Feds, pressured by industry, lax in warning public about mercury in tuna

The Wall Street Journal today continues its series on toxic chemicals and human health by taking a hard look at some fishy dealings concerning tuna and mercury. For years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has known that canned tuna contains mercury. A mercury risk assessment from the U.S. EPA strongly suggested that children and women of child-bearing age limit how much canned tuna they eat. But thanks in part to heavy lobbying by the tuna industry, it wasn’t until March 2004 that a joint agency mercury advisory even mentioned the tinned fishies. Even then, the suggested limits in some cases exceeded safe levels for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children, based on the EPA’s own data. Former EPA chief Michael Leavitt says the goal was to inform people “without creating unwarranted fear.” But toxicologist Vas Aposhian, who quit an FDA advisory panel to protest the recommendations, says, “This is a glaring example of shutting out science.”