Seafood is the healthier dietary option all the time, right? Wrong. Like other main sources of protein, seafood, mainly fish, can be tainted with toxic chemicals or heavy metals hazardous to one’s health.
That’s why the House of Representatives has passed on final reading a measure establishing a program informing the public about the hazards and adverse effects of mercury exposure through the consumption of fish and other seafood.
Rep. Eufranio Eriguel (2nd District, La Union), chairman of the House Committee on Health and co-author of the bill, said…[pq]…mercury is a bio-accumulative heavy metal that poses a significant risk to human health, wildlife, and the environment.[/pq]
“Through the development of health advisories and by requiring appropriate advisories to be posted, or made readily available, at all businesses that sell fresh, frozen, and canned fish and seafood where the potential for mercury exposure exists, the public shall be informed, and the risk of mercury exposure is lessened, if not prevented totally,” Eriguel said.
Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) and Maximo Rodriguez, Jr. (Party List, Abante Mindanao), authors of House Bill 1617, stressed the need to warn and educate the public and address the lack of awareness on the dangerous effects of mercury exposure.
“This lack of awareness potentially threatens tens of millions of Filipinos who may unknowingly ingest harmful amounts of mercury because they are not aware of exposure risks from consumption of freshwater fish and seafood,” Rodriguez said.
“Mercury discharges into the atmosphere and surface oceans have increased two to fivefold since the beginning of the industrialized period due to human activities,” Rodriguez said.
The World Health Organization has pointed to accumulating substantial evidence that exposure to methyl-mercury is widespread in the general public and occurring at higher than health-based levels of concern.
“Fish and seafood caught or sold in the Philippines are contaminated with methyl-mercury, a toxic element that may cause neurological damage and other health-related problems as a result of fish or seafood consumption,” Rodriguez said.
“Evidence is continuing to emerge linking increased risk of coronary heart disease to mercury exposure, as presented in at least two peer- reviewed studies,” he added.
Under the measure, the Secretary of Health is to be authorized to issue a comprehensive health advisory to the general public about the presence of methyl mercury in fish and other seafood and its potential dangers to health, particularly to the high-risk group such as pregnant women and children.[pq]The Department of Health would be directed to provide medical information on the signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention of mercury-related illnesses…[/pq]
…and reliable information on the mercury level in fish and other seafood.
The measure obligates the market and business establishments where fish and other seafood are sold for human consumption to post health advisories.
The DoH and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are to distribute a warning consumer’s guide or manual on the potential dangers of exposure to mercury.
The DoH would also be mandated to ensure that seafood methyl-mercury sampling and monitoring programs are conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and assist in the documentation of mercury levels in various fish species.
The measure also seeks to penalize the head or official of any children’s hospital and owner of the business establishment with a fine of P10,000 and P8,000, respectively, for failure to post the consumer advisory on the hazards of mercury.