Greenpeace Tests Masontown Residents for Mercury Poisoning

The Bush Administration's Energy Plan Is Putting Our Communities and the Planet at Risk - Says Greenpeace

Media release - July 27, 2004
Residents who live in the shadow of the Hatfield’s Ferry coal plant gathered today to volunteer a small portion of their hair for a nationwide scientific study of mercury exposure. The sampling event, conducted by Greenpeace, comes weeks after activists from the environmental group raised attention to the issue of power plant pollution with a large banner hang at the Hatfield’s Ferry plant. The open house at the Italo-American Club collected data for Greenpeace’s Nationwide Hair Sampling Project and educated those in attendance about the growing national concern over the levels of the toxic metal mercury in people’s bodies.

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. "Mercury 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. "Masontown residents, like all 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."

"Mercury exposure in children can affect critical neurological development including memory, language, motor skills and other brain functions. This damage can permanently affect their quality of life, academic success and economic prospects in life," Harrell continued. "When the Centers for Disease Control estimates that as many as 630,000 infants (1 in 6) are born in the U.S. every year with a risk of having unsafe amounts of mercury in their bodies, we know that mercury poisoning is at a near epidemic level. Today, residents living in Masontown can learn about this problem, get tested, and through this knowledge, learn how to keep their levels of mercury low.

"The Masontown community deserves better. Hatfield's Ferry is one of the nation's dirtiest power plants, and Allegheny Energy refuses to clean it up" said Lisa Graves Macucci of the Jefferson Action Group. "They are putting their profits ahead of our health".

Greenpeace also used the testing event 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. "There's no reason why people must continue to have increased mercury poisoning, asthma attacks and global warming pollution from dirty energy like coal when clean energy is available now", said Rolling Sunlight driver Angie McIntosh, as she displayed the vehicle's solar capabilities.

The Hair Sampling for Mercury Project is part of Greenpeace's Clean Energy Now campaign. The Greenpeace Clean Energy Now! campaign is part of a global campaign that is committed to ending our addiction to fossil fuels by promoting and requiring 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, and other groups to stop dirty energy projects and to increase investment in clean energy.