Silent Spring Institute

                                              Friends of Silent Spring Institute Bulletin


                                              October 2008
Clearing the Air
Ensure proper ventilation of your office space. Computers, monitors, printers, and copiers are all significant sources of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, which are flame retardants in a multitude of commercial products. The chemicals are also endocrine disruptors that affect thyroid hormones.
Fool Me Once
Beware deodorants and other personal care products that are marked "unscented." The cosmetics industry is woefully unregulated, and companies often use reassuring labels that carry little meaning. Many of these products contain masking fragrances to cover up a chemical smell; these fragrances in turn may contain phthalates, which are endocrine disrupting compounds that have been associated with cancer, impared fertility, and male birth defects. Look instead for products marked "fragrance free."
Natural Selection
Choose clothing made from natural, untreated materials whenever possible. Fabric treatments may emit toxic chemicals, so avoid clothing marked with such labels as "shrinkproof," "stain resistant," and "waterproof."
Silent Spring Institute offers information about precautionary steps people can take to reduce exposure to suspect chemicals, whether in the home, community, nation, or world.
Silent Spring Institue Website

Tools of the Trade


Silent Spring Institute has launched a new website that focuses on the power of science and advocacy to identify the environmental links to women's health, especially breast and other hormonal cancers. Designed for scientists, activists, and concerned individuals alike, the site offers useful tools to navigate news and information.

A number of interactive tools, for example, encourage tailored investigations into the environmental links to breast cancer. The Mammary Carcinogens Review Database, the Epidemiology Reviews Database, and the Massachusetts Health and Environment Information System all allow scientists to hone their research and activists to enrich their advocacy work.

For activists and concerned citizens, the website offers Take Action, a toolkit of more than a hundred tips for blunting the effects of an increasingly toxic world, whether in one's home, community, nation, or world. Complementing this section is Take Inspiration, which profiles women whose dedication and drive are contributing to efforts to tease out the environmental causes of breast cancer.


Also for activists and concerned citizens is an expanded section of the website, Breast Cancer and the Environment, with such features as A Day in the Life video, which follows a woman as she moves through an ordinary day - and unconsciously swims through a toxic soup. This section helps remind us that most personal care products sold in the United States contain chemicals that have never been assessed for safety; some even list known human carcinogens on their labels.

"This new website reflects Silent Spring's growth and the expanding national discussion about the connections between the environment and women's health," says Julia Brody, PhD, executive director of the Institute. "In the 15 years since it was established, the Institute has grown from a small band of scientists and activists looking for answers about the breast cancer epidemic on Cape Cod to a nationally recognized environmental health research center. The Institute has developed new ways for scientists and activists to collaborate and created new tools to aid in its search for answers. As more people across the country become engaged in a dialogue on environmental issues, Silent Spring has an important role to play in informing that discussion."

Woman in Boat

In Other News

  • A new Silent Spring Institute study warns that ponds in residential areas with high septic system use are contaminated with pollutants that may be harmful to the health of humans and wildlife. Institute scientists monitored the presence of chemicals in half a dozen groundwater-fed ponds on Cape Cod, where more than 85 percent of residential and commercial properties use septic systems. In samples from ponds in higher residential density areas, the researchers detected both a greater number and a higher concentration of contaminants, especially steroidal hormones and pharmaceuticals. Particularly alarming was the presence of estrogenic hormones at concentrations approaching those that induce physiological responses in fish, such as the feminization of males. "It is worrisome that we are finding these contaminants in groundwater-fed ponds," says Laurel Stanley, PhD, lead researcher of the study. "Septic systems are not getting rid of pharmaceuticals and hormones, and these contaminants are getting into the groundwater, which is used extensively for drinking water." Human health effects of the detected contaminants may include reproductive disorders, hormonal cancers, and antibiotic resistance. The study, which has already been published online, will appear in the November print edition of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. To read a summary of the findings, click here.
Ali at Denali Summit
  • Alison Criscitiello, a glaciologist working toward her doctorate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recently raised nearly $10,000 on behalf of Silent Spring Institute by climbing the highest mountain in North America. Criscitiello ascended Denali in Alaska both to challenge herself and to challenge others to support the Institute's research. "I was very excited," Criscitiello says, "to be able to fulfill this personal goal while supporting a cause I care passionately about: finding ways to prevent breast cancer and reduce women's exposures to potentially dangerous chemicals in the world around us." To view photos of her ascent, click here.

  • Two Silent Spring Institute scientists - Julia Brody, PhD, executive director, and Ruthann Rudel, senior scientist - have published an article reviewing evidence on environmental factors related to breast cancer initiation and development. Published in Breast Diseases: A Year Book Quarterly, the article encapsulates the Institute's extensive review last year of evidence from animal and human studies. "One of our goals in writing this paper," says Rudel, "was to create a summary for doctors - and for patients to share with their doctors - to support conversations about environmental factors and breast cancer." To read the article, click here.
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