Date of Award

2010

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

School of Environment

Sub-Department

Earth and Environmental Resources Management

First Advisor

Virginia Shervette

Abstract

In recent years, seafood has been touted as a healthy alternate to meat-laden diets in the United States. Much debate has sparked over the potential risks of contaminants in seafood, particularly methyl mercury, and its impacts on human health. The health of the public must be protected and it is currently unclear that seafood advisories are adequately meeting this requirement. Consumption advisories are widely used in the United States and across the world, but guidelines which are too conservative can be more detrimental to public health than low level methyl mercury expo sure. In order to better understand the risks and benefits associated with seafood consumption and assess the effectiveness of consumption advisories, an extensive literature review was conducted which synthesized the most current data on methyl mercury exposure on human health. The purpose of this thesis is to determine if current United States consumption guidelines are effective in curtailing consumption of seafood species high in methyl mercury levels or if the consumption patterns of seafood in the United States even warrants stringent consumption guidelines. A critique of current standards for advisories is offered as well as recommendations based on findings in this review. Improvements to public messages regarding healthy seafood choices can be made, particularly by considering consumption patterns in the United States and potential exposure to methyl mercury. The results show that modest seafood consumption of species, with the exception of those species with high methyl mercury levels, should not be reduced due to risks associated with low level mercury exposure as the benefits outweigh the risks, even for sensitive populations.

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