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.”
Environmentalists laud proposed Amendment 541 of the ENVI Committee report for providing targeted consumer safety labeling for methylmercury in fish for pregnant women and children in the European Union. Amendment 541 adds labeling of the mercury content in meat from large predatory fish or foodstuffs containing meat from these fish species. The amendment would read: “contains methylmercury- not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, women who might become pregnant, and children” and be added immediately after the list of ingredients. In absence of a list of ingredients, the statement would accompany the name of the food. The first reading vote on this amendment will be held next week.
Due to potentially unsafe levels of mercury contained in light tuna, MPP and Got Mercury formally opposed its inclusion in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). They point out that the USDA cannot guarantee the safety of the mercury levels in canned light tuna because the FDA fails to adequately screen canned tuna and remove high-mercury canned tuna.
Climate change may be magnifying the mercury content of the polar bears’ diet. A recently study, “Stable Isotope Food-web Analysis and Mercury Biomagnification in Polar Bears” shows that polar bears eat from two distinct food webs, one the ice algae-based web and the other ocean’s phytoplankton-based food web. As climate change shrinks the polar ice, polar bears face increased dependency on their other food source, the mercury-laden marine fish and animals.
Concord, New Hampshire
Green Concord is hosting a post-film discussion panel and screening of The Cove at 7pm, Monday, Dec. 14, at Red River Theatres with MPP and other specialists who will speak about the specific issues in The Cove and be available for questions and answers. After the main viewing, MPP will show a segment of the bonus feature “Mercury Rising” that explores the dangers of mercury contamination as it affects society and the global environment. Mercury Policy Project and GotMercury recently introduced the new Cove-GotMercury mercury-in-fish calculator that allows people to check mercury exposure from fish on-line or from a cell phone based on their weight, fish type and serving size.
The EPA’s new report, National Study of Chemical Residues in Lake Fish Tissue, found mercury in all fish from 500 lakes sampled randomly across the continental U.S. The data also showed mercury concentrations in game fish exceed EPA’s human health screening levels at 49% of the lakes nationwide. The EPA is taking steps to limit mercury emissions from power plants within the United States. However, Mercury Policy Project’s director Michael Bender points out, “Two-thirds of the mercury that’s rained on Vermont and the U.S. comes from Asia and elsewhere outside the U.S.” Therefore, the international pollution control treaty in the works could have an even greater impact on the U.S.
NECN reports Vermont Lakes Show Effects of Pollution.
At the request of New York State’s Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, MPP provides expert testimony regarding methods to reduce mercury exposure. MPP stressed the state government’s responsibility to reduce and eliminate mercury uses and releases, and also to take steps to protect its population from mercury exposure risks. Recommendations included to (1) expand risk communication for consumption of high-mercury fish, (2) strengthen mercury phase-out legislation, (3) pass new legislation requiring incentivized collections for mercury thermostats, and (4) establish maximum mercury-content standards for light bulbs.
Multiple studies released in August 2009 provide evidence of rising mercury contamination of the environment, fish and people. The evidence that mercury levels have risen in people in the past several years is presented in a report released by UCLA, Assessment of chronic mercury exposure within the U.S. population, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2006. While inorganic mercury was found in the blood of 2% of women in 1999, it was found in 30% of the women by 2006. Another U.S. study, Mercury in Fish, Bed Sediment, and Water from Streams Across the United States, 1998–2005, found mercury in all the sampled fish, with 27% exceeding levels safe for human consumption. A third study indicates that mercury levels in fish were elevated in pristine forested or woody-wetlands in the eastern and southeastern U.S. Duke University environmental engineers explain this phenomenon in a study of their own: How Mercury Becomes Toxic in the Environment.
Recent analysis of ocean water samples across the Pacific point to Asian coal plants as the likely source of dramatic increases total mercury levels in the North Pacific Ocean over the last 20 years. If present trends continue, the U.S. Geological Survey report projects a doubling of oceanic mercury concentrations by the year 2050. Oceanic mercury is converted to MethylMercury by algae, and then bioaccumulates up the food chain as algae is eaten by fish. Fish harvested from the Pacific Ocean are a major contributor to human MethylMercury exposure, which is why scientists are focusing on the important health and ecological concern of the source of the oceanic mercury. For more inforamtion see highlights on the USGS website.