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MERCURY IN TUNA
THREATENS DEVELOPING BABIES AND CHILDREN

According to a report released today, some of the most commonly eaten fish contains levels of mercury that pose a risk to pregnant women and young children. In response to the problem of mercury pollution, health care providers like Kaiser Permanente, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire and New York's Beth Israel Medical Centers arecreating model programs for mercury elimination. By phasing out the purchaseand use of mercury-containing products and devices, hospitals will eventually decrease the amount of mercury moving up the food chain until itreaches its highest concentrations in top predator fish like tuna, swordfish and shark.

These findings are included in the report, PROTECTING BY DEGREES, written bythe Environmental Working Group for Health Care Without Harm, a coalition of more than 170 groups dedicated to environmentally responsible health care.Test results reported in PROTECTING BY DEGREES are consistent with studies done by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993. In bothi nstances, chunk light tuna contained levels of mercury that create serious health risks:

"Tuna fish has too much mercury to be eaten regularly by pregnant women and young children. But that's not the fault of the tuna or the people who caught or canned it," explained Charlotte Brody, RN, Co-Coordinator of Health Care Without Harm. "Industries that use mercury and the governments that regulate them must take responsibility for getting mercury out of ourfish and out of our children's developing brains."

"Health care groups like Kaiser Permanente, Dartmouth-Hitchcock and NewYork's Beth Israel Medical Center are leaders in developing a cure for the mercury problem," said Todd Hettenbach, EWG policy analyst and primary author of the report. "These hospitals are voluntarily eliminating mercury because of the threat to public health and showing other health care providers and other industries that it can be done."

Safe, cost-comparable alternatives exist for most of the mercury use inhospitals. Thermometers and blood pressure-measuring devices are two of the most commonly used mercury-containing devices. A mercury fever thermometer,like those used in the home, contains enough mercury to potentially contaminate 9,000 cans of tuna fish. A desk-mounted sphygmomanometer (usedfor measuring blood pressure) contains enough mercury to potentially contaminate 492,000 six-ounce cans of chunk light tuna.

"As we learned with mercury instruments, some of the weapons we use to fight disease can also be weapons that compromise a healthy environment," said David Lawrence, M.D., chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals. "We need to address the long-term consequences of treatment options and challenge ourselves tod evise effective alternatives that do less environmental harm."

Health Care Without Harm is an international campaign made up of health care professionals, hospitals, environmental advocates, organizations of health-impacted individuals, religious organizations and labor unions. The campaign's mission is to transform the health care industry so it is nolonger a source of environmental harm by eliminating the pollution in healthcare practices without compromising safety or care. The EnvironmentalWorking Group, a member organization of Health Care Without Harm, is an environmental research organization based in Washington, DC.

Contact: Environmental Working Group:

Provided by: Environmental Working Group


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