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Global Consensus on Mercury: Scientists Defend Science Journalists

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mercury has again been in the news with the release of new data on mercury levels in tuna sushi by the New York Times and Oceana/Mercury Policy Project study. While the results were startling -- around 1 of 3 pieces of tuna tested had levels above FDA's action level of 1 PPM -- the attack by special interests against those covering the news was swift and erroneous. Seemingly, according to these special interests, everyone including pregnant women and children could eat as much high mercury fish as they wanted, without any risk. In response, 29 mercury experts from 11 countries signed on to the following open letter to set the record straight.

February 1, 2008

There is no longer a need to debate whether the writings of journalists such as Ms. Sharon Begley (Newsweek) and Ms. Marian Burros (New York Times) are credible or biased, because there is a global consensus among scientists addressing the toxicity of mercury, its sources and the implications of both on public health. This consensus has been documented and is available to the public. As it turns out, their writings are consistent with that consensus.

Many of us joined over 1,000 of the world's foremost mercury experts for the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant. Together we developed a consensus declaration that addresses some of the specific points that have been raised here and elsewhere in the discussion around the New York Times article and the Oceana/Mercury Policy Project study. Many of us also have published peer reviewed scientific papers on the subject.

While the consensus declaration was not cause for tremendous alarm, it clearly highlighted the need to recognize that mercury levels in fish are cause for concern and that sensitive populations should choose low mercury fish in order to get the benefits of seafood while avoiding the risks of mercury. The consensus included the following points summarized below:

-- About two thirds of the mercury in our environment is derived from

human activities

-- Mercury is highly toxic, biomagnifies in the aquatic food web and

places humans at risk if they consume high levels of fish that are high

on the food chain.

-- In many populations there is evidence that current levels of exposure

are sufficient to affect several physiological systems and as a result

current mercury exposure levels constitute an important public health


-- Methylmercury affects nervous system development and there is

sufficient evidence to warrant the prudent selection of fish in the

diet, specifically for pregnant women and children.

-- Long-lasting effects of fetal methylmercury exposure have been

documented in children throughout the world.

Rather than following the selective science approach, and chasing down one or two studies that support a particular viewpoint, we recommend anyone who is truly interested should benefit from the full weight of the evidence by reading the scientific consensus in the Conference Declaration which is available here: .


Henry A. Anderson, MD

Chief Medical Officer

Wisconsin Division of Public Health

Madison, WI

H.Vasken Aposhian, PhD

Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology

Professor of Pharmacology

The University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ

John Bolton, MD, FAAP

Clinical Professor of Pediatrics

University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Birger Heinzow, MD

State Social Services Agency

Dept. for Healthcare -- Environmental Health


David R. Brown Sc.D.

Faculty member

Applied Ethics

Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT

Richard W. Clapp, D.Sc., MPH


Boston University School of Public Health

Boston, MA

Prof. Dr. Ralf Ebinghaus

Department for Environmental Chemistry

Institute for Coastal Research

GKSS Research Centre Geesthacht, Germany

Prof. Xinbin Feng, PhD

Vice Director

State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry

Institute of Geochemistry

Chinese Academy of Science

Guiyang 550002 China

Philippe Grandjean, MD, PhD

Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health

Department of Environmental Health

Harvard School of Public Health

Boston, MA

Wendy J. Heiger-Bernays, PhD

Associate Professor

Department of Environmental Health

B.U. School of Public Health

Boston, MA

Jane Hightower, MD

California Pacific Medical Center

San Francisco, CA

Milena Horvat, PhD

Department of Environmental Sciences

Jozef Stefan Institute

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Tord Kjellstrom, Med Dr, PhD, MEng

Visiting Fellow

Australian National University

Canberra, Australia

Lynda Knobeloch, PhD

Research and Toxicology Unit Leader

Wisconsin Division of Public Health

Madison, WI

Marc Lucotte, PhD

Universite du Quebec a Montreal, GEOTOP

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Kathryn R. Mahaffey, PhD

Research Professor

Boston University School of Public Health

Boston, MA USA

Peter Maxson


Concorde East/West Sprl

Brussels, Belgium

Donna Mergler PhD

professeure emerite


Universite du Quebec a Montreal

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Dave McBride


Washington State Department of Health

Olympia, WA

John Munthe, PhD

Department Head

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

Gothenburg, Sweden

Lewis Pepper, MD, MPH

Boston University School of Public Health

Boston, MA

Darren Rumbold, PhD

Associate Professor of Marine Science

Depart. of Marine and Ecological Sciences

Fort Myers, FL

Mineshi Sakamoto, PhD

Director International Affair and Environmental Sciences

National Institute for Minamata Disease

Kumamoto, Minamata, Japan

Ellen K. Silbergeld, PhD

Professor, Environmental Health Sciences

Johns Hopkins University

Bloomberg School of Public Health

Baltimore MD

Alan H. Stern, Dr.P.H., D.A.B.T.

Adjunct Associate Professor

Dept. of Environmental and Occupational Health

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Public Health

Raphael Stricker, MD

California Pacific Medical Center

San Francisco, CA

Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP

Assistant Professor

Departments of Community and Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics

Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NY, NY

Pal Weihe, MD

Chief Physician

Department of Occupational Medicine and Public Health

The Faroese Hospital System, The Faroe Islands

Roberta F. White, PhD, ABPP/cn

Professor and Chair, Department of Environmental Health

Boston University School of Public Health

Boston, MA

More information: like-mercury-with-your-sushi.aspx

SOURCE Mercury Policy Project
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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