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The need to pay attention to fish risks

The article about health risks associated with the consumption of fish [“Help yourself,” Health, April 3] suggested that the Environmental Defense Fund has exaggerated these dangers and that it may not be in the public’s interest to pay close attention to which fish are often high in environmental contaminants.

The issue of risks vs. benefits regarding fish consumption has been studied by hundreds of credible scientists over many decades, and our organization’s advice is based on widely accepted methodologies developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and used by numerous state fish advisory programs. We believe that consumers are fully capable of processing this information, even when the findings aren’t black and white.

Scientists’ understanding of the negative health effects of mercury exposure has grown stronger over the years. It has been known that mercury harms developing brains and nervous systems, and new research shows these effects at concentrations lower than previously thought.

Does this mean that people should no longer eat fish? Of course not. But it does mean that the scientific community owes it to the seafood-consuming public to be transparent about the health implications of seafood choices. In most cases the benefits of sensible fish consumption do outweigh the risks. But knowing how much fish consumption is too much is crucial public health information.

Lynn Goldman and Timothy Fitzgerald,

Washington

Lynn Goldman is a member of the Environmental Defense Fund’s board of trustees. Timothy Fitzgerald is a scientist with the organization’s Oceans Program and manager of its Sustainable Seafood Program.

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