The Toxicity of Seafood

Seafood is very popular in the United States; in 2009 (the last year for which data is available), Americans consumed a total of 4.833 billion pounds of seafood – or approximately 15.8 pounds of fish and shellfish per person – of which roughly 50 percent is wild-caught and 50 percent is farmed, according to NOAA’s latest data.  But, as is often the case with popular foods,  seafood has its doubters, who are saying that eating seafood can lead to mercury poisoning. So what is the real deal with seafood?

If you are a hardcore GFS Corner fanatic (we know you’re out there) you may remember one of our “best” articles ever published, Discrimination in the Newsroom. This article, by our former writer Caleb Metelits, shows the true struggle of trying to get stuff done in the Corner’s brainstorm sessions. As said in the article, toxicity of seafood is “a serious issue.”

Let’s start with some of the basics of the toxicity of seafood. Seafood contains mercury. Mercury is bad for you. End of story. Right? Wrong.  Not all seafood contains mercury (or at least enough to matter.)

But what does it do to you? Well, as noted by the most reliable source of medical knowledge on the internet, Wikipedia, “Common symptoms of mercury poisoning include peripheral neuropathy, presenting as paresthesia or itching, burning, pain, or even a sensation that resembles small insects crawling on or under the skin (formication); skin discoloration (pink cheeks, fingertips and toes); swelling; and desquamation (shedding or peeling of skin).” Sounds pretty bad.

But Jesse, you may ask, “Will this happen to me if I eat a lot of spicy tuna handrolls?” Well, if you’re not pregnant, expected to become pregnant, a nursing mother, or a small child, no. Eat all the spicy tuna handrolls you want. However, if you are any of those things previously mentioned, don’t eat seafood that’s high in mercury. Also, if you are none of those things and think you’re safe, you probably are. Just don’t have 5 courses of raw swordfish every day for the rest of your life. You’ll be fine.