Pregnant women should follow guidelines on eating fish
November 26, 1997
Web posted at: 11:09 p.m. EST (0409 GMT)
From Correspondent Linda Ciampa
ST. JOSEPH, Michigan (CNN) -- When registered dietitian
Robin Jacobson became pregnant, she stopped eating fish.
"I don't feel it's safe," she says. "There are too many
toxins in our water."
The U.S. government agrees with her when it comes to
certain fish. It advises pregnant women and women of
child-bearing age to limit consumption of shark and
swordfish, which have higher levels of mercury than other
fish, to no more than once a month.
"Mercury can have an adverse affect on the developing
fetus," said Mike Bolger, of the Food and Drug
A study last year found that pregnant woman who ate fish
contaminated with small amounts of mercury did not harm the
development of their children, so the warnings against
shark and swordfish may change.
Of more concern are women who eat fish caught
recreationally in lakes, rivers or bays. State governments
have issued some 2,000 advisories warning women and
children against eating certain fish caught in certain
Fishing is a lot like real estate. It has everything to do
For example, walleye and smallmouth bass from the St. Joe's
River in southwestern Michigan are perfectly safe to eat.
But travel 50 miles northeast, and it's a different story
Michigan's Kalamazoo River is polluted by polychlorinated
biphenyls (PCBs), highly toxic chemicals banned in the
1970s. Larger fish that eat smaller fish can have
concentrations of toxin a thousand times higher than the
levels found in the river's sediment.
A study last year found that women who ate fish
contaminated with PCBs gave birth to children who scored
lower on IQ tests later in life.
But fish is a good source of protein and the best source of
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for the
development of a fetus.
Hal Humphrey, of the Institute of Environmental Technology,
gives this advice to pregnant women:
"Choose your fish species correctly. Don't eat the
swordfish. Don't eat the shark. Eat the cod or eat some of
the other fish which aren't implicated."
Women should follow their own state's advisories and steer
clear of older, fattier fish, such as bluefish from bay
areas or trout from lakes. Those fish that have been around
longer have had more time to accumulate toxins.