New Jersey Sierra Club Jeff Tittel exposes how much he doesn’t know — and apparently doesn’t care to know — about mercury in seafood.
Below is Tittel’s commentary. We’ve highlighted some of his absurdities. Bottomline: U.S. coal plants emit very little mercury (0.5% of global emissions or less) and there is no evidence that anyone has ever been harmed by either those emissions or typical ambient levels of mercury in the environment or fish regardless of source.
Exposing seafood industry’s junk science
By Jeff Tittel | Posted: Monday, January 30, 2012 12:45 am
It seems the seafood industry’s front groups are more concerned about attacking environmental groups, public health groups, scientists and government agencies than actually doing something to make its products safer and healthier.
Saying there is no connection between coal and methyl mercury in seafood is the same as the climate deniers saying there is no such thing as global warming.
This is the same junk science that goes along with denying climate change and gravity, which both are paid for by the industry.
Mercury does occur naturally in the environment, and so does uranium, both equally harmful to our environment and health. However, what is found in seafood is methyl mercury, and that mostly comes from coal.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury report, “Coal power plants are the largest single source for emitting mercury into the environment.” If we did not burn coal and other industrial sources, methyl mercury would not be getting into our water, into the fish, and eventually into us.
Mercury is naturally occurring, but by burning coal from power plants and other industrial sources, the mercury gets deposited into our streams and rivers. This mercury, when it gets into our waterways, then becomes methyl mercury, which gets absorbed by small plants and continues up the food chain.
When they say it is natural, it is because larger fish like tuna are eating smaller fish, which they say is natural. The smaller fish obtained the mercury from plankton, which absorbed it from the deposits of mercury that came from the atmosphere, which came from power plants.
“We are talking about reducing the level of mercury in the fish that we and our kids eat every day,” the EPA’s Lisa Jackson said on the agency’s mercury rule.
Mercury not only bio-accumulates in fish, but also in us. That is why it causes health problems such as neurological disorders and birth defects. Every scientific expert not working for the fishing or coal industry sees the risk from industrial sources of power plants in the food supply, as does the EPA, which promulgated the mercury rules.
The EPA has advisories about eating too much tuna and other seafood. What I find most interesting is that the fishing industry does not support rules that would limit mercury in the environment, which would make us all safer.
Instead, it would rather lobby against the disclosure of mercury in our food. It would rather spin and give half-truths to newspapers than actually do something to help get mercury out of our environment by supporting the EPA rule.
Reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are for the need for protein from fish, not toxins. The dietary guidelines from the USDA are for the need to eat protein, not mercury.
There are many types of fish that have low-level mercury, for which the EPA, Sierra Club and other groups have given out charts and handouts showing which fish are safer to eat. Fish like tuna, swordfish and shark have higher levels, while salmon, shrimp and tilapia have lower levels of mercury.
All leading scientists from around the world, including Rutgers University, the American Medical Association, the Food and Drug Administration, and the EPA, have studied the dangers of mercury in seafood and shown the impacts it has on pregnant women.
According to the FDA: “Mercury falls from the air and can accumulate in streams and oceans, and is turned into methyl mercury in water. It is this type of mercury that can be harmful to babies and unborn children.”
Meeting children who have had serious health illnesses from eating too much fish from mercury is not a hyperbole, but a serious health problem. We should be working to get this toxin out of the environment, not covering it up with spin and press releases.
New Jersey, 14 other states and the Sierra Club won an appellate division case forcing the EPA under the Bush administration to come up with a rule to deal with mercury because of its impact on the environment, including fisheries.
The EPA, in its own proposal for the rules, talks about the safety factor for pregnant women and the impact from seafood.
The seafood industry has also opposed limits on over-fishing, has opposed nets that would stop killing turtles and dolphins, and has a dismal environmental record when it comes to factory fish farming.
It has an abysmal environmental record instead of trying to make sure our seafood has less toxins, protecting our health and safety. It would rather lobby with its front groups to spin these mercury safeguards. It should be making it a priority to protect our health by making seafood healthier and safer.
The National Fisheries Institution is just a front group for the fishing industry and is not an institute. It is just like the groups being funded by the coal industry to deny climate change. It is being funded by the fishing industry to spew junk science. If the institution was so concerned about mercury, it would not have been opposed to the labeling of seafood products about mercury that directly affects the lives of pregnant women and children.