Understanding the relationship between environmental exposures and human health is the first step to taking action to avoid harmful exposures and lower their disease risk.
family preparing dinner

Environmental Health Literacy (EHL) is the capacity for people to make informed decisions about environmental exposures that can affect health and to engage in community and public policy debate on the subject. Researchers predict greater EHL will lead to better health outcomes and reduced health disparities by empowering individuals and communities to take steps to avoid harmful exposures and lower their disease risk. At Silent Spring Institute, our goal is to create healthier communities by building EHL around certain kinds of toxic chemicals in our everyday environment. Research projects that support this goal include:

  • Developing a mental model that supports an action-oriented understanding of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including where they come from, how they enter the body and affect health, and options for reducing exposure. Our goal is to identify the knowledge and skills that take people from recognition and understanding of EDCs as a health issue to readiness to make decisions about action at an individual, community, and public policy level.
  • Assessing environmental health literacy about EDCs in the general population. Using a crowd-sourced research platform, we are investigating what Americans know—and don’t know—about EDCs. These results, combined with the mental model, will form the foundation of an evidence-based communications strategy that will bolster EHL by leveraging existing knowledge and correcting common misconceptions.
  • Creating novel digital tools that build environmental health literacy among participants in biomonitoring studies. Participants receiving personal exposure results may be especially motivated to expand their EHL about environmental chemicals. We seek to develop tools to support them, with a special focus on smartphone interventions to advance EHL in environmental justice communities.