Contemporary Issues Analysis

Subject: Sciences
Pages: 8
Words: 1935
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: College

Jalonick, M. & Neergaard, L 2014, ‘FDA issues new advice on mercury levels in seafood’, Star – Phoenix, 04 June, p. N27.

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The main idea that is being promoted throughout this article, is that the FDA’s (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration) public stance, in regards to the dangers of consuming seafood (due to its recently discovered tendency to accumulate mercury), can hardly be considered well thought-through. One of the reasons for this is that, despite having encouraged people to exercise caution, while eating fish, the agency representatives now seem to be saying that there is nothing wrong with this practice, in the first place, since the amount of mercury in most fishes is rather negligible. The authors subtly imply that this may be the result of the seafood industry’s involvement in the issue: “The seafood industry says the government shouldn’t look at mercury by itself, but at the benefits of seafood” (Jalonick & Neergaard, 2014, p. N27). They conclude their article by suggesting that the issue at stake is likely to continue being surrounded by much of a public controversy in the future.

FDA and EPA update recommendations for eating fish amidst mercury fears. (2014). Daily News. Web.

This small article contains a number of recommendations, in regards to what types of fish can be considered as such that accumulate the largest amounts of mercury. According to the anonymous author, it is namely swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish, which people should strive to avoid eating – especially if it happened to come from the Gulf of Mexico. The article also mentions the types of seafood that are being currently deemed the most dietary-safe, in this respect, such as salmon, shrimp and pollock. It is not only that, according to the article, there can be no harm in consuming fish, such as salmon, but also that people should try eating at least 12 ounces of it each week, as one of the most important health-ensuring dietary supplements.

Hawthorne, M. 2014, ‘Officials tout seafood, but mercury levels troubling’, The Baltimore Sun, p. A8.

In the similar manner with the previously reviewed one, the article by Hawthorne advocates the idea that there is no need to grow panicky, because seafood has been found to contain mercury. To prove the validity of this suggestion, the article refers to the fact that not long ago, President Obama himself encouraged women and children to consume more fish-meant, as such that is being particularly rich in health-facilitating nutrients. To reduce the risk of mercury-poisoning, people should choose in favor of specifically those types of seafood, which are known to contain the least amounts of the chemical element in question: “Examples of low-mercury species include salmon, shrimp, pollock, tilapia, catfish and cod” (Hawthorne, 2014, p. A8). Hawthorne concludes his article by once again stressing out the importance of educating people on what account for the specifics of how seafood accumulates mercury.

Rochman, B. 2014, ‘Health & Wellness: FDA Softens Stance on Fish Limits’, Wall Street Journal, p. D3.

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In her article, Rochman discusses the already mentioned inconsistency between the 2004 FDA-set limit on eating fish (due to mercury) in 2004, and the agency’s newly emerged insistence that consuming fish may not be quite as harmful, as the FDA officials used believe in the past. According to the author, citizens commonly perceive this as the proof of the agency’s incompetence – especially given the fact that the FDA refrains from explaining what prompted it to adopt its currency stand on the issue in question: “They (the FDA) should be giving more reasons about why they changed their minds” (Rochman, 2014, p. D3). Nevertheless, the author ends her article on a rather positive note.

There can be no doubt that the subject matter (in relation to the effects of people’s exposure to fish with mercury), discussed in the reviewed news-reports, directly relates to the primary and community healthcare. The reason for this is apparent – given the mercury’s proven ability to have a strongly negative effect on people’s health, the practice of consuming ‘mercury-rich’ seafood cannot result in anything else but in causing physical harm to the affiliated individuals and consequently – in reducing the overall rate of healthiness in a specific population.

The main qualitative feature about how the reviewed articles represent the issue in question, is that all four of them appear to be rather critical of the FDA’s inability to explain its spatial ‘fluctuations’ on what should be considered the appropriate amounts of mercury in fish. After all, as these articles illustrate, even today there is still some uncertainty, as to what kind of an effect on people’s eating habits should have their newly acquired awareness of the fact that the chemical element of mercury is present in fish.

The above-reviews provide us with two insights, into specifics of how the authors went about shaping up public opinions on the discussed issue. These insights can be formulated as follows: a) Each of the mentioned authors made a deliberate point in referring to the FDA, as the organization that is not 100% functionally efficient; b) The authors of the reviewed media-reports also strived to educate readers, as to what types of seafood contain the largest amounts of mercury.

The analysis of the discursively relevant academic articles/studies, concerned with the issue of seafood containing some mercury, made it possible for us to identify the issue’s following qualitative aspects:

The formerly legitimate hypothesis that there is a positive correlation between the amount of industrially emitted atmospheric mercury, on one hand, and the amount of mercury found in fish, on the other, does not appear to stand much of a ground. As Burger, Stern & Gochfeld (2005) pointed out, “There are no significant differences in mercury levels as a function of type of store or economic neighborhood” (p. 266). This, of course, implies that it may not be necessary justified to blame humanity for the discussed phenomena.

The amount of mercury, contained in seafood, appears to be more reflective of the seafood’s actual type, rather than of what has been deemed the level of the affiliated area’s environmental pollution (Southworth, Peterson & Bogle, 2004). In light of this specific finding, the suggestion that just about all the fishes are equally susceptible to accumulating mercury in their bodies, cannot be referred to as anything but largely speculative.

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Tuna appears to contribute the most towards the annual intake of mercury by Americans (Sunderland, 2007). This has to do with the fact that tuna remains one of the most popular types of fish in the U.S., and the fact that this particular fish has a tendency to accumulate more mercury in its body, as compared to what it happened to be the case with other fishes.

Contrary to what many healthcare professionals believe, there is simply no any conclusive evidence in existence, as to the validity of the assumption that, as time goes on, the amount of mercury in fish continues to increase (Chalmers et al., 2011). This once again suggests that people should not be rushing to conclude that the industrially produced emissions of Hg (mercury) into the air are the main reason why seafood appears to be contaminated by it, in the first place.

As it can be seen above, the discursively relevant insights into the concerned subject matter imply that it may very well be the case that there are simply no any objective preconditions for the issue of people being infused with mercury from fish to be considered utterly acute. After all, one of the main ideas that are being promoted throughout the entirety of all four mentioned scholarly articles, is that the seafood’s ‘richness’ in mercury is best discussed in phenomenological rather than in positivist terms. The dates of these articles’ publication (ranging from 2004 to 2011) do not seem to have had much of an effect on the authors’ discursive stance on the issue.

I personally find the mentioned stance utterly enlightening, especially given the fact that it does correlate with my conviction that the citizens’ current concern with the issue of seafood containing barely traceable amounts of mercury, is nothing but yet another media-induced ‘public scare’. As such, it is more capable of causing damage to their psychological well-being as a ‘thing in itself’, as compared to what would have been the actual damage of one’s willingness to continue consuming fish to his or her physical health. The reason for this is that, being emotionally charged; this scare produces a negative ‘placebo’ effect on those who grow preoccupied with trying to eat as little fish, as possible, due to the fear of ‘mercury-poisoning’.

It is needless to mention, of course, that the issue in question does hold significance to the profession of nursing, as the integral part of how the country’s healthcare system actually functions. After all, it represents one of the primary duties of just about any healthcare professional to apply an effort into increasing people’s awareness, as to what are being currently deemed the most health-hazardous types of food. Because, as it was shown earlier, the issue of mercury in fish is also capable of undermining one’s mental well-being, this establishes the additional prerequisites for it to be professionally relevant to nurses.

When compared with how the concerned issue is being discussed in the scholarly articles, its discussion by the mentioned media-sources (newspapers) appears to be lagging in depth. That is, the authors of these newspaper-articles tend to provide readers with a rather simplistic outlook on what may account for the social/healthcare implications of many types of seafood having been found to contain mercury. Another major difference, in this respect, is that, unlike what it happened to be the case with the mentioned academic articles; the reviewed journalistic pieces do not contain many clues, as to what causes fish to accumulate mercury, in the first place.

Nevertheless, the reviewed newspaper-articles and the referenced scholarly ones are similar, in respect of enlightening readers as to the fact that the actual danger of consuming ‘mercury-fish’ may in fact be exaggerated. The academic articles, do it within the context of how their authors argue that there is no any direct relationship between the discovered amounts of mercury in fish and the fact that, for the duration of the last few decades (when this discovery took place), the emissions of Hg into the planet’s atmosphere did increase. In this respect, the authors of the reviewed newspaper-articles adopted a somewhat different approach – while recognizing that it is indeed potentially dangerous to consume fish with the heightened amounts of the concerned chemical element, they nevertheless strived to enlighten readers that there are still many speculative aspects about the FDA’s current stance on the issue. Based upon what has been said earlier, we can identify the following healthcare-related implications of the issue at stake:

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When it comes to designing a new policy, in regards to the newly emerged healthcare-related issues, governmental officials should avoid being influenced by the promoters of a particular pharmaceutical agenda.

Healthcare professionals should consider the possibility that their intuitive assumptions, as to what causes the contamination of food, do not always represent an undisputed truth-value.

The current functioning of the FDA cannot be deemed very effective, because this agency has failed at providing citizens with the scientifically tested sets of recommendations, as to what may account for the most appropriate fish-consuming approaches, on their part. In its turn, this implies that at least some principles, upon which the functioning of the country’s healthcare-system continues to be based, must be revised.

References

Burger, J., Stern, A. & Gochfeld, M. (2005). Mercury in commercial fish: optimizing individual choices to reduce risk. Environmental Health Perspectives, 113 (3), 266-271.

Chalmers, A., Argue, D., Gay, D., B., & Schmitt, C. (2011). Mercury trends in fish from rivers and lakes in the United States, 1969-2005. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 175. (1-4), 175-191.

Dennis, B. 2014, ‘Young women and children urged to eat low-mercury fish’, The Washington Post, 2014, p. A3.

Southworth, G., Peterson, M. & Bogle, M. (2004). Bioaccumulation factors for mercury in stream fish. Environmental Practice, 6 (2), 135-143.

Sunderland, E. (2007). Mercury exposure from domestic and imported estuarine and marine fish in the U.S. seafood market. Environmental Health Perspectives, 115 (2), 235-242.