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What is mercury?
Mercury is a metal found naturally in many forms, all of which are poisonous. It's used in thermometers, batteries and dental fillings and is emitted from power plants and other industrial activity. These emissions fall into bodies of water where they collect in fish, accumulating over time and in bigger fish. Americans get most of their exposure to mercury from eating these mercury-contaminated fish.
If a woman is exposed to high levels of mercury before or while she is pregnant, her health and the baby's health are threatened.
What are the health risks of mercury exposure?
Mercury damages many parts of the body, including the nervous system, the lungs, the kidneys, vision, and hearing. The seriousness of the risk depends upon how much mercury a person is exposed to. The risk is especially great for fetuses and children.
Babies who are exposed to mercury while in the womb can suffer severe damage to the nervous system and may die. They may have brain damage, learning disabilities and hearing loss.
How much fish can a pregnant woman safely eat?
To learn more about how much fish a pregnant woman can safely eat, read the article about healthy eating.