A federal health agency will allow three times as much mercury contamination as the standard used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, decided that based on the latest studies, people can consume as much as 0.3 micrograms of mercury per kilogram of their body weight without health risks. EPA currently allows 0.1 micrograms.
ATSDR said the change "reflects the latest studies" and "adds to the body of knowledge" already gathered about mercury contamination. The health impact of low levels of mercury contamination has been widely debated. Last year, Congress barred further regulation of mercury until the National Academy of Sciences completed a study of the health effects. The study is due out next year.
Environmentalists say the relaxed standard will send the wrong message to the public and to industry.