Press Release  ·  December 22, 2004

In These Times Publishes Article Censored by Proctor & Gamble

“Although the feature is relevant, well-researched and well-written, it cannot be used for Childbirth Forum at this time based on a directive from the newsletter’s sponsor, Procter & Gamble… The information about mercury and fish must be written in a larger context of diet during pregnancy, and is too ‘controversial’ to feature as it is.”

With these words, Proctor & Gamble informed Sandra Steingraber that her article, “Mercury in Pregnancy: Eat Fish with Caution,” would not be published in Childbirth Forum, a newsletter read primarily by nurses who work in childbirth education. The newsletter is underwritten by Pampers, a Proctor & Gamble product.

In its cover story, In These Times publishes the censored article now titled, “How Mercury-Tainted Tuna Damages Fetal Brains,” with an original introduction, conclusion and updated information by Steingraber.

“During the four years I researched fetal toxicology at Cornell University,” Steingraber, a biologist, writes in the introduction, “I had become alarmed about the breach between what the scientific community knows about the effects of prenatal mercury (a lot) and what the general public knows (very little). Pregnant myself during some of this time, I experienced this disconnect directly.”

Information in the article includes:
• An explanation of why fish contain such high methylmercury levels;
• The reason fetal brains are so susceptible to methylmercury;
• How methylmercury affects the development of the fetal brain;
• The biggest known contributors to mercury in the environment;
• The current state of legislation to control mercury emissions; and
• Resources and recommendations of fish consumption during pregnancy.

Why did Proctor & Gamble keep important information about the risks of mercury consumption from the public? In her conclusion, Steingraber reports on information she received from the National Resources Defense Council regarding Procter & Gamble’s record of active opposition to mercury regulations.

“Certainly Pampers is a major advertiser in parenting and baby care magazines,” she states. “Could the cuddly diaper ads in their pages have anything to do with the public’s lack of knowledge about mercury-contaminated fish?”