They say "you are what you eat," but this country must be having an
identity crisis because no one knows what to eat anymore. Half
the nation believes that bread is a nutritious, comforting food and the
other half believes it should be avoided like the plague.
Competing diet theories have polarized America in a manner reminiscent
of the 2000 election, and fish is no exception. On one hand, fish
is chock-full of essential proteins, vitamins and minerals. It
can help lower your cholesterol and even aid in weight loss (hold the
butter). But our new study confims that there's another element
present in fish that won't be found on any food pyramid. The fish
we consume contains mercury and it is affecting our health - especially
when it comes to women and children.
Mercury is a highly toxic chemical that can cause a laundry list
of health problems. Personal exposure to mercury can lead to the
inability to focus and pay attention, delayed language development,
impaired memory, vision and motor coordination and problems
processing information. These symptoms are more pronounced when
mercury exposure occurs in the womb.
Power plants are the biggest source of mercury pollution in the
country. After mercury is released into the air, it contaminates
rivers, lakes and oceans and eventually the fish that we consume.
But that's not stopping the Bush administration from attempting to
evade the Clean Air Act by proposing new regulations that cater to
the energy companies.
Talk About a Bad Hair Day
For almost two years, we've been working with the Environmental
Quality Institute (EQI) at the University of North
Carolina-Asheville to conduct the largest mercury hair sampling
project in history. By analyzing a snip of hair from participants
all over the country, we are able to determine an individual's
personal mercury level.
Living in Hawaii, my family and
friends eat a lot of fish and seafood, and feel relatively safe
eating locally caught fish, because we are separated from the
mainland by 2,500 miles of ocean. I was shocked that my test showed
that my mercury level was twice the recommended amount. It is a
tragedy that a significant part of the diet here may no longer be
safe for children and women, in large part because of the neligent
practices of factories that are thousands of miles away. Hopefully
this real data will be a step toward reintroducing the voices of
people like me and my family into the decision-making that
continues to affect all of us, everywhere.
Kaneohe, HIHear from more of the study participants.
The results are in, and the findings are worse than we
anticipated: one in
five women of childbearing age that were tested have
mercury levels exceeding the EPA's recommended limit.
"In the samples we analyzed, the greatest single factor
influencing mercury exposure was the frequency of fish
consumption," said Dr. Steve Patch, Co-director of EQI and
co-author of the report. "We saw a direct relationship between
people's mercury levels and the amount of store-bought fish, canned
tuna fish or locally caught fish people consumed."
People shouldn't have to choose between eating the fish they
love and living a mercury-free life. To stop this contamination we
must eliminate the pollution at its source. We need new laws to
clean up these power plants and we have to start investing in
clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar today.
Take Action! Tell
Congress that America doesn't need more coal and mercury to be
spewed into our environment, our waterways and our bodies.
Determine your own mercury level. It's too
late for your results to be included in our study, but you can
still test yourself with our do-it-yourself kit.
Read the full report.