By Yashim Katurak
A medical practitioner, Dr Arikawe Adeolu, on Friday warned the public against consumption of fishes, such as shark and whale, with high mercury content, saying it can cause neurological damage to the body.
Adeolu, who works with the Federal Medical Centre, Jabi, Abuja, gave the warning in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
According to him, consuming fish with high mercury content puts the individual at risk of having mercury toxicity, which causes some form of neurological damage.
The doctor said that Shark, Angler Fish, Tuna and the Whale were fishes with very high mercury content.
“Fishes low in mercury content are Tilapia, Sardine, Catfish, Croaker Fish, Salmon and Shrimps, saying that they were relatively safe for consumption,’’ he said.
The expert described mercury as a heavy metal known to be toxic to the human body when consumed, even in small amounts.
He said that excessive exposure to mercury would affect cells of the central nervous system with a risk of neurological deficit in an individual.
Adeolu said that some humans were exposed to the substance through consumption of sea foods, while others were exposed to it due to the kind of job they do.
“Some groups of people whose jobs involve handling of mercury are sometimes exposed to the substance.
“Studies have shown that fishes have mercury in them and the kind of mercury found in fish is called `Methylmercury’.
“Methylmercury is a very poisonous form of mercury. It is a metal that is liquid at room temperature. It forms when bacteria reacts with mercury in water.
“Mercury is usually found in water due to human activities like coal burning, iron mining and so on.
“Fishes, depending on their species and position on the food chain, contain different amounts of mercury.
“Usually, the higher the fish is on the food chain, the more likely it is to have a high mercury content, because when they feed on smaller fishes, they also retain whatever mercury the small fishes have,’’ the expert said.
Adeolu, however, said the nature has a good way of balancing itself.
“The fishes mentioned, all contain Selenium, which is an element that counteracts the effects of mercury in the body.
“The whale, however, has more mercury than selenium, so when you consume this fish, you put yourself at risk of mercury toxicity,’’ the expert said.