Lauren Wooten Smith '11

Mercury Research with Savannah Riverkeeper - Augusta, GA
Major: Medical Anthropology

Mercury is a neurotoxin that has especially severe effects on fetuses including birth defects, mental retardation, and miscarriages.  The most common source of mercury exposure comes from fish consumption. The National Research Council, in a report of mercury toxicology in 2000, estimated that more than 60,000 children are born each year with adverse neurological damages due to mercury exposure in utero.  While strides have been made to cleanup this mercury contamination the contamination continues today.  Throughout the past 4 years I have been involved in different aspects of this project including grassroots campaigns, EPA negotiations, and further research.  One of the things I learned from this experience was that scientific data itself was not able to explain the full effect of this toxin on particular people in the community nor did it, by itself, contribute to the push for cleaning up this contamination.  The continuing aftermath to deal with this contamination is multifaceted.