It’s not worth the Risk

By Mercury Policy Project, Special for  USDR

Pregnant women who follow the new U.S. fish advice will be exposed to far too much mercury, say scientists and advocates.  They maintain that the outdated science used for developing the guidelines is dangerously out of step with the latest peer-reviewed  science.

A recent study by the Environmental Working Group demonstrates that following the new U.S. advisory will put babies at risk.   EWG enrolled 254 women who ate at least two meals of fish every week and measured mercury levels in their hair to assess neurotoxin levels in their  bodies.

Almost 30 percent of participants had too much exposure; (i.e., their mercury level exceeded the amount associated with the RfD).  Much of their exposure was tied to consumption of fish species like tuna that are still recommended in the new U.S. advisory as “Best” or “Good  Choices.”

“Our research suggests that women who follow this advice will consume dangerous amounts of mercury,” said Sonya Lunder, an EWG senior scientist.  “Women of child bearing age and pregnant women in particular need advice to reduce their exposure. This advice doesn’t do  that.”

“FDA’s advice does not protect babies—nor future generations—from mercury exposure risks,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. “The most important advice any agency could give to pregnant women to reduce their mercury exposure is “Don’t eat  tuna.”

Research indicates that nearly half (47%) of American’s exposure to methylmercury comes from tuna consumption, with the following contributions: canned albacore (20%), canned light (19%) and frozen/sushi  (8%).

“Recent science shows two things: Consuming fish during pregnancy has major nutritional benefits for the developing brain, and even small doses of mercury can damage those same developing brains,” said Dr. Edward Groth, an independent  scientist.

The advice FDA and EPA issued is based solely on the mercury content; benefits are given no weight. And the formula used to sort fish choice categories was developed by EPA 17 years  ago.

“This advice could have been issued in 2000,” said Groth, stressing that in the past 20 years many studies have shown both benefits and risks of maternal seafood  consumption.

FDA and EPA based their fish intake advice on the “Reference Dose,” developed in 1999. The RfD was believed to provide a ten-fold margin of exposure below doses likely to cause harm. Yet more recent studies have found adverse effects at doses near or even below the  RfD.

“By using this obsolete, far too lenient exposure limit for mercury and completely ignoring the benefits of fish intake, FDA and EPA have set the science back two decades,” Groth  asserted.

The fact that FDA continued to promote tuna consumption, despite clear evidence to the contrary, reflects that they are more concerned with the welfare of the fishing industry than with the well being of children, say  advocates.

For more  information:

http://www.ewg.org/research/us-fish-advice-may-expose-babies-too-much-mercury

http://www.fda.gov/food/foodborneillnesscontaminants/metals/ucm393070.htm

SOURCE Mercury Policy  Project

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