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Unhealthy Fish

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A new report warns that some very popular fish could pose at threat to your health, because they are contaminated with mercury.

For years we have been told that fish is good for us. But now a new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives says some fish may contain toxic levels of mercury.

Dr. Jane Hightower, a physician at California Pacific Medical Center, studied blood mercury levels in her own patients who ate a lot of fish. She found many had concentrations of mercury exceeding levels the FDA considers safe.

Those levels produced a wide variety of problems.

"The symptoms I was getting-- a cluster of

symptoms such as fatigue, headache,

trouble thinking, muscle and joint pains, memory loss, hair


The biggest risks came from the biggest fish-- ocean-going fish such as shark, swordfish, tuna, sea bass, and halibut.

Dr. Hightower found that the more of these fish people ate, the higher the level of mercury in their blood.

"One child had

almost 15 times higher the mercury level that was

acceptable, clearly toxic levels," Dr. Hightower says.

Another big problem is that there is little agreement on what a safe level of mercury even is.

The FDA has set the legal limit on fish for mercury at one part per million. But that's twice as high as Canada's limit, and three times the limit in Japan.

Even then the FDA inspects only a fraction of fish coming into the country, so many fish sold here may be over the limit but are never tested.

Dr. Hightower says we need tougher regulations to make sure our fish supply is safe.

"We need a lot more

testing and we need the information to be available to

people when they eat the fish," she says.

The good news is that you can usually reduce mercury to safe levels if you simply stop eating the contaminated fish. And there are plenty of healthy fish you can still eat. Those include salmon, trout, and catfish.

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