Mercury expert to speak on human health impacts, May 2 in State Capitol

Jane Hightower, MD, author of the exposé Diagnosis: Mercury, will be the keynote speaker at an event highlighting the ongoing human health impacts of mercury in California’s environment.

Dr. Hightower, a national expert on mercury, will speak about her research into the health impacts of consuming mercury-contaminated fish, with a special focus on the irreversible neurological impacts of this exposure to children during pregnancy and childhood.

The event “Mercury and Human Health:  An informational summit on the impacts of mercury exposure through fish consumption” will be held in the California State Capitol hearing room 2040 on May 2, 2014 from 1:00 – 3:00 pm.  It will feature a presentation by Dr. Hightower, other guest speakers, and a question session.

The event is hosted by nonprofit The Sierra Fund, with co-sponsors Senator Fran Pavley, Assemblymember Brian Dahle, Physicians for Social Responsibility/Sacramento, Sierra Health Foundation, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, California Indian Environmental Alliance and California State University, Chico.

“The state recognizes mercury as a serious environmental toxin,” says Senator Pavley.  “This forum brings expert information about this urgent public health problem into the Capitol to make this information accessible to the public, policy makers and health professionals.”

The Sierra Fund has been working since 2006 to raise awareness about mercury in locally caught fish, which originates primarily with historic gold mining activities.  State-issued fish consumption advisories due to mercury are in effect for all lakes and reservoirs in California, while surveys of anglers have confirmed that in spite of the advisories, some people are eating fish that expose them to dangerous levels of the toxic metal.

“We have learned that most people do not have clear information about mercury in fish, and do not understand that making good choices about the kind of fish they eat will help them avoid dangerous exposures,” says Elizabeth Martin, CEO of The Sierra Fund.  “For the last year, we have been conducting outreach to doctors, public health officials and residents in rural Sierra communities, and are now pleased to bring one of the stars of this issue to the State Capitol.”

“We are very excited to co-host Dr. Hightower for this event, a first of its kind in the State Capitol,” says Dr. Harry Wang, President of Physicians for Social Responsibility/Sacramento.  “As a child psychiatrist, I am concerned about the increasing numbers of children diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and ADHD.  Mercury is a known neurotoxin and early exposures are associated with these conditions.”

Dr. Jane Hightower is a Board Certified specialist in internal medicine. She is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the Bay Area, including California Pacific Medical Center and St. Mary’s Medical Center. She has conducted medical board certified workshops for medical professionals as well as publishing results of her original research on public exposure to mercury through consuming fish.