Health and Environment Alliance

Mercury in fish is a global health concern

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Source: Health and Environment Alliance

As the world’s governments convene next week to discuss developing a legally binding treaty on mercury, citizens’ groups from around the world have released a new report calling attention to the significant global human health hazards caused by
mercury in fish and fish-eating marine mammals. The international Zero Mercury Working Group (1) released the study, which maintains that the problem demands an effective response from governments and the United Nations.

“Mercury contamination of fish and mammals is a global public health concern,” said Michael Bender, report co-author and member of the Zero Mercury Working Group. “Our study of fish tested in different locations around the world shows that internationally accepted exposure levels for methylmercury are exceeded, often by wide margins, in each country and area covered.”

According to the report, “Mercury in Fish: An Urgent Global Health Concern”, the risk is greatest for populations whose per capita fish consumption is high, and in areas where pollution has elevated the average mercury content of fish. In cultures where fish-eating marine mammals are part of the traditional diet, mercury in these animals can add substantially to total dietary exposure. In addition, the study shows that methylmercury hazards still exist where these dietary and local pollutant levels are less prevalent.

“The proposals outlined in the report, including labelling certain fish products and stronger controls on mercury pollution, should be instituted without delay,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Zero Mercury Campaign Coordinator. “All governments should consider these results and agree launching an International Negotiating Committee (INC) to start work immediately on a global mercury treaty, in Nairobi next week.”

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