Tuna sandwich, anyone?

I just ate a delicious tuna salad sandwich while sitting here at my office. It was delicious. Did I tell you how delicious it was? Part of me felt that I had done a good thing for my body by eating that tuna salad sandwich instead of a double cheeseburger with cheese and bacon. The other part of me remembered what’s in tuna. So here are some thoughts.

According to this Consumer Reports report, there’s a lot of mercury in tuna:

Fortunately, it’s easy to choose lowermercury fish that are also rich in healthful omega-3 fatty acids. That’s especially important for women who are pregnant or might become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children, because fetuses and youngsters seem to face the most risk from methylmercury’s neurotoxic effects. 

Results from our tuna tests, conducted at an outside lab, underscore the longheld concern for those people. We found:

  • Every sample contained measurable levels of mercury, ranging from 0.018 to 0.774 parts per million. The Food and Drug Administration can take legal action to pull products containing 1 ppm or more from the market. (It never has, according to an FDA spokesman.) The EPA compiles fish advisories when state and local governments have found high contaminant levels in certain locally caught fish. 
  • Samples of white tuna had 0.217 to 0.774 ppm of mercury and averaged 0.427 ppm. By eating 2.5 ounces of any of the tested samples, a woman of childbearing age would exceed the daily mercury intake that the EPA considers safe. 
  • Samples of light tuna had 0.018 to 0.176 ppm and averaged 0.071 ppm. At that average, a woman of childbearing age eating 2.5 ounces would get less than the EPA’s limit, but for about half the tested samples, eating 5 ounces would exceed the limit.

That’s a lot of mercury, especially if you eat a lot of tuna. And you should be concerned about this mercury because it’s methylmercury. It does this funny thing called “bioaccumulation”. You don’t need to be a a rocket scientist to know that mercury accumulating in your body is not a good thing. Just ask this guy:
Did he have mercury poisoning?
The thing is, the anti-vaccine lobby keeps harping on mercury in vaccines causing autism. In their minds, the symptoms of mercury poisoning mimic the symptoms of autism. Ergo, autism must be mercury poisoning, right?
First of all, the compound used in childhood vaccines and since phased-out is thimerosal, an ethylmercury-containing compound. I’ve told you about the chemistry of these things, so there’s no need to beat that horse to death. The main gist of this blog post is to point out the following:
In fact, I’d venture to guess that it is much more biologically plausible — because of bioaccumulation of mercury — that tuna would cause autism IF AND ONLY IF autism was caused by mercury. The evidence for that has been put to rest.
Why, oh, why, the anti-vaccine lobby keeps going on and on and on about mercury in vaccines (when it’s been phased out) and don’t viciously attack tuna is beyond me.