The findings relate to a new report by the governmental Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Blood and Hair Mercury Levels in Young Children and Women of Childbearing Age, released on 2 March. “Data in the CDC report indicate that at least 10% of women of childbearing age have levels of mercury in their bodies that exceed what the EPA considers acceptable and this translates to nearly six million women,” commented Michael Bender, Executive Director of NGO, the Mercury Policy Project. “These new findings amount to an estimated 375,000 babies being born each year at risk of neurological problems due to exposure to mercury in the womb.”

The report provides results from the first nationally representative sample of mercury in human blood and hair in the US. Earlier reports were based on estimates of human fish consumption.

“New studies show that far more women are at risk of exposure to methlymercury than previously thought,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, Director of Food Safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “It is imperative that the Food and Drug Administration act promptly to monitor commercial seafood for mercury and to remove unsafe fish from the market.”

Mercury is released into the atmosphere by air pollution from power plants, waste incinerators and industrial processes and is ingested by fish. The results now seem to qualify a fear that exposure to mercury is more widespread than previously thought and not just limited to large consumers of fish.

Water pollution caused by mercury emissions has prompted health agencies in 40 states to warn people, especially women of childbearing age and young children, to limit or cease consumption of certain species of contaminated fish. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration issued new consumer guidance warning pregnant women not to eat certain predatory fish like swordfish and shark.

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