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Amalgam Fillings, Canned Tuna, & Mercury

In the current issue of the Journal of Toxicological Sciences, researchers calculated the half-life of mercury inside the body. They had volunteers eat the equivalent of one or two cans of tuna a week for a few months to build up their levels, and then during the subsequent washout period measured how quickly mercury levels in their blood and hair dropped.

They calculated the biological half-life of mercury to be on the order of two months. So it takes only about a year after stopping fish consumption for the body to eliminate 99% of the ingested mercury. Of course that’s assuming one isn’t continually exposed to mercury from other sources, such as amalgam fillings.

How does the mercury intake attributable to those silvery dental fillings compare with the mercury intake due to fish consumption? In my NutritionFacts.org video pick today, I calculate how many mercury-containing amalgam tooth fillings are equivalent to eating a can of tuna once a week (see above).

What about fish consumption compared to the levels of mercury in thimerosal-containing vaccines? See my video Mercury in Vaccinations vs. Tuna.

What’s so bad about eating mercury? In my video Fish Fog I describe the neurobehavioral abnormalities in adults linked to mercury intake, though fetal exposure may be most damaging. The resulting loss of child intelligence linked to maternal fish consumption is estimated to cost billions in lost productivity. See my videos Maternal Mercury Levels and The Effect of Canned Tuna on Future Wages. Dolphin safe does not necessarily mean children safe.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: TheGiantVermin / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

103 comments

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2:10PM PST on Feb 16, 2013

If you have heart problems, extreme fatigue, vision issues and/or a bunch of other symptoms- and you are not sure of the cause - do you have "silver" fillings in your teeth? If so - this may be your problem! I suggest you find a holistic specialist to have them removed properly - this is key as the removal may actually cause more harm and get more of the bad mercury into your system! The ADA still does not want to admit that mercury leaching into your body from old silver fillings causes many severe health issues. In addition removing wisom teeth the "wrong way" can cause long term health problems related to compromising the immune system. If this is resonating with you - one place you can get more information is The Centers for Healing -Board Certified Dentists, Newbury Park CA 805-375-2233. Elvis's daughter -Lisa Marie is the first celebrity I know of that recently went public about her miraculous healing from a long time severe illness: after years of having access to the best health care services, and no one being able to help cure her, she finally learned about mercury poisoning and had all of her silver fillings removed- properly - by a holistic dentist in New Mexico. Now she’s cured! The article about her was published in Truly Alive Magazine in the Mar/Apr 2012 issue. The article lists contacts for more information: Pamela Costello MD 505-503-8325, www.drpamelacostello.com or Dr Wolfe DDS 505-988-9868, www.drwolfe.com. I hope reading this information helps someo

7:43AM PST on Jan 10, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

7:51AM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

Thanks for shareing

9:19AM PDT on Mar 25, 2012

thanks for sharing :)

3:20AM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

I think we should mention that humans are estimated to be able to safely handle 5 micrograms of Mercury (max 1.6 may be Methyl Mercury) per kg. of body weight. (According to JECFA)
The Methyl Mercury limit was recently reduced from 3.3 to 1.6 in order to protect fetuses, so if pregnancy isn't an issue 3.3 should be safe.

If we use Michaels numbers this means that since amalgam contains metallic Mercury a person can safely handle 5 micrograms/week/kg / (0.5 micrograms/day*7 days/week) = 1.4 fillings per kg. - if that was the only source of Mercury of course.

So an 80 kg (178 lbs) person could safely handle about 110 fillings.

As for tins of tuna, we have to remember we are then dealing with organic Mercury compounds so we have to use the lower safe dose.
This means the 100 micrograms in a tin would be safe for a 100 micrograms / 1.6 micrograms/kg = 62.5 kg (139 lbs) person to consume per week (if only source of mercury)

So a petite pregnant woman might want to avoid this tuna, but a big fat man should be able to handle such a tin per week just fine even if he is concerned about being pregnant ;-) (I could handle 2).

And note that many tins of tuna contains less mercury - In a Danish study best and worst were about 6 and 120 micrograms per tin.

1:40PM PST on Mar 10, 2012

I wanted to share my calculations with everyone for how I arrived at the tuna/fillings number. Three national brands of canned tuna were recently tested for mercury (http://1.usa.gov/xTU99r). They averaged 600 ppb of mercury, exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's safety level for human consumption (500 ppb). The drained solids in a can of tuna weigh about 170 grams (http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/), so that comes out to be about 100 mcg of mercury per can of tuna. A conservative estimate of the amount of mercury we're exposed to on a daily basis per amalgam-filled tooth is 0.5 mcg (http://1.usa.gov/AaYCJY), and so eating a single can of tunafish a week is like having 29 teeth filled with mercury-based fillings day in and day out.

11:27AM PST on Mar 10, 2012

The amount of mercury released from tooth fillings is so low that they are not a threat to the carrier.
They are however a health hazard to the dental technicians and dentists making them.

6:37PM PST on Mar 8, 2012

I've had amalgam fillings since i was a kid. I'm now in my fifities. When can i expect to die?

8:34PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

can anyones intestines vouche for this experiment? 99% in a year?

1:30PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

I think it's important to add information about how much is unlikely to have any effect. So people can judge things like how much tuna should I eat? How many fillings can I get without worrying. Obviously if you eat tuna all the time, it becomes a health risk. But how much and how often isn't a risk?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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