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Eating fish is good for you ... sort of ...

If you purchase fish at a California grocery store, you'll see a sign that says: "WARNING! Pregnant and nursing women, women who may become pregnant, and young children should not eat the following fish: SWORDFISH, SHARK, KING MACKEREL, TILE FISH. They should also limit their consumption of other fish, including fresh or frozen tuna."

It's confusing--given that experts agree fish is a healthy source of protein and nutrients and is low in fat. The problem is the mercury. And the posting is the result of a California law that requires businesses to warn consumers if their products contain hazardous substances.

Mercury enters the environment from both natural and industrial sources, although most of it comes from coal burning power plants and waste incinerators. Mercury ends up in water and becomes more and more concentrated as it moves up the food chain. The liquid metal becomes highly concentrated when it reaches certain types of fish.

Women of childbearing age and children are particularly susceptible since mercury is most toxic to the developing brain. Recent data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that approximately one in 12 women has potentially hazardous levels of mercury in her blood. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 60,000 children are born each year with developmental disabilities because of mercury exposure.

Still, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises people to continue eating fish--with some caveats. They say that pregnant women and young children should not eat swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish or shark, and state that 12 ounces of various kinds of fish per week is safe for pregnant woman and children.

Forty-four states have posted mercury advisories for residents, and 17 of those are statewide. Some states also are working to prevent mercury from getting into the environment in the first place. California, Connecticut, Indiana and Maine have restricted the sale of products containing mercury. Massachusetts and New Hampshire have passed legislation to reduce mercury emissions from power plants,
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Title Annotation:On First Reading
Publication:State Legislatures
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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