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1.6 MILLION KIDS
RISK MERCURY POISONING

Fish from more than 1,660 U.S. waterways are so contaminated with mercury that they should not be eaten or eaten only in limited amounts, according to federal health warnings analyzed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Children and mothers-to-be are at highest risk, not only from fresh fish but from mercury contamination of canned tuna and other foods.

The EWG study lists all fish advisories from mercury contamination in 37 states, as well as mercury levels found in supermarket products such as tuna, fish sticks, even instant oatmeal. . The study will be released nationwide on Wednesday, Dec. 17 - two days before the EPA sends Congress an report estimating that more than 1.6 million women and children may face serious health risks from mercury-contaminated food.

"The EPA report says that eating just half a can of tuna a day could exceed safe levels for mercury exposure," said EWG analyst Jacqueline Savitz. "The solution is not to stop eating fish, but to minimize the sources of mercury contamination."

Among EWG's findings:

* In nine states -- Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont -- mercury contamination is so widespread that statewide advisories against fish consumption are in effect.

* Of other states, mercury contamination is most widespread in the Midwest: Minnesota leads the nation with 693 fish consumption advisories, following by Wisconsin with 389 and Indiana with 116.

* FDA tests found that 100 percent of samples of oil-packed canned tuna were contaminated with mercury. Mercury was found in more than 90 percent of commercial haddock and shrimp, and in 75 percent of frozen fish sticks.

The EPA report defines the nation's mercury problem, but the agency has failed to enact adequate regulations to prevent mercury pollution that results from incineration of medical and municipal waste. A national coalition, Health Care Without Harm, is calling on medical facilities to rapidly phase out the unnecessary use of mercury.

Table 1. Mercury contaminates commercially caught fish and many other foods.
FoodPercent ContaminatedHighest MercuryContamination Level(ug/g) (ppm)Average MercuryContamination Level(ug/g) (ppm)
Tuna, canned in oil1000.3220.171
Haddock, pan-cooked940.1560.065
Tuna Noodle Casserole880.0630.02
Shrimp, boiled940.0530.024
Fish Sticks, Frozen,750.030.009
Liver, Beef, Fried310.030.003
Fish Sandwich, Fst Fd440.0210.004
Spinach, Fresh/Frozen310.0180.002
Oatmeal, Quick130.0120.001
Eggs, fried60.010.001
Eggs, boiled60.010.001
Mushrooms, raw380.0090.002
Avocado, raw380.0090.001
Eggs, scrambled130.0090.001
Crisped Rice Cereal310.0080.001

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from FDA Total Diet Study

Table 2. All waters of a given type are unsafe for fish consumption in many states due to mercury contamination.

StateExtent of advisoryTypes of Fish Under Advisory
ConnecticutAll freshwater bodies not under other advisoryAll fish
FloridaAll marine watersShark
IndianaAll Indiana rivers and streams Carp 15-25 inches
MassachusettsAll state freshwater bodies All fish
"All marine watersLobster
MaineAll inland lakes and pondsAll fish
MichiganAll inland lakesVarious sport fish
New HampshireAll inland inland lakes All Freshwater fish
New JerseyAll freshwater bodiesChain pickerel, Largemouth bass
VermontAll waters statewideAll species except bullhead and pumpkinseed

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from EPA's Fish Consumption Advisory Database.

Table 3. Many U.S. waters are not fishable due to mercury contamination.

StateNumber of Fish
Consumption
Advisories
due to Mercury
Minnesota*693
Wisconsin389
Indiana116
Florida94
Massachusetts52
Michigan41
North Dakota35
New Jersey30
New Mexico26
South Carolina24
Georgia23
Montana22
Arkansas19
Ohio19

*The high number of fish consumption advisories in Minnesota may be partially due tothe thousands of different lakes in that state.

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from EPA's Fish Consumption Advisory Database.

Written by: Environmental Working Group


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