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Mercury exposure in dolphins linked to humans

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Posted at 6:55 AM, Dec 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-01 06:55:19-05

Monday was a good day for Jason Hurtado at the Fort Pierce Jetty.

“Beautiful day, we’ve caught four or five fish and only been out here for a couple hours," said the fisherman from Port St. Lucie.

Hurtado is not alone. 

Carlos Gomez is cleaning his catch of yellowfin croaker nearby.  Gomez says he tries to limit the amount of fresh caught fish from the Indian River Lagoon.  That's a good idea according to scientists.

Scientists are raising concerns about the correlation between higher mercury levels in dolphins that live in the Indian River Lagoon, and higher mercury levels in people.”

Adam Schaefer, an epidemiologist at Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch says it's about understanding what you are consuming.

Schaefer just finished a two-year study focused on the similarities in diets of dolphins and humans. They screened more than 300 human hair samples.

“Over half of the people we tested had a mercury concentration that was above the EPA threshold for a daily dose, which is about 1 part per million," said Schaefer.

Schaefer said no one is saying to not eat fish or shellfish, but to do so in moderation.

Back at the jetty, Sarah Yun says she’s heard the advice before, when she was about to give birth to baby Noah.

“Stay away from snook, a lot of redfish, things like that," said Yun.

Schaefer has already embarked on another study of pregnant women since developing fetuses are most at risk from mercury exposure.