The Times News, © 2004

September 23, 2004

One of the world’s most recognized environmental organizations will pay a visit to the Tamaqua/Panther Valley area to perform a key health study.

Greenpeace, in conjunction with the Army for a Clean Environment (ACE), today announced a research study to determine the levels of mercury in people’s bodies in the local area. The study will involve the analysis of hair samples to determine whether mercury exposure levels are exceeding standards set to protect the public health.

Mercury is a neurotoxin that is most often seen as a by-product from industrial processes like power plants, incinerators and chemical factories. Mercury is also a component of fly ash and river sludge. Emissions from dirty energy sources like coal-fired power plants account for the largest single source of mercury emissions in the United States approximately 42 percent.

The research study will involve the analysis of hair samples from volunteers. Everyone is eligible to participate but preference will be given to residents along Ben Titus Road in Still Creek and to women of childbearing age. Three individuals who reside on Ben Titus Road have been diagnosed with polycythemia vera, a rare bone marrow cancer, and a fourth individual is suspected with the disorder. Polycythemia vera is conservatively estimated to occur at a rate of one in 200,000 people.

Dr. Dante Picciano of the ACE group noted “Green-peace and the Army for a Clean Environment are doing the jobs of the state and federal government. If the Pennsylvania Depart-ment of Environmental Protection and Department of Health won’t do their jobs, we will do their jobs for them.”

The hair samples will be analyzed by the Environ-mental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. Individual test results will remain confidential between the participant and the Environmental Quality Institute. This information will not be released to any third party unless explicitly authorized. Aggregate results from the study, excluding any personally identifiable information, will be shared with the public.

Hair samples will be taken on Monday, Oct. 4, 2004, between 9 a.m. and 12 noon, at Al Barnisky’s Barber Shop, 233 West Broad Street, Tamaqua. Call Hilary Kennedy at (570) 668-6212 to schedule an appointment for the hair sampling. There will be no charge for the first 24 participants selected for the study.

If you do not wish to participate in the local study, but would like to have your hair tested for mercury, you can order a sampling kit in the mail. There is a fee associated with home testing. Telephone Hilary Kennedy at 668-6212 for details.

Greenpeace is an international environmental organization with offices in 41 countries. Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses non-violent direct action and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

For more information, see http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/