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Whale meat is toxic


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Who could ask for a better solution to the problem of Japanese whale killing than to have the consumers die from poisoning ...

It it wasn't from New Scientist I would think it was a joke!

Paris - Whalemeat is so laced with mercury that Japanese who eat just a mouthful of it run the risk of brain damage or poisoning their unborn children, New Scientist says.

University of Hokkaido researchers examined 26 liver samples taken from whales and dolphins.

The samples had average concentrations of 370 micrograms of mercury per gram of liver - 900 times the government's safety limit of 0.4 micrograms per gram. None of the samples was below the government limit.

Worse, two of the samples had more than 1 970 micrograms per gram, or 9 000 times the government limit.

At such concentrations, a 60-kilo (132-pound) adult eating just 0.15 grams (0.005 of an ounce) of liver would exceed the weekly mercury intake considered safe by the World Health Organisation (WHO), say the researchers, Tetsuya Endo, Koichi Haraguchi and Masakatsu Sakata.

"Acute intoxication could result from a single ingestion," they warn.

The trio call on the government to impose tighter regulations on whalemeat eating and strongly urge pregnant women not to risk inflicting birth defects on their unborn children.

Their findings are to be published shortly in a specialist publication, The Science of the Total Environment, the British weekly reports in next Saturday's issue.

Mercury contamination among whales and dolphins is well known. The toxic element gets stored up in fatty tissues after the mammals eat contaminated fish and squid.

But the big surprise has been the extremely high levels of contamination, the scientists say.

In the 1950s and early 60s, systematic mercury pollution of Japan's Minamata Bay by a chemical company caused hundreds of children to be born with nightmarish birth defects after their mothers ate contaminated seafood.

"Hirokatsu Akagi, a director of the National Institute for Minamata Disease, was very surprised," Endo told New Scientist. "He'd never seen levels above 20 micrograms per gram."

Japan has been campaigning hard to resume full-scale hunting for larger whale species, expanding a catch that is supposedly conducted for scientific research.

A meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) last month failed to resolve the issue.

The samples analysed by the Hokkaido University team came from small- toothed whales and dolphins, catches of which are not restricted by the IWC. - Sapa-AFP