The Neuse RiverKeeper is way off the mark in suggesting that fish from North Carolina’s coastal waters are unsafe to eat. [“Fish in rivers show high mercury levels,” February 23]

In its scary news release, 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 the mercury-related healthfulness of individual fish. It’s 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 ten-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.