Mercury Hair Testing

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s mercury hair testing program helps women make informed choices about fish and seafood.

Safe Seafood Choices

Seafood is packed with protein, is full of nutrients and provides omega-3 fatty acids. Most popular seafood choices are very low in mercury: shrimp, salmon, pollock, cod, catfish, crab, scallops, clams and oysters, just to name a few.

Contact: Katy Smith,
Water Quality Program Coordinator
Phone: 912-262-3338
Email: klaustin@uga.edu

Women in their childbearing years are often bombarded with confusing messages about mercury. That’s why the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant created a mercury hair testing program that provides simple and affordable screening for women.

Our hair testing program provides understandable and accessible information about the amount of mercury in our bodies. Currently, our lab is able to offer this service to women of childbearing age.

To order a mercury hair test, participants should:

  • download the Mercury Testing brochure, (also available in Spanish)
  • take a sample of hair
  • mail the hair and completed form along with $20.

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UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant will send participants the results of their mercury hair tests and explanations of what their levels mean within one month of receipt of the form, fee and hair sample.

Babies and small children are sensitive to mercury while their brains are developing. This information is important for women who are pregnant, nursing or thinking about becoming pregnant.

If you are not in this sensitive category but are interested in hair testing for another reason (e.g. you frequently eat fish from rivers with fishing advisories), please contact Katy Smith at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Brunswick Station.

Consumption Guidelines

When eating fish caught from Georgia waters, it is important to be informed about consumption advisories and recommended dietary limits for local species. Georgia DNR’s Guidelines for Eating Fish from Georgia Waters and the Glynn County Advisory for Fish You Catch and Eat (Spanish Version) offer suggestions for a safe, healthy diet of local fish.

Demystifying Mercury

Mercury is a naturally occurring element, and humans cannot create or destroy it. Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions in the world. Burning hazardous wastes, mining gold, producing chlorine and manufacturing cement also contribute to this global issue.

While there is much that scientists still don’t know about mercury, there is a great deal that they do know. Unfortunately, consumers continue to receive confusing and contradictory information when trying to balance the benefits of healthy seafood consumption with possible risks from contaminants like mercury.

Since the human body naturally eliminates mercury from its system, a woman who is planning to be pregnant can often lower the amount of mercury in her body quickly by eating low-mercury seafood several times a week.

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