Household Chemicals: Mercury

Protect your family from large quantities of certain types of seafood.


Find out some good alternatives to your favorite seafood:

Found in: Tuna steak, swordfish, tilefish, shark, king mackerel, marlin and grouper

What it is: Mercury, a toxic element released into the air through smokestacks of coal-fired power plants and chemical factories, falls into lakes, rivers and oceans. Once in the waterways, it moves through the food chain to fish. When larger fish—like tuna—eat smaller fish, mercury builds up to high levels.

Health concerns: Mercury is most harmful to unborn babies and young children because it interferes with brain development. In large doses, mercury also can cause health problems for adults. Symptoms of mercury poisoning in adults include blurred vision, headaches and problems with memory or thinking. The FDA has issued advisories for children, pregnant women and women who might become pregnant to eat no more than 12 ounces of canned light tuna per week (the equivalent of two tuna salad sandwiches) or 6 ounces of albacore tuna and tuna steaks.

Stay safe: Limit consumption of high-mercury fish. Try shrimp or salmon, which contain little mercury. (Fish sticks and fast-food-restaurant fish sandwiches are typically made of pollock or cod, which are also low in mercury.) Choose canned light tuna over albacore, which has more mercury.