The Gelfond Fund for Mercury Research & Outreach

The Gelfond Fund for Mercury Research & Outreach claims to be “focused on providing information to the public and health professionals about how mercury gets into seafood and what the health effects can be from too much mercury.  We do not want to discourage people from eating seafood.” Yet the fund’s website is packed with so much misleading hyperbole that it seems designed solely to scare people away from eating fish.

The site, for example, warns: “… (A)nyone who consumes large amounts of seafood or regularly eats fish high in mercury can experience negative health effects. Some health effects that have been seen with high mercury fish consumers include numbness or tingling around the mouth or in the arms and legs, ataxia or trouble with physical coordination like walking, cognitive effects such as difficulty thinking clearly, hair loss, stomach upset, and fatigue.”


Anyone reading that would assume our nation’s hospitals are packed with patients who enjoy seafood. Yet no peer-reviewed medical journal has ever published evidence of a case of mercury poisoning caused by the normal consumption of commercial seafood in the U.S.


In fact, studies show the enormous, long-term benefits of a seafood-rich diet far outweigh unproven concerns about methylmercury from the normal consumption of commercial seafood. The Advisory Council of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is unequivocal in its findings: “…Consistent evidence shows that health benefits derived from the consumption of a variety of cooked seafood…outweigh the risks associated with methylmercury…even among women who may become or who are pregnant, nursing mothers, and children ages 12 and younger.”


The origin of the Gelfond Fund explains its distorted perspective on the safety of seafood. It was created with a $1 million donation from Richard Gelfond, the CEO of IMAX who claims he suffered from a case of mercury poisoning as the result of eating seafood daily. As pointed out here, that claim sounds awfully strange in a world where citizens of nations like Japan eat far more fish per capita than Americans and outlive us by years.


Yet you’d never know it from the Gelfond Fund’s website. It repeatedly exaggerates mercury concerns and recommends taking nutrition advice from other fearmongers like the Environmental Defense Fund, National Resources Defense Council, and The Mercury Policy Project.


In fact, the Fund ignores important peer-reviewed research that includes:


  • Researchers at Harvard determined low seafood consumption is the second-biggest dietary contributor to preventable death in the U.S. The study found some 84,000 cardiac-related deaths could be prevented each year with a diet rich in seafood.
  • A long-term study showed that children whose moms cut back on seafood during pregnancy had significantly lower IQs. Those children missed out on key nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids – which every major health organization says are essential for healthy brain development.
  • A study found a link between prenatal mercury exposure and improved intelligence at age 17 — likely because mercury in a pregnant woman’s blood signaled she was eating a lot of fish. The study, published in the journal NeuroToxicology, examined the people of the Seychelles Islands, who eat fish daily and have some of the world’s highest mercury levels — over 10 times that of samples in the United States.  Researchers studied the children on the islands and found no consistent pattern of harm from prenatal mercury exposure. In fact, they found evidence of improved intelligence as prenatal mercury exposure increased. Why? “Because mercury is a marker for fish consumption, which contains nutrients with long-lasting brain benefits,” the researchers said.

The science is clear: A seafood-rich diet is good for everyone. The real threat to Americans’ health? Anyone who says otherwise.