The New York Time’s Blog, Green, is reporting that a new study suggests people need to be more wary of saltwater fish than freshwater fish because mercury in seawater is more likely to stay in its toxic form.
The study may well show that mercury in seawater is more likely to stay in its toxic form, but suggesting people be concerned about eating saltwater fish is more than a stretch; it’s a colossal and scientifically unsupportable leap that could result in harm to public health.
You see, the study in question did not look at what happens when people actually eat fish. With a bit of research, the folks at Green could have found that two prestigious panels with a combined total of 30 experts in the fields of nutrition and toxicology recently took exhaustive looks at just that. And here’s what they concluded:
While Green tries to entice readers with its talk of toxic mercury, the fact is, “studies of fish, including tuna and swordfish that were up to 90 years old report levels consistent with today's levels”… and…“limited data suggest that methylmercury concentrations in commercial fish have not increased or decreased over time” according to a peer reviewed, published FDA draft report.
But let’s be honest, the headline “mercury concentrations in Yellowfin tuna caught off Hawaii in 1998 were found to be essentially identical to those caught in the same area in 1971 – a span of 27 years,” (another fact from FDA) isn’t too tantalizing for Green’s audience.
Journalists reporting on this study should take care to recognize this is not research about human health and trying to turn it into such is a serious sleight of hand.