Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 5, 2020

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Can the mercury found in fish be responsible for a child born with brain damage? That’s what a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study seems to be saying’ and pregnant woman who live in the coastal regions of the United States are at a much higher risk of being poisoned.

The EPA study

A recent EPA study reported that one in five women ages 16′ 49 living in coastal areas had excessive amounts of mercury in their blood system’ which is twice the amount found in woman who don’t live in coastal areas. That’s a larger issue than it might seem at first glance as women in this age group are of child bearing age and toxic levels of mercury have been found to cause permanent brain damage in fetuses.

Mercury poisoning

Mercury poisoning is caused by exposure to mercury or its toxic compounds that can damage the central nervous and endocrine systems, kidneys and other organs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the types of symptoms due to mercury poisoning depend on the degree of exposure:

Paresthesia (numbness and tingling sensations around the lips, fingers and toes) usually is the first symptom. A stumbling gait and difficulty in articulating words is the next progressive symptom, along with a constriction of the visual fields, ultimately leading to tunnel vision and impaired hearing. Generalized muscle weakness, fatigue, headache, irritability, and inability to concentrate often occur. In severe cases, tremors or jerks are present. These neurological problems frequently lead to coma and death. (Source: www.fda.gov/)

Fish consumption: How much is too much?

The FDA provides information on the mercury levels in commercial fish and shellfish. For more information, see their website at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~frf/sea-mehg.html. In addition, the Environmental Working Group, an organization that advocates for health protective and subsidy-shifting policies on Capitol Hill, has come up with an online tool to calculate the amount of tuna one can safely eat over a week’s time. To use the tool, go to http://www.ewg.org/tunacalculator.

Who’s liable?

Who’s liable if someone is poisoned by the mercury contained in fish? That’s a question that doesn’t have a definitive answer. Critics of the FDA, the agency responsible for the safety of food we eat, say that it has not done its job when it comes to warning the public about the dangers of mercury in fish and may be ultimately responsible. Unfortunately, you can’t sue the FDA for damages. However, it’s important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney to discuss your situation as other possible defendants may exist such as manufacturers and distributors of fish and industries that knowingly discharge toxins into water sources. If you have been injured due to mercury poisoning, contact a product liability attorney. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.