Mercury in Fish

What is it?
First Aid

What is organic mercury?

Mercury is a metal that can be harmful if you breathe it in or swallow it. Organic mercury is a type of mercury that is found in some fish.

Mercury from industry can get into rivers, lakes and the ocean. Coal burning is the biggest source, but it can also come from other local industry.  The mercury gets into the plants that small fish eat. Larger fish eat the small fish and the mercury builds up over time.  These larger fish have the most mercury.

If you are are pregnant, breastfeeding or may become pregnant, eating large amounts of fish with mercury may harm your baby.

What are the symptoms of mercury poisoning?

If you eat large amounts of mercury while pregnant or breastfeeding, your child may have trouble:

  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Remembering
  • Learning

Your child may also be moody or shy, or have shakes.

Young children who eat a lot of mercury can also have these problems.

What can I do about mercury poisoning?

If you think your child has mercury poisoning, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511.

How can I prevent mercury poisoning?

To prevent mercury poisoning from fish:

  • If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, breastfeeding, or a child under age 8, do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish. These fish have tend to have large amounts of mercury.
  • See your local fish advisory to find out what types of fish are safe to eat.

You can help keep mercury out of the water by safely getting rid of products with mercury in them. See Mercury in Your Home for more information.

Last Updated: 05/16/2016