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Mercury warning targets Asian women

According to a study released by the Health Department, a quarter of adult New Yorkers have elevated blood mercury levels; these levels are closely tied to fish consumption.
This report is particularly important to Queens residents as Asians and higher-income New Yorkers are more at risk, because they consume more fish, the Health Department said.
Foreign-born Chinese women are at the most risk, with 66 percent having a blood mercury level at or above the New York State level of 5 micrograms per liter.
While the mercury levels pose little to no risk for most adults, the Health Department warns that it may increase the risk of cognitive delays for children whose mothers had high levels of mercury during pregnancy.
Health officials maintain that moderate fish consumption has many health benefits. &#8220For most people, frequent fish consumption is not a concern,” said Daniel Kass, the Health Department's Assistant Commissioner for Environmental Surveillance and Policy. &#8220Fish is a good source of protein and heart-healthy fats; it is low in calories and unhealthy fats.”
However, mercury can pass from a mother's bloodstream to a developing fetus, and small amounts can pass into breast milk. Exposure to significant amounts of mercury early in life may cause learning problems in the developing brain.
&#8220No one needs to stop eating fish, but some people may need to change the type and amount they eat,” Kass said. &#8220Young children, breastfeeding mothers, and women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy should eat fish that are lower in mercury and limit fish that are higher in mercury.”
People who eat fish three or fewer times a week, on average, have levels of mercury below state level. People who eat larger portions can avoid excessive mercury by eating fish less often than recommended. Restaurant servings are often much larger than the recommended serving size, the Health Department said.
The Health Department has developed recommendations for pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children, and has published a brochure entitled &#8220Eat Fish, Choose Wisely,” is available in English, Spanish and Chinese through 3-1-1. The brochure advices New Yorkers to choose fish lower in mercury, not to eat fish that are high in mercury, to eat fewer, or smaller, servings of fish, choose smaller fish, and to eat a variety of fish.
The brochure also lists fish by their level of mercury, and recommends serving sizes. A typical adult serving size is 4 to 6 ounces, while a child's serving should be smaller. To estimate serving sizes, read food labels or ask about weight.
According to the Health Department, fish that are too high in mercury and should be avoided include Chilean Sea Bass, swordfish and fresh tuna. Fish that should not be consumed more than once a week include bass, canned white and albacore tuna, halibut, lobster and monkfish. The Health Department also cautions against eating fish or shellfish caught in New York city waters, as they may contain contaminants other than mercury.

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