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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Nearly two-thirds of Americans questioned in a new national opinion poll mistakenly believe that more than 1,000 childhood cases of mercury poisoning, from eating fish, are identified by scientists every year in the United States. The actual number of scientifically documented fish-related mercury poisoning cases among U.S. children each year is zero.
Fully 61 percent of respondents believed -- in error -- that at least 1,000 "childhood cases of mercury poisoning from eating fish" are reported by U.S. scientists each year. The poll, which sampled the opinions of 1,011 Americans, was commissioned by the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) and conducted by Opinion Research Corporation.
"Americans are running scared from the fish counter, and there's no good reason for it," said David Martosko, CCF's Director of Research. "The health benefits from eating fish include a lower risk of heart disease and strokes, and they are very real. But any health risks from mercury in fish are outrageously exaggerated. That message clearly isn't getting through to most Americans. And government officials should remind Americans that fish is still the same brain food our mothers encouraged us to eat."
Activist groups including Oceana, the Environmental Working Group, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest have bombarded consumers with fish-related scare campaigns. However, the only scientifically documented cases of fish-related human mercury poisoning occurred in Japan during the 1950s and 1960s, following massive industrial dumping of mercury into fishing waters.
The survey of 1,011 adults nationwide was conducted by telephone between July 13 and July 16, 2006 by Opinion Research Corporation. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.
Question: How many childhood cases of mercury poisoning from eating fish do you think scientists identify in the United States every year? Would you say...
About 100,000 10%
About 50,000 12%
About 10,000 18%
About 1,000 21%
Net 1,000+ 61%
About 100 16%
Don't Know / Refused 15%
Net 1,000+ 61%