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Hollywood Star Daphne Zuniga Joins TIRN

San Francisco, CA – This week, in the midst of an assault by the FDA on California’s Proposition 65, Turtle Island Restoration Network announced a new collaboration with actress Daphne Zuniga that highlights the dangers of mercury in seafood. Zuniga, a Hollywood actress (Melrose Place, Spaceballs, Sure Thing, Beautiful People) was sickened by mercury last year and has since become an outspoken critic of mercury-related policies here in the US.

“Mercury in the environment and in our food is a huge problem; federal mercury regulations need to be much stronger” says Zuniga. “Instead of working to protect people’s health from mercury, this week’s actions by the FDA are undermining a California law that requires mercury warning signs to be posted to protect the public; it’s outrageous”.

The collaboration with Zuniga also comes at a time when Turtle Island Restoration Network is in full swing with its campaign targeting Safeway for failing to warn customers of mercury in seafood. “We deeply hope that Safeway will, as promised, lead the industry by doing the right thing and posting mercury warnings in all of its stores nationwide” says Andy Peri, Turtle Island Restoration Network’s Mercury Awareness Campaign Director.

Zuniga found herself experiencing health effects from mercury while on a low-fat, high-protein diet last year. Her primary source of protein was from fish. “My head, neck and back were constantly tingling, my hands were cramping but worst of all, I could not remember my lines while I was on the set”, says Zuniga. “All of this because I, like most Americans, shopped in stores and ate at restaurants that had no signs to warn me of the dangers posed by mercury-contaminated fish”.

Zuniga is working with Turtle Island Restoration Network to help raise awareness about mercury from industrial sources and to ensure that all consumers nationwide have the information they need to prevent unnecessary exposure from mercury in seafood. Turtle Island Restoration Network’s Mercury Awareness Campaign is targeting Safeway’s 100 million dollar “Ingredients for Life” campaign. Zuniga hopes that Safeway as well as other grocery chains, will post signs in all stores nationwide.

The FDA and EPA warn women of childbearing age and mothers to not eat swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish and to limit their consumption of albacore tuna because they contain high levels of mercury. Despite this fact Safeway, up to this point, has not been compelled to meaningfully warn customers of the dangers of eating swordfish and other fish that are high in mercury like shark and albacore tuna.

If a 120-pound women were to consume 8 ounces of swordfish containing 1.0 part per million mercury (more than 77% of samples collected by TIRN last year exceeded this level), she would be exposed to 580% of what the FDA and EPA considers safe. Such a diet high in mercury-contaminated fish would put a nursing baby or a child in the womb at significant risk of neurological damage.

Children are not the only populations at risk from methylmercury, however. A recent report by the Research Institute of Public Health in Finland shows a significant increase of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks in men with elevated mercury levels.

Fish consumers can protect themselves from mercury-contaminated fish by using an online mercury calculator at http://www.gotmercury.org/. The calculator allows consumers to choose the lowest mercury fish while avoiding swordfish, shark and albacore, which contain the highest levels of mercury-contamination.

Additional Resources:

1. B-roll footage
2. Mercury Calculator: www.gotmercury.org
3. E-press kit: http://www.seaturtles.org/prog_camp2.cfm?campaignID=20
4. Annotated Ad: downloads/SafewayAdAnnotated2.doc
5. NY Time Ad (June 2, 2005): downloads/NY-TimesAd-Scr.pdf