Recently, I was appalled to read a topic released by the Medscape Informational Services for Physicians declaring pregnant women should eat more fish; at least 8 ounces a week more than they now do for the “sake of smarter children”.
The United States Food and Drug Administration, (FDA) announced that the same advice goes for breast-feeding mothers and anyone who might become pregnant. This recommendation came with the caveat: stick to fish with low, acceptable levels of mercury, which account for most of the finny creatures Americans eat. Furthermore, it is said that guidelines on fish consumption issued by the FDA and EPA in 2004 recommend a maximum consumption level of 12 ounces per week but not a minimum.
The two agencies have unveiled a proposed proposal for updated advice that sets a first-time minimum of 8 ounces per week, equal to two or three servings for pregnant women. Young children also should eat just as many servings, but in portions appropriate for their age maintain the 12 ounce maximum. The new advice is consistent with dietary guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2010 according to the agencies.
The FDA’s Acting Chief Scientist, Dr. Ostroff refers to the “sweet spot” for pregnant women’s consumption being 8 to 12 ounces of low mercury fish to optimize its developmental and health benefits for children while minimizing the risk posed by the neurotoxin mercury. Dr. Ostroff went on to state that the prime pay off is a higher IQ for the child, as based on studies of fish consumption during pregnancy and its relation to IQ in children.
I had severe reactions to this news and several questions immediately sprang to mind.
Question #1: Has Dr. Ostroff not been eating the mercury tainted fish; his IQ seemed low when he made the statement about doing the child a favor and raising his IQ with mercury?
Question # 2: Are there not sufficient children being born with neurological troubles manifesting as ADHD and autism?
Question # 3: Are not families and schools stressed and stretched enough due to having to put up with the results of continual injections of toxic mercury into our children?
Dr. Ostroff went on to further facilitate the public in accessing mercury contaminated fish by saying there are plenty of varieties of affordable low mercury fish for Americans to choose from. They include shrimp, pollock, salmon, can light tuna, tilapia, catfish, and cod. He also identified fish with high levels of mercury, and recommended staying away from fish from the Gulf of Mexico like shark swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish because their mercury levels tops the charts. The two agencies are seeking public comment on the proposed guidelines as well as advice from the FDA risk communication advisory committee. That is where you come in…and why you are being informed.
First as a physician, I am going to provide you with basic information you already know, but I want to reinforce it.
- Do not do what the government said about eating mercury tainted fish and expect health of your nervous system and your brain.
- Do not expose your child’s brain to the toxicity of mercury which has been established to damage the nervous system and the brain.
The form of mercury that people in United States are mainly exposed to on the fish and shellfish we eat is methylmercury, an organic compound. Researchers long ago determined methylmercury impacts cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language and fine motor and visual spatial skills. The severity of the threat to our health is determined by the form of the mercury, route of exposure, the basic health of the person exposed, and the age of the person exposed. This is what makes recommendations related to consumption during pregnancy is so important, as the fetus is the most susceptible.
For fetuses, infants, and children the primary health risks of methylmercury is impaired neurological development. Methylmercury exposure and its adverse effects on the baby’s growing brain can result from a mother’s consumption of fish and shellfish during pregnancy.
A recent study reported that children who are exposed to higher levels of mercury in the womb are more likely to exhibit attention problems, hyperactivity, and other ADHD symptoms by the time they are 8 years old. The study included roughly 600 mothers and children from New Bedford, Massachusetts. The researchers measured prenatal mercury exposure by analyzing samples of the mothers’ hair shortly after birth, and found that a child’s risk of ADHD symptoms increased by 40% to 70% past a certain exposure threshold (1 microgram per gram).The child’s risks from mercury exposure wasn’t changed whether exposed in utero or as young children.
Mercury affects the developing brain, causing neurological problems that manifest themselves as vision and hearing difficulties, delays in the development of motor skills and language acquisition, and later, lowered IQ points, problems with memory and attention deficits. These developmental deficits may translate into a wide range of learning difficulties once children are in school.
AND HERE IS THE MOST LUDICROUS OF ALL:
In 1999 and 2000, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released it document explaining that outbreaks of methyl mercury poisoning have been
occurring in the United States and “it is clear that children and developing fetuses are at risk to have severe disabilities, lack of coordination of movements, impairment of speech, hearing walking and muscle weakness.”
And yet, it is that same organization, today that is telling pregnant women to eat fish that contain low levels of mercury, as if it is known what level of mercury will do NO HARM. The hazards of mercury exposure have been so highly regarded over the past 10 to 15 years that you cannot even have mercury in thermometers now.
I submit that there isn’t a person in the United States who doesn’t recognize that we have more children requiring special education and having special needs, requiring medications like stimulants and other behavioral modification medications than we would like. There is an alarming amount of children requiring those kinds of interventions making Dr. Ostroff’s advocacy to expose babies to the deleterious effect of mercury is unconscionable.
As a physician, I advocate that you even do your own research. Learn what the other sources of mercury are and what it does to our nervous system. Then question your elected officials about how such a public service announcement could be imparted to physicians to tell their pregnant patients to load up on Mercury.
THE MERCURY CONTAMINATION TREND
The continued release of mercury into the environment from human activity, the presence of mercury in the food chain, and the demonstrated adverse effects on humans are of such concern that in 2013 governments agreed to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The Convention obliges government parties to take a range of actions, including addressing mercury emissions to the air and to phase-out certain mercury-containing products.
Mercury in fish has been a public health issue for some time. The FDA says the metal can build up in the blood stream provoking reproductive problems in women and men alike. A survey sampled fish in 291 streams across the US and found mercury in every one. About a quarter of the fish were found to contain enough mercury to push consumption of the metal above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended limit of 0.33ppm in people who eat about two fish meals a week. Further, Dan R. Laks, from University of California/Los Angeles (USA), and colleagues completed a study involving 6,174 American women, ages 18-49, finding that 30% of women tested in 2005-2006 had high levels of inorganic mercury accumulated in their blood. Inorganic mercury is known to deposit into the liver, immune system, and pituitary gland, putting exposed individuals at
higher risk of mental impairment and neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s Disease. State the researchers: “[Our] study found compelling evidence that inorganic mercury deposition within the human body is a cumulative process, increasing with age and overall in the population over time.
WHY AM I WRITING THIS AT THIS TIME?
I am frequently asked why we are seeing such increases in autism. 8 years ago, by some reports, autism occurred in one in 200,000 people; today that number is one in 83.
This article is meant to serve as a wake-up call. There are many manifestations of mercury toxicity in the human body. It is widely available in varying amounts in the vaccines that are given generously to children and consenting adults. Dr. Mercola advocates it is urgent that we in America stand up and fight to protect and expand vaccine informed consent protections in state public health and employment laws. The best way to do this is to get personally involved with your state legislators and educating the leaders in your community.
Next month, we’ll look at how mercury toxicity can look like any medical problem in any organ system, how to test for it, and ways to lower your body’s mercury levels.