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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
Largest-Ever Mercury Study Finds One in Five Women With Dangerous Levels

Direct Relationship Found Between Mercury Levels and Fish Consumption

Researchers in North Carolina released results in February of the nation’s largest study ever on the effects of mercury on the U.S. population. It analyzed hair samples from more than 6,600 women from all 50 states and found that one in five women of childbearing age exceeded the EPA’s recommended limit of 1 microgram of mercury per gram of hair.

The hair samples came from public mercury-testing events sponsored by the Sierra Club and Greenpeace and individuals who ordered testing kits online and mailed a couple inches of hair to the lab. The samples were analyzed by Dr. Steve Patch and fellow researchers at the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. Researchers found a direct relationship between mercury levels and fish consumption.

Coal burning is the main way mercury gets into humans—rainfall brings the mercury into waterways, where it accumulates in fish and makes its way up the food chain. Mercury contamination is especially dangerous for women of childbearing years because mercury exposure in the womb can cause neurological damage and other health problems in children.
Find out more about what fish are most contaminated with mercury in the Sierra Club’s handy pocket-sized Mercury Survival Guide. To download the guide, take our “Test Your Mercury I.Q.” quiz at


Illustration by Adrian Cotter

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