FDA fish warning unwarranted

"Mercury in Some Fish Could Harm Babies Brains" headlined the Associated Press last week. The FDA warned pregnant women and those of childbearing age about the alleged hazards of consuming fish that may contain high levels of mercury.

Unfortunately, the facts dont support the warning.

The average level of mercury in hair that is attributable to seafood consumption in the U.S. is 0.12 ppm, according to a 1997 study far below the levels associated with harm to childrens nervous systems.

In July 2000, the National Academy of Sciences spotlighted a study of mercury levels among expectant mothers in the Seychelles islands. Hair samples collected when the mother gave birth found mercury concentrations ranging from 0.5 ppm to 27 ppm, with no adverse effects in their children.

The NAS said the epidemiologic studies on mercury "provide little evidence" that children are affected appreciably by low-dose prenatal exposure to mercury.

This body of evidence linking low-level mercury exposure with harm to children is so weak that U.S. regulations are based on extrapolation from the Iraqi poisoning data. The Environmental Protection Agencys current "safe" level of mercury exposure is based on a maternal hair level of about 11 ppm way above the level anyone is likely to accumulate from eating fish.

Even the intake of mercury among women of child-bearing age who consume the most fish is about three times below the level at which risks are thought to begin.


Contact: Steven Milloy

Page: 1

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