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Friends of Silent Spring Institute Bulletin
March 2008



Boil and Trouble: Pouring boiling water into hard plastic water bottles—such as those used by outdoor enthusiasts—speeds the leaching of bisphenol A, an industrial chemical that is a known hormone disruptor. Bisphenol A can be found in the plastic lining of canned goods and in hard, clear plastic items such as baby bottles and hiking bottles. Avoid plastic water bottles with a “7” in the triangle at the bottom—and never add boiling water to one.

Contents Under Pressure: Many personal care products—including cosmetics, shampoos, and styling aids—that are widely used by African Americans contain several chemicals known to behave like estrogens. Avoid products whose content labels list placenta, placental extract, or hormones.

Silent Spring Institute offers information about precautionary steps to reduce exposure to suspect chemicals so more people can make informed decisions in their daily lives.

What’s Gotten into You?

Perhaps more than you think.

The retired schoolteacher—and breast cancer survivor—was shocked to learn that her home harbored unusually high levels of potentially carcinogenic herbicides, which were being tracked in from her lawn. But she was also spurred to action, switching to non-chemical weed control and teaching her family to remove their shoes at the door.

Should researchers share such information with study participants? And if so, how? Silent Spring Institute scientists have published an exploration of the ethical issues involved in delivering personal exposure results from biomonitoring and environmental tests.

“People may find it troubling to learn exactly what pollutants are in their bodies,” says Julia Brody, PhD, executive director of Silent Spring Institute. “But this information can also stimulate a better understanding about environmental pollutants, increasing public awareness, individual risk reduction, corporate accountability, and participation in environmental public health policy.” Click for article.

Related Clues You Can Use:

  • The Chemicals Within. Many common household products—from baby bottles to shower curtains to upholstery—contain compounds that could be affecting your health. Newsweek, February 4, 2008; click for article.

  • Harmful Pesticides Found in Everyday Food Products. A recent study found that children who ate conventional produce from grocery stores were polluted with organophosphates, a family of pesticides that includes a number of potent neurotoxins; when the same children consumed organic fruits and vegetables, no signs of pesticides were detected in their bodies. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 30, 2008; click for article.

  • Is Plastic Making Us Fat? Researchers are exploring whether exposure to common chemicals during early development could set us up for a lifetime battle with the bulge. Boston Globe, January 14, 2008; click for article.


Marleen Quint, left, who carries graphic proof of her struggle with breast cancer, has joined with fellow activists Wanna Wright, center, and Etta Lundy to try to force a nearby oil refinery to reduce the flaring of excess gases in Richmond, California. They suspect—but cannot prove—that chemicals from the oil refinery triggered their breast cancer. Quint and Wright are members of a Silent Spring research team that has expanded its Household Exposure Study to Richmond.
Photo credit: Peter Essick/Courtesy of National Geographic


Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute, speaks at a press conference with Marty Meehan (center), chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and State Representative Kevin Murphy, chair of the Committee on Higher Education.


In Other News

  • Silent Spring joined with the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition in presenting a program on breast cancer and the environment at the Massachusetts State House on January 23. The event also marked the opening of a photo exhibit from “The Chemicals Within Us,” a National Geographic examination of the body burden of chemicals we all share. Click for the article and accompanying photo gallery.
  • Silent Spring’s Household Exposure Study will be expanding to new sites, thanks to a $250,000 state grant awarded to the University of Massachusetts Lowell, which has partnerships with Silent Spring Institute and the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition. Click for article.
  • Silent Spring Institute received a $25,000 grant from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust for this fiscal year, enabling the Institute to continue its research on endocrine disrupting compounds in Cape Cod groundwater. (To help the trust support environmental health projects, choose an environmental license plate—the “whale plate”—when you purchase a new car or renew your registration with the Registry of Motor Vehicles.)
  • All proceeds from purchases on April 3, 2008, of Days of Goodbyes, a breast cancer memoir, will be donated to Silent Spring Institute. Ragnhild Munck wrote the book as a tribute to her daughter, Maria, who died young of breast cancer. You will be offered downloadable gifts from supporters of this one-day-only campaign. Please plan to visit on April 3rd.

  • Silent Spring Institute’s work has been featured in a number of recent publications, including the February 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, in an article titled “Is Your Furniture Making You Sick?” and in a Boston Globe Magazine feature, “84 Ways You  Can Help the Planet.” Click for the Boston Globe Magazine article.



Roberta Chafetz and Fredi Shonkoff


Annual Dinner to Benefit the Susan S. Bailis Breast Cancer
Research Fund

Thursday, May 15, 2008
InterContinental Hotel, Boston
Honorees: Roberta Chafetz, owner of Arlene & Roberta jewelers, and Fredi Shonkoff, senior vice president of corporate relations at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Honorary Chairs: Joan and Ted Cutler, philanthropists and community leaders
Dinner Chairs: Paul Levy, president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Lynn Wiatrowski, executive vice president of Bank of America
Click for photos of the kickoff event