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How are people exposed to methylmercury and what are methylmercury's health effects?

How people are exposed. The most common way people in the U.S. are exposed to mercury is by eating fish containing methylmercury.  Visit http://www.epa.gov/mercury/exposure.htm#meth to learn:

  • How mercury enters the environment
  • How it moves up the food chain to fish
  • What EPA and other federal agencies are doing to help reduce exposures to methylmercury

Health effects of methylmercury.  Outbreaks of methylmercury poisonings have made it clear that adults, children, and developing fetuses are at risk from ingestion exposure to mercury. During these poisoning outbreaks some mothers with no symptoms of nervous system damage gave birth to infants with severe disabilities; as a result, it became clear that the developing nervous system of the fetus may be more vulnerable to methylmercury than is the adult nervous system.
More information: 

What you can do: Read advice about eating fish.  In 2004, EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued advice about how often women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers and young children should eat certain types of fish.  By following the advisory, parents can reduce their unborn or young child's exposure to the harmful effects of methylmercury, while at the same time maintaining a healthy diet that includes the nutritional benefits of fish and shellfish.  In 2014, FDA and EPA issued a draft of a revision to this advice.  You can comment on the draft.


States issue fish advisories that tell consumers about how often they should eat certain types and quantities of locally caught fish.



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Topic Information
  • Topic #: 23002-16066
  • Date Created: 1/19/2005
  • Last Modified Since: 8/7/2014
  • Viewed: 3766

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