Researchers at UC Santa Cruz surveyed students outside of campus dining halls on their tuna consumption habits and knowledge of mercury exposure risks, and also measured the mercury levels in hair samples from the students. They found that hair mercury levels were closely correlated with how much tuna the students said they ate. And for some students, their hair mercury measurements were above what is considered a "level of concern."
"It doesn't necessarily mean that they would be experiencing toxic effects, but it's a level at which it's recommended to try to lower your mercury exposure," said Myra Finkelstein, an associate adjunct professor of environmental toxicology at UC Santa Cruz. "Our results were consistent with other studies of mercury levels in hair from people who eat a lot of fish."
Tuna - Contain - Amounts - Mercury - Form
Tuna and other large fish contain significant amounts of mercury in its most toxic form (methylmercury), and exposure to high levels of methylmercury can cause neurological damage. Because of its effects on neurological development and reproductive health, concerns about mercury exposure are greatest for pregnant women and children. Finkelstein said college students should also limit their exposure to mercury because their nervous systems are still developing and they are of reproductive age.
She said the study was prompted by her experiences teaching students about mercury in the environment and hearing about how much tuna some students eat. "I've been dumbfounded when students have told me they eat tuna every day," Finkelstein said. "Their lack of knowledge about the risk of exposure to mercury is surprising."
Graduate - Student - Yasuhiko - Murata - Study
Graduate student Yasuhiko Murata led the study and is first author of a paper on their findings, which has been accepted for publication in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry and is available online. In the surveys, about a third of students reported weekly tuna consumption, and 80 percent of their...
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