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FDA and EPA Expected to Set Guidelines on Tuna Consumption

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be recommending that women of childbearing age, pregnant women, and children not eat more than six ounces of albacore tuna per week. Even though approximately one-third of the nation’s lakes, estuaries, and wetlands are contaminated by mercury, the Bush Administration has been slow to issue new guidelines regarding tuna intake. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), canned tuna accounts for approximately 30 percent of all seafood consumed in the United States. In addition, children eat two times more tuna than any other seafood.

Mercury from industrial factories accumulates in the tissue of certain commonly consumed fish, including albacore tuna. High levels of mercury intake can result in birth defects by releasing toxins to nerves and the brain. According to Kaiser Network, some studies show that high levels of mercury consumption can lead to a subtle loss in mental acuity in children born from women who consume fish during their pregnancies. Though the new guidelines are a step forward, the director of the Mercury Policy Project Michael Bender asserts that the guidelines are still “not protective enough” because Ôfollowing FDA’s advice and eating 12 ounces of certain higher mercury fish in a given week could result in exposures well over the EPA reference does,” reports the Kaiser Network.

Meanwhile, the NRDC is urging people to tell the EPA to issue a final mercury rule that will require electric utilities to adopt technologies to control mercury levels and pollution. According to the NRDC, the federal government is delaying the cleanup of mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. The NRDC has reported that these plants have the largest unregulated source of mercury.

TAKE ACTION Urge the FDA & EPA to more thoroughly regulate mercury as a dangerous neurotoxin and warn consumers of the risks of eating mercury-contaminated fish.

DONATE to the Feminist Majority Foundation’s work to protect the health of women and children.

Sources:

New York Times 3/19/04; Kaiser Network 3/19/04; National Resources Defense Council

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