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Mercury Exposure In Today’s World
In Canada, which many would suggest is a less toxic country than the U.S., Environmental Defence Canada released this statement based on a recent study:
“It doesn’t matter where you live, how old you are, it doesn’t matter how clean living you are or if you eat organic food, or if you get a lot of exercise. We all carry inside of us hundreds of different pollutants and these things are accumulating inside our bodies every day.”
This was in response to a Canadian Body Burden study, where 11 participants were tested for 88 chemicals, including PCBs, fire retardants, PFOS and heavy metals, which found that 44 out of 88 chemicals tested were found in the bodies of test participants. (8)
Another study reported that over 4 billion pounds of chemicals, 62 million of them carcinogenic, are released into the environment each year in the U.S. alone. (5) Sadly, once they enter into the environment, they tend to find a way into us either through the air, water or soil.
Many of these chemicals are heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury. These are considered systemic toxicants that are known to induce multiple organ and brain damages, even at lower levels of exposure. They are also classified as human carcinogens according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. (6)
While many efforts are being made to reduce heavy metal emissions, we are still being exposed to heavy metal residues each day. For example, the amount of mercury in the atmosphere has increased three-fold since pre-industrial times. (1) Atmospheric mercury is a result of coal mine processing plants that release smokestack methylmercury. While clean coal processing is helping, there is still a significant amount of mercury in the air and an unacceptable level of mercury deposits in the soil, oceans, lakes and streams. (1,2)
Even organic foods are susceptible to mercury atmospheric residues. The soil, the crops and even the water used for irrigation are all exposed to mercury residues.
Mercury, as are all heavy metals, pesticides, preservatives and most environmental pollutants are fat-soluble. This means that if they are not effectively processed by the liver, they will be deposited and stored in the body’s fat cells and even the brain tissue, which is upwards of 60% fat. (3)
In fact, studies suggest that accumulated mercury in the brain tissue may be a cause of the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain, which is linked to a host of cognitive and memory-related concerns. (4)
Regarding the consumption of fish – which is the most common source of mercury toxicity the U.S. – the EPA and FDA suggested guidelines for fish consumption for pregnant women. In 2001, and confirmed in 2004, they suggested that pregnant women limit their fish consumption to no more than two 6-ounce servings per week. (7) They also suggested avoiding high-mercury-containing fish like tuna. >>> For a list of fish with the highest to lowest mercury levels, read my article here. Unborn babies are more susceptible to neural and organ damage from mercury than adults, however, I personally think this is a guideline that all adults should consider as well.