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Environmental Factor, October 2012

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Dartmouth SRP mercury movie premiers on the big screen

By Sara Mishamandani

Celia Chen, Ph.D.

Celia Chen, Ph.D., introduced the video at Red River Theatres in Concord. Chen is featured in the film for her work on the fate of mercury in aquatic food webs. (Photo courtesy of Jared Rardin)

Reaching out to inform consumers about mercury in seafood, the NIEHS-funded Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program (SRP) and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth screened a short film in Boston and at two New Hampshire locations in September. The video “Mercury: From Source to Seafood,” created by the Dartmouth SRP, describes the health effects of mercury in seafood and simplifies the complexities surrounding seafood consumption. 

“This mercury film is the second in a short series of videos we felt would be an excellent way to put our science to use to help people with everyday issues that affect their health,” says Bruce Stanton, Ph.D., director of the toxic metals program and a professor at Geisel. “Consumers need to know why they should still eat fish, understand why mercury is in our seafood, and learn what we can do to prevent mercury from entering our environment. This movie tells the story in a compelling, but brief, format.”

Mercury — from source to host

The 10-minute video follows the journey of mercury from coal-fired power plants to the seafood we eat. It discusses which species of fish contain the least and most mercury, and explains the possible adverse health effects of consuming high-mercury fish, particularly for pregnant women and young children. The film also describes the health benefits of eating low-mercury fish and the importance of reducing the amount of mercury that enters the environment.

The film premiered on the big screen Sept. 5 at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. The screening was followed by a panel discussion, to answer questions and further discuss the topic. The panel included Celia Chen, Ph.D., SRP research translation core leader and research professor in Dartmouth's department of biological sciences, and Duane Compton, Ph.D., senior associate dean of research at the Geisel School and a longtime biochemistry researcher.

The film was also screened at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and at the Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H., with panel discussions following the screening at both locations.

"I have been studying mercury in the environment for many years, and I am particularly pleased that this movie takes the confusion and mystery out of whether people should eat seafood," said Chen. "While it is important to have the health benefits of eating fish, everyone needs to know which fish are safe to eat."

The mercury film is the second in a series of videos created by the Dartmouth SRP to translate its relevant toxic metal research to the public. In 2010, the Dartmouth SRP produced the first video in the series, “In Small Doses: Arsenic.” The film explained the risk associated with exposure to arsenic in private wells and the need to test for harmful levels of arsenic in well water.

Chen also publicized the video, and explained issues surrounding seafood consumption and mercury on two radio shows in New Hampshire in mid-September. She was featured on New Hampshire Public Radio and on the Arnie Arnesen Radio Show on WNHN radio in Concord.

(Sara Mishamandani is a research and communication specialist for MDB, Inc., a contractor for the NIEHS Superfund Research Program, Worker Education and Training Program, and Division of Extramural Research and Training.)

Michael Paul, J.D.

Michael Paul, J.D., the Dartmouth SRP community engagement coordinator, spoke with viewers after the screening. (Photo courtesy of Jared Rardin)

Community members receive information on mercury in seafood before the video screening and panel discussion.

Community members received information on mercury in seafood before the video screening and panel discussion. (Photo courtesy of Jared Rardin)

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