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"Protecting the health and informed consent rights of children since 1982."

BLFisher Note: The CDC recommendation that pregnant women get a flu shot,
which contains mercury as a preservative, is highly questionable considering
the fact that exposing the developing fetus to mercury can cause permanent
damage. Cumulative exposures through food, vaccines and other environmental
sources could be very important, especially to biologically vulnerable

Rules Don't Protect Fetuses, Newborns From Mercury, GroupSays

 April 13,2001

 WASHINGTON (The Boston Globe) - Recently issued government guidelines are
inadequate to protect fetuses and newborn babies from the harmful effects of
mercury in seafood, according to a report released Thursday by a pair of
advocacy groups.

 The study by the Environmental Working Group and the U.S. Public Interest
Research Group concludes that as many as one in four pregnant women could
endanger the long-term development of their children if they follow the
dietary guidelines issued by the US Food and Drug
Administration at the start of this year. The groups also identify 13 fish
that pregnant women should not eat - three times the number currently
identified by the government.

 The report, which drew criticism from the government and from food
processors, was also critical of federal and state government monitoring of
mercury in fish.

 The study cited Massachusetts as one of two states with sufficient
notifications in place regarding mercury levels in fish.

 "If American women at this varied diet of FDA's recommended 12 ounces of
fish per week, more than one-quarter of all pregnancies every year, or about
a million pregnancies, would be exposedb to potentially harmful levels of
methylmercury for over a month of the pregnancy," said Jane Houlihan, the
Environmental Working Group's research director. "And 20,000 of those
children would be exposed to a high level of methylmercury through the
entire pregnancy."

 FDA representatives did not return phone calls Thursday. In addition to the
four species of fish that the agency already said that women of
child-bearing age should avoid, the study cited nine other types of fish and
seafood, including fresh tuna, sea and largemouth
bass, and Gulf Coast oysters.

 The study found a second group of fish that pregnant women should not
eatmore than once a month that included canned tuna, mahi mahi, and eastern

 The report also identified nine fish and seafood they recommended,
including farmed trout and catfish, shrimp, fish sticks, summer flounder,
wild pacific salmon, croaker, haddock and blue crab.

 A food processors group disagreed with the report, arguing that the
government has greater credibility than the two advocacy organizations.

 "We believe that the FDA has made decisions based on very strong
science,"said Timothy Willard, spokesman for the National Food Processors
Association, which represents the food
processing industry. "They have greater expertise on health and safety
issues and we find them a very credible source of information."

 Fish is widely considered to be an excellent source of nutrients, but
concerns have long existed about levels of mercury contamination.

 The FDA in January issued guidelines on mercury in fish for women who are
pregnant or may become pregnant. At that time, the agency said that those
women, and young children, should avoid eating shark, swordfish, king
mackerel, or tilefish. Otherwise, the agency said, women can
eat up to 12 ounces of cooked fish weekly.

 But the two advocacy groups say that the agency's study was flawed because
it's risk assumptions are for a 150-pound male with no prior level of
mercury exposure.

 The study uses computer modeling to evaluate the risk for a wide range of
women. The two groups compiled data on mercury contamination of fish from
seven federal, state and other governmental sources, eventually compiling a
database of more than 50,000 records. They used
those records to determine which fish generally have the lowest mercury
contamination and which have the highest.

 The report comes as the administration considers whether to uphold a
Clinton plan regulating mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants, a
potential source of the contamination.

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