Springboard

It’s been a busy and exciting summer here at Silent Spring. We received the first batch of results from our Detox Me Action Kit project—our crowdsourced biomonitoring study on people’s exposure to common household toxic chemicals. About 150 participants received their results earlier this month, and more reports are due out soon. Thank you to everyone who took the time to pee in a cup, ship us your samples, fill out a questionnaire, and help make this project a reality.

Scientists have devoted substantial time and energy over the years toward understanding the risks posed by environmental chemicals. It's time for us to devote resources toward preventing these unwanted exposures, so we can prevent future health problems, says Silent Spring's Dr. Robin Dodson. In her latest blog post on the subject, Dodson explains what you can do to avoid hidden toxics in everyday products and create a healthier environment for you and your family.

When Congress passed legislation in 2016 reforming the chemical safety law known as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), we had high hopes. As we wrote last year, the bill gave the EPA the authority to (among other things) require additional chemical safety testing in order to regulate existing chemicals. Now the EPA has released the final rules for how the agency is going to do that.

Breast cancer tumor and its microenvironment. Credit: National Cancer Institute

A study in Science received widespread media coverage the other week for claiming that much of cancer is simply the result of bad luck. The study was a follow-up to a similar analysis conducted by the same team at Johns Hopkins two years ago. Unlike the previous analysis, the new study includes breast and prostate cancer, as well cancer data from multiple countries.

Some chemicals have a small enough impact on a person’s health that it’s hard to see their effects if you look only at the individual. But if you add up all of the individual health impacts in the population, you end up with a considerable negative impact on public health.

Protect your family from everyday chemicals with Silent Spring's Detox Me app.

Back to school time often means back to the store to stock up on new clothing and school gear. It’s also a great time to think about making some changes in your daily routine to ensure your kids stay safe and healthy. Everyday items, from backpacks to lunches, can contain a wide variety of chemicals. Some of these have been found to interfere with development and fertility, or have been linked with other health effects including allergies, asthma, and cancer.

Later this summer, members of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Blue Ribbon Panel will submit a series of recommendations for what to fund under Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative—a one-billion-dollar effort to accelerate the rate of progress in cancer research. Some of the ideas being pursued include new ways of addressing pediatric cancer, improving access to clinical trials, and enhancing data sharing among investigators. These are important and worthy goals.

After years of wrangling and backroom negotiations, Congress finally passed legislation overhauling the nation’s outdated chemical safety law known as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The new legislation strengthens the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate thousands of industrial chemicals in use today and could have far-reaching impacts on a wide range of consumer products, from your household cleaner to your living room couch.

Four years ago, when I first started to look into the use of flame retardant chemicals in Massachusetts, little did I know I’d soon be elbow-deep in fire codes, deciphering their meaning. But as our recent victory in Boston showed, translating science into policies that protect health requires identifying the barriers to change. And sometimes those barriers can be tucked away in obscure regulations, codes, and standards.

Since the lead poisoning tragedy unfolded in Flint, Mich., numerous reports of tainted tap water in other communities have emerged, sparking outcry and shattering people’s confidence in the nation’s drinking water supply. According to public health experts quoted in the media, the water crisis in Flint may be “the tip of the iceberg.”

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