Editor, Daily Nexus,

If, after the recent mad cow scare, you thought eating fish was a safer dinner option, think again.

While the health effects associated with mad cow disease are severe, the scope of the problems remains small. By contrast, mercury, the toxin that causes severe neurological and developmental delays – especially in children and fetuses – is found in many fish pulled from U.S. waters.

In 42 states, health officials have issued advisories for women and young children to avoid or limit their consumption of certain types of fish because of mercury contamination. Despite these warnings, one in 12 women in this country has levels of mercury that could put her children at an increased risk of birth defects and brain damage,

Unfortunately, in December, the Bush administration weakened protections for mercury by allowing power plants, the largest industrial source of mercury, to emit over six times more mercury over the next decade than the Clean Air Act allows. If power plants were required to install the maximum available pollution controls, as required by the Clean Air Act, for toxic chemicals like mercury, then power plants’ mercury emissions would be reduced by 90 percent.

Mercury is highly toxic and its contamination already widespread. It should not take a highly publicized scare to yield meaningful action. President Bush should protect the public health and enforce the strong mercury standards in the Clean Air Act.