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Medical Group Issues Guide to "Safe Fish Consumption"

JUNE 30, 2004

CONTACT:  Physicians for Social Responsibility
Elizabeth Rose (202) 478-6119

Physician Groups Release 1st Guides to Safe Fish Consumption Written by Doctors Free Guide is Available to Public Online

WASHINGTON - June 30 - Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and the Association of Reproductive Health Professional (ARHP) released Fish Consumption to Promote Good Health and Minimize Contaminants: A Quick Reference Guide for Clinicians and Healthy Fish, Healthy Families. These are the first safe fish consumption guides written by physicians and health professionals for physicians and consumers, respectively. The guides urge women of child-bearing age and children to avoid fish that are highest in mercury and PCBs. They provide more cautious, comprehensive recommendations than the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency¹s (EPA) recently announced guidelines. PSR and ARHP will distribute thousands of the guides to health care providers and their patients, and both guides are available at

Healthy Fish, Healthy Families is a valuable consumer resource that provides specific guidelines for parents to help them choose what kind of and how much fish they and their young children can most safely eat. A pocket guide is also available at

³Millions of American women and their children are at risk from mercury and PCB contamination from fish and other sources,² said Katherine M. Shea, M.D., M.P.H., an author of the new guides.

³These pollutants can cause problems with memory, attention, language, and other irreversible learning and health problems in children. These guides will help families protect themselves from mercury and PCB exposure through fish,² Dr. Shea added.

Dr. Shea noted that the PSR/ARHP guidelines intentionally recommend a more cautious approach to fish consumption than the advisory issued jointly by the FDA and EPA. In addition, the federal government advisory ignores fish contaminated by PCBs.

³Our clinician and consumers¹ guides recommend less consumption of certain fish based on the evidence of health risks from exposure to fish containing moderate amounts of mercury, and to fatty fish that may be high in PCBs.² said Dr. Shea.

Millions of American women-have blood mercury concentrations higher than the level considered safe by EPA. New analysis by EPA scientists indicates that as many as 630,000 newborns annually are exposed to mercury levels above EPA¹s safe level. While Americans¹ PCB levels have declined in recent years, many people ­ especially heavy consumers of sport fish ­ are still at risk

³Doctors and reproductive health professionals are the best sources to educate current and future parents about avoiding contaminated fish,² said Amy Swann, Director of Education, Association of Reproductive Health Professionals.

³Our health care providers will offer advice and the consumer guide to their patients to warn them about the damage from mercury and PCBs on developing brains in fetuses, babies, and children,² Ms. Swann added.

³Fish is a delicious, nutritious food,² said Nora Pouillon, Chef/Owner of Restaurant Nora and a pioneer in healthy and environmentally-friendly dining. ³Healthy Fish, Healthy Families provides consumers with the information they need to limit exposure to pollutants while still enjoying the benefits of fish.²

³Even the best fish consumption guide is only a band-aid,² said Karen Perry, Deputy Director, Environment and Health Program, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and an author of the guides.

³To thoroughly protect women and children, we must reduce these pollutants at their sources. Real solutions include a steep cut in mercury pollution from leading sources, particularly coal fired power plants. We must also clean up the Great Lakes, Hudson River, and other places contaminated with PCBs, and prevent similar chemicals from further polluting our waterways and fish,² urged Ms. Perry.

Perry noted that the Bush Administration has proposed to delay significant mercury reductions from power plants until 2018 and beyond. The public comment period for this proposal ends June 29, 2004. In addition, the Administration has reduced funds to clean up toxic waste sites, some of which include PCB contamination.