Fish, Plastic Water Bottles and Your Health
The fish-rich waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands still play a substantial role in many residents’ and visitors’ diets. Seafood is readily available and many island supermarkets offer a wide range of shellfish, whole fish, fillets and steaks and various pokes. Yum- yum. As a local expression goes, “lucky that we live in Hawaii.”
The only problem with it all is that the average consumer is driven to addled numbness by the overload of conflicting studies on the safety of fish consumption. Unfortunately, the answer is not clear cut. Eating fish is both good and bad for you.
The good news is that fish are low in calories and contain easily digested protein and beneficial fats called omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are essential nutrients which moderate a variety of beneficial physiological processes, including inhibiting inflammation and offering protection from heart disease.
But there is lots of sad news for fish lovers. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that pregnant women eat seafood only sparingly if at all and refrain from eating fish that are high in mercury content. Recent medical studies suggest that even very low levels of mercury exposure may cause damage to unborn babies and young children.
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicates that one in 12 women of childbearing age has blood mercury levels above those considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which means that more than 300,000 children born in the U.S. each year are at risk from exposure to mercury.
How did the mercury get in the fish? We put it there. Mercury is released into the atmosphere from the earth as part of a natural degassing. But most of the contamination comes from coal fired power plants, mining, waste disposal and certain industrial processes. Airborne mercury eventually falls into surface waters where it can accumulate in streams and oceans. Bacteria in the water transform mercury into methylmercury, and fish absorb it when they eat smaller aquatic organisms. Mercury then works its way up the food chain and eventually accumulates in human tissues. Mercury poisoning causes brain and nerve damage, resulting in impaired coordination, blurred vision, tremors, irritability and memory loss, behavioral problems and loss of intelligence. Mercury also causes heart disease, cancer and reproductive system damage. A very nasty poison.
Now that we know all this, why does the FDA still permit industry to release annually, by its own estimate, 2,000 to 3,000 tons of mercury directly into our ecosystem? For the answer, we need only to look at the influence that industry exerts into government regulations that affect individual health and the health of the environment. Enough politicizing – back to health.