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Planet Main
In This Section
PDF January/February 2006
e-mail December 20, 2005
e-mail October 28, 2005


The Power of Many
How We Saved the Arctic Refuge (For Now)
Getting Somewhere on the Bridges to Nowhere
Cities Get Cool
Measuring Mercury
Fighting for the Valle Vidal
Building Trust
There's No Limit to Colorado's Power
Finding Common Ground
Trickle-Down Activism
‘Hey, I Can Do This’
I Can Smell for Miles and Miles
Building Environmental Community One Canyon at a Time
Paper to Pixels
Sierra Summit Soars
‘Why Live If You Don't Have Something to Struggle For?’
Expanding Excom
Club Charts Direction for Next Five Years
Big Easy to Beltway: ‘Where's the Beef?’
2005 Timeline
Faces of the Sierra Club


Hope Surfaces in Katrina's Wake
Snapshots from the Summit
Democracy Breaks Out
Rally for the Arctic
A Better Legacy
Thoroughbred Power Plant Blocked
John Swingle
Betsy Bennett
Larry Fahn
Is Your City a Cool City?
Endangered Species Act Endangered
Smithfield Shareholder Resolution
Owens Valley Victory
New Energy Bill Exploits Katrina
From the Editor: Wake of the Flood
Search for a Story
Back Issues

The Planet
Measuring the Mercury

Citizens take mercury contamination personally by testing themselves.

Earlier this year, the Sierra Club initiated a program to test the hair of people across the country for mercury contamination. The process was simple: order a hair test kit for $25, snip off about half a gram of hair, and then answer some questions about fish consumption (the primary way most Americans are exposed to mercury), then send the sample to a lab and get the results.

In April, more than 70 New Hampshire state
legislators took a break from debate to get
their hair clipped and tested for mercury. That
was the first of more than a dozen Sierra Clubsponsored hair-testing events across the
country, part of a national clinical study of
mercury contamination. Other testing sites
include: Salt Lake City, Utah; Bismarck, North
Dakota; Owensboro, Kentucky; Philadelphia,
Pittsburgh, and Ardmore, Pennsylvania;
Richmond, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Grand
Marais, Minnesota; Madison, Wisconsin;
Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; and San
Francisco, California (at the Sierra Summit).

The Sierra Club’s Cathy Corkery organized an early hair-testing event in New Hampshire, where state legislators interrupted debate to take a little off the top. Since then, testing has spread across the country like wildfire, with testing events in more than a dozen locations, including at the Sierra Summit, and live on public radio in Minnesota.

It’s all part of a nationwide study to determine the level of mercury in the population. Preliminary results show a direct relationship between mercury levels and fish consumption.

To learn more and order your own test kit, go to

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