Jeremy Piven’s Fishy Story

The actor says he got mercury poisoning from sushi. Is that possible?

Entourage actor Jeremey Piven left the cast of the Broadway play Speed-the-Plow Wednesday, citing illness from mercury poisoning. Piven’s doctor, Carlon Colker, blamed the actor’s high mercury count on too much sushi, but playwright David Mamet expressed skepticism: “[M]y understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer.” Should you think twice before eating your next tuna roll?

In 2005, Amanda Schaffer explained that the answer depends on whom you ask: While “no one denies that mercury is a powerful toxin … the two government agencies separately charged with protecting human health and protecting the environment have traditionally disagreed about how much contaminated fish is too much.”

If a pregnant woman eats too much seafood, is she endangering her fetus? In 2007, Arthur Allen argued that not only is it safe for pregnant women to eat fish but that women who eat a lot of fish actually have smarter babies than moms who don’t.

Finally, earlier this year, Jack Shafer wrote that the New York Times story  on high mercury levels in tuna sushi was just “scaremongering” and that you shouldn’t “jab yourself in the eyes with your chopsticks” or “swear off bluefin forever.”