Mercury is a substance that naturally occurs in air, water, and soil. Most humans have small measurable amounts in their bodies. These amounts are well below the levels associated with detrimental health effects. In sufficient quantities, mercury can be toxic to humans. Mercury can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. Most studies suggest it takes prolonged exposure to certain types of the element. Some of the most common sources of prolonged exposure include work environment, food contamination, or consumer products that contain mercury:
• Unregulated beauty products
• Thermometers & barometers
• Light bulbs & switches
• Auto parts
• Fish and seafood
• Antique jewelry
These products have minimal health threats unless they are damaged, leaking, or heated to the point of separation and causing vapor. If they are damaged and leaking mercury, follow proper clean-up and disposal protocols on the EPA website. https://www.epa.gov/mercury/mercury-consumer-products
The products, generally most concerning to people, is they hear about mercury in fish and seafood. Mercury is emitted into the air from various sources like volcanoes, forest fires, burning fossil fuels and municipal waste. The mercury that is in the air then enters into bodies of water like lakes and streams or on land, where it can run off into the waterways. The level of mercury in fish and seafood depends on a particular species, its place in the food chain, how long they live, and what they eat. Larger species like sharks, swordfish, and mackerel (larger species that are on top of the marine food chain tend to have higher mercury content). The most commonly eaten fish and seafood, that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
In terms of eye health, high levels of mercury can affect all parts of the eye. Symptoms include:
• Discoloration of the lens
• Blurry vision
• Tremors of the eyelids
• Peripheral vision loss followed by central vision loss
Despite the minute threat, the truth is, the health benefits of consuming fish and seafood far outweigh the risk. For most healthy people, the risk of mercury from eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern. Eating fish and seafood is still encouraged for eye health. Fish and shellfish have high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids. It is a vital part of a healthy diet. Eating 2 meals a week (12oz) of fish and seafood will give the average person the nutrients they need without having to worry about the level of mercury they ingest.