No one likes being duped. But that’s how it feels to read the posts on the blog, Mom’s Clean Air Force. The site appears to be a place where mothers share their experiences more or less spontaneously. One such item caught our attention today because its headline was so alarming, “My Toddler’s Mercury Poisoning From Tuna.”
The article, by novelist Ayelet Waldman, recounts her fear that her daughter’s development had been impacted by mercury. It’s a harrowing story. But it’s not until the final paragraph does Waldman reveal the real point of her essay. “The most important thing we as mothers can do to protect our children,” Waldman writes, “is to demand action from our government.”
In fact, Mom’s Clean Air Force is not a blog with objective information for mothers. It is a website that exists to oppose something called the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act which would require the EPA to conduct an analysis of the costs and benefits of any new rules.
What does this have to do with tuna? Absolutely nothing except that new mothers are among the most receptive audiences for any new information about children. Activists know that if they can wrap their pet causes around the concerns of new mothers they’ll have a cadre of potential supporters willing to sign petitions and make phone calls on their behalf.
Of course, that’s the whole purpose of the website. It’s an environmental activist organization masquerading as an advice column for moms.
There’s no doubt we’re all for clean air and a healthy environment but targeting tuna this way is more than misguided, it’s deceptive. The minuscule levels of mercury found in tuna are naturally occurring. Letters to the EPA won’t change them.
Independent Harvard researcher, Dr. Eric Rimm, told The New York Times in 2004: "The message of fish being good has been lost, and people are learning more about the hypothetical scare of a contaminant than they are of the well-documented benefits."
None of this information matters to activists willing to use any means to achieve their specific end. And that should be a concern for all of us.