Professor Bruce McDuffie: Discovered Mercury in Seafood

A Plowboy Interview with Professor Bruce McDuffie, a chemistry professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton and his discovery of .75 parts per million of mercury in cans of tuna taken from supermarket shelves.


| May/June 1971



A Plowboy Interview with professor Bruce McDuffie.

A Plowboy Interview with professor Bruce McDuffie.


Photo by John G. McDuffie

A Plowboy Interview with Professor Bruce McDuffie and his discovery of excess mercury in supermarket canned tuna.

A Plowboy Interview With Professor Bruce McDuffie

In the late fall of 1970, Bruce McDuffie — a chemistry professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton threw a large flap into the fishing industry with his discovery of .75 parts per million of mercury in cans of tuna taken from supermarket shelves. This level of mercury — an element that can cause blindness, crippling and death when eaten ill minute quantities — exceeds, by 50%, the limits supposedly allowed by the Food and Drug Administration and — quite naturally — made headlines all over the world.

Professor McDuffie's announcement, shortly thereafter, of finding even higher concentrations of mercury in swordfish rattled the FDA, the public and the fishing fleet even further and the two reports — confirmed by the FDA — caused the withdrawal of hundreds of thousands of dollars of tuna and swordfish from the market.

High levels of mercury have since been found in many other seafoods — both fresh and salt water — and the problem promises to be with us for years. Hal Smith recently asked Professor McDuffie to comment on his findings, the dangers of eating tuna and the future of the fishing industry.


Why is mercury pollution dangerous?

Mercury is a toxic element not known to be necessary for life. In fact, it can be lethal. Mercury has long been used in scientific experiments to kill bacteria, interfere with certain types of enzymes and that sort of thing. It can be a very toxic substance in the body.





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