Consider discouraging girls from wearing makeup and nail polish because of the many
unanswered questions about the health effects of the chemicals in these products. The old argument between daughters and parents of how
young is too
young to wear makeup takes on new poignancy when you consider the toxins and endocrine disrupting compounds found in many personal care products--and
adolescent girls' special vulnerability to estrogenic effects.
Choose clothing made from natural, untreated materials--such as cotton, wool, and
hemp--whenever possible. Fabric treatments may emit toxic chemicals, so avoid clothing marked with such labels as "shrinkproof," "stain
resistant," and "waterproof." Also avoid flame-retardant clothing, which has been treated with chemicals that may be endocrine disruptors or
carcinogens. For example, some flame retardants affect thyroid hormones and have been shown to cause reproductive harm and affect learning and
behavior in animal studies.
The Spray's The Thing
Avoid areas that have been recently sprayed with pesticides. Watch for
signs, and ask about spraying practices in parks, on golf courses, and in other recreation spaces. Investigate, too, the use of pesticide spraying in
school playgrounds and on playing fields. Educate administrators and town leaders and hold them accountable.
offers information about precautionary steps people can take
to reduce exposure to suspect chemicals, whether in the home, community, nation, or world.
The Green House Effect
Energy-independent homes are gaining popularity across the country. Yet an important message seems to be getting lost in this frenzy of activity,
according to Julia Brody, PhD, executive director of Silent
Spring Institute. "This great idea would be better," Brody says, "if home-building
technologies aimed at promoting the health of our planet also considered the health of the families who will live in those homes."
Household exposure studies--including ones conducted by Silent Spring Institute--have demonstrated that building materials, furnishings, and products
used in homes can result in significant exposures to chemicals that pose potential health risks. Green building practices fail to take into account
chemicals that have been found to compromise human health, including phthalates, brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated compounds, and banned
chemicals that may persist in recycled materials.
"Energy-efficient, tight homes too often trap pollutants, so the pollutants accumulate indoors," Brody says. "We've made mistakes before, using lead,
asbestos, and formaldehyde in homes and then spending huge sums of money to remove them. Green building should spur green-chemistry innovation, too,
by including criteria for nontoxic construction."
To learn more about Silent Spring Institute's Household Exposure Study, click here.
Why has the obesity rate among infants younger than six months risen 73 percent in the last three decades, when the lifestyles of babies--a rather
sedentary population with limited diets--tend to remain consistent across generations? A September 11 Newsweek article explores a number of studies that suggest the culprit may
be early-life exposure to traces of environmental chemicals.
"Evidence has been steadily accumulating that certain hormone-mimicking pollutants, ubiquitous in the food chain, have two previously unsuspected
effects," author Sharon Begley wrote in the article. "They act on genes in the developing fetus and newborn to turn more precursor cells into fat
cells, which stay with you for life. And they may alter metabolic rate, so that the body hoards calories rather than burning them, like a
Scientists suspect that while genetics and lifestyle changes likely account for the growing obesity epidemic among older adults, for younger adults,
environmental pollutants may well play an additional, significant role.
Belinda Termeer (left) and
In Other News
The Talk of the Town
In September, Belinda Termeer and Barbara Goldman organized an evening of education to introduce Silent Spring Institute's work to their friends and
neighbors in Marblehead, a coastal community in northern Massachusetts. What unfolded among the more than 50 participants was a spirited and informed
dialogue about the search for links between environmental factors and increases in breast cancer incidence. The participants expressed great interest
in the Institute's research, especially its Household Exposure Study, which explores how women are exposed to endocrine disruptors from everyday
sources. The study was launched on Cape Cod, expanded in California, and is now set to extend to Marblehead and another Massachusetts community,
Chelsea. Henri and Belinda Termeer stepped forward with a commitment of $87,500--one-half of the initial project cost--and challenged their neighbors
to raise the remainder.
Strength in Knowing
Silent Spring Institute will co-host Strength in Knowing, a breast
cancer education program featuring a panel of experts in breast cancer
and prevention, the morning of November 8 at the Congregation Mishkan
Tefila in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
You Win Some...
UMass Lowell will receive $1.3 million in stimulus money to fund TURI, the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute, for the current
TURI, whose funding had recently been cut, researches, tests, and promotes alternatives to toxic chemicals for Massachusetts companies, communities,
...And You Lose Some (For Now, at Least)
industry has scored a victory in its fight against efforts to curb the use of toxic fire retardants in children's furniture in
California. In 2008, Silent Spring Institute researchers found double the amount of toxic flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers in
Californians than in people living in other parts of the country.
At Face Value
For an easy way to keep abreast of news about environmental research
and advocacy, consider becoming a fan of Silent Spring Institute's new
page. Just click on the Facebook logo on Silent
Message in a Bottle
SIGG, maker of the popular metal water bottles that were sold as an
alternative to Nalgene-type bottles that contained bisphenol A, or BPA,
admitted that it used the chemical in its bottles until the summer of
2008. SIGG is offering to replace old bottles with new, BPA-free SIGGs.
because the company hasn't disclosed what's in the new resin liner, The Breast Cancer Fund is urging consumers to write to the company's CEO and
demand a refund--not just a replacement--on old SIGG bottles, and to press the company to reveal what's in its new bottle liner.
The Campaign for Safe
Cosmetics is releasing a series of short videos aimed at increasing public awareness of the risks of unregulated chemicals in
personal care products.