SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Yellowfin tuna, marketed as Ahi, is already on the Natural Resources Defense Council’s list as a high-mercury fish that should be eaten sparingly or avoided altogether. But results from a new study reveals those mercury levels have been rising by nearly 4 percent annually over a ten-year period.

Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment found annual increases of at least 3.8 percent between 1998 and 2008.

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Mercury poisoning in humans can cause brain, kidney and lung damage.

While mercury can come from a natural source like volcanic eruptions; it also be released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels.

“It can travel all around the globe and be deposited, for example, near Hawaii, where there are yellowfin tuna,” Paul Drevnick, one of the authors of the study told KCBS.

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He said scientists studying waters in the Pacific predicted that mercury concentrations in the water would increase at the same rates that are being seen in the tuna.

“It’s possibly related to the rapid industrialization of East Asia,” Drevnick said.

A Harvard researcher predicts that if emissions continue at their current rate, mercury levels in ocean waters will double between 1995 and 2050.

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Efforts to tackle the problems involve the United Nation’s Minamata Convention which is about controlling mercury at the source.