The Results Are In!

You may recall that on April 28th, I participated in a mercury hair testing that was hosted by the Sierra Club. Click here for my post on the event. Yesterday, a brown envelope arrived in the mail. I knew from the return address that it was my test results. Finally!
And the results are...

In the yellow zone. What does that mean? It means that the mercury levels found in my hair are below the EPA health guidelines, which is the level that is reasonably expected not to cause harm to humans. The cap for the "safe" level is 1.2 ppm. The amount found in my hair is 1.1 ppm. Since I am close to being in the "red" zone, it is suggested that I reduce my intake of certain seafood varieties.

Wait a minute. I *hardly* eat fish of any kind. Bad, I know, because it's so good for you. Truly, the rare occasion that I've had fish in the last few months hasn't been the best choice when it comes to mercury content. So where is this mercury coming from?

There are two possible sources. One is water. Our waterways are so polluted and contain unsafe levels of mercury (according to the EPA). I use regular water to brush my teeth, wash my face and shower. Occasionally, I will drink out of the water fountain at the gym. But I drink filtered water almost always. The other source could be that I live near a coal-fired power plant. I've lived in the DC metro area for about 11 years - one year was spent living in DC, the rest of my time has been living in close proximity to the GenOn power plant.

What do I with these results? I'm not sure just yet. I'm still mulling them over.

Heather Schaefer is the Founder and Executive Director of Go Green Alexandria, dedicated to environmental education and outreach. Find out more on


Who is compiling the results of the remainder of the 40 persons tested?  Are they going to be made public?  I published letters in the Washington Post in the mid-1970's and in 2004, recommending that hair testing be done.  It's appalling that this had to wait until 2011.  In the early 1970's the Alexandria power plant emitted an estimated 6 tons of mercury annually, from burning a megaton of West Virginia coal.  Much of that was dumped withing 2 kilometers of the plant, most likely north of the plant in the summer and south-south east in the winter.  In the late 1970's Alexandria health officials investigated an arsenical pesticide spill in the rail yards, and found high levels of mercury.  I received an inquiry from them, and reminded them of my conclusions.   They were reliieved that it was "only" the power plant, because that was "not their responsiibilty."  I'm glad this plant is finally closing down.  It's long overdue.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers bliptv, vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <iframe> <object> <embed>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.