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Silent Spring Institute

                                                   Friends of Silent Spring Institute Bulletin


                                                   November 2009
Girl Power
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.
Second Nature
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.
Men installing a solar panel

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.



Baby Grand

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 physiological Scrooge."

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 and Barbara Goldman
Belinda Termeer (left) and
Barbara Goldman

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 treatment 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 fiscal year. TURI, whose funding had recently been cut, researches, tests, and promotes alternatives to toxic chemicals for Massachusetts companies, communities, and agencies.

...And You Lose Some (For Now, at Least)
The chemical 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 Facebook page. Just click on the Facebook logo on Silent Spring's homepage.

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, has 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. But 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.

Hidden Ingredients
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.
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  We welcome your feedback. Please send your comments to info@silentspring.org.

To make a tax-deductible contribution to Silent Spring Institute,
call 617-332-4288, ext. 222, or visit www.silentspring.org/support-our-work.


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