Get your hair tested for mercury Friday at CPCC


Duke Energy's 81-year-old Riverbend coal plant on Charlotte's Mountain Island Lake.
  • Duke Energy's 81-year-old Riverbend coal plant on Charlotte's Mountain Island Lake.

Yep. Mercury. It's in our air, our water and our fish. Gravity pulls it to earth after it escapes smoke stacks, often at coal plants like Duke Energy's 81-year-old Riverbend plant on Mountain Island Lake — just a few miles from the center of Uptown.

Have you ever wondered how much mercury you've ingested? If so, now you can find out.

CPCC's Center for Sustainability and the Sierra Club have partnered to offer the public mercury testing which will require a tiny haircut — about 15 strands, then your hair will be shipped to the University of Georgia for testing. The test would normally cost you up to $80, but this Friday it's free for the first 40 people who show up.

From the Sierra Club, the organization sponsoring the testing:

Free Mercury hair testings Event:

Did you know that according to an EPA study, 1 in 6 women have enough mercury in their body to put their unborn child at risk of impaired verbal and motor skills, and a lower IQ? North Carolina ranks as 8th in the nation for mercury pollution from coal fired power plants, according to a recent report from Environment America.

The Sierra Club and CPCC Center for Sustainability are working together on a FREE mercury hair testing Project to help you find out how much mercury is in your body. This event is open to anyone interested and is FREE to the first 40 people.

When: Friday April 1, 2011 10 am to 1 pm

Where: CPCC Central Campus, in the Lobby of the Levine IT building

Contact: Erica Geppi 704.374.1125


*If you are thinking about having kids

*If you eat a lot of fish caught by your friends and family

*If you eat a lot of Tuna, Sushi, Swordfish, king mackerel, shark, sea bass or grouper.

* If you are just curious about your mercury levels!

Why test hair?

Mercury is excreted through hair, so a hair sample shows the amount of mercury that has been in a person's body over a few months. The UGA lab we are working with on this testing tests the top 1 cm of each hair sample to provide the most recent mercury level.Hair testing is a valid method of exposing levels of mercury in the body. According the National Research Council, mercury concentration in human hair is the preferred biomarker for evaluating mercury exposure for extended periods of time such as periods of weeks or months.

What if you have high levels of mercury in your hair?

If your test results show that the mercury level in your hair is above 1.2 ppm, do not panic. Mercury cycles out of your body naturally in 3-4 months, so you can lower the mercury levels in your body by reducing the amount of high-mercury fish that you eat.

People who received initial test results with high levels of mercury and made changes to their diet and been re-tested a few months later, have shown significantly lower levels of mercury. Choose more salmon, herring, sardines, canned mackerel and rainbow trout, which are the lowest in mercury and highest in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, an especially important nutrient for pregnant women. Local shrimp is also a great choice with barely any mercury. As a rule of thumb, smaller species with shorter life-spans accumulate less mercury; top predators like sharks and long-lived species like grouper have the most mercury.

Why should we want to know how much mercury is in our body?

Mercury is one example of a particularly harmful air toxic. Mercury builds up in the environment, and human exposure is most commonly through consumption of contaminated fish. A potent neurotoxin especially dangerous to children and fetuses, mercury exposure affects the ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn. The mercury contamination problem in the U.S. is so widespread that one in six women has mercury levels in her blood high enough to put her baby at risk, according to the EPA. One-gram of mercury deposited from the atmosphere per year, over time, is enough to contaminate a 20-acre lake, such that fish that are unsafe to consume on a regular basis. Yet 48 tons are being pumped into our air each year from coal fired power plants alone, which are the largest domestic source of unregulated mercury emissions in the United States.

Add a comment