Mercury Toxicity or Egotism?


Steven Hedlund

Published on
December 21, 2008

 Upon learning that actor Jeremy Piven left the Broadway show “Speed-the-Plow” last week due to mercury toxicity, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Piven’s physician, Dr. Carlon Colker, medical director of Peak Wellness in Greenwich, Conn., said the “Entourage” star’s mercury levels were off the charts because he ate sushi twice a day for years. “He experienced dizziness and had trouble with his lines,” Colker told the New York Post.

Once I stopped laughing, I cringed — I realized the media-savvy, anti-seafood lot would take this story and run with it, and it did.

In a Dec. 18 press release, Mercury Policy Project said Piven’s voracious appetite for sushi underlines the “prevalence and magnitude” of the health risks associated with eating certain types of seafood regularly.

“Unfortunately, Piven’s case is not that unusual,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. The Washington, D.C., consumer advocacy group highlighted its February 2008 report that claimed one-third of the sushi tuna it had tested exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s limit of 1 part per million of methylmercury. Also referenced in the press release is Dr. Jane Hightower’s new book, “Diagnosis Mercury: Money, Politics and Poison.”

Sunlight Saunas used Piven’s mysterious bout of mercury toxicity to promote its infrared saunas, which are designed to detoxify the body. Aaron Zack, CEO of the Los Angeles company, said, “If the average sushi lover like Jeremy Piven had … used an infrared sauna at the gym or at home on a regular basis, he could have avoided getting sick.”

In a Dec. 20 press release, Sunlight Saunas also claimed that “most cases of [mercury] toxicity can be traced to fish consumption” and failed to specify that the joint FDA-Environmental Protection Agency mercury advisory applies only to pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children.

It appears Piven isn’t really sick after all; he just has a case of egotism. The Post reported Friday that the party-boy actor was “bored out of his mind” and couldn’t wait to get out of his commitment to the play.

Regardless, retailers and restaurateurs better be equipped to field the rash of mercury-in-seafood inquiries that’s sure to follow the news of Piven’s “illness,” as ridiculous as they may be. This may not be the last time a Hollywood-type uses mercury toxicity as an excuse to get out of acting.

Best regards,
Steven Hedlund
Associate Editor
SeaFood Business

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