In a recent health study, NFC offers friends, readers, and clients safety information for their children and families:

In a recent health study by The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, the risks of extra tuna consumption by children and teens through college students were uncovered. Particularly in institutional settings where individuals have unlimited access to tuna products, this very comprehensive research at UC Santa Cruz shows that student’s consistent habits of eating this affordable and plentiful cafeteria lunch had a high increase in mercury levels.

Using specific hair sample tests revealed a higher level of mercury correlated accurately with how much tuna they ate in school cafeterias. And, for some students, their hair mercury measurements were above what is considered a “level of concern.” Tuna and other large fish contain significant amounts of mercury in its most toxic form (methylmercury), and exposure to high levels of methylmercury can cause neurological damage.“It doesn’t necessarily mean that they would be experiencing toxic effects, but it’s a level at which it’s recommended to try to lower your mercury exposure,” said Myra Finkelstein, an associate adjunct professor of environmental toxicology at UC Santa Cruz. “Our results were consistent with other studies of mercury levels in hair from people who eat a lot of fish.”

Because of its effects on neurological development and reproductive health, concerns about mercury exposure are greatest for pregnant women and children. Finkelstein said college students should also limit their exposure to mercury because their nervous systems are still developing and they are of reproductive age. In these carefully performed surveys, about a third of students reported weekly tuna consumption, and 80 percent of their tuna meals were at the campus dining halls, where tuna is regularly available from the salad bar. “I’ve been dumbfounded when students have told me they eat tuna every day,” Finkelstein said. “Their lack of knowledge about the risk of exposure to mercury is surprising.”

Half of student tuna eaters report eating three or more tuna meals per week, potentially exceeding the “reference dose” established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), considered a maximum safe level (0.1 micrograms of methylmercury per kilogram of body weight per day). Nearly all fish contain some mercury, but tuna, especially the larger species accumulate relatively high levels of the toxic metal. Consumers are advised to eat no more than two to three servings per week of low-mercury fish.

So, Myra Finkelstein’s concern is for all kinds of institutions with dining halls, especially those serving children, such as boarding schools. “Any time you have a dining hall situation where people are helping themselves, some residents may be eating way too much tuna,” she said.

This is especially alarming news for the  Kosher community to heed, where tuna consumption is quite high. Tuna is a staple meal during the “Three Weeks” and an easy fast way to serve a large family.


Avoid Mercury poison

Mercury in tuna fish

For the Health of Our Children, Recognize “The signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning caused by eating too many contaminated foods may include:

  • Peripheral neuropathy – tingling, itching, pins-and-needles on toes and fingertips
  • Reduced peripheral vision
  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Possible impairments in speech and hearing
  • Affected children may develop red cheeks, nose, and lips; loss of nails and teeth; and some transient rashes…” –