Jeremy Piven may or may not just be trying to get out of a contract using the most unique sick note ever deployed, but the possibility of overeating fish, and suffering from mercury poisoning as a result, is real.
Piven left the set of Speed-the-Plow in December, claiming to be suffering from the effects of eating too much sushi. The play's producers, who lost money when their star departed, doubt Piven's explanation that mercury caused him to feel sluggish and fatigued.
The Washington Post today declared the following "The Piven Principle": You can eat too much fish.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element, but it's a food supply contaminant because of industry. Mercury is spewed from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants (coal has trace amounts of mercury), cement kilns (which burn coal, and use limestone, both of which can contain mercury) and certain types of mining (gold mining uses mercury to process the rock). Mercury has been used to make a variety of manufactured goods, from compact fluorescent light bulbs to thermostats.
When mercury enters the air, it eventually rains down and is incorporated into aquatic food chains. Larger predatory fish like tuna, swordfish and shark, can accumulate potentially unhealthy doses because they spend a lifetime eating smaller fish and aquatic creatures. Women who are pregnant or nursing, and young children, are most at risk of mercury poisoning, because it can lead to permanent brain damage.
You can still eat fish if you are careful. The Environmental Defense Fund's Seafood Selector is the best one-stop source for information about eating only fish that are low in contaminants and harvested sustainably. It's been helping people abide by the "Piven Principle" since before Piven's sushi habits made news. The Seafood Selector is among The Daily Green's 10 Food Visionaries Nominated for a 2009 Heart of Green Award.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.