The Tribune's investigation reveals a decades-long pattern of the U.S. government knowingly allowing millions of Americans to eat seafood with unsafe levels of mercury.
Regulators have repeatedly downplayed the hazards, failed to take basic steps to protect public health and misled consumers about the true dangers, documents and interviews show.
The government does not seize high-mercury fish that violate U.S. limits. Regulators do not even inspect seafood for mercury--not in ports, processing plants or supermarkets.
In fact, federal officials have tested so few fish that they have only a limited idea of how much mercury many species contain, government data show. For example, the government has tested just four walleye and 24 shrimp samples since 1978. The newspaper tested more samples of commercial walleye than the government has in the last quarter-century....
Medical experts agree that, on balance, eating fish is good for most people. Seafood is a low-fat source of protein, and some fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to help prevent heart disease.
And Americans have responded to the idea that fish is healthy: Per capita seafood consumption hit an all-time high last year.
But for high-risk groups--young children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and women who could get pregnant--some fish might do more harm than good. Mercury can damage the central nervous system of children, causing subtle delays in walking and talking as well as decreased attention span and memory.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Chicago Tribune: mercury in fish
An in-depth special from the Chicago Tribune in December included a series of investigations of federal policy related to mercury contamination in fish, along with an on-line calculator to estimate your safe consumption level:
Posted 7:29 PM