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Turning Gold Into Mercury

Gold mining creates fish laced with toxins

Jewelers promote gold as an enduring symbol of love, but gold has another legacy. In some parts of the world, mining methods to extract gold use the toxic metal mercury, which is washed into local waterways. Although this pollution has the greatest health impact on local people and animals, some evidence suggests that the mining process contributes to contamination of fish worldwide.

A feature from Science News describes how gold mining taints South American fish -- and the contamination ends up in people and animals.

Contamination from mining and other industrial sources may explain how mercury and other toxins accumulate in ocean fish. Previous HealthScout stories warn that 1-in-10 Americans consumes harmful amounts of mercury, and describe recommendations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that pregnant women avoid some fish because of high mercury content.

Farmed fish isn't necessarily safer, either. Fish raised in pens are usually fed meal that comes from ocean fish considered unusable for human consumption. Even tiny amounts of mercury toxins like polychlorinated biphenals (PCBs) can become concentrated as they move up the food chain. Another HealthScout story explains how some farmed fish exceed safe limits for toxins.

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