Elected Officials Support Greenpeace Mercury Study to Highlight the Health Risks of Bush's Energy Plan

Media release - June 14, 2004
Testing Aims to Protect Americans from the Effects of Dirty Power and to Promote Renewable Energy

Elected officials and families gathered downtown at Harrisburg's Capital Hair Salon to volunteer their time and a small portion of their hair for Greenpeace's National Hair Sampling Study of Mercury Exposure. Greenpeace collected data at today's event in order to further a study about the growing national concern over the levels of the toxic metal mercury in people's bodies. Greenpeace used this opportunity to highlight renewable energy, a viable replacement to the nation's largest mercury source, coal power, as the group showcased its Rolling Sunlight solar demonstration vehicle outside the salon.

The Greenpeace Mercury study was created in reaction to a Bush Administration proposal to weaken a Clinton-era decision that would have reduced mercury emissions from power plants, a leading cause of mercury pollution in the United States, by 90 percent by 2008. ìMercury emissions from coal power plants are dangerous and toxic to our environment and the fish we eat", stated Casey Harrell, Greenpeace Clean Energy Now! Campaigner. "The American people have a right to know what is in their bodies and they also have the right to know why their President is not protecting their health from this poison."

State Representatives and Senators joined the hair sampling at Capital Salon to show their great concern about mercury contamination from dirty energy sources, but also to show that elected officials can help provide clean energy solutions to this public health danger. State Representative and House Subcommittee Chairman on Energy, Greg Vitali, stated, ìThe United States is at a critical juncture. It is time for our nation's political leaders to pass legislation that will heavily invest in clean energy like solar and wind power that is good for our people, our environment, our economy and our future."

While elevated levels of mercury are harmful to everyone, women of childbearing age are especially at risk because the developing young are vulnerable to mercury contamination. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that one out of every six children born in America, approximately 630,000, has elevated levels of mercury in their body. ìExposure to mercury in the womb is particularly dangerous and can affect the development of memory, attention and language skills. We need presidential leadership to eliminate this preventable poisoning of our children, our future, " Harrell explained.

An academic laboratory, the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, is performing the analysis for Greenpeace's mercury study. The study is part of Greenpeace's global Clean Energy Now! Campaign that is committed to ending our addiction to fossil fuels by promoting and forcing the increased use of clean energy and energy efficiency as solutions for the world's growing power needs. The campaign has been successful by working with local and state governments, students, as well as other groups to stop dirty energy projects and to increase investment in clean energy.