Pittsburgh Residents Line Up at Local Hair Salon to Take Part in Country’s Largest Mercury Testing Study

Residents of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area gathered today at Hair by Conroy, a local Pittsburgh hair salon, to volunteer their time and a small sample of their hair for a nationwide scientific study on mercury poisoning conducted by Greenpeace. The public testing event, the fourth such event in Pennsylvania this summer, collected data for the Greenpeace National Hair Sampling Study of Mercury Exposure, the largest mercury hair study ever conducted, and highlighted the growing national concern over the toxic levels of 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 Chris Miller, Greenpeace Clean Energy Now! Campaigner. "The American people have a right to know what is in their bodies and the have the right to know why their President is not protecting their health from this dangerous poison."

While elevated levels of mercury are harmful to everyone, women of childbearing age are especially at risk because developing fetuses 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 kids, have a risk of unsafe levels of mercury in their body. "Exposure to mercury in the womb is particularly dangerous and can affect the development of memory, attention and language skills. This damage can permanently affect their quality of life, academic success and economic prospects in life. We need presidential leadership to eliminate this preventable poisoning of our children and families," Miller explained.

The event was held at Hair by Conroy, a salon in south Pittsburgh, which opened its doors to Greenpeace in order to conduct the mercury testing. "When Greenpeace asked to use my salon for hair sampling, I jumped at the chance. We need to stop the dirty energy industry and the Bush administration from polluting our air, water and food, passing the health risks on to the most vulnerable among us, children and pregnant women," said salon owner Tom Conroy.

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 the increased use of clean renewable 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 like wind and solar.

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