The Results Are In: Minnesota Residents Have Toxic Mercury in their Bodies


The results are in from the Sierra Club’s mercury hair testing events in Rochester and Minneapolis. All 70 participants who agreed to share their results had detectable levels of mercury in their hair samples. 9 people had mercury levels above what the EPA considers safe. The participant with the highest mercury level had more than three times the EPA health guideline.

Toxic mercury is emitted into the air from coal-fired power plants and contaminates waterways, fish, and human bodies. Mercury is excreted through hair. This means that a hair sample is a biomarker showing the amount of mercury that has been in a person’s body over the course of a few months.

Toxic mercury is especially dangerous to the health of children and developing fetuses. Mercury exposure threatens a child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn. According to EPA studies, the mercury problem in the U.S. is so widespread that at least 1 in 12 (and as many as 1 in 6) American women of childbearing age have enough mercury in their bodies to risk their baby’s health.

Those who had high levels of mercury do not need to panic! Mercury cycles out of a person’s body naturally.  Individuals can lower the mercury levels in his or her body by reducing the amount of high-mercury fish that he or she eats. Click here for Sierra Club’s seafood guide.

Participants in the testing events and others concerned about the health threats from mercury are asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enact strong federal protections to keep Big Coal and other corporate polluters from making us sick. On Saturday June 4th, concerned citizens from across the state will be gathering public comments that support the EPA’s proposed rule to limit mercury from power plants. Click here to submit an online comment to the EPA or contact Jessica Tatro to get involved.

Rochester parents Mark and Elena O’Byrne and their two year old daughter received good news from their hair test results: the entire family had mercury levels below the level considered safe by the EPA. Mark says “When my wife became pregnant with our daughter, we became much more aware of the concern over mercury in fish. We had always heard the myth that pregnant women should avoid fish altogether, when in fact fish is good for a pregnant woman so long as she selects the right kinds. We were thrilled as a family to have received low mercury level counts. Nothing is more important to us than the health of our
child and family.

We strive to live a green lifestyle with minimum impact to the environment, and expect dirty coal plants to follow that same rule with mercury and other toxic pollution. We along with all Minnesota parents need the Environmental Protection Agency to its job and protect our children’s health.

If you missed the mercury hair testing events, the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service are offering individual testing for only $20 per person. Click here for a brochure that you can use to submit your hair sample by mail to the lab, along with a $20 check. Results may take up to 8 weeks to process.


One response to “The Results Are In: Minnesota Residents Have Toxic Mercury in their Bodies

  1. I have been a boilermaker for eleven years, and think that the EPA should enact stricter emission policies for power plants. But to abandon the cheapest and safest source of power is fool hardy! Can wind power replace the all of the coal plants in the state? I think not, not with out killing endangered birds or destroying the veiw. Oh yeah Xcel Energy canceled a wind farm in ND because of birds! We do have great alternatives, garbage, (very cheap, humans are a wasteful bunch)., natural gas, (not as cheap and you have to drill), and any other biomass. Coal can be cleaned up, the RPU coal burner in Rochester had emissions upgrades. A baghouse for paticulate, a dry scrubber, this all helps! SCR’s also help eliminate emissions. Only 70 people would share there results, or is that all you could get to take the test? If so that does not represent the total population of those two cities. Did any of the those participants eat fish from the mississippi river on a regular basis?


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