Several consumer protection organizations have filed a citizen petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), seeking a rulemaking “for labeling and point of sale advisories concerning mercury in seafood to minimize methylmercury exposure to women of childbearing age and children.”

According to the petition, some 200,000 children in the United States, between ages two and five, have blood mercury levels nearly 50 percent higher than base levels recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency. Noting that the percentages of women and children exceeding recommended mercury levels are higher in coastal regions and among African-Americans, Asians, the affluent, and those in the fishing industry, the petition claims that consumers “do not know the risks inherent in exposing themselves and their families to this potent neurotoxin.”

Jane Hightower, a physician who authored Diagnosis: Mercury—Money, Politics & Poison, signed the petition, which was also brought on behalf of Earthjustice, the Zero Mercury Working Group, and Center for Science in the Public Interest. They seek seafood labeling and point-of-sale advisories that would inform women of childbearing age and parents of young children about (i) “the presence of mercury in certain seafood species,” and (ii) “the recommended consumption limits associated with relative mercury content, including the importance of eating 12 oz. of lower-mercury seafood a week.” The petition includes proposed warning label alternatives and a chart showing which fish species have the lowest and highest mercury contents.