Sierra Clubs Hosts Mercury Hair Test In Alexandria

8:33 PM, Apr 28, 2011   |    comments
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ALEXANDRIA, Va.  (WUSA) -- Dozens of people packed into an Alexandria Hair Salon and agreed to have a lock of hair snipped off to find out how much mercury is in their body.

Tescia Yonkers said after her hair was snipped and shipped, "I'm am very concerned about my health...that's why I'm here today."

Sierra Club offered the free mercury testing to highlight the fact that mercury is emitted from coal fire power plants. The environmental group is backing the EPA's new proposed regulations that would limit mercury and other air toxins from coal-fired power plants.

The group chose Alexandria for its event because the city is home to the 60-year old GenOn coal fire power plant. The EPA says coal-fired plants are one of the largest sources of mercury pollution.   A spokesperson for the GenOn plant says the company is evaluating the proposed changes and may have to make further investments in pollution controls to meet the regulations.

Alexandria resident Heather Schaffer came for the test because she's concerned about living close to the GenOn plant and wants to find out how much mercury is in her body.

Dr. Ravindia Gupta with Inova Health System says mercury can cause major problems in developing fetuses, like birth defects and learning disabilities. 

The main source of mercury in humans comes from ingesting fish, which eat smaller fish, which have eaten the mercury that landed in the water. 

Joseph Harley caught a North Atlantic Sturgeon recently in Pohick Bay on the Potomac River. He's says he's the last registered commercial fisherman in Fairfax County and worries mercury contamination will kill his his livelihood.

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