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Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Loads of sardines and More Mercury Info
Another Load of Sardines: The Papa George is catching lots of sardines now that the moon is small and the tides are weak. The boys have seen evidence of a huge salmon run ready to run up the Columbia River when the scent of the river draws them in. There are jumper schools in the tide streaks, both silvers and kings. Our spotter pilot has noticed a larger biomass of sardines lately, as big has he has ever seen.

The Mercury in Fish Issue: The commercial tuna industry in our country are questioning the risk assessment for mercury in fish. Apparently other fish eating countries who show high mercury levels in their citizen's blood, have not seen a loss in neurological development. Read below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEAug 11, 2004 CONTACT: Lisa Gulledge 202-974-5084 Tuna Industry Renews Its Call to Revise the Risk Assessment for Mercury in FishCites Real World Experience from Japan, U.K. to Question Overly Restrictive U.S. Policy Washington, DC; August 11, 2004 -- With mounting evidence that the United States is not aligned with the rest of the world when it comes to how methylmercury levels in fish are evaluated, the U.S. Tuna Foundation (USTF) today renewed its call for federal regulators to re-examine U.S. policy in light of the real world experience of countries like Japan and the United Kingdom. Studies in these countries show that high fish-consuming populations have much greater concentrations of mercury in their systems, without any evidence of resulting neurological problems. USTF’s call comes after reviewing the results of a landmark study of the Japanese population, which finds that the vast majority of Japanese women and their offspring are not at risk by exceeding the regulatory standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Conducted by researchers at the National Institute for Minamata Disease, the study examined the concentrations of mercury in the hair of 3,686 adults in five Japanese districts and found that 72 percent of all Japanese women and two-thirds (66 percent) of those considered of childbearing age (15 to 49 years) exceed EPA’s Reference Dose, which allows 1 microgram of methylmercury per gram (ug/g).Moreover, the findings from this Japanese study put into perspective the meaning of a recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which analyzed mercury levels in the blood of a random sample of American women and found that 8 percent had amounts slightly above EPA’s reference dose. By demonstrating that the majority of the population of a highly industrialized nation exceeds the EPA’s reference dose, the Japanese study refutes the contention that EPA’s standard is the cutoff level for safety in the U.S.“This is the first study that helps the American public understand that the EPA reference dose is not a true risk level, but rather is used by EPA to monitor mercury concentrations in the environment,” said Jay Murray, Ph.D., a toxicologist that specializes in maternal and fetal health and a member of the Tuna Nutrition Council, which advises USTF on nutrition and public health matters. “While some like to use the CDC findings to claim that ‘8 percent of American babies are at risk,’ I highly doubt that any of them would seriously assert that 66 percent of Japanese babies are ‘at risk’ of neurological developmental issues. Yet improperly using the reference dose as the ‘bright line of safety,’ as some do in the United States, would lead to just such a ridiculous conclusion.” Besides the Minamata study, USTF pointed to a recent report by the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), which also did not find evidence that people consuming large amounts of fish have increased health risks from exposure to methylmercury. The report cited a recent study conducted by the Medical Research Council, similar to the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council, which tested 1,320 adults and concluded that none of those studied had blood levels of mercury that even come close to the safety level for the general population set by the World Health Organization (WHO). What makes these findings especially noteworthy is that the safety level used by the WHO to protect pregnant women is more than twice as high as the EPA reference dose. As a result, the Japanese and UK studies call into question whether now is the time to consider changing the reference dose so that Americans can feel comfortable reaping the same health and nutritional benefits from eating fish as people from other nations.Supporting this view is another important study of British women reported in the July issue of Epidemiology magazine. Conducted by researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), this study demonstrated that the children of pregnant women who consumed between one to three fish meals per week had significantly higher scores on a battery of tests measuring language, communications and motor skills than the children whose mothers did not consume fish at all. Further, the study showed no adverse developmental effects associated with the low mercury levels found in the U.K., which is consistent with the mercury levels documented in the U.S.Based on this scientific review, the FSA has issued new advice about fish consumption, stating that pregnant and nursing women in the UK can safely consume double the maximum amount of canned tuna that U.S. regulators recommend, up to four cans a week. Similar to the U.S. advisory, the FSA continues to state that there is no need for the general population to limit their canned tuna consumption and that fish is an important part of a balanced diet.More information about canned tuna and its health benefits is available at the USTF Web site,

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