The Neuse Riverkeeper is way off the mark in suggesting that fish from North Carolina’s coastal waters are unsafe to eat. [“Neuse contains high level of mercury,” Feb. 24].
In a scary news release, the riverkeeper relied on a federal Environmental Protection Agency standard called the “Water Quality Criterion” (0.3 parts-per-million). The EPA uses this standard in order to determine water pollution levels, not food safety.
The Food and Drug Administration, on the other hand, has an “action level” for mercury-related healthfulness of individual fish. It is 1.0 parts-per-million, or more than three times higher. Not a single fish sampled by the riverkeeper exceeded this level.
And the FDA’s mercury action level was calculated with a 10-fold safety factor. So a fish would have to contain a full 10.0 parts-per-million of mercury before being considered dangerous to eat. By this measure, no fish sampled by the riverkeeper contained more than 7 percent of the amount of mercury that might be harmful.