EWG and MPP received extensive media coverage after releasing results measuring mercury hair levels in over 250 women who eat two or more seafood meals per week, the amount EPA/FDA recommend. Testing indicates 29% exceed the EPA guideline for mercury exposure during pregnancy (1 ppm) and 59% exceed a more protective upper limit of 0.58 ppm recommended by scientists. Tuna was a major source of participant’s mercury exposure (40% of estimated ingestion) which is consistent with MPP’s (now updated) analysis, using FDA’s data, which shows tuna accounts for 45% of mercury in the US seafood supply. Notably only 17% of the mercury in participants’ diets was from species identified in EPA/FDA’s draft advice, which is incomplete because it fails to provide enough detailabout which mercury-laden species to limit or avoid (i.e. tuna) and which are low in mercury and higher in omega-3s.
Environmental NGOs are urging the European Commission (EC) to restrict sales of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) under the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, showing how they can be feasibly replaced with lighting emitting diode (LED) lamps. “The time is ripe for an EC decision to take CFLs (<30W) off the shelves throughout the EU by 2018,” said EEB’s Elena Lymberidi-Settimo. Since the US Energy Department’s lifecycle analysis shows that LEDs far surpass CFLs in efficiency and other environmental impacts, advocates are also calling for US retailers to follow IKEA’s lead in ending CFL sales. “LEDs are environmentally preferable to CFLs from a lifecycle perspective,” said Alicia Culver, RPN’s director. “LEDs use less energy, last three times longer than CFLs. They are a practical and affordable alternative for most general purpose lighting applications.” Workers can be exposed to mercury when manufacturing, transporting, installing, recycling or disposing of CFLs and other fluorescent lamps. Pregnant women and toddlers may be exposed above safe levels when CFLs are broken in rooms without ventilation. “LEDs don’t contain mercury and are becoming more cost competitive, especially when energy use and higher CFL disposal costs are factored in,” said MPP director Bender.
60 NGOs recently urged US Secretary of State John Kerry to convince FDA to conform with US policy to reduce amalgam use. The groups assert that a 2009 FDA rule is impeding mercury reduction and contrary to the position taken by the U.S. during negotiations: “The United States supports further consideration of dental amalgam by the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee such that the agreement is able to achieve the phase down, with the goal of eventual phase out by all Parties, of mercury amalgam upon the development and availability of affordable, viable alternatives.” However, FDA takes the opposite view, as articulated in its 2009 rule and unaltered since that time. “As explained in our letter, FDA is fundamentally at odds with the Convention’s provisions to “phase down the use of dental amalgam, ” as well as the U.S. Government’s position,” said MPP director Bender. “The difference in approach reflects the Convention’s consideration of dental amalgam’s full life cycle and the lack of any environmental assessment by FDA.” According to the latest U.S. Geological Survey report, dental amalgam is now one of the largest consumer uses of mercury in the U.S. today.
A new federal advisory promoting seafood fails to protect sensitive populations from methylmercury exposure, according to an analysis by Environmental Working Group and MPP. “There’s something really ‘fishy’ about the agencies’ fixation on health benefit studies while ignoring the latest science on methylmercury exposure,” said MPP Director Bender in a statement.
On behalf of CSPI and MPP, Earthjustice recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against FDA for failing to respond to our 2011 petition requesting the Agency to give consumers clear, accurate and accessible information about mercury in seafood (as recent press reports explain.) The lawsuit seeks a court-ordered deadline since under its own regulations, FDA had 180 days to respond and its failure to do so violates federal law. In 2004, FDA acknowledged MeHg exposure risks when it issued an online advisory based on now outdated research. Several recent studies suggest adverse effects at exposure levels 10-fold lower than those considered acceptable a decade ago.
A new ZMWG report highlights the importance of the new treaty being ratified as soon as possible to reduce global pollution and exposure to mercury. The treaty will be signed next week near Minamata, where a major mercury poisoning incident was first discovered. NGOs from 9 countries participated in the study in order to ascertain mercury hair levels in women. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of the samples exceeded the widely recognized U.S. EPA guideline of 1 μg/g. In 4 countries, a high percentage exceeded the threshold, specifically: 71% in Japan; 64% in Spain; 36% in Mauritius; and 23% in Côte d’Ivoire. “The results indicate that the mercury hair levels in Japanese women were significantly higher than the other countries tested,” said Dr. Takashi Yorifuji, Associate Professor at Okayama University Graduate School of Environmental and Life Science, Japan. “Risk of adverse health effects in children following in utero methylmercury exposures is well documented and rises as maternal exposure increases.”
A manufacturer-run program for collecting mercury thermostats is failing to keep the toxic heavy metal out of the the environment, according to a new report, Turning Up the HeatII , released today. The report estimates that the industry recycling program has captured only 8% of mercury thermostats over the past decade, resulting in over 50 tons of mercury into the environment. “Companies that profited from the sale of mercury thermostats are shirking their responsibilities,” said MPP Bender in a statement that received extensive media coverage.
After four years of deliberation, a new global regime rises today that will govern toxic mercury worldwide. “Adoption of a global legal agreement on mercury is a major accomplishment,” said Michael T. Bender, co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group in an overview and a press release.“Yet the instrument is hampered by weak controls on mercury emissions from major sources like coal-fired power plants.” For more details, see a short summary of the key articles of the treaty. A more extensive summary explains more details along with some media coverage.