Haley’s work studying the effectiveness of Maine CDC’s (Center for Disease Control & Prevention) fish consumption advisory for at-risk women is forthcoming as a research article in the journal Environmental Research
Can fish consumption advisories do better? Providing benefit and risk information to increase knowledge. Haley Engelberth,Mario Teisl, Eric Frohmberg, Karyn Butts Kathleen P. Bell, Sue Stableford and Andrew E. Smith
Humans exposed to methylmercury (MeHg) can suffer from adverse health impacts, e.g., serious neurological damage; however, fish is also a good source of omega-3 fish oils which promotes infants’ neurological development. Because eating fish is the primary mechanism of MeHg exposure, federal and state agencies issue fish consumption advisories to inform the public about the risks of eating contaminated fish. An advisory’s purpose is to provide information to consumers to increase their knowledge of specific product attributes; however, the difficulty in communicating both the risks and benefits of eating fish leads readers of fish advisories to over-restrict their fish consumption. Because the effectiveness of fish consumption advisories are not often evaluated by states, we help fill this gap by evaluating the effectiveness of Maine’s fish consumption advisory in terms of improving knowledge.
The results suggest the advisory successfully increased women’s knowledge of both the benefits and risks of consuming fish while pregnant. The advisory also increased their ability to differentiate fish by their MeHg content, knowledge of both low and high-MeHg fish and knowledge of detailed attributes of seemingly substitutable goods, such as white tuna, light tuna and pre-packaged salmon. People who did not read the advisory lack the knowledge of how to identify fish that provide: health benefits like Omega-3 fatty acids, or health risks like MeHg; reading the advisory reduces this lack of knowledge. Readers increased ability to make specific substitutions to minimize risk while maintaining the benefits of fish eating suggests the advisory has the potential of reducing MeHg-related health risks while avoiding the drop in fish consumption show in other studies.