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Some forms of mercury may be less toxic

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STANFORD, Calif., Aug 29, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- The mercury found in fish may be less toxic than other forms of the metal, suggests a study published in the popular journal Science.

Researchers at Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory used high-intensity X-rays to investigate the nature of mercury molecules in samples of swordfish, orange roughy and sand sole.

Researcher Graham N. George, now at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, says what they found is most likely methylmercury cysteine.

He said previous models of mercury toxicity had been based on methylmercury chloride, the New York Times reports.

"The molecular identity of something is vitally important in understanding its toxicity," George said, noting that mercury appears in several forms and "has a whole range of toxicity."

However, the only evidence that methylmercury cysteine is less toxic is an unrelated experiment using zebra fish larvae that tolerated it better than methylmercury chloride.

George warned that "fish aren't people," that more research needed to be done and that people should not base their decision to eat seafood on this study.

The federal government advises women of childbearing age and children to eat no more than 12 ounces of fish a week.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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