The following are real stories of mercury contamination:
Rachel: When I told my doctor that I wanted to try to have a baby, he suggested that I find out what my level of mercury was because he knew that I ate a lot of fish. So he tested my level of mercury and it was really high.
It's not standard practice for doctors to do that. He basically wanted to do it because I told him that I eat a lot of fish so he suggested that before I got pregnant, we test my level of mercury.
I went back to my doctor and found out that my level of mercury was really high. And I was really upset because I didn't think that it was going to be. It just didn't occur to me that this was going to be an issue for me. But I was eating a lot of sushi, like tuna and mahi mahi. I love sushi and I've eaten it for years.
So I lowered my fish consumption and my mercury level went down. The day I found out that my level was down, I got pregnant!
It's hard to know how your baby would have turned out but she's so healthy and so alert and bright. I would really hope that any supermarket that sells fish would have an advisory warning people about the levels of mercury in the fish. Before my doctor tested me, it just didn't occur to me that this was going to be an issue for me.
Children, like babies, can be harmed by lower concentrations of mercury than it takes to affect adults, since their nervous systems are still developing.
Matthew: I didn't know anything of mercury as a poison. All I knew was Mercury was a planet. And so when my mom said "I think you might have mercury poisoning," I was like "I never went to Mercury".
Joan (mom): Matthew was going from an excellent student to a poor student. It was things that we took for granted, that he'd always done, like his excellent writing skills. His school was saying that he couldn't even write a paragraph and that he wasn't focused in class. And I noticed at home Matthew was really struggling with homework. He'd always been a great student and he was getting really frustrated.
Matthew: Playing football, my fingers would get crooked and when I'd write, my fingers would get shaky.
Matthew's parents saw a newspaper article about mercury and realized that they may have figured out what was going on. So they had his pediatrician test his mercury level and she found that it was extremely high.
Matthew: I ate tuna about twice a day every day. It was my favorite food. Now instead of my tuna sandwich for lunch every day, I'll take something else, like a turkey sandwich.
Joan: Since he's mercury free, we’ve seen a big change -- his attitude towards school is really wonderful. He's turning in two page papers on his own and then gets an A on them. As a consumer, I wasn't given the opportunity to make a decision based on what's in the product.
Adults who are exposed to high levels of mercury can experience problems with their nervous systems, including impaired coordination, tremors, irritability, memory loss, depression, blurred vision and a tingling sensation in the skin.
Elizabeth: As an avid follower of the Atkins diet to control my blood sugar, I was consuming an average of four cans of tuna fish each week.
While being treated for pre-diabetes at the Atkins Center in New York City, I was tested for metals. My mercury readings were way off the charts. The doctor informed me that it was possibly causing my hypothyroid condition to not respond to medicine. After two rounds of chelation therapy, my levels were normal.
I stopped eating all fish for some time, but then I found an organization that supports ethical line-caught fishing practices. These fish are said to contain lower levels of mercury, so after contacting the canneries online, I purchased a case of these smaller tuna and now occasionally, I'll indulge.
You can find more stories in Dr. Jane Hightower's book Diagnosis Mercury.