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Attention to Detail

Avoid personal care products that list parabens as ingredients. These chemicals, which have been identified as endocrine disrupting compounds, are often used as preservatives in cosmetics and personal care products such as deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, hair styling gels, shaving gels, and lotions. Common names for this class of chemicals include butyl paraben, ethyl paraben, methyl paraben, and propyl paraben. 


Sticking Point

Use pots and pans that are steel clad, enameled, cast iron, or anodized aluminum and avoid nonstick coatings. Such choices will help you avoid perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a chemical used in some nonstick and stain-resistant coatings. PFOA, which is found in the blood of most Americans, has been linked to cancer and birth defects in animals. 


Splash Down
Take shorter showers. During warm showers, you not only inhale airborne toxins from the water streaming over you, but you also open your pores to more easily absorb toxins from your personal care products. Keep your showers short and sweet. And if your water supply is highly chlorinated, you may want to consider a charcoal filter for your showerhead.

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.



Friends of Silent Spring Institute Bulletin
December 2009

Study Buddy

smoke stacks small.jpgMany long-term women’s health studies seek to tease out influences on breast cancer development, but few examine the effects of environmental pollutants. In fact, such studies are tricky to conduct, largely because multiple factors throughout a woman’s lifecycle affect her risk of developing breast cancer. Cohort studies, which follow participants over many years, are a crucial resource for unlocking clues to environmental effects on our health. These studies are expensive, however, and results accrue only slowly.

Silent Spring Institute has launched a new online tool aimed at increasing researchers’ access to critical data from such studies. The Silent Spring Institute Guide to Breast Cancer Cohort Studies brings dozens of the existing studies together in a format that facilitates research into the effects of pollution on women’s health.

“We want to make it easier for researchers to tackle the challenges of long-term health studies,” says Julia Brody, PhD, executive director of Silent Spring Institute. “We’re hoping investigators will use the tool to learn about other studies and identify potential collaborators.”

Home Additions

HESLogo.jpgWhy do women living in some communities face greater risk of breast cancer than those in other communities? To learn more about how local conditions and economics affect exposures, Silent Spring Institute is expanding its Household Exposure Study to include two additional Massachusetts communities. Data from Marblehead, a relatively affluent town with elevated rates of breast cancer, may help to clarify why women in higher-income communities face increased risk of breast cancer. And in Chelsea, a densely populated city with a high rate of families living below the poverty line, the study will focus on how diesel exhaust affects indoor air quality. Julia Brody, PhD, the Institute’s executive director, began outreach to these communities this fall with presentations to activists and concerned citizens in Marblehead and to doctors, social workers, and other clinicians at the health care center operated by Massachusetts General Hospital in Chelsea.

For more than a decade, the Household Exposure Study has laid the groundwork for a systematic approach to tracking, evaluating, and reducing everyday exposures to suspect chemicals in homes. Since conducting its first exposure-tracking studies on Cape Cod, Institute scientists have developed new air sampling methods and laboratory techniques that will make this new research more efficient and comprehensive than the initial study.

You Name It

Consumers may soon have help in determining whether potentially harmful chemicals are present in everyday products, such as furniture polish and laundry detergent. The Household Product Labeling Act, introduced into the U.S. Senate earlier this fall, would require household cleaning products to carry labels that list all their ingredients. Current law requires that product labels list ingredients that are immediately hazardous, but not those that may cause harm over time. To join in the Breast Cancer Fund advocacy for the legislation, click here.

Indecent Exposures

Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released The Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, the most comprehensive assessment to date of the U.S. population's exposures to chemicals in our environment. The CDC has measured 212 chemicals in people’s blood or urine—75 of which have never before been measured in the U.S. population. The new chemicals include acrylamide, arsenic, bisphenol A, triclosan, and perchlorate.

Not surprisingly, the Fourth Report details widespread exposure to some commonly used industrial chemicals, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which are fire retardants that have been linked with thyroid and endocrine problems. Bisphenol A, or BPA—a component of epoxy resins and polycarbonates that may have reproductive toxicity—was found in more than 90 percent of those tested. Most study participants also had measurable levels of several perfluorinated chemicals. One of these, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, is considered to be a carcinogen and yet is used to create heat-resistant non-stick coatings in cookware. To read the report, click here.

Help Us Protect the Future

research180.jpgWhen Silent Spring Institute began fifteen years ago, few scientists were searching for links between the environment and our health. But women in Massachusetts were facing a greater risk of breast cancer than those in other parts of the country. So our partnership of scientists and activists persisted in asking crucial questions, and the Institute has since produced groundbreaking research.

Today, a new environmental health movement has emerged, one that calls for a green-chemistry approach to designing chemicals and products that are safer for human health. Silent Spring Institute helped generate this movement and is committed to staying on the leading edge of the research.

But at the same time we’re reaching a larger audience, we’re also facing funding cuts that have struck at the core of our research. Now, more than ever, we need your help. Please join with us in creating a healthier world by donating a tax-deductible gift to sustain our work.




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