NIOSH has a REL of 0.05 mg/m 3 as an 8-hour TWA. Mercury and mercury compounds are on the Proposition 65 list because they can cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. As an undergraduate working towards a B.S. Facts: This slightly different approach to spinning an extra factor of 10 into the EPA’s definition of safe exposure levels is based on a serious conceptual error. Signs of Lead in Tap Water The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that 10 percent to 20 percent of our daily exposure with lead is as a result of contaminated water. in chemistry, I spent 2 years working in a lab doing organic synthesis. The seafood lobby promotes several fables that can confuse people inclined to make such exposure comparisons. Inorganic Mercury:People may be exposed if they work where inorganic mercury compounds are used. No RfD was set for other population sub-groups, but the existing RfD can sensibly be applied to everyone, not just pregnant women. The latter is called the Reference Level. Contact with broken glass should be avoided. One U.S. study in 89 people found that mercury levels ranged from 2.0–89.5 mcg per liter, on average. And it overstates the actual Reference Level by a factor of 10. Taken together, freshwater and marine fish have an average mercury concentration of about 0.2 ppm. Mercury compounds can be toxic at low levels in the environment. By including both of these variables, EPA tried to set a reference dose that would be “safe” for people at the sensitive end of the normal human distribution, not just for average individuals. Five servings of different fish with an average mercury level of 0.2 ppm contain just as much mercury as one serving of fish with 1.0 ppm. There is substantial experimental evidence (in animals) showing that occasional short-term peaks of exposure, such as might occur from a single meal, or a few meals over the course of a week or two, of high-mercury fish, can significantly damage fetal development, if they occur during critical developmental stages. Albacore tuna: 0.353 ppm x 170 grams = 60 micrograms One major source of uncertainty in this case is the lack of any obvious “threshold” below which exposure to methylmercury has no adverse effects; in fact, the level of mercury in blood at which no adverse effects occur has not been determined. While the RfD defines “reasonable certainty of no harm,” some uncertainty still remains within that “reasonable certainty.” The RfD protects different individuals to different degrees, and for some, the margin between the RfD and a potentially harmful exposure is undoubtedly quite narrow. Today, 51 environmental and public health groups, including EWG, called on Amazon and eBay to remove illegal skin care products containing dangerous levels of mercury. EPA limit for mercury in drinking water: 2 parts per billion (ppb) Typical mercury amount found in fish, like whitefish or tuna: 250 – 500 ppb. They are made with bigger yellowfin tuna and can contain mercury levels comparable to canned white. An individual’s weekly dose is the sum of the doses from different fish meals consumed over the course of a week. ; Methylmercury compounds are also on the Proposition 65 list because they can cause cancer. Just as consumers can compare their dietary mercury doses with the EPA RfD, people who get their blood mercury level tested (as part of their annual physical, perhaps—recommended for people who eat fish often) can compare their results with the EPA Reference Level of 5.8 micrograms of mercury per liter of blood. The Dolphin Project continues to test dolphin meat for mercury and other toxins such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and radiation levels (radioactive cesium-137). As future research provides better data, the RfD is likely to be revised. The definition of safe exposure is the Reference Dose. But as exposure increases above the RfD, risk increases, and the “reasonable certainty of no harm” becomes less certain. website includes a calculator for determining mercury levels in fish. †The following species have been removed from the tables: ‡Standard deviation data generated from data 1990 to 2012. This claim is fundamentally wrong on scientific grounds, and potentially dangerous if consumers believe it. Individuals who want to calculate their own mercury exposure, based on the fish types and serving sizes they consume, can use the mercury data in Mercury Levels in Different Fish and Shellfish, or use the Mercury Calculator on the Got Mercury web site. 'Safe' levels Canned light, the safer choice (0.12 parts per million of mercury). How Well-Substantiated are Mercury Risks? Obviously, the fish one chooses matters a great deal for mercury exposure, and it is not hard to exceed the “safe” dose, by a wide margin, by eating the “wrong” fish too often. Nevertheless, health agencies have found it useful to define a “safe” dose, to provide a reference point for comparison with consumers’ real-life exposure levels. The site is secure. This safety standard is called the Reference Dose, abbreviated RfD. Fish are a nutritious source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to promote a healthy cardiovascular system and reduce the risk of heart disease. Organic Mercury:People may be exposed when they eat fish or shellfish contaminated with methy… In other words, both the amount of exposure and the timing of exposure are crucial to whether damage occurs. Although there is much still unknown about the effects of short-term spikes of methylmercury exposure during human pregnancies, what is known on this topic provides an ample basis for advising women to avoid mercury exposure as much as possible before, during (and after, if they are breast-feeding) pregnancy. Give us your email and we'll keep you up to date on Mercury Facts and Fish! Unfortunately, it is quite easy to exceed the Reference Dose for mercury intake by eating fish often, even if that fish contains much less than 1 ppm mercury. Most people are exposed to low levels of mercury, often through chronic exposure (continuous or intermittent long term contact). This claim is based on another major conceptual error. You may also sort the table by SPECIES in alphabetical order. Second, the Reference Level in blood is 5.8 micrograms per liter, not 58 micrograms per liter. Vapors may be present in such workplaces as dental offices, smelting operations, and locations where mercury has been spilled or released. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set limits of 0.1 milligram of organic mercury per cubic meter of workplace air (0.1 mg/m 3 ) and 0.05 mg/m 3 of metallic mercury vapor for 8-hour shifts and 40-hour work weeks. But look out for "gourmet" or "tonno" labels. NOTE: On February 8, 2006, technical changes were made to the data that was posted on January 19, 2006. The mercury dose in a serving of fish is therefore (mercury level in the fish, in ppm) x (170 grams). The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely. All of the children were found to have mercury levels below the EPA's public safety limit of 5.8 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Salmon: 0.028 ppm x 170 grams = 5 micrograms A general principle of environmental health is that risk increases with dose: At very low doses, the risk is also low, and as dose increases, so does risk, along a continuum. They assert that, as long as one’s average lifetime exposure is below 10 times the RfD (which the lobby likes to claim is the safe level), there is no risk associated with occasional high exposures. Thus, there is no “10-fold safety margin.” Starting with a blood mercury level that had clear, measurable adverse effects, 58 micrograms per liter, EPA divided it by 3, because some people develop a blood level of 58 micrograms per liter from 1/3 of the dietary intake that produces this blood level in the average person. Mercury Concentrations in Fish: FDA Monitoring Program, An official website of the United States government, Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts, Lead in Food, Foodwares, and Dietary Supplements, Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2012), BASS (SALTWATER, BLACK, STRIPED, ROCKFISH) [3]. In challenging a reporter who had eaten a can of albacore tuna a day for 20 days and seen her blood mercury level rise from 4 to 17 micrograms per liter, to suggest that this increase was trivial, the National Fisheries Institute boldly asserted that “The EPA has deemed 580 micrograms per liter [emphasis added] to be a level of mercury in blood that approaches risk.” When this claim was exposed by another reporter, NFI did a quick about-face, claiming it had made a “decimal point error” in converting micrograms per deciliter to micrograms per liter. Ecco Bella also mentions that they don’t use FD and C dyes, but only iron oxides and carmine so that their “lipsticks are as pure as the raw materials we buy.” The lead levels detected in Ecco Bella’s makeup are way lower than the 20 ppm guideline for makeup, and the mercury is also way lower than the FDA guideline of 1 ppm. The Agency proposed a PEL of 0.05 mg/m 3 TWA for mercury and its vapor, measured as Hg, and the final rule establishes this limit, also with a skin notation. The EPA has also calculated the level of mercury in blood that corresponds to dietary intake of mercury at the RfD. This evidence strongly suggests that even ordinary exposure to mercury from fish poses a risk to the developing brain, and that there is no actual margin of safety at all built into the RfD. The FDA has set a limit of 1 part per million of mercury in fish for human consumption. Flounder: 0.050 ppm x 170 grams = 9 micrograms The maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) is zero. One size does not fit all, and whatever “safety margin” may be built into the reference dose is sure to be different for different people. They then backtracked to their longstanding false claim that the safe level is 58 micrograms per liter. The RfD expresses the amount of mercury that can be safely consumed per unit of body weight, each day. So, from the outset, 58 micrograms per liter was known to be a harmful level, not a no-effect level, a “level that approaches risk” or any other industry distortion. (A microgram is one millionth of a gram.). The bottom line: The RfD, the current definition of safe exposure, was based on evidence that was available when it was set, in 1999. Action levels for lead of 15 ppb and copper of 1.3 ppm in more than 10% of customer taps sampled. Mercury levels in fish are expressed in parts per million; see FDA data on levels in different fish and shellfish. When the EPA set the Reference Dose, it began with a level of mercury in blood that had a statistically significant adverse effect on children’s cognitive development, in the best-designed epidemiological study. Since the effects of greatest concern are subtle disruptions in the brain, it is very difficult to be sure when harm is occurring, and prudent to try to minimize exposure. Sometimes they explain that they know the actual reference level is 5.8 micrograms per liter, but because “there is a 10-fold safety margin built into the RfD,” the actual “safe” level is 58 micrograms per liter. In this case, EPA used empirical data to model the relationship between dietary mercury intake and blood mercury; that evidence showed at least three-fold variation in dietary doses associated with an average blood mercury level of 58 micrograms per liter. Elemental mercury:People may be exposed when they breathe air containing elemental mercury vapors. This weekly reference dose can easily be compared with the amounts of methylmercury in different fish, to determine whether an individual’s exposure is within safe limits. Children under six can eat up to three 3-ounce portions per month. Mercury. The combination of being in college and working in a lab meant that both money and time were tight. Source of data: FDA 1990-2012 , "National Marine Fisheries Service Survey of Trace Elements in the Fishery Resource" Report 1978, "The Occurrence of Mercury in the Fishery Resources of the Gulf of Mexico" Report 2000, ND-mercury concentration below detection level (Level of Detection (LOD)=0.01ppm) Data provided to FDA by the chocolate industry in 2005 (Ref. N/A-data not available. Most types of shellfish also have low levels of mercury, although North American lobster is an exception. The ACGIH recommends a TLV-TWA of 0.05 mg/m 3 for mercury vapor, measured as mercury, and a skin notation. Because most Americans don’t eat fish every day, the EPA and FDA have addressed methylmercury exposure averaged over a week’s time. Fable: The EPA Reference Dose is for lifetime exposure. Environmental health experts also have long recognized that exposure does not need to be constantly high to cause damage. High mercury exposure results in permanent nervous system and kidney damage. But based on both what is well known scientifically and what is not known, the “long term” is definitely not a lifetime, and there are reasons for caution, even about single high-mercury meals, for a pregnant woman. A standard serving of fish is six ounces, about 170 grams. Are Mercury Warnings Bad for Public Health? It repeats the mistakes just described: It confuses the RfD, a measure of safe dietary intake, with the Reference Level, a measure of a safe mercury content in blood. Recent scientific research reveals high levels of mercury in the brains … Every sample contained measurable levels of mercury, ranging from 0.018 to 0.774 parts per million. But mercury exposure matters most in the womb and the first few years of life, when the brain is growing and developing most rapidly. The combined effect of applying two factors of 3 was a reduction of the RfD by a factor of 9, rounded off to 10 for simplicity’s sake. Mercury Levels in Different Fish and Shellfish. In early 2009, the seafood lobby tried briefly to inflate the true Reference Level by 100-fold. Just as consumers can compare their dietary mercury doses with the EPA RfD, people who get their blood mercury level tested (as part of their annual physical, perhaps—recommended for people who eat fish often) can compare their results with the EPA Reference … For copper, the action level is 1.3 mg/L, and for lead is 0.015 mg/L. The period the Reference Dose applies to is therefore a pregnancy and the first few years of life. Mercury – 0.01 (ppm) Nitrate – 200.0 (ppm) pH – 6.0 – 8.5 (ppm) Potassium – 1,400.0 (ppm) The web site then calculates the mercury dose and expresses it as a fraction of the EPA RfD. That “benchmark” blood level was 58 micrograms per liter. Sometimes the seafood lobby states outright that the “RfD” is 58 micrograms per liter, and sometimes they claim that it is 5.8 micrograms per deciliter. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set a maximum permissible level of 1 part of methylmercury in a million parts of seafood (1 ppm). The Got Mercury? The .gov means it’s official.Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. This error creates the impression that the EPA safe level is ten times higher than it actually is. The RfD is 0.1 microgram of methylmercury per kilogram of body weight per day. An uncertainty factor in a safety standard seeks to account for known human variability, so that sensitive individuals, as well as the average person, are adequately protected. Older children and adults can safely eat it once a week. Although most fish species contain mercury concentrations of 0.01 to 0.5 ppm, some predator fish, particularly swordfish, shark, and some species of large tuna exceed this limit. This is the level determined to be safe according to toxicological and biomedical considerations, independent of feasibility. Facts: The seafood lobby uses this fable to suggest that consumers don’t need to be concerned about short-term high exposure to methylmercury. A woman’s mercury intake before she becomes pregnant and while she is breast-feeding can also affect the exposure of her fetus and newborn baby, so the critical time frame may extend to two years or so. Facts: This statement is wrong in two ways. Mercury: 0.5 mg/kg: In the edible portion of all retail fish, with six exceptions (see the 1 ppm maximum level below). One part per million (ppm) is one microgram per gram. In Canada, the limit for the total of mercury content is 0.5 ppm. Mercury is naturally occurring and exists in several forms. Since the child is the vulnerable party, the woman’s lifetime exposure is largely beside the point. The (EPA) Action Limit For Lead in Drinking Water The standard accepted action safe level for Lead in water ppm is 15 ppb. The health risk of greatest concern is damage to the developing brains of babies in the womb and in young children. U.S. government agencies recommend keeping your blood mercury levels below 5.0 mcg per liter . An example of acute exposure would be mercury exposure due to an industrial accident. For many people, under most conditions, a single meal of high-mercury fish, now and then, is unlikely to be harmful. EPA then applied an additional factor of three to take into account likely (but unmeasurable) variation among individuals in sensitivity to toxic effects. Swordfish: 0.976 pm x 170 grams =166 micrograms 4. Fable: The Benefits of Eating Fish far Outweigh the Minuscule Risks from Mercury, Fable: Pregnant Women Should Eat Lots of Fish, Because the Benefits to Their Babies’ Brains Will Far Outweigh Any Risks from Mercury, Fable: No One Has Ever Been Harmed by Mercury in Commercially-Caught Fish, Fable: The EPA Reference Dose is 58 micrograms of mercury per liter of blood, Fable: The EPA Reference Dose is for lifetime exposure, Fable: The EPA Reference Dose includes a 10-fold “safety margin”, Fable: Fish That Meets the FDA Action Level for Mercury Poses No Risk, Fable: All Fish Are Alike; There Are No “Good Fish” or “Bad Fish”, Fable: Canned Light Tuna is a “Low-Mercury” Fish, Fable: Mercury in Ocean Fish Poses Little Risk Because it Occurs Naturally, Fable: People Are Eating Less Fish Because of Mercury Warnings, Fable: The Mercury “Scare” is Media and Environmentalist Hype, National Research Council/Institute of Medicine, FDA data on levels in different fish and shellfish, Fish and Shellfish Sorted by Mercury Levels, Mercury Levels in Different Fish and Shellfish (FDA Data). A second source of uncertainty is the well known variability of individuals’ sensitivity to toxic effects. This level of blood mercury, called the EPA Reference Level, defines a long-term average level of mercury in blood that is reasonably certain to be without appreciable risk. Here are some examples: Shrimp: 0.012 ppm x 170 grams = 2 micrograms Symptoms of toxic effects ordinarily don’t occur unless one exceeds the RfD by a fairly wide margin for an extended period. Fable: The EPA Reference Dose includes a 10-fold “safety margin.”. Swai is high in mercury levels that may hamper your health. Why would the seafood lobby consistently make such obviously incorrect statements on such an easily checked factual point? Scientists consider fish with less than 0.1 parts per million of mercury (ppm/Hg) to have low levels of mercury; moderate to high levels range from 0.16 to.5 ppm/Hg or higher. The fish that are low in mercury are canned light tuna, catfish, shrimp, and salmon. EPA then applied a 10-fold “uncertainty factor” to calculate the Reference Level of 5.8 micrograms of mercury per liter of blood, from which it then derived the Reference Dose of 0.1 micrograms of methylmercury in the diet per kilogram of body weight per day. People vary in their response to mercury in the diet in two critical ways: First, the blood level that results from a given dose in the diet varies, and second, individual sensitivity to the toxic effects of mercury at any given blood level varies. Frequently, however, they don’t explain, but simply assert flatly that the “safe” level as defined by the EPA is 58 micrograms per liter. Exposure is most likely to occur during mining, production, and transportation of mercury, as well as mining and refining of gold and silver ores. The RfD is in fact based on “chronic” exposure, that is, exposure averaged over a fairly lengthy period. Using models of how ingested mercury is distributed in the body, EPA estimated that an average woman who consumed 0.1 micrograms of methylmercury per kilogram of body weight per day on average over a long period would have a level of 5.8 micrograms of mercury per liter in her blood. The amount of fish consumed and the level of mercury in … To use the latter, a person needs to type in the variety of fish, the amount they plan to eat, and their body weight. and three times a week without going over the maximum acceptable mercury intake amount for an average pregnant woman The changes corrected data or more properly characterized the species of fish or shellfish sampled. Gulf of Mexico tilefish: 1.45 ppm x 170 grams = 246 micrograms. Ocean fish have average mercury levels of 0.21 ppm. What happens if someone exceeds the reference dose? Swai also contains a high level of dangerous mercury. First, the RfD is 0.1 micrograms of mercury per kilogram of body weight per day; it is an index of dietary mercury intake, not a level of mercury in blood. See also Mercury Concentrations in Fish: FDA Monitoring Program. Usually, nothing obvious happens. [See also advice on canned white/albacore tuna via the "Mercury webpage"] 1 mg/kg: The edible portion of escolar, orange roughy, marlin, fresh and frozen tuna, shark, and swordfish In the United States, the FDA has an action level for methylmercury in commercial marine and freshwater fish that is 1.0 parts per million (ppm). Exposure to mercury and mercury compounds during pregnancy can affect brain development and cause learning and behavior problems for the child. In the body, elemental mercury can be converted to inorganic mercury. The use of the correct number (5.8 micrograms) with the wrong units (deciliters) is a more insidious error, and may be more likely to mislead those encountering it. As an alternative to fish consumption, omega-3 fatty acids and other fish oils can be extracted from fish … Here are the fables, and the facts on each: Fable: The EPA Reference Dose is 58 micrograms per liter of blood. However, some people are exposed to high levels of mercury, including acute exposure (exposure occurring over a short period of time, often less than a day). Training to educate workers about mercury exposure, safe practices for working with fluorescent bulbs and procedures for ensuring that air filtration systems and seals are functioning properly. For mercury, the population of concern to EPA was women of childbearing age (and their fetuses). Light tuna: 0.118 ppm x 170 grams = 20 micrograms So like many powerbuilders before me, I turned to canned tuna and MRP's to provide the bulk of my protein intake.With a long shelf life and at $0.50 a can for chunk lite tuna how could I go wrong? This is higher than the Japanese Health Ministry’s recommended level of 0.4 ppm. The table is sorted by MERCURY CONCENTRATION MEAN (PPM) from fish with lowest levels of mercury to highest levels of mercury. An action level is the level for enforcement. Some experts in mercury toxicity believe that an RfD at least 50 percent lower would be fully justified by the available evidence. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site. (Since a deciliter is one-tenth of a liter, this is the same as saying the limit is 58 micrograms per liter.) According to the Environmental Protection Agency, almost every fish and shellfish contain a small amount of mercury. 1Includes: Blue, King, Snow2Includes: Flounder, Plaice, Sole3Includes: Sea bass (black, Striped), Rockfish. On October 6, 2014, technical changes were made to allow viewers to review the list in order of mercury levels and in alphabetical order by fish species. EPA then divided by 3 again, because some people are likely to experience adverse effects at blood mercury levels 1/3 as high as those that affect the average person. For example, a 60-kilogram (132-pound) woman’s safe weekly dose is (0.1 microgram of methylmercury per kilogram of body weight per day) x (60 kilograms) x (7 days) = 42 micrograms of methylmercury. All humans are exposed to some level of mercury. There is no “bright line” that divides safe from unsafe exposure, and individuals vary widely in terms of the dose required to cause harm. An “uncertainty factor” is not a “safety margin.” An uncertainty factor is applied to account for unavoidable scientific uncertainties. A regular vacuum cleaner will increase air levels of mercury and the vacuum will become contaminated. In the United States, the “safe” (in quotes because safety is always relative) dose of methylmercury was defined in 1999 by the US EPA, and that definition was reviewed and endorsed in 2000 by an expert committee of the National Research Council/Institute of Medicine. Stated simply, if pregnant women are most sensitive to harm, and the RfD is safe for them, then the RfD is probably safer still for other and presumably less sensitive groups. The reference dose is defined as the level of exposure that is reasonably certain to be without appreciable risk for a population exposed over a long period of time. The “safe” dose of methylmercury for any given person is the RfD multiplied by the person’s body weight in kilograms, then by 7 (to convert daily dose to weekly dose.) As of December 1998, 40 U.S. states have issued fish consumption advisories. A 132-pound woman has a reference dose of 42 micrograms; how much methylmercury does she get from six ounces of different seafood choices? In fact, two studies published in 2008, one in New York City and one in Boston, have measured adverse effects of low-level mercury exposure on the developing brains of babies whose mothers ate fish just twice a week or less, and whose blood mercury levels—although significantly higher than average—were close to or even below the EPA Reference Level. The table is sorted by MERCURY CONCENTRATION MEAN (PPM) from fish with lowest … Level of mercury in ONE flu shot: 51,000 parts per billion . Gourmet '' or `` tonno '' labels air levels of mercury, independent of.... Are expressed in parts per million ( ppm ) from fish with lowest levels of that. To canned white people found that mercury levels of mercury in blood is 5.8 micrograms per liter... I spent 2 years working in a lab doing organic synthesis this is the sum of the doses different... Are connecting to the developing brains of babies in the body, elemental can... 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