Washington — Today the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom called on environmental groups including Oceana, the Mercury Policy Project, the Environmental Working Group, and the Sea Turtle Restoration Project (along with Consumer Reports magazine) to cease their long-standing campaigns aimed at scaring women of childbearing age about trace levels of mercury in fish. In a landmark scientific study appearing tomorrow in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, researchers found “no evidence to lend support to the warnings … that pregnant women should limit their seafood consumption.”
Deceptive environmental campaigns have created the perception that eating large amounts of fish during pregnancy will expose a developing fetus to harmful levels of mercury. But among the 11,875 women in this study, those who consumed the least seafood during pregnancy had children who scored the worst on IQ and other developmental tests. Mothers-to-be who ate the most fish had children who scored the highest.
National Institutes of Health researcher Dr. Joseph Hibbeln and his team concluded that “the harm [from mercury in fish] is unlikely to be greater than the overall benefits of nutrients at the concentrations usually found in seafood.”
In an accompanying letter in The Lancet, University of Rochester pediatric neurologist Dr. Gary Myers noted the “public concern and misperception” of Americans who are unaware that “there has never been even one child with prenatal mercury poisoning from consuming fish documented outside Japan.” And the Japanese cases, he adds, were only recorded “after massive industrial pollution” of waterways.
Dr. Myers also cited a public opinion survey conducted in July 2006 by Opinion Research Corporation for the Center for Consumer Freedom. That survey found that 61 percent of Americans mistakenly believe that more than 1,000 cases of fish-related childhood mercury poisoning are identified by scientists every year in the United States.
In response to Dr. Hibbeln’s groundbreaking research, Center for Consumer Freedom Director of Research David Martosko said: “There’s a growing scientific consensus that fish is brain food. Our mothers were right. But some environmental activists want to give fish the skull-and-crossbones treatment. As more research is done, this is looking more and more irresponsible.”
Martosko continued: “Oceana should abandon its campaign to strong-arm grocery stores into posting warning signs at the fish counter. Consumer Reports should stop treating tuna like poison. And it may be time for the Environmental Protection Agency to re-think the reasoning behind its hyper-cautionary mercury Reference Dose.”