Monday, August 01, 2005

Mercury and Tuna

Very interesting article by Peter Waldman in today’s (Aug 1, 05) Wall Street Journal:
Mercury and Tuna; U.S. Advice Leaves Lots of Questions Balancing Interests, Agencies Issue guidance at Odds with EPA Risk Assessment.

There has been increasing concern about accumulation of toxic levels of mercury and methylmercury in fish and shellfish. Industrial pollution is the source of most mercury. Mercury falls from the air and accumulates in the ocean and rivers. In water, mercury is converted to methylmercury, which is absorbed by fish.
The FDA & EPA issued a joint advisory on mercury in fish in March 2004:
-Click here for more info-

Points from Waldman’s article:
The fish industry intensively lobbied the FDA and influenced the wording of the advisory. Not only were these companies worried about decreased sales, but also the possibility of class action suits.

Earlier the EPA had set lower safe levels of fish consumption than those in the 2004 joint advisory. The EPA and FDA scientists apparently had major disagreements.

The FDA’s advisory cautions against eating too much albacore white tuna. It puts light tuna in the low-mercury group, but this may in fact not be true. It may have just been a bone thrown to Bumble Bee and the like, so tuna consumption wouldn't drop further

Levels of mercury content in individual fish vary widely, as might be expected, depending on mercury level in the body of water.

The greatest risk is still assumed to be to developing fetuses, which have been shown to concentrate more mercury in their blood than the mother during pregnancy. However, everyone is at risk--mercury is very toxic.

The American Medical Assoc recommended to the FDA that stores should post warnings where fish is sold. ( I think this info should be provided on the label.) However, Waldman writes that FDA opposes mandatory warning labels. He quotes David Acheson, the FDA’s director of food safety & security: “We feel the best way to get the word out is via the advisory, {which is} an optimal balance between the benefits of eating fish and the risks of mercury.”

The advisory warns against not eating large fish like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. But Waldman notes that according to the FDA’s own chart on mercury content in fish, fresh and frozen tuna contain as much mercury as tinned albacore tuna, which is noted to have high levels of mercury. Large fish accumulate more mercury by eating smaller fish and, yes, tuna is a large fish. -Click here for more info-

Although mercury levels in shark or swordfish are much higher, tuna poses a greater risk to the average person because much more tuna is eaten. How many people do you know who routinely eat shark or swordfish compared to canned or fresh tuna?

Mercury and Tuna is the second in a series of articles written by Peter Waldman for the WSJ on the toxicity of industrial chemicals. The first was on July 25, focusing on how tiny doses of common chemicals raise health issues. It featured Bisphenol A (BPA), Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Diethylhexyl Phthalate (DEPH) and perchlorate, all pervasive in the environment.

The WSJ limits articles to be read online to subscribers. Peter Waldman's email address is:
-Click here for article-


laura said...

HI, This is actually about another item we sell at the coop-bottled water. There's a brand called ethos that says they donate someof their funds to heloing bring clean drinking water to people in need. Sounds like the coop might want to look into switching from poland spring or crystal geyser or those other bottled water brands, to this brand. HEre's a link to the company's homepage.

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