Michael Bender and Edward Groths Willful Ignorance

When young children hear things they dont like, theyve been known to cover their ears, shut their eyes, and yell at the top of their lungs LA-LA-LA-LA-LA! in the hope that if they cant hear or see the offending information, they wont have to deal with the reality of it. In much the same way, Michael Bender of the notorious Mercury Policy Project, and research cohort Edward Groth III seem to believe that if they keep ignoring the weight of scientific evidence challenging their irresponsible fear-mongering on mercury and fish, theyll never have to deal with reality. But no matter how long Benders and Groths temper tantrums last, their flawed studies and perspective will never change the facts.

Bender and Groths latest effort to dupe the public comes with an assist from the New York Times, who offers the duo as experts on mercury and seafood while pointing readers to cherry picked data from small, and in one instance, outdated studies, while ignoring newer and significantly larger landmark studies that dispute their theories of mercury harm.

Groth trots out a tired line about how he wants pregnant women to eat fish and then proceeds to perpetuate fear that finding the right fish is a landmine. For pregnant women, FDA suggests only four exotic and rarely eaten fish to avoid (King Mackerel, Shark, Tilefish and Swordfish). But thats not good enough for Groth who would rather make up a list of his own fish to avoid. Of course, one need only look at Groths research methods, which include publishing a report based on anecdotal evidence from a friends grandson, to see how methodical and careful he really is which helps explain why hes never been published by a peer reviewed publication. Groth, seems to misunderstand the basic principle of toxicologythat the dose makes the poison. To him, the presence of any amount of methylmercurya naturally occurring substance in fish that results from ocean-floor volcanic activityis cause for alarm, and the levels contained in canned tuna are well below the FDAs recommended limit, which itself has a built-in safety factor of 1000%.

Benders qualifications are no better, as despite his ongoing, misguided crusade against seafood, has admitted during testimony at an FDA hearing, … I don’t have a science background.”

Despite what Bender and Groth claim, seafood and fish consumption are net health positives for all Americans, including pregnant women. The only problem with Americans seafood consumption is that they arent doing enough of it. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the nutrition law of the land, recommends Americans, including pregnant women, eat at least two seafood meals a week. Researchers at Harvard determined low seafood consumption is the second-biggest dietary contributor to preventable death in the U.S. The same study found some 84,000 cardiac-related deaths could be prevented each year with a diet rich in seafood.

Seafood consumption is important to prenatal development as well. A long-term study showed that children whose moms cut back on seafood during pregnancy had significantly lower IQs. Those children missed out on key nutrients from fish like Omega-3 fatty acidswhich every major health organization says are essential for healthy brain development.

Bender and Groths religious like zealotry in pushing out these alarmist claims of harm come at a high cost to public health, serving no purpose but to scare up dollars for their own cause. While these fear-mongers might be plugging their ears and shouting at the top of their lungs in an attempt to avoid the truth, they cant change the facts: seafood is good for you. Enjoy it without fear.