Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Seafood, Pregnancy and What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

Energy
Seafood, Pregnancy and What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

Moms Clean Air Force

By Alexandra Zissu

Has anyone else been following Environmental Health News’ series Pollution, Poverty, People of Color as if it were the new Mad Men? No? Personally I can’t get enough. I especially can’t get one article from last month out of my head. It was about how contaminated fish warnings fail to reach the people most at risk.

It’s probably stuck in my mind because I’m pregnant. As I (s l o w l y) make my way around my city day in and day out, I have a hard time not screaming as I watch other pregnant moms eating things I know they should not be eating, and doing things I know they should not be doing (what is with everyone waddling into nail salons and willingly breathing that unsafe-for-anyone air?). Do they not know? Or are they just ignoring the warnings?

But fish really surprised me. Even conventional OBs who aren’t particularly attuned to environmental health issues tend to warn their patients not to eat certain contaminated fish that are known to contain mercury, PCBs and more. If doctors fail to issue this warning, most baby books and pregnancy websites pick up their slack. So what’s Environmental Health News talking about?

Well, seafood isn’t cut and dry. It’s nuanced, complicated. As I wrote in the Conscious Kitchen, “rockfish” can mean more than sixty different kinds of fish on the Pacific West Coast. There are eighty-two difference species of groundfish, and more than forty different species can be called snapper. Which means that warnings about big predator fish like shark, tuna, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel containing elevated levels of mercury might make it to most pregnant people, but the subtler stuff just doesn’t.

People—pregnant or not—are less aware of advisories about local waterways—fresh and saltwater alike—and which seafood from them might harbor industrial chemicals and pesticides. As the article I cannot get out of my mind states, these are linked to cancer, reproductive effects and various other health problems. Let’s be honest, these present risks for everyone—not just pregnant women and children.

Local officials do issue warnings, but too often residents either aren’t getting them or chose to ignore them. Sometimes they know about the warnings but need a cheap source of protein. Or they come from fishing communities and are inclined to eat what they’ve always eaten, whatever the health advisories say. There are even people interviewed in the article that say if the water looks clean, they assume the fish is safe to eat.

Except it’s not safe. And so the advisories need to be louder and more clear, and there needs to be more education, including about how the contaminants made their way into the air we breathe and eventually the waters we fish. No one should be eating unsafe food, and knowing that it happens more frequently in low-income, minority or indigenous communities is the kind of thing that keeps you (or is it just me?) up at night. As the article clearly explains, this is an environmental justice issue. If inadequate risk warnings aren’t reaching these communities, states need to try harder. Advisories need to take language barriers into account and in general be a lot simpler for anyone to understand and heed.

Here’s hoping Dr. Jeanne Conry, president-elect for the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) agrees. She’s the winner of the 2012 U.S. EPA Environmental Health Heroes of the Pacific Southwest in the category “Children’s Environmental Health” and could really help spread the word. Hey, Dr. Conry, if you need help, we’d love to join the crusade.

Visit EcoWatch’s SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE and COAL pages for more related news on this topic.

 

Hospital workers evacuate patients from the Feather River Hospital during the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018 in Paradise, California. People in 128 countries have experienced an increased exposure to wildfires, a new Lancet report finds. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The climate crisis already has a death toll, and it will get worse if we don't act to reduce emissions.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Workers harvest asparagus in a field by the Niederaussem lignite coal power plant in Cologne, Germany. Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning are reaching new highs. Henning Kaiser / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Stuart Braun

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the dire threat of climate change Wednesday in a speech on the state of the planet delivered at Columbia University in New York.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The miserable ones: Young broiler chickens at a feeder. The poor treatment of the chickens within its supply chain has made Tyson the target of public campaigns urging the company to make meaningful changes. U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

By David Coman-Hidy

The actions of the U.S. meat industry throughout the pandemic have brought to light the true corruption and waste that are inherent within our food system. Despite a new wave of rising COVID-19 cases, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently submitted a proposal to further increase "the maximum slaughter line speed by 25 percent," which was already far too fast and highly dangerous. It has been made evident that the industry will exploit its workers and animals all to boost its profit.

Read More Show Less
Altamira, state of Para, north of Brazil on Sept. 1, 2019. Amazon rainforest destruction surged between August 2019 and July 2020, Brazil's space agency reported. Gustavo Basso / NurPhoto via Getty Images

According to Brazil's space agency (Inpe), deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has surged to its highest level since 2008, the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press briefing at United Nations Headquarters on February 4, 2020 in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP / Getty Images

By Kenny Stancil

"The state of the planet is broken. Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal."

That's how United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres began a Wednesday address at Columbia University, in which he reflected on the past 11 months of extreme weather and challenged world leaders to use the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to construct a better world free from destructive greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More Show Less