Portland, Maine — The U.S. government should withdraw or re-evaluate its most widely promoted advice about traces of mercury in fish, the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) said today. In a new report, CCF examines scientific studies published during the past year which turn conventional wisdom about mercury and fish on its head. The CCF report was released today in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2007 National Forum on Contaminants in Fish.
In Seafood Science Since Madison: What’s Really Happening in the Great Mercury Debate, CCF analyzes studies published during the months following last year’s International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant, held in Wisconsin’s capital. Since that event concluded, scientists writing in three major journals and a groundbreaking Institute of Medicine (IOM) report have reached conclusions that disagree strongly with Americans’ mercury-related fear of fish.
A study published in The Lancet determined that pregnant women can best protect their unborn children by eating considerably more fish than U.S. government guidelines recommend. A JAMA study found that the documented health benefits of eating fish far outweigh any hypothetical risks. The IOM has cautioned that posting mercury warnings in public places results in a “spillover effect,” scaring away Americans who have no reason to heed the warnings of fish-related health risks. And in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers who conducted a well-regarded study of health risks associated with mercury conceded that their observations in the Faroe Islands were related to whale meat, not fish.
Armed with these startling conclusions from the scientific community, the Center for Consumer Freedom recommends:
1. The EPA should re-evaluate its methylmercury Reference Dose, beginning by restoring it to the level that existed prior to 2000, before the Faroe Islands study’s findings affected its calculations.
2. The EPA should decline to include the Faroe Islands study in its future methylmercury Reference Dose calculations until the researchers share their complete, unedited collection of data with the scientific community.
3. Since research in The Lancet demonstrates that pregnant women should eat far more fish than the EPA and Food and Drug Administration’s joint seafood advisory permits, the agencies should withdraw that advisory.
4. Unless appropriate consumer research can devise a strategy that will not limit fish consumption among men, non-infant children, post-menopausal women, and women on regular birth control medications, posting mercury advisories where fish is sold should be discouraged because it is likely to cause the very harm it intends to prevent.
5. U.S. states that issue mercury advisories related to fish should withdraw any advice that is more restrictive than the already hyper-cautionary federal guidelines.
“The EPA and FDA have a lot of catching up to do,” said CCF Director of Research David Martosko. Science is moving beyond the activist soundbite, and these agencies are still recommending warnings about a health food. Given what the past year’s research has shown us, it’s more irresponsible than ever to give fish the skull-and-crossbones treatment.”