Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak teamed up with the Sierra Club to push for the Environmental Protection Agency regulating mercury pollution. Rudiak, and other council members and staff submitted hair samples as part of a nationwide program by the Sierra Club to raise awareness about the dangers of mercury. The element is a neurotoxin that can be detected in human hair.
Rudiak says coal-fired power plants are the main source. "They release things like mercury and arsenic into the air. And these pollutants actually rain down into our lakes and our streams. And they are eaten by fish, which consequently, we eat as well."
Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, Executive Director of Women for a Healthy Environment, says mercury is know to pose health risks. "Mercury at high levels may damage the brain, kidneys and the nervous system. Mercury in the mother's body passes to the fetus via the placenta. According to the CDC and the EPA, at least one in twelve and as many as one in six American women have enough mercury in their bodies to possibly put a baby at risk."
The EPA is considering enacting tighter regulations for mercury and other air toxins. The Sierra Club and PennFuture will be sending a bus of people to Philadelphia on May 24th to for public testimony. The Sierra Club pressed the state to begin regulating mercury in 2006, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that it needed to be done nationally.