The findings of a new WHO/FAO Report on Benefits and Risks of Seafood Consumption were challenged today by MPP as missing a key opportunity to advise governments about mercury risk from fish consumption. “Surprisingly, this expert group failed to address exposure concerns about fish with higher mercury levels, which have led to consumption advisories in the U.S. and around the world,” said MPP director Bender, in a statement. “The concept of ‘net benefits’ is severely flawed, because benefits accrue to everyone who eats seafood, but risks are concentrated in the small fraction of the population who regularly choose high-mercury fish,” said Dr. Ned Groth, an MPP science consultant. “It is not acceptable to tolerate significant harm to a minority just because the large majority are better off.”
MPP recently provided testimony to an FDA panel charged with re-examining dental amalgam. We pointed out that while FDA panel re-evalutates, the World Health Organization is expected to recommend that amalgam use be “phased down.” “We welcome WHO’s support for “phase down” , and urge FDA to do the same,” said MPP’s director. The WHO is expected to soon final its meeting report in preparation for the upcoming International Negotiations Committee deliberations in Chiba, Japan, 24-28 January, 2011, that will ultimately lead to the adoption of a legally binding instrument on mercury by 2013.
The European Environmental Bureau and MPP recently wrote a letter urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to correct inaccuracies, misleading and incorrect statements before finalizing its meeting report. Unfortunately, the draft report’s bias is already being diffused on various pro-amalgam websites, including one from Australia and the other from the USA. Among other things, the letter encourages WHO to correct for the record that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss alternatives to amalgam, and not debate or assert the safety of amalgam, — and instead to highlight opportunities for “phasing down” the amalgam use, as WHO discussed in Stockholm in June.
A key U.S. House Committee today adopted an amendment offered by Congressman Dennis Kucinich to H.R. 5504, which requires USDA to inform schools and those in WIC programs to avoid higher mercury fish. “There is no reason for the government to help kids grow up healthy with one hand while impairing them with the other,” said Kucinich. In addition, MPP and Got Mercury! recently filed comments on the USDA’s draft Committee Report , outlining steps to reduce mercury exposure.
Thirty academic scientists, medical doctors and consumer advocates wrote to FDA and EPA last Friday, urging them to strengthen the Federal fish consumption advisory for mercury and also to do a better job of warning consumers. “Recent research shows that both beneficial effects of fish nutrients and harm from mercury exposure occur in a baby’s developing brain when a pregnant woman eats ordinary amounts of fish,” said Edward Groth III, PhD, a Mercury Policy Project science consultant. “There is no evidence of a threshold for the harmful effects of mercury, and even the amount in a single can of tuna should probably be avoided.”
World governments today completed the first step towards a mercury treaty, issuing a meeting report and providing the basis for developing treaty text for INC2 in Japan in January 2011, according to ZMWG and press reports. NGOs lauded W.H.O. for supporting mercury reductions. “We applaud W.H.O.’s statement to stop production of skin cosmetics containing mercury, as they are an exposure risk worldwide ,” said MPP director Bender. “We welcome W.H.O’s interest in “phasing down” amalgam, which is reflective of the WHO meeting last fall, and consistent with what NGOs wrote to WHO on.” This may be of interest in the US as FDA decided yesterday to review amalgam risks.
Today, a Japanese official proposed that the treaty be signed in Minamata, as their Prime Minister proposed earlier. Takeshi Yasuma, of Citizens Against Chemicals Pollution, responded, outlining steps and then concluding that the best way to show respect for Minimata is “…by substantial actions for a strong global treaty that eliminates all human sources of mercury.”
June 9 Update- NGOs made a number of interventions, including ZMWG opening statement; ZMWG-IPEN statement on the treaty framework and waste issues (in response to a Basel Convention document); compliance; monitoring; storage; and mercury reduction in products, processes and ASGM.
June 7 Update- As negotiations start, a global NGO coalition today called on governments to curb mercury pollution worldwide. A ZMWG Exhibition provided information on mercury and our position papers.
June 6 Update- UNEP held a briefing on mercury issues and a WHO-HCWH report was presented on reducing mercury in health care. In the afternoon, the ZMWG organised an NGO training on how to use a LUMEX.
June 3 – The first Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) begins negotiating a mercury treaty next week, funded by the Nordic Council and discussed on YouTube. ZMWG prepared partial concept treaty text, a treaty framework, an ASGM thought starter, and observations on UNEP documents.
MPP launched a new website — www.mercuryfactsandfish.org — to counter misinformation on ‘mercury facts’ spread by groups claiming to represent consumers – but in reality often representing special interests. “So-called ‘consumer groups’ purporting to provide ‘mercury facts’ are often engaged in doing just the opposite,” said MPP director Bender. The web resource, presented by Dr. Edward Groth III,, offers information, including a guide to mercury leves in seafood to minimize exposure.
A new study finds that tuna accounts for over one-third of total methlymercury exposure from seafood consumption which was a key finding in the April 2010 edition of Environmental Research by Dr. Edward Groth III, an MPP consultant. “Canned tuna is the number one fish consumed in the U.S. today,” said MPP director Bender. “It is also the number one mercury exposure risk.” The study found that two-thirds of the seafood and nine of the 11 most consumed fish are low in mercury, as one can see in this chart. In addition, new research appearing in Biology Letters today “…provides insights into healthier consumption, using “….DNA as a tool to uncover patterns of species-specific bioaccumulation.”