The meat and blubber of the dolphins caught has been found to have high levels of mercury, cadmium, the pesticide DDT and organic contaminants like PCBs.[14] The levels are high enough to pose a health risk for those frequently eating the meat and researchers warn that children and pregnant women shouldn't eat the meat at all. Because of the health concerns, the price of dolphin meat has decreased significantly.[15] However, Taiji's bid to expand their school lunch programs to include dolphin and whale meat has brought about much controversy. Currently, an estimated 150kg of dolphin meat was served in Taiji school lunches as of 2006. According to recent findings, the levels of mercury and methylmercury taken from samples of dolphin and whale meat sold at supermarkets most likely to be providing to the school's lunch programs was 10x that advised by the Japanese Health Ministry. In fact, the levels are so high they even surpassed those of seafood found to have caused Minamata disease in the Minamata mercury pollution disaster of the 1950's, in which over 1,700 people died of the effects of mercury poisoning. This recent escalation in cetacean meat use also coincides with plans to expand Taiji's killing and processing capacity by approving an estimated ¥330 million to fund the construction of a new cetacean slaughterhouse in Taiji, despite recent findings suggesting that dolphin meat is harmful to anyone who consumes it, especially young children.[16] The mercury levels were so high that the Okuwa Co. supermarket chain in Japan permanently removed dolphin meat from its shelves, citing the enormous risks it poses to consumers.


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