Mercury, Seafood and You: A Documentary Short | Oceana


Ted Danson>>This is a public health situation
that is beyond belief that we’re not addressing this in a radical way, because you’re talking
about the health of our babies. Rachel Ronn>>When I told my MD that I wanted
to try to have a baby, he suggested that I find out what my level of mercury was, because
he knew that I ate a lot of fish. So he tested my level for mercury, and it was really high. Joan Davis>>Well, I noticed at home that
Matthew was really struggling with homework. He was always a great student, and he was
getting really frustrated. Dr. Jane Hightower>>One of the things I have
been seeing is various and sundry symptoms of fatigue, troubles thinking, hair loss,
joint and muscle aches… Joan Davis>>Then we got the test faxed to
the pediatrician, and she saw he was 12 and a half times the FDA safety level, which we
didn’t know anything about an FDA safety level… Danson>>That feels criminal to me that you
haven’t been informed about that. Hardy Jones>>In the middle 1990s, I became
aware that I was feeling fatigued, I lost my sense of concentration, and I was kind
of shaky. And I went and I got a hair analysis, and the analysis revealed that I had a huge
burden of mercury. It was actually off the chart. Danson>>Basically, people that have too much
mercury in their system have gotten it by eating fish, certain kinds of fish. Jones>>Um, twice a week I would take a swordfish
or a tuna steak and just sear it in a cast iron skillet. Dr. Robert Culver>>I would say that you had
chronic mercury poisoning. Danson>>And one of the campaigns we’ve just
taken on is mercury. I think it’s one of the most important issues
that Oceana has tackled. Mercury is a poison. It has been found to
cause memory problems, hair loss, fatigue, joint pain, tremors, impaired coordination,
and other neurological damage. Mercury exposure in the womb can cause irreversible damage
to a developing baby. Seafood is the primary source of methylmercury ingested by humans.
Fish are contaminated because rivers, lakes, and oceans are contaminated. Polluting industries
release staggering quantities of mercury into the air and water each year. In the early 2000s, Dr. Jane Hightower began
to receive a striking number of patients who exhibited similar symptoms. Each ate lots
of fish. Hightower>>…started calling them up, asking,
“What’s for dinner?” And every single one of them kept coming up with the same poison.
And when they stopped eating mercury, generally within 2 to 6 months in general, they all
either fully recovered or were 90% recovered. Joan Davis>>Matthew has always been a healthy
eater; I think that’s why he chose tuna fish to eat. Hightower>>The larger the fish, and the older
the fish, generally will accumulate more of the mercury. Matthew Davis>>I just switched, like, instead
of my tuna sandwich every day, I would take a turkey sandwich. Joan Davis>>I’d say, since he’s mercury-free,
we see a big change. His attitude toward school is really wonderful. He’s turning in 2-page
papers on his own and then gets an A on them. Ronn>>It’s not standard practice for doctors
to do that, and he basically wanted to do it because I told him that I eat a lot of
fish, and he knew that I wanted to have a baby, so he just suggested that before I get
pregnant, we test my level in mercury. Um, I went back to my doctor and found out that
my level of mercury was really high, and I was really upset because I wanted…I didn’t
think that it was going to be. It just didn’t occur to me that that was going to be an issue
for me. I was eating a lot of sushi. I’ve eaten sushi for years, I love it. And, um,
so I was eating a lot of tuna and yellowtail and for dinner, everything, you know, mahi-mahi,
shrimp, um…I got pregnant that day. Literally, the day I found out that my levels were down,
um, I got pregnant. I mean, you know, it’s hard to know how your baby would have turned
out, but she’s so healthy. She’s so alert and bright, and one of the issues with mercury
toxicity and one of the reasons that it’s dangerous for pregnant women to have a lot
of mercury in their system is because it affects the neurology and the development of the fetus. Eating fish is a an important part of a balanced
diet. It’s full of vitamins and other nutrients. Good for our hearts because the Omega-3 fatty
acids lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Oceana encourages people to eat fish — but
only the right fish. And we believe that a simple way for the consumer to get the information
they need to choose the appropriate fish is for grocery stores to post signs alerting
consumers to fish which have been determined to be dangerous. The FDA has issued warnings
on tilefish, king mackerel, swordfish, and shark. It also warns women who are pregnant
or may become pregnant to limit their consumption of tuna fish. California already mandates
that such warnings be posted, and grocery chains, such as Wild Oats, have decided to
post these warnings in their stores around the country. The response from their customers
has been enthusiastic. Sonja Tuitele>>And the amazing thing is,
um, a lot of people said, “You’re committing economic suicide, because you’re going to
ruin your seafood sales. We actually saw seafood sales go up after posting the signs. Oceana is actively working to make essential
information about the healthfulness of fish nationally available. To this end, we hold
press conferences, conduct letter-writing campaigns, and our wavemakers go directly
to the store where they shop to demand information about the dangers from fish be posted. Joan Davis>>You know, as a consumer, you
know, I wasn’t given the opportunity to make a decision based on, you know, what’s in the
product. Ronn>>[Laughs] She’s happy now. Um, I would
really hope that all…any supermarket that sells fish would have some kind of — you
agree with me, don’t you? — would have some kind of advisory, um, warning people about
the levels of mercury in the fish. Yeah, absolutely. Danson>>What Oceana wants to do is make sure
that where you and I buy our fish, the markets, have labeling that warns people that this
certain fish may have too much mercury in it to safely eat. Or you should only eat 6
ounces of it. But that people are informed so that they can make intelligent decisions
about what they eat.

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