New Book on Dangers of Mercury in Seafood

By October 9, 2008Sea Turtles

New Evidence Highlights Dangers of Mercury Toxicity in Fish

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.