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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Sorry, Charley

Air Date: Week of

(Courtesy of Dale Bengston)

Dale Bengston and his family from Madison, Wisconsin were so incensed over the high levels of mercury in tuna, they sent their uneaten cans to the White House as a protest. Host Steve Curwood talks to Bengston about his protest.


CURWOOD: Salon recently published a letter from Dale Bengston who lives in Madison, Wisconsin about what he did to cut the mercury levels in his family. And we have Mr. Bengston with us now on the line. Hello, sir.


CURWOOD: So, tell me about your mercury saga. How did you cut it out of your family’s life?

BENGSTON: Well, we looked at the numbers that the National Resources Defense Council had come up with, analyzing the EPA’s data, and found that we really couldn’t feed our young daughter tuna fish any more. So we cut it out of our diet completely, which is a shame. Both of my children really enjoyed tuna fish. And my wife got so mad about it she said ‘let’s send our cans of tuna to the president in protest.’ So we did.

CURWOOD: And what did the post office say when you had this addressed to the White House?

BENGSTON: Well, the window attendant asked us if there were any toxic or hazardous substances in our package. And I had to hold my tongue because I wanted to say, ‘not if you ask the EPA or the president,’ but I wanted to make sure my package got through so I kept my tongue held there.

CURWOOD: But if you ask the president he says he has a plan to take care of the mercury problem.

BENGSTON: Well, his plan lowers the amount of mercury coming out of coal power plants to a weaker standard than if he would have just left things the way they were. And it takes another, I believe, eight or ten years to get there.


BENGSTON: And I think considering this is a neuro-toxin that we should probably work a little faster to get it out of the things our kids eat.

CURWOOD: What did you want the White House to do with this? I gather you don’t think it would be good for them to give it away to poor children or something like that.

BENGSTON: Well, I don’t know, I guess they could take it and eat it themselves. If they think it’s okay, they’re welcome to eat it. My wife, Laura, and I thought that if the corridors of power were clogged with tuna fish then maybe some action might be taken. So we’re doing our part and we’re encouraging other people to do the same.

CURWOOD: Dale Bengston lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Thanks for taking this time with me today.

BENGSTON: Thank you.

CURWOOD: We called the White House to find out what they had done with the Bangston family’s tuna fish. Spokeswoman Dana Piriton said they could not find any record of the tuna arriving at the White House. She told us, quote, ‘no one’s seen the cans.’

To find out more about mercury levels in fish and how to get your own mercury levels tested, go to our Web site, living on earth dot org. That’s living on earth dot o-r-g.



Pocketguide to fish and their mercury content

EPA's guidelines for mercury in seafood


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