April 30, 2005
Toxic PyramidThe Department of Agriculture's new $2.5 million interactive food pyramid erroneously recommends consumption of swordfish, mackerel and tuna, seafood which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned contains levels of mercury too toxic for children and women of child-bearing age.
Though it provides useful dietary information, this new pyramid or "food guidance system" which cost $2.5 million to design and promote fails to warn us about which foods are not healthy or safe to consume.
Mercury is a nerve toxin which attacks fetal brain cells through the mother's bloodstream. There are no visible symptoms in a pregnant woman and the damage it does to the fetus is permanent. According to Salon magazine, A single 6-oz. serving of swordfish contains 28 times the acceptable daily amount and 4 times the acceptable weekly amount of methylmercury.
Methymercury is a byproduct of coal-based power plants. The Bush Administration through the EPA warns about the dangers of eating mercury contaminated fish but does nothing to regulate the root of the problem.
Instead, it relies on the industry to police itself through a pollution trading policy. The policy was based on an EPA analysis which the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says was distorted to support Mr. Bush's market-based approach. The EPA further justifies the toothless policy by saying mercury contamination is a global problem and therefore pointless to regulate.
That is outrageous. Issues of safety should trump partisan motives. We have a moral obligation to ourselves and our children to reduce, if not downright eliminate, the level of toxins in the food we eat.
When lead was found to be dangerous, it wasn't enough to just avoid it, regulation was put in place to eliminate it. Doing anything less about the mercury problem is unconscionable.
Until such regulation is in place, it appears we're on our own. Please watch your intake of the aforementioned types of seafood and pass the information on to everyone you know.
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