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Report plays down mercury risk

A report released today by Congress concludes that fears of mercury poisoning from seafood are overblown. The findings come just 12 days after several prominent restaurant chains paid $265,000 to the State of California to settle a suit over mercury disclosure. The Congressional study, "Mercury in Perspective: Fact and Fiction About the Debate Over Mercury" was released by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV). It concludes that consumers, even if pregnant, can safely eat fish.

The amount of mercury in the bloodstream of Americans is "far removed from any level of concern," the report states, adding: "Scaring people away from consuming fish is creating a public health crisis in its own right."

The restaurants had settled with California following a 2003 lawsuit alleging their failure to post warnings for patrons about mercury in fish.

"People have a right to know when they are being exposed to substances that can cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm, and businesses have a legal duty to provide that notice," said California Attorney General Bill Lockyer. "This settlement achieves these significant public health objectives."

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