New Book Documents Mercury Poisoning from Seafood

By October 8, 2008Got Mercury?
 SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr. Jane Hightower -- widely
acknowledged as the first US physician to recognize low-level mercury
poisoning in patients who regularly consume certain types of fish -- today
released new evidence showing that the FDA has failed to inform and protect
the public from the risks of mercury poisoning due to consumption of
certain types of seafood. Dr. Hightower has released a new book, Diagnosis:
Mercury: Money, Politics, and Poison, which is widely available in stores
starting October 7, 2008.

    "Common sense says that if you are not feeling well, and are eating
poison, then stop eating it and see if you feel better," said Dr.
Hightower. "The problem is that we are not given enough information about
just how much mercury is in the fish that is widely available in stores and
restaurants. Most American consumers are simply unaware that the fish they
eat could be making them sick."

    Using newly available legal testimony and investigative research into
the source of the scientific data that inform the FDA's mercury consumption
guidelines, Dr. Hightower has pulled together information that should
concern everyone in the United States.

    The FDA's current mercury consumption guidelines are rooted in a study
of the victims of a mass methylmercury poisoning in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
While researchers from the University of Rochester and the World Health
Organization wrote articles about the effects of mercury on these victims,
Dr. Hightower shows that their conclusions were based on data provided by
one of Hussein's government allies. And this associate in Iraq's health
ministry -- who oversaw the study of Iraqi victims of mercury toxicity --
has recently revealed that he withheld information from researchers,
information that might have shown severe effects at much lower levels of

    When the FDA and the swordfishing giant Anderson Seafood Inc. went to
court in the mid-1970s over the FDA's consumption guidelines, Anderson used
the Iraqi study as proof that high levels of mercury exposure are safe for
the general public. The company won its case based on the evidence
presented in court. But in the course of Dr. Hightower's research she
discovered that one of the lead investigators of the Iraqi poisoning
disputed the fishing industry's claim of how much mercury is safe to eat.
Even as government agencies around the world -- including our own EPA --
have moved away from the "safe" levels based on the Iraq studies, the FDA
has failed to adequately warn the public that mercury-laden seafood is a
major threat to their health. The concern reaches far beyond women of
childbearing age and children.

    "Diagnosis: Mercury brings together the strongest evidence to date that
the FDA's guidelines for fish consumption are insufficient," said Chuck
Savitt, president of Island Press, which published the book. "We simply
don't know how widespread low-level mercury toxicity is in the United
States, and this book tells us that regular consumers of certain types of
fish are in danger."

    Hightower's research spans from individual patients in her practice to
widespread mercury poisonings in Japan, Canada, and Iraq. Diagnosis:
Mercury makes a powerful case for increased study and stronger FDA
regulation of this poison in our food supply.