Report: Nothing Fishy About Mercury

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It’s time to hit the seafood buffet as a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms what we knew all along: exposure to mercury in fish has no clinically adverse effect on cardiovascular disease. After analyzing data from two U.S. cohorts comprised of over 170,000 participants, researchers selected 3,427 patients who were identified as having new onset of cardiovascular disease. After matching them to a control group with no history of heart or circulatory disease, body burdens of mercury were analyzed based on mercury content in toenail clippings from each group while participants’ lifestyle behaviors, including fish consumption and cardiovascular risk factors, were determined using a questionnaire. The results showed that even participants with the highest mercury exposure did not have a increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross hopes these new findings will counter the claims made by various activist groups who warn against the dangers of consuming too much fish due to high mercury levels. “In fact, adults who eat more fish have a lower incidence of various types of heart disease,” he adds. “Further, recent studies have shown that pregnant women who eat more fish tend to have healthier babies.”

The NEJM study comes on the heels of a recent editorial in The New York Times that applauds an EPA-proposed rule requiring power plants to reduce their mercury emissions and other airborne toxins by about 91 percent over the next five years. The Times believes this latest regulation is a “victory for the public,” and when fully enacted, “could save as many as 17,000 lives a year.”

Before the environmental zealots jump for joy, however, Dr. Ross puts a couple of things into perspective. “First, most of the mercury that pollutes our waterways comes from Asia since Chinese coal power plants emit tons of pollutants that float over the Pacific ocean and infiltrate our air — very little of the pollution is sourced in the U.S. industry. Second, the current study indicates that mercury in our environment doesn’t seem to be a threat to the health of adults.”