1. Read a news story by a San Francisco CBS 5 reporter Barbara Roger.
For someone who watches her diet as much as Wendy Moro, the symptoms didn't add up.
“Severe fatigue and vertigo, very weak. I was at one point able to leg press two hundred pounds, (but) I could barely walk down the block,” says Wendy Moro.
Why, she wondered, would someone who eats so healthily feel so unhealthy? She says doctor after doctor misdiagnosed her condition. Then, Wendy and her current doctor begin to suspect the answer was on her plate.
"A few times a week I was having fish, whether it was once or three times or four times," says Wendy.
"What kind of fish? Swordfish, ahi, tuna and sea bass, the highest mercury-content fish sold in the commercial market," says Dr. Jane Hightower.
Mercury enters the ocean with commercial pollution. It works its way up the food chain, and apparently into to some of the most popular fish on the market. Wendy's doctor, Dr. Jane Hightower, was so suspicious that she began testing dozens of her Bay Area patients. All consumed substantial amounts of fish, and an overwhelming majority tested high for mercury in their systems.
"I was seeing hair loss, fatigue, muscle ache, headache, feeling just an ill feeling." Hightower said.
The symptoms began to clear up when Hightower cut the amount of fish in their diets.
"It was so obvious that this was the problem," she said. "I wanted to rent a tent and a tambourine." (A tambourine is a small one-sided drum with metal disks around its rim).
Her published findings drew national attention. But despite her study, there is still fierce debate over how much fish is safe to eat, and how much mercury consumers are actually ingesting. So we decided to do our own test.
CBS 5 joined with Jane Kay, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. We drove to more than half a dozen high-end fish markets around the Bay Area, and purchased tuna, Alaskan halibut, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass. But instead of the dinner table, our samples wound up packed in ice, and on their way to a testing lab in Washington State.
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the safe level of mercury intake for a 120-pound woman like Wendy is a little over 38 micrograms per week. (A microgram is one-millionth of a gram. It is a measurement of weight. One ounce of weight equals more than 28 million micrograms.) Our results? Only halibut was under that limit. On average, a single serving of tuna purchased here in the Bay Area contained more mercury than the EPA recommends a woman of Wendy's size eat for an entire week. Sea bass had nearly twice that level, and swordfish nearly six times the EPA's safe mercury intake for a week, in a single serving.
"When you realized that the problem was on your plate, what did you say?"
"If I had known, I could have prevented so much heartache and illness in my life," said Wendy.
While there is little scientific data on how the body reacts to high levels of mercury, it has been linked to symptoms ranging from muscle pain to hair loss, birth defects, and muscle fatigue. And, as in our testing, the evidence is mounting that the larger the fish, the more the exposure.
"I'm very frustrated," Wendy said. "I feel the government, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), had this knowledge. This information should have been shared with the public."
"It is a schizophrenic way of thinking to think that we can have a substance that is the second-most toxic element next to plutonium, mercury. We tell people it is so toxic you can't do controlled trials on human subjects with it – yet it's ok to eat it, it won't bother you? What's wrong here? Is anybody listening?" Hightower said.
Note: The Environmental Protection Agency website explains how mercury gets into the fish we eat:
“Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and can also be released into the air through industrial pollution. Mercury falls from the air and can accumulate in streams and oceans and is turned into methylmercury in the water. It is this type of mercury that can be harmful to your unborn baby and young child. Fish absorb the methylmercury as they feed in these waters and so it builds up in them. It builds up more in some types of fish and shellfish than others, depending on what the fish eat, which is why the levels vary.”
2. Choose the correct answer.
1. What amount of mercury is the safe level of weekly intake for a 120-pound woman like Wendy Moro?
a. 38 micrograms per week.
b. 38 grams per week.
c. 3.8 ounces per week.
d. 3 pounds per week.
2. How is Wendy feeling now?
a. Very happy.
b. Very frustrated.
c. Very symptomatic.
d. Very misdiagnosed.
3. What happened when Dr. Hightower cut the amount of fish in the diets of her patients?
a. They started eating too many desserts.
b. Their food bills went up.
c. Their food bills went down.
d. Their symptoms began to clear up.
4. Where did the newspaper and television reporters get the fish they tested for mercury?
a. In the state of Washington.
b. On the dinner tables of Dr. Hightower’s patients.
c. In fish markets around the San Francisco Bay Area.
d. From the local restaurants.
5. What did Dr. Hightower do with the information she discovered?
a. She published the results of her study.
b. She hired a lawyer.
c. She went to the police with information.
d. She stopped eating fish.
6. According to the article, different fish have differing amount of mercury in their bodies. Given the examples in the story, which fish would be safest for Wendy to eat?
b. Sea bass.
7. When Dr. Hightower says she “…wanted to rent a tent and a tambourine” what does she mean?
a. Dr. Hightower would like to be a circus performer or a musician.
b. Dr. Hightower wants to call attention to the connection between the symptoms in her patients and the amount of fish they ate.
c. Dr. Hightower is tired of being a physician.
d. Dr. Hightower thinks this is “schizophrenic”.
8. When the article says there is still a “…fierce debate over how much fish is safe to eat…”, what does that mean?
a. Everyone agrees with Dr. Hightower about her results.
b. No one thinks that any fish is safe to eat.
c. People have different ideas of what is the safe amount of fish for people to eat.
d. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doesn’t care about this problem.
9. What does it mean to say, “…the larger the fish, the more the exposure.”?
a. Larger fish are more expensive.
b. Larger fish get sunburns because of exposure to the sun.
c. Larger fish are more popular as food, so they have more exposure to people.
d. Larger fish have higher mercury contents, so people get greater exposure to mercury if they eat the larger fish.
A NAME TO BEAR
1. Read the story by Leland Waldrip. Six sentences have been removed from the text.
Three thousand head of bawling Hereford cattle were being collected from little grassy patches and wooded breaks up in Togwotee Pass country. The cool mountain air was relatively free from the swarms of biting flies and gnats that would have kept them miserable at the lower elevations and the high meadows had made the red and white cattle sleek and fat during the spring and summer. 1. ______________________.
Fall was coming to the northern Wyoming mountains at the southern edge of the Absaroka range. It was time to push the animals back into the low country for the shelter of the valleys and the grass that had grown there during the long summer days. Eighteen hands from the Hayrake Ranch out from Dubois had moved into the high country with a chuck wagon and a forty-horse remuda for the three-day roundup.
A leather-faced Jamie Alden sat hipshod in his saddle at the edge of one of the high meadows; hand rolled cigarette pinched between his thumb and forefinger.
2. _________________________________. He had been "brush bustin'" steadily since he had mounted the big rawboned dun at first light.
The large, muscular man patted the sweating horse on the neck, soothing the fidgeting animal, "Just rest a minute. We'll catch up to 'em." He would work this horse until noon, then pull a sleek bay gelding out of the remuda for the afternoon.
The herd dogs had just routed a large old cow and two calves from a gully at the edge of the meadow. After a few futile lunges and bawls at the yipping dogs, the old cow remembered her lessons from years gone by. She conceded the dodging contest to the persistence of the two black and white shepherds, and led her bleating twins in a bounding retreat down the draw to join the other upset cows and calves bawling on a grassy bench fifty yards down the slope.
As the lowing, yipping and bleating receded from the meadow, Jamie thought he heard a strange noise in a draw over a couple of small ridges. 3. _________________. It sounded like a calf bleating, but he had seen two of the other cowboys working that area just as he had come into the meadow.
"Well, I reckon we better check. Those boys musta missed somethin'." He pinched the fire off the spent cigarette and pulled the paper from the remaining butt, scattering little shreds of black and brown tobacco on the ground at the horse's hoofs. The dun responded to the neckreining and headed in the direction indicated by the cowboy, scrambling up the steep little scree and greasewood brush slope of the second ridge. At the top Jamie scanned from one side to the other, looking over the little brushy valley for any signs of Hereford. 4. ______________________________________________.
"Well, we better get on back, ol' buddy. Guess it musta been my 'magination." He started to neckrein the horse back toward the drive activity when something caught his eye in the lower part of the draw. To a seasoned cowboy the bright red stain on the leaves was something that must be checked out. It looked like blood.
Bringing his horse down the slope several yards closer confirmed his suspicions. 5. ________________________________________________. Keeping a tight hold on the reins, he walked slowly to the side of the draw where the commotion had occurred.
There was blood on the ground and on one of the scrubby greasewood bushes nearby. It had obviously been spilled within the last half hour or so. It was still bright red all the way across the little pools and splashes. None of it had started to turn dark at the edges. A lot of scuffed area in the leaves and rocks told of a struggle here this morning.
"Cougar kill a calf here?" He spoke the question to himself, not unusual for someone used to working so much alone. He also talked to his horse often.
"I reckon I didn' hear this calf. It happened before I got up this high. Mmmm. They usually just choke 'em, don't bleed 'em right away." The unmistakable partial prints where the claws of the bear had scuffed the leaves and trash away to hard ground in the attack were obvious.
"Bear would be more likely to choke 'im, too. 6. __________________________. Either way, wouldn't be no blood like this. Unless this blood come from a real young calf. That's it. Musta been tender enough that its throat tore when th' bear grabbed him. Hmmm, mebbeso that ol' momma cow ... naw, this track was made by one o' them big bulls.
"I reckon this ol' bull made it hot for th' bear, an th' calf's throat come loose from th' wrench o' th' fightin. Anyway th' bear got th' calf. Yeah, there's some more blood leadin off up th' draw. An' judgin' by th' size o' that track there, it must be a big un."
He studied the marks on the disturbed ground a few minutes. "We don't get many blacks that big an' I ain't seen a griz in these parts for a while. I think we got one now, though. 'Em boys at th' chuck's gonna be mighty innerested in these doins."
The cowboy looked past the head of the draw. There were numerous rock lined, scree-filled gullies coming off the upper part of the mountain. "Reckon he's prob'ly up there somewheres fillin' his gut about now."
2. Choose from the sentences A – G the one which fits each gap (1 – 6). Remember, there is one extra sentence you do not need to use.
A. Or break his neck.
B. The dun looked at him nervously as he started to gallop.
C. It may have been his saddle creaking, but with the noise in the background, he wasn't sure.