As health-conscious Americans turn toward seafood to lower their intake of cholesterol and fats, consumption has skyrocketed in the last several years. But are they doing themselves a favor?

A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences urges stricter federal inspection of seafood, which the academy's study committee found can be contaminated by the water from which it has been harvested.Contaminants range from natural toxins to human and industrial pollutants and the problem is most severe in raw or undercooked seafood, especially shellfish.

The inspection program should concentrate on imported as well as domestically produced seafood, the academy recommends, citing the fact that 60 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported.

Inspection programs are already in place through the U.S. Department of Agriculture for meat and poultry. Congress last year took up a bill mandating seafood inspection, but it died after unresolved wrangling over which government agency would be responsible.

Some local and state agencies inspect seafood but the study found their efforts inadequate compared to the magnitude of the problem and the potential health hazard.

While advocating seafood inspection, the study committee also recommends a commendable longer-range solution, the general cleanup of the waters from which the seafood is taken. Both are badly needed.