Mercury advisories and household health trade-offs

Jay P Shimshack, Michael Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The conventional economic wisdom is that improving consumer information will enhance welfare. Yet, some scientists speculate that the Food and Drug Administration s prominent mercury in fish advisory may have harmed public health. Lower mercury intakes reduce neurological toxicity risks. However, since seafood is the predominant dietary source of healthful omega-3 fatty acids, reduced fish consumption may have significant offsetting health impacts. We explore this risk trade-off using a rich panel of household level seafood consumption data. To control for confounding factors, we use a non-parametric changes-in-changes approach. We find strong evidence that while the advisory reduced mercury loadings, it did so at the expense of substantial reductions in healthful omega-3s. We find this response pattern even for consumers with low fish consumption. Using advisory response patterns as inputs into a prominent risk assessment model, the central estimate is that net benefits from the advisory were negative.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)674 - 685
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Health Economics
Volume29
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

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