Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) is launching a mercury and fish consumption awareness effort, thanks to a $14,400 Healthy Communities Grant from EPA. The outreach effort will provide improved communication to women of childbearing age in an effort to correct the risk perception regarding mercury and fish consumption.
State and federal fish consumption guidance advises pregnant women to limit their intake of tuna, swordfish and certain other salt and fresh water fish which may contain mercury. The goal of the guidance is to ensure that women continue to eat fish and shellfish because of the nutritional benefits, while encouraging them to take steps to reduce their exposure to mercury. Unfortunately, some pregnant women have decided that it is safest to avoid eating fish altogether during pregnancy.
"The EPA funds we are providing to the NH Department of Environmental Services will help increase outreach to expectant mothers and the parents of young children about how to enjoy the positive health benefits from eating fish, while at the same time, minimizing their mercury exposure," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. "Projects such as this will help enormously in encouraging healthy habits to reduce unborn or young children’s exposure to the harmful effects of mercury."
The current fish consumption advisory message omits emphasis on the known health benefits of fish consumption for pregnant women. The diet of the majority of US women is deficient in omega-3-fatty acids, obtained mainly through eating fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be necessary for the proper development of the visual and nervous systems. Adequate maternal omega-3 fatty acid nutrition is associated with a decreased incidence of preterm delivery and low birth-weight.
The DES outreach effort will focus on clarifying the benefits of eating fish while providing clear, simple guidelines for women to follow. The materials produced as a result of the EPA grant will focus on eating more fish but selecting fish that are low in mercury.
For more information contact Pamela Schnepper, Toxicologist, at (603) 271-3994 or Sherry Godlewski, Environmental Health Educator at (603) 271-6801.