Bad math in fish cosumption rate coverage

Erik Smith, who usually writes for the Washington State Wire, recently wrote a piece on the fish consumption rate for the Seattle Business Magazine. This is a vital issue, so any discussion is great.

Unfortunately, Smith uses some bad arithmetic to explain the current rate:

Standards are based on estimates of how much fish we eat combined with the amount of toxicity that endangers human health. Washington currently estimates that we eat about 3.5 pounds of fish a month. But Oregon pioneered a new approach when it adopted new water standards in 2011. Instead of basing standards on average consumption, it based them on the dietary habits of the population that eats the most fish–the state’s Indian tribes. Oregon now estimates fish consumption levels at the highest in the country, nearly 12 pounds a month per person; Washington is contemplating an even higher number of 17.6 pounds.

This is essentially the same way Smith has been explaining the fish consumption rate over at the Washington Wire too. The problem is, Smith’s math is way off.

The current fish consumption rate (on which pollution rules are set) is 6.5 grams a day. If you write that the way Smith did, you get .44 pounds per month.

Here’s the equation that Smith should have used:

  • 6.5 grams equals 0.01433 pounds per day, times 365 days per year is 5.2 lbs per year.
  • 5.2 lbs per year divided by 12 is 0.44 lbs per MONTH, which is about  one 7 ounce meal per month

Unfortunately, Smith’s description is way off and makes the fish consumption rate seem way higher than it actually is. When you actually do the math, the rate is so low that is seems unreasonable.

Which is true, the current Washington fish consumption rate is unrealistic and in no way reflects what people here actually eat.

To get a close look at how our current rate looks like in terms of fish you’d eat, check out this video:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.