Seafood lovers are advised to ease up on their consumption of deep-sea fish, as the mercury levels found in fish surpasse those in other meats and could cause neurological problems if it builds up in the human body, a report the Environmental Protection Administration disclosed yesterday after measuring the mercury content in the locals’hair.
The EPA revealed that Taiwanese people have an average of 2.4 milligrams of mercury per kilogram in their hair, a figure lower than the World Health Organization standard of 50 mg/kg. However, it is higher than the average value of people in Japan (2.1 mg/kg) as well as the reference dose of one mg/kg in the United States.
Wang Cheng-hsiung, the EPA Environmental Analysis Factory director, said that the dietary habits were key factors that contributed to the different values of mercury measured in people of different gender, age and residential area.
The report disclosed that non-vegetarians’hair contained an average value of 2.54 mg/kg of mercury, an average value that was eight times higher than that of vegetarians (0.32 mg/kg).
Also, the hair of those who eat deep-sea fish such as tuna, swordfish and salmon were discovered to contain 3.68 mg/kg of mercury, six times higher than those who did not eat fish at all (0.55 mg/kg).
Finally, the residents in Hualien County had the highest average mercury content in their hair (3.09 mg/kg), while the average level of mercury in the hair of those who live in Taichung City were the lowest (1.83 mg/kg).
The EPA said the research confirmed that the content of mercury in human bodies had less to do with where they live than what they ate, in response to recent concerns from worried citizens who live near incinerators, waste dumps, and industrial areas.
However, the EPA speculated that the professions of the 1,066 people from whom valid samples of hair were taken also affected the mercury content in their bodies, with those in the dentistry business acquiring as high as 3.94 mg/kg of mercury, for they are constantly exposed to the element, which is used for teeth filling.
Mercury, a metal element that is a permanent pollutant to the environment, is said to be the cause of neural problems such as incoordination as well as eyesight, hearing and memory loss. Pregnant women who consume deep-sea fish are more likely to put their babies at risk for brain damage.