Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Danger: Mercury in Fish

I've almost finished reading Diagnosis: Mercury by Jane M. Hightower, MD. Diagnosis: Mercury is medical and environmental writing the way it should be done--no sensationalism, just good, solid writing, research, and documentation. Hightower's book is non-fiction but it reads like a gripping mystery novel as she reveals the modern history of industrial mercury poisoning and misregulation. Along the way we gain insight into why, decades after the Minamata disaster (see video below), US food supplies still contain mostly untested but unsafe levels of mercury.

In 2000, Dr. Hightower discovered that some of her affluent patients were ill with symptoms consistent with mercury poisoning--the symptoms improved and her patient's blood mercury levels dropped when they stopped eating swordfish and tuna. This is the point of departure for her book. Leaving her home in San Francisco, Hightower takes us to Japan, Canada, and Iraq, among other places. Along the way we see how greed has corrupted or derailed science, medicine, regulatory agencies, and the judicial system and places people's well-being at-risk.

Note: As it turns out getting a high dose of mercury from a single serving of fish is probably much easier than you think. For example, a 7 oz. serving of halibut for a 150 lb. person would result in a mercury exposure of 105% of the Environmental Protection Agency's "reference dose" i.e., "the amount of mercury a person, including sensitive subpopulations, can be exposed to on a daily basis over a lifetime without appreciable risk of effects." Check out the Mercury Calculator here at

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