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E-M:/ American Medical Association statement on mercury/fish



Title: American Medical Association statement on mercury/fish
This recent report by the AMA is relevant to all Michigan anglers and regulatory agencies for its advice on fish consumption, fish testing, and fish advisories.  It concludes:

Women who might become pregnant, are pregnant, or who are nursing should follow federal, state, and local advisories on fish consumption. Because these advisories may differ, the most protective advisory should be followed. Physicians should assist in educating patients about the relative mercury content of fish and shellfish products, and make them aware of current advisories on fish consumption. Testing of the mercury content of fish should be continued by appropriate agencies and results should be publicly accessible and reported in a consumer-friendly format. Given the limitations of national consumer fish consumption advisories, the FDA also should consider the advisability of requiring that fish consumption advisories and results related to mercury testing be posted where fish, including canned tuna, are sold.






Report 13 of the Council on Scientific Affairs (A-04)

Mercury and Fish Consumption: Medical and Public Health Issues

SUMMARY

Objective: To provide information on the environmental life cycle and human toxicology of mercury, explain the development of the national joint Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consumer fish consumption advisory, briefly review key epidemiological studies of mercury (Hg) exposure and childhood development, and discuss other scientific issues relevant to dietary seafood and freshwater fish consumption.

Methods: This report summarizes the key findings of the April 2004 Conference on Mercury: Medical and Public Health Issues, co-sponsored by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Additional information was obtained by direct communication with experts in the field.

Results: Release of Hg from the global crust secondary to mining, burning of fossil fuels, incineration of medical and municipal waste, and other sources resulting from human activity have increased the rate of Hg release into the environment. Once in the environment, interconversion between the different forms of Hg occurs. Inorganic Hg that is deposited is converted to organic Hg by microorganisms or abiotic processes, particularly in aquatic sediment. The predominant organic form, methylmercury, is concentrated in the food chain in aquatic systems, especially in larger predatory fish. Methylmercury is neurotoxic. The level of fish consumption correlates with the body burden of Hg. Although fish consumption provides cardioprotective effects, higher levels of fish consumption also have been associated with subtle neurodevelopmental effects. In response, national consumer fish consumption advisories have been crafted in an effort to protect high-risk populations (pregnant women, women who intend to become pregnant, and young children) from excessive Hg exposure.

Conclusion. Women who might become pregnant, are pregnant, or who are nursing should follow federal, state, and local advisories on fish consumption. Because these advisories may differ, the most protective advisory should be followed. Physicians should assist in educating patients about the relative mercury content of fish and shellfish products, and make them aware of current advisories on fish consumption. Testing of the mercury content of fish should be continued by appropriate agencies and results should be publicly accessible and reported in a consumer-friendly format. Given the limitations of national consumer fish consumption advisories, the FDA also should consider the advisability of requiring that fish consumption advisories and results related to mercury testing be posted where fish, including canned tuna, are sold.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The following statements, recommended by the Council on Scientific Affairs, were adopted by the AMA House of Delegates as AMA policy at the 2004 AMA Annual Meeting:

1.      Women who might become pregnant, are pregnant, or who are nursing should follow federal, state, and local advisories on fish consumption. Because these advisories may differ, the most protective advisory should be followed. (Policy)
2.      Physicians should (a) assist in educating patients about the relative mercury content of fish and shellfish products; (b) make patients aware of the advice contained in both national and regional consumer fish consumption advisories; and (c) have sample materials available, or direct patients to where they can access information on national and regional fish consumption advisories. (Policy)
3.      Testing of the mercury content of fish should be continued by appropriate agencies; results should be publicly accessible and reported in a consumer-friendly format. (Policy)
4.      Given the limitations of national consumer fish consumption advisories, the Food and Drug Administration should consider the advisability of requiring that fish consumption advisories and results related to mercury testing be posted where fish, including canned tuna, are sold. (Policy)


Last updated: Jun 23, 2004
Content provided by: Council on Scientific Affairs

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