Are Mercury Advisories Effective? Inofrmation, Education, and Fish Consumption
Mercury exposure has emerged as one of the most prominent environmental health and food safety concerns. The primary danger is the consumption of contaminated fish by young children, nursing mothers, and pregnant women. To mitigate the risks, in January 2001 the FDA issued a national advisory urging at-risk consumers to limit fish consumption. Did the FDA advisory reduce mercury exposure to at-risk groups? We find that consumers most likely to be aware of and understand the advisory did significantly reduce fish consumption relative to a control group. Both education and newspaper readership are important determinants of consumption response among at-risk groups, suggesting that information acquisition and assimilation are key factors for risk avoidance. Some newspapers readers not specifically targeted by the advisory also responded. Disturbingly, we do not find a response to the mercury advisory among the relatively large group of at-risk households which met neither the education nor readership criteria.
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