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Observations BMJ Confidential

Pál Weihe: Island health campaigner

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 11 April 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k1483
Duncan Smith


Pál Weihe, 68, is head of the Faroe Islands’ Department of Occupational Medicine and Public Health. He was instrumental in bringing about a change to the Faroese diet, with profound cultural implications—the pilot whale had long been a diet staple until Weihe started his investigations. Babies born in the 1980s, he found, had high levels of mercury in their blood that correlated with the amount of pilot whale their mothers had eaten: the mercury was shown to negatively affect the children’s brains. His campaign to reduce whale consumption has made him unpopular at times, but it has been successful. His story has now been made into a film, The Islands and the Whales (

What was your earliest ambition?

To have an academic degree, which was quite an unusual goal in the small fishing community where I grew up in the Faroe Islands. …

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