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More voices are urging president Obama to update advice on fish consumption. (Photo Credit: Bretwood Higman, Ground Truth Trekking/FIS CC BY 3.0)

Scientists urge Obama to update warnings of dangers of mercury in fish

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Wednesday, August 21, 2013, 00:50 (GMT + 9)

Updated federal advice regarding the presence of methylmercury in fish and the debated safety of seafood consumption during pregnancy seems to have been stuck with red tape by the US Department of Health causing frustration to several groups in society. Earlier this month, senators expressed concern in this regard, and now scientists and non-governmental organisations have joined.

In a recent letter sent on 15 August to Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius a group presenting itself on behalf of a wide range of  scientists, doctors and organisations posing interest to the public and consumers stated that "research carried out in the past decade has both clarified the beneficial nutritional effects of fish consumption during pregnancy and found adverse effects of prenatal methylmercury exposure at very low doses, at least an order of magnitude below exposures known to be harmful when the current Advisory was written, in 2004."

Mercury Policy Project director and lead author of the letter, Michael Bender, pointed out: "This long-awaited policy update urgently needs to be sent out for comment to ensure that it's in line with the latest science.  We urge the President to instruct Federal agencies to publish the draft updated advisory without delay."

In a similar letter sent at the beginning of the month, a bipartisan group of senators urged President Barack Obama to revise the outdated federal advice.

"This is the third time a wide bipartisan group of Senators has written to you requesting your help removing roadblocks to finalizing the FDA advice to pregnant women on seafood consumption.  Pregnant women, physicians and medical professionals, however, are still waiting despite numerous commitments in 2011, 2012 and 2013 to finalize the FDA advisory," the senators wrote.

The letter dated 15 August points out that mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that builds up in the aquatic food chain into humans and poses an increased risk to developing foetuses and developing children’s brains, causing permanent learning disabilities. Mercury is a bioaccumulative, transboundary pollutant.

The current advisory policy is based on a 2004 study which, with the advent of new scientific discoveries, has fallen severely out of date and needs revising urgently, since it is inadequate and fails to protect public health.

Scientists point out that contamination due to mercury releases will persist for decades to come, therefore, a combined national and international effort is needed to effectively reduce mercury exposure.

Related article:

- Senators urge Obama to update seafood report for pregnant women
 

By Gabriela Raffaele
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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