The Science of Sustainability

Producer's Notes: Mercury in San Francisco Bay

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Mercury is a poisonous metallic element that is liquid at room temperature.

There's nothing like producing a controversial story on some favorite food group to have a profound effect on one's appetite. I gave up chicken after doing a story on factory farms (I already didn't eat beef or pork or I would have eliminated those as well.) Now, fish, too, has fallen from grace. Ignorance was bliss.

I've known for quite some time that some fish, especially tuna, were high in mercury. But discovering the extent of the problem, and that halibut and sea bass were also on the “do not eat too much of” list, was eye-opening for me. Now I count fish servings like some people count calories. Japanese cuisine, one of my favorites, has lost some of its glow, as well as its frequency in my dining-out plans.

Many of you have practical questions, as did I. How big a crimp does this have to put in my diet? How much is too much? How often is too often? Can I still enjoy that tuna sashimi and not worry about mercury overload?

Because there wasn't time in the QUEST TV segment on mercury in the bay to include information on safe fish eating practices, below are the guidelines, along with web links, to help you get plenty of Omega 3s and still keep your mercury levels low.

Here's what California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment says about eating fish from the San Francisco Bay and Delta Region.

Here’s a summary of the joint fish advisory published by the FDA and EPA for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or may become pregnant and for children. This is a general advisory not exclusive to any water body.

Also, check for local advisories for each water body in California that has fish consumption guidelines. They vary by water body.

And lastly, here’s some practical advice from Dr. Jane Hightower, the medical doctor who we feature in the mercury story.

 

Good luck, good health, and and watch out for bones!

 

Watch the Mercury in San Francisco Bay television story online.

 

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Category: Environment, Health, Sustainable Health, Television

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Sarah Kass

About the Author ()

Sarah Kass is a writer, director, and producer whose specialty is long-format documentaries, primarily for broadcast television. Among her credits are many one and two hour specials for the DCI networks and the History Channel. She was the Senior Writer on the 27-hour, award winning THC series Man Moment Machine, which combined biography, historical event, and technology. Sarah has written on diverse subjects: from Mardi Gras in New Orleans to Mark Twain's travels through the Holy Land; from combat veteran reunions to tales of women warriors. A recent independent film that she wrote on the restoration of Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries in the Himalayas has been featured in film festivals internationally. Sarah's shows have won Cine Golden Eagle Awards, Tele Awards, and have been nominated for national Emmys.
  • http://www.gotmercury.org Teri Shore

    The gotmercury.org mercury-in-fish calculator estimates mercury exposure based on a person's weight, fish type, and serving size. The cell phone version is http://www.gotmercury.mobi The estimates are based on the EPA/FDA advisory levels.

  • http://www.finalfootprint.com jane hillhouse

    I hope one of your reporters will do a further study on mercury around retorts – the chimnies in crematoriums. The old ones are the worst. As the percentage of cremations to burials continues to rise rapidly every year, its time someone took some samples of the land around these retorts and down wind. There seems to be no legal concern here. Laws are coming into effect in England in 2013 requiring crematoriums to install scrubbers which will collect the mercury. (From our teeth – 2-4 grams per person) The scrubbers are extremely expensive, and the crem's have to all contribute to the cost. Jane Hillhouse

  • SteelieDude

    So why does the Department of Fish & Game allow anglers to keep striped bass over 35"? Why is the limit for black bass set at five fish on the Consumnes River when anglers are advised to eat NO fish from the Consumnes? Shouldn't the sport regulations be set with at least a nod to public health?