Fish Contamination

Fish is an important part of a healthy diet. It's not only high in protein and low in fat, but it's also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain and vision development and can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, cancer and other chronic diseases. Eating fish regularly can help prevent heart disease; that’s why the American Heart Association recommends that people eat 2-3 meals of fish every week.

Unfortunately, some fish contain harmful chemicals like mercury, PCBs and DDTs. If people consume too much contaminated fish, these chemicals can build up in the body and actually increase the risk of health problems.

For most people, eating fish - even quite a bit of it - doesn’t present a problem. However, developing fetuses and young children are especially sensitive to certain contaminants; high levels of mercury, for example, can cause subtle decreases in learning ability, attention and memory. For that reason, it's particularly important that growing children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and women who may become pregnant exercise caution about how much fish and the types of fish they eat.

To help reduce potential harm from contaminated fish, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed some safe eating guidelines. The guidelines provide information to help consumers choose the safest fish to eat and recommend how often these fish can be eaten for the greatest health benefits and minimum risk to health.

It's not just the kinds of fish you eat and the quantity you consume that's important. The way you prepare fish can also help protect you against chemical contaminants by reducing your exposure to them.

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