By Palli Lee

A recent study called Minnesota Family Environmental Exposure Tracking (MN FEET) tested for mercury and other metals in women and their babies, including Hmong women. Mercury can be harmful to a baby’s health. Too much mercury can affect a child’s learning and attention, and how they do in school. It can impact their success in life.

The study was done by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), working with the HealthPartners Institute and West Side Community Health Services. It involved pregnant women who were Asian, East African, Latina and White. MN FEET will help families and communities protect their babies from these chemicals.

MN FEET found that pregnant Asian women, especially Hmong women, were most likely to have higher levels of mercury in their bodies. Over 30% of women who chose to speak Hmong in their study interview had high levels and received special follow-up to help them reduce their exposure. The higher levels were likely from using skin-lightening creams and eating certain kinds of fish higher in mercury.

Some skin-lightening creams are not healthy and have mercury in them. Ingredients are not always known in these products and they can’t be seen, felt or tasted. Mercury can get in the air and in the home and be harmful to everyone, not just the person who uses the cream.

Eating fish has many health benefits for pregnant women and babies. Select and eat fish that do not have a lot of mercury such as sunfish, crappie, perch and stream trout. Pregnant women and children should eat white bass, walleye and northern pike only once per month. Avoid eating fish high in mercury such as muskellunge.

For more information on skin creams with mercury and choosing healthy fish, see these websites:

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