One in five U.S. women have high mercury levels, suggests new report

You weren’t thinking of having children, were you? Good: One in five American women of childbearing age may have unsafe levels of mercury in their bodies, according to a new report by the Environmental Quality Institute at University of North Carolina-Asheville. In the largest test of mercury contamination in the U.S. to date — commissioned by Greenpeace and the Sierra Club — hair samples from over 6,500 volunteers were analyzed. Of the 2,834 women ages 16 to 49 who were tested, 23 percent had mercury levels exceeding the U.S. EPA’s recommended safe level of 1 part per million. New York participants had the highest incidence of elevated mercury levels, with Florida, Colorado, and California close behind — and Asian Americans had average levels significantly higher than African Americans, Latinos, or whites. But, cautions study coauthor Steven Patch, the study sample wasn’t random enough to be representative of the overall U.S. population.