Over the past decade, awareness about the risks of mercury in certain fish has increased and pregnant women in particular have been alerted to shop carefully and a recent study indicates that over one-third of American’s mercury exposure is from tuna. But what about the risks from fish children consume at school? In it’s 2011 Annual Report to the Governor, Legislature and Citizens of the State of Vermont, the state mercury advisory committee recommended: “….collaboration between the Vermont Department of Health and the Department of Education to communicate with Vermont schools and raise awareness among faculty, staff, and parents about the methyl mercury exposure risk to young children of consuming excessive amounts of tuna fish in school lunch programs,” see: page 2 and 5 of the 2011 report. To further investigate this, MPP announced today in a statement that it is co-releasing with other groups a first ever report on testing for mercury in tuna sold to schools, “Tuna Surprise,” which received extensive media coverage.
Dental mercury fillings pollute the environment, contaminate fish and are far more costly for taxpayers than the alternative tooth-colored material, according to an economics report released by MPP and a broad coalition of health, consumer and environmental groups. The study was prepared by Brussels-based Concorde East/West Sprl and details how society pays for dental mercury through additional pollution control costs, deterioration of public resources, and the health effects associated with mercury contamination. The report shows that when the real cost to taxpayers and the environment is considered, amalgam is significantly more costly than composite as a filling material, by at least $41 more per filling, as reflected in the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology brochure.
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.”
12 scientists recently wrote FDA and the Ag Dept. requesting that misleading or erroneos information on mercury exposure risks from fish be corrected and update in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Unfortunately, the advice in the 2010 Guidelines includes the suggestion (on page 39 ) that pregnant women “can eat all types of tuna,” despite the fact that tuna accounts for the largest share of methylmercury in the American diet, contributing 37 percent of the total. They point out that the Guidelines contain serious scientific deficiencies and that any risk-communication errors could affect consumer perceptions of the risks associated with fish consumption and potentially result in significant harm to public health, particulary in pregnant women.
MPP recent wrote a letter supporting U.S. Government (USG) leadership calling for mercury amalgam “…phase down, with the goal of eventual phase out” in its most submission to the UN Mercury International Negotiating Committee (INC). The USG position is consistent with WHO’s perspective as reflected in a presentation to INC1 and is also reflective of countries in the Nordic and elsewhere that have already phased down amalgam. In addition, the letter urges the USG to not succumb to ADA’s recommendations to have FDA assume a leading role in the INC process, given that EPA, and not FDA has the expertise to address the global threat of mercury amalgam releases.
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.”