Do all fish and shellfish contain mercury? © Getty Images

Do all fish and shellfish contain mercury?

Methylmercury (the form of mercury found in fish) is a powerful neurotoxin, but altering which fish we eat could help reduce our exposure to it.

Asked by: Jack Moore, Frome


Mercury levels in the oceans have tripled since the Industrial Revolution, thanks to mining and the burning of fossil fuels. All sea creatures absorb some of this heavy metal directly, and once it’s in the body there’s no way of getting rid of it. The amount of mercury in fish varies between species. Long-lived predators like tuna and swordfish tend to contain the most, because they also absorb mercury from their prey and they’ve had a long time to accumulate it. The lowest levels are found in short-lived species lower down the food chain, such as oysters and shrimp.


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