The usual suspects are at it again — spawning fish tales designed to raise fears about mercury. But beneath the scaly surface of the mercury-in-fish scare is a scientific truth that green groups and food alarmists don’t want Americans to hear: Eating fish is just fine.

Last year, As You Sow and the Turtle Island Restoration Network (an affiliate of the radical Earth Island Insitute) teamed up to sue supermarkets under California’s infamous Proposition 65 for selling fish with trace amounts of mercury. The inane “Prop 65” requires any product containing one of several hundred “known carcinogens” to bear a warning label — even though the chemical may be used in concentrations so low that adverse health effects are essentially impossible. The Prop 65 lawsuit game is big business in California, as agitators can cash in under Prop 65’s “bounty hunter” provision. Plaintiffs stand to collect 25 percent of fines, which can reach $2,500 per violation per day.

As You Sow and Turtle Island disguised their lawsuits as a public health crusade. In reality, Turtle Island was more interested in destroying the swordfish market because they thought it hurt turtle populations. And As You Sow was in it for the cash. Between 2000 and 2002, As You Sow bilked companies out of more than $1.5 million playing the “Prop 65” lawsuit game. The Centers for Disease Control set the record straight with a study showing “total blood mercury levels” among Americans to be “well below occupational thresholds of concern.” The New York Times reported that “all other population groups, including children, had blood levels of mercury well below the government safety limit.”

Last month, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a professional food scare organization without a single scientist on staff, launched a misleading ad campaign claiming mercury levels in fish were endangering pregnant women and their children. Of course, this is the same group that attempted to cash-in on their own phony scare over farmed salmon. EWG filed papers to
“sue many manufacturers, distributors and retailers of farmed salmon”
under California’s Proposition 65. What’s behind EWG’s litigious nature? Last year, EWG received $176,000 from the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

EWG’s fish fears are overblown, and science proves it. The “gold standard in mercury research” according to the Wall Street Journal is a study published last year in the medical journal The Lancet. It intensively studied women and their children in the Seychelles Islands, where they eat fish with the same levels of mercury as the fish consumed in the United States. Actually, they eat about ten times as much fish as the typical American (an average of 12 times a week). Even though the women in this study had six times as much mercury in their bodies as typical Americans, it still wasn’t enough to pose any health risk. The Lancet study concluded: “We’ve found no evidence that the low levels of mercury in seafood are harmful.”