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 Day 19

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Seafood of Mass Destruction

Story of a Mercury-Poisoned American

by STACEY REYNOLDS

I have a story to tell. One of a baby in my belly, poison in my seafood, and a President who will not act.

And unfortunately, many other American women may be sharing my story, but may never know until tragedy strikes.

I, like many other Americans, am poisoned by mercury from eating seafood.

Earlier this year I found out that I was pregnant. What should have been a time of pure joy was shattered when test from my doctor revealed that toxic mercury levels surged in my blood.

My mercury levels were so high that they had to be reported to the Center for Disease Control. I was terrified for my own health and for the future of the baby growing in my womb.

Because I am very health conscious in my eating habits, I figured that my neighborhood natural food store, a branch of the national Whole Foods chain, would have had my health in mind. I was wrong.

I purchased swordfish from the Whole Foods seafood counter on many occasions during the early part of my pregnancy, and never once was I told of the high levels of mercury in swordfish; never once did I see any health warning signs.

In my research, subsequent to learning that I was poisoned by mercury, I found out that swordfish is allowed to be sold in the U.S. even though it contains enough mercury to exceed federal toxic threshold levels.

The FDA has issued warnings, but does not require any mandatory in-store advisories that would let customers know about the fish they are buying. The best source I found for determining which fish was better to eat was www.gotmercury.org, which folds the government data into an easy to use calculator to help determine portions and potential exposure.

Only in California does a state law require food stores to post health warning signs at seafood counters. But even there, some grocers have failed to adequately post the signs for their customers.

There are 49 other states where no in-store warnings exist, however.

I expressed my concerns both to store management and to the CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, and received little or no response; not even from a lawyer.

Mercury is a very dangerous neurotoxin that can cause irreversible damage to developing fetuses including learning disabilities, reduced motor skills, attention deficit disorders, memory problems and language development. Mercury is also strongly associated with autism and other autism-like neurological disorders in children.

Earlier this year, the FDA released revised guidelines around the consumption of seafood contaminated with mercury. There was a flurry of media attention, especially around canned tuna, and now the issue has vanished in the competing noise of war and the election.

But still the mercury is in our fish. And in our bodies.

And, it continues to pour out of our power plants, our refineries and our waste incinerators.

I am calling on a leader who has been silent on this issue to take action. I am pleading with him to protect the health of innocent children.

President Bush, take action. Be silent no longer.

I need you to champion a law to require mercury warning signs in food stores across the nation. I need you to require power plants to use the existing technology that could reduce mercury emissions by 90% in three years.

President Bush, I need you to make sure that my story is one that is never repeated.

STACEY REYNOLDS lives in Arlington, Virginia. She can be reached at: sreynolds7@yahoo.com