 FDA 1991-2009
CATFISH 0.024 59 FDA 1991-2010
SQUID 0.024 36 FDA 2005-2009
POLLOCK 0.031 95 FDA 1991-2008
CRAWFISH 0.033 46 FDA 1991-2007
SHAD 0.038 15 FDA 2007-2011
MACKEREL ATLANTIC (N.Atlantic) 0.05 80 NMFS REPORT 1978
MULLET 0.050 20 FDA 1991-2008
WHITING 0.051 13 FDA 1991-2008
HADDOCK (Atlantic) 0.055 50 FDA 1991-2009
FLATFISH [2] 0.056 71 FDA 1991-2009
BUTTERFISH 0.058 89 NMFS REPORT 1978
CRAB [1] 0.065 93 FDA 1991-2009
CROAKER ATLANTIC (Atlantic) 0.069 90 FDA 2002-2011
TROUT (FRESHWATER) 0.071 35 FDA 1991-2008
HERRING 0.078 27 FDA 2005-2012
HAKE 0.079 49 FDA 1994-2009
JACKSMELT 0.081 23 FDA 1997-2007
MACKEREL CHUB (Pacific) 0.088 30 NMFS REPORT 1978
WHITEFISH 0.089 37 FDA 1991-2008
SHEEPSHEAD 0.090 8 FDA 1992-2007
LOBSTER (Spiny) 0.093 13 FDA 1991-2005
PICKEREL 0.095 16 FDA 1991-2007
LOBSTER (NORTHERN / AMERICAN) 0.107 9 FDA 2005-2007
CARP 0.110 14 FDA 1992-2007
COD 0.111 115 FDA 1991-2010
PERCH OCEAN 0.121 31 FDA 1991-2010
TUNA (CANNED, LIGHT) 0.126 545 FDA 1991-2010
BUFFALOFISH 0.137 17 FDA 1992-2008
SKATE 0.137 56 NMFS REPORT 1978
TILEFISH (Atlantic) 0.144 32 FDA 1994-2004
TUNA (FRESH/FROZEN, SKIPJACK) 0.144 3 FDA 1993-2007
PERCH (Freshwater) 0.150 19 FDA 1991-2007
MONKFISH 0.161 11 FDA 1994-2007
LOBSTER (Species Unknown) 0.166 71 FDA 1991-2008
SNAPPER 0.166 67 FDA 1991-2007
BASS (SALTWATER, BLACK, STRIPED, ROCKFISH) [3] 0.167 101 FDA 1991-2010
MAHI MAHI 0.178 29 FDA 1991-2005
MACKEREL SPANISH (S. Atlantic) 0.182 43 NMFS REPORT 1978
SCORPIONFISH 0.233 6 FDA 2006-2007
WEAKFISH (SEA TROUT) 0.235 46 FDA 1991-2005
HALIBUT 0.241 101 FDA 1992-2009
CROAKER WHITE (Pacific) 0.287 15 FDA 1997
TUNA (CANNED, ALBACORE) 0.350 451 FDA 1991-2009
BASS CHILEAN 0.354 74 FDA 1994-2010
TUNA (FRESH/FROZEN, YELLOWFIN) 0.354 231 FDA 1993-2010
TUNA (FRESH/FROZEN, ALBACORE) 0.358 43 FDA 1992-2008
SABLEFISH 0.361 26 FDA 2004-2009
BLUEFISH 0.368 94 FDA 1991-2009
TUNA (FRESH/FROZEN, ALL) 0.386 420 FDA 1991-2010
TUNA (FRESH/FROZEN, Species Unknown) 0.410 122 FDA 1991-2010
GROUPER (ALL SPECIES) 0.448 53 FDA 1991-2005
MACKEREL SPANISH (Gulf of Mexico) 0.454 66 NMFS REPORT 1978
MARLIN 0.485 16 FDA 1992-1996
ORANGE ROUGHY 0.571 81 FDA 1991-2009
TUNA (FRESH/FROZEN, BIGEYE) 0.689 21 FDA 1993-2005
MACKEREL KING 0.73 213 GULF OF MEXICO REPORT 2000
SHARK 0.979 356 FDA 1991-2007
SWORDFISH 0.995 636 FDA 1990-2010
TILEFISH (Gulf of Mexico) 1.123 60 NMFS REPORT 1978

Table 2 – Mercury Concentration of Various Fish Species

Recommended serving sizes for children based on age

We recommend children eat 2 servings of fish per week from a variety of “Best Choices,” but the portion sizes should be smaller than adult portions and right for the child’s age and body weight.

Table 3 shows the “Best Choices” for children eating 2 servings per week.

Age
(years)
Average female weight
(kilograms)
Average female weight
(pounds)
Serving size* (ounces) for child
eating 2 servings of “Best Choices”
(0.15 µg/g of mercury)
1** 10.9 24.0 0.9
2 13.4 29.5 1.1
3 15.7 34.6 1.3
4 17.7 39.0 1.5
5 21.1 46.5 1.7
6 23.6 52.0 1.9
7 26.8 59.1 2.2
8 31.9 70.3 2.6
9 35.5 78.3 2.9
10 41.1 90.6 3.4
11 47.5 104.7 3.9

Table 3. Results – Child’s serving size if eating 2 servings per week from “Best Choices,” when serving size is based on mercury intake

* The amounts in this column are one serving of “Best Choices.” To calculate the weekly amount of “Best Choices,” multiply the serving size in this column by 2.

Mercury Levels in Fish

The mercury found in fish is methylmercury – but how does it get there? First, mercury is released into the air from environmental events such as volcanic eruptions or forest fires, or from human-made activities like burning coal, oil, and wood. After mercury hits the air, it eventually settles onto the land and into the water, where bacteria and other microorganisms convert mercury into methylmercury. Then, fish and shellfish in the water begin to absorb it.

Fish that eat other fish tend to have higher levels of methylmercury. Large fish have more mercury for the simple reason that they usually live longer. They have more time to build up higher levels of mercury in their bodies.

See the lists below for general mercury levels of many common types of fish and how often to safely consume each type, according to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and the FDA.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends checking local advisories for the mercury content of fish caught in your area using their website.

Fish Nutrition Facts

Low-Mercury Fish

According to the FDA, many types of fish tend to have low levels of mercury.7 You can safely eat two to three servings a week of the following fish—but pregnant and nursing women and small children should not eat more than 12 ounces (or two servings) a week:

Moderate-Mercury Fish

Other fish have moderate levels of mercury, which makes them safe to eat in moderation – six servings or fewer per month. However, pregnant and nursing women and small children should avoid eating the following fish:

  • Bass (saltwater, striped, black)
  • Buffalofish
  • Carp
  • Cod (Alaskan)
  • Halibut
  • Lobster
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Monkfish
  • Perch (freshwater)
  • Snapper
  • Skate
  • Tilefish (Atlantic)
  • Tuna (canned chunk light)

High-Mercury Fish

Several larger fish contain higher levels of mercury, which could contribute to potentially dangerous levels of mercury levels in the body if consumed in excess. It is recommended to eat just three servings or less of these types of fish per month, but pregnant and nursing women and small children should avoid them entirely:

  • Bluefish
  • Grouper
  • Sea Bass (Chilean)
  • Mackerel (Spanish, Gulf)
  • Croaker (White, Pacific)
  • Sablefish
  • Perch (Ocean)
  • Tuna (canned albacore, yellowfin)

Fish to Avoid

Some fish are very high and mercury and should be avoided altogether, particularly bluefish and grouper, according to the NRDC.

Additionally, the FDA recommends that adults and children should avoid eating the following large fish:

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2012).

  • King mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Orange Roughy
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish (from the Gulf of Mexico)
  • Tuna (Bigeye, Ahi)

 

Dr George

Dr George

Dr. George J. Georgiou, Ph.D., N.D., D.Sc (AM), M.Sc., B.Sc, is a world-renowned expert in the field of holistic medicine and detoxification. As the inventor of the highly acclaimed Dr. Georgiou's Heavy Metal Detox Protocol, and the main product, HMD™ (Heavy Metal Detox), he has revolutionized the approach to natural heavy metal detoxification. With over 35 years of experience in natural medicine, he has authored 23 books, including the comprehensive guide 'Curing the Incurable with Holistic Medicine,' which offers invaluable insights and over 700 scientific references. Dr. Georgiou's groundbreaking work is sought after by individuals and practitioners worldwide through his Da Vinci Institute of Holistic Medicine and Da Vinci Holistic Health Center based in Larnaca, Cyprus.
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