Whether mothers and children will be warned about the harm from
mercury in canned tuna will be decided not based on threats to health
or the latest science. Instead, it will hinge on whether a panel of
judges believe the tuna industry's claims that the potent neurotoxin is
"naturally occurring" and therefore not needing a label under
California's Proposition 65 chemical "right to know" law.
a court hearing yesterday in San Francsico, the California Attorney
General's office argued that even if only 5 percent of the
methylmercury in fish was NOT naturally occuring, it is toxic enough to
warrant a warning because it is known to cause cancer and reproductive
harm. See the Associated Press story at sfgate.com.
No one except the tuna canners dispute that tuna and other fish contain
methlymercury or that it's potentially harmful to pregnant women,
unborn babies, children and anyone who eats too much of it. Even the
federal government under the Bush Adminstration issued warnings against mercury-laden fish.(Though the FDA staffers who remain are still hoping to repeal the advisory.)
also clear the mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants around
the world deposit tons of mercury into the atmosphere, which is
deposited in the ocean and converted to toxic methylmercury by
bacteria. The toxin then is eaten by marine organisms, fish and
eventually accumulates in the tissue of large fish. Some of the mercury
also occurs naturally in the ocean, scientists believe.
Because the tuna industry doesn't put the mercury in the fish, nor can
they take it out, the lobbyists argue that it is naturally occurring
and expempt from Proposition 65 warnings. In fact, they want mothers,
children and everyone to EAT MORE toxic fish to make sure profits don't
lag. We sure hope that the judges don't agree. In fact, federal statute
has already determined that methylmercury in fish is caused by human
activity is not solely naturally occurring. We'll know in
the next 90 days whether people will get the information they need to
decide whether or not to buy tuna for their families.
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