A study of hair samples from more than 6500 people found that one in five women of childbearing age has mercury levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended limit. Mercury contamination is particularly harmful for women who could become pregnant and very young children, as early exposure to mercury can cause health problems including neurological damage.
The study was conducted by the Environmental Quality Institute (EQI) at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, in cooperation with Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. The report’s co-author, Dr. Steve Patch, pointed to fish consumption as the single greatest factor in elevated mercury levels. Fish absorb mercury pollution from bodies of water contaminated in large part by coal burning power plants. Greenpeace responded to the results by calling for tougher anti-pollution laws, and also offers the hair test used in the study for use by individuals in ascertaining their own levels of mercury.