Cutting Hair to Find Mercury

By: Marcus Washington
By: Marcus Washington

November 17, 2005

Studies have shown that mercury found in fish or other animals that eat fish can cause harm to unborn fetus. A quick snip with a pair of scissors gives many mothers and mothers to-be a look at their mercury levels.

Today women lined up at Arlington Hair Studio to get their hair cut, but it's not for a new trendy style.

"I'm concerned about the levels of mercury [in my body]," said Julia Wieassman, who received a mercury hair test. "I don't think that I have a high mercury level, but it's good to know."

Researchers have found that women who are of childbearing age produce enough mercury to put their fetus at risk of developmental disorders and learning disabilities.

"People are just really unaware of it. There are over 100 miles of Virginia rivers that are under mercury advisories," said Jackie Kruszewski, one of the organizers of the event. "There's just not much being done about it so I think people need to hear about it."

That's why Arlington Hair Studio, a group of University of Virginia students and the Sierra Club are holding a mercury hair-testing event for the community.

After the hair is cut, it's put onto scale to be weighed. Then it is put into a bag and sent off for testing at the Environmental Quality Institute in North Carolina.

Your hair is one of the places mercury actually leaves the body. The hair closest to the scalp in the middle back part of your head has the most density and that where the sample comes from.

This afternoon in a local beauty salon was not just a day of hair cutting, but a day of caring.

"It's great to see a local business pitching in and helping out and it definitely feels like I would come back here knowing that care about what going on in our community," said Wieassman.

All participants received the mercury hair test for free.

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