How Do Scientists and the Media Magnify Mercury’s Menace?


A thoughtful new analysis of the benefits of reducing public exposure to mercury adds to several studies suggesting that whatever it costs to make those cuts, either under the U.S.

But what about the danger of mercury as a neurotoxin? Both the EPA and the Giang – Selin study also calculate the benefit of lowering mercury pollution and thus reducing the harm it does to the neural health of fetuses and infants. But both analyses find that this economic benefit is tiny, because all the research that identifies mercury as a neurotoxin has found that, at the levels the public is exposed to, mercury does very little harm to the fetus, less than one quarter of 1 IQ point and similar other minor cognitive deficits (measured when the children grow older). And that harm is counterbalanced by the benefits for healthy neural fetal from pregnant moms eating the fish. (The fatty acids in the fish help create cells that insulate the wiring connecting neurons in the developing fetal brain.) The neurotoxic risks to the public of mercury in seafood are miniscule. Giang and Selin’s numbers, and the EPA’s numbers, agree.

Have you read anything about any of this? Probably not. Not about the low level of harm that even high doses of mercury – via seafood exposure – actual does. Not about the big doubts about whether mercury causes any cardiovascular risk at all. What you probably have heard is that mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin and associated with cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, without any of the critical qualifications that put the risk in perspective.

That’s in part because the news media is fed a constant diet of research findings supporting that more alarmist perspective, like the Giang and Selin study… a careful and thoughtful piece of —> Read More