Good Chemistry: Green Tips for Better Health, from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

Posts Tagged ‘breast cancer’

Shameless Shout Out for Breast Cancer Fund

When we scour the web for you, seeking great resources for women's reproductive health, we occasionally bump up against a real gem.  We are newly converted (and HUGE!) fans of the Breast Cancer Fund.

On their home page, they offer a little widget that let's you explore your living spaces.  You choose an area in your house or outdoors, then scroll over the little icons, which inform you of the dangers that lurk.  Cupboards, canned food, anti-bacterial soap...they cover it all

But the Breast Cancer Fund goes far beyond creating cool widgets for their site.  They are educating about breast cancer prevention are strong advocates to remove BPA from our environment, greening the chemical industry and demanding safe cosmetics.  Their site is also full of resources, like the video below:

Check 'em out!

Posted by on October 24th, 2011 No Comments

Ana Soto to Speak at UVM (2011)

Update: This event occurred in 2011. For more information about Ana Soto, please visit the Tufts website


Ana Soto to Speak at UVM
Thursday March, 31st,  2011 @ 4pm
Carpenter Auditorium, UVM Campus
Given Building E131

We’ve been sharing a lot of information with you on environmental health recently. Well here is your opportunity to hear it FIRST hand, from one of the leading researchers in the field, Dr. Ana Soto, an amazing woman and a pioneer in the field.

Ana Soto, M.D., is Professor of Cell Biology at Tufts University School of Medicine and Professor of Cancer Development at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, U.K. Dr. Soto was one of the earliest investigators of endocrine disruption and its role in the development of cancer, and was one of twenty scientists at the 1991 Wingspread Conference who developed the term "endocrine disruptors.” Her research interests include the mechanisms of steroid hormone action, control of cell proliferation, breast and prostate neoplasias, and endocrine disruptors, including Bisphenol-A (BPA). She is now using animal models, 3D tissue cultures, and mathematical modeling to study the role of stroma-epithelium interactions in carcinogenesis and in tumor regression


Posted by on March 30th, 2011 No Comments

Class in session: Pesticides 101

Today at the New Hampshire Statehouse, a committee is discussing the health effects of children’s exposure to pesticides.  Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is a part of the conversation, urging legislators and opinion leaders to stop using pesticides at public play spaces such as school play grounds, and to use safer alternatives.  Let’s take a minute to answer some questions (pay attention, there might be a quiz):

What exactly are pesticides?
Pesticides are used to control or kill weeds, bacteria, rodents, fleas and ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects or pests. They are made up of more than 1,000 active chemical ingredients and come in different forms: liquids, aerosols, baits, powders, concentrates, and fumigants.

Who makes sure pesticides are safe? 
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for regulating pesticide use, but their regulations have weaknesses that allow hazardous chemicals on the market. These exposures are often sufficient enough to cause illness.

How do I become exposed to pesticides?
You can encounter pesticides in your everyday activities: residue in water, food, dust, homes, schools, commercial buildings, parks, and other recreation areas. Chemicals may be eaten, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. You can also be exposed at work especially if you are an agriculture worker (farmer), landscaper, exterminator, or livestock breeder. (more…)

Posted by on June 15th, 2010 1 Comment

UPDATE: Bisphenol A (BPA) Bill in VT Legislature

The Vermont Senate Health and Welfare Committee is currently hearing testimony on S.247, a bill that bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution of reusable food or beverage containers, and infant formula or baby food, that is stored in a plastic container, jar, or can that contains Bisphenol A (BPA).

PPNNE’s Medical Director, Dr. Cheryl Gibson, testified in support of this legislation, strongly urging the committee to vote in support of the bill. 

Statehouse in the winterDr. Gibson’s testimony really dove into the science and health implications of BPA.  Here’s an excerpt of her testimony:

"BPA is found in the lining of metal food cans and in some plastic food containers, including some baby bottles, water bottles, microwave ovenware and eating utensils.  Because BPA is an unstable polymer and is fat-seeking, it can leach into infant formula and other food products, especially when heated.  Once in food, BPA can move quickly into people - a real concern for women of childbearing age and for young children."

"At PPNNE’s fall conference on women’s environmental health, Janet Gray, editor of the Breast Cancer Fund's State of the Evidence, illustrated how BPA in food containers can affect our health. Please take a moment and picture three petri dishes in a laboratory.  When estrogen was added to breast cancer tumor cells in a petri dish, the tumor cells divided and grew.  When BPA was added to breast cancer tumor cells in a petri dish, the tumor cells divided and grew.  When liquid from a BPA-lined can of string beans was added to breast cancer tumor cells in a petri dish, the tumor cells divided and grew." To read all of Dr. Gibson’s testimony, click here.

The real answer to eliminating BPA lies in chemical reform and policy change. That is why it's so important to contact your elected officials and ask them to support this bill.

In the meantime, here are a few ways to reduce your exposure to BPA.

Posted by on March 12th, 2010 No Comments

A Crucial Catch: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Last weekend, I went the Pittsburgh Steelers football game and, in lieu of my terrible towel, I got a pink towel.  The pink towel reads: A Crucial Catch, Annual Screening Saves Lives.  October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and PPNNE is encouraging women to make breast exams a priority. According to the Breast Cancer Fund, breast cancer strikes more women in the world than any other type of cancer, except skin cancer. 

Last month at PPNNE’s conference, A Critical Link: The Environment and Women’s Health, Dr. Janet Gray spoke about the growing body of scientific evidence linking chemicals and radiation in our environment to the current high rates of breast cancer. There is a ton of information out there on what chemicals can cause cancer; reading Dr. Gray’s report is a great place to start.
The Breast Cancer Fund, with the help of Dr. Gray and the Daily Green, is posting prevention tips on their
Facebook page each weekday for Breast Cancer Awareness Month-check it out.   
Here are some of their tips:
 -Choose a bisphenol A (BPA)-free water or baby bottle
 -Drink safe water (not in a plastic bottle)
 -Choose truly “microwave-safe” containers – no plastic or plastic wrap

What’s the old saying?  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In addition to these tips, remember that getting a yearly breast exam is crucial.



Posted by on October 9th, 2009 No Comments

Savvy Sunscreen Selection

I have been committed to slathering on suntan lotion for some time now.  In my 20s I foolishly sought a sun-kissed glow to add to my appeal, but I usually ended up looking like a giant red-lobster. Now, in my 30s, I am trying to “make-up” for all of my blistering burns, so I have been applying copious amounts of high SPF sunscreen.  My husband tells me I am the easiest person to spot on a beach – he simply looks around for the palest (we’re talking white) body and there I am.  While the ingredients in the sunscreen have been working to block out the UV rays that cause my skin to burn red, the ingredients have not necessarily been working to shield my health.


UVA and UVB rays both contribute to skin cancer, wrinkling, and skin aging.  I was always under the belief that a higher SPF meant greater protection from UV rays.  However, according to Environmental Working Group, SPF, Sun Protection Factor, “is only a measurement of the how well a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays, the kind of radiation that causes sunburn.”  SPF does not measure a product’s protection from UVA rays.  Look for products labeled UVA/UVB or broad spectrum for protection against both types of UV radiation.


Posted by on June 28th, 2009 3 Comments

Summer Reading

Do you want in depth information on the links between human health & the environment? Are you  just looking for a good book to read on the beach?  Do you doubt the existence of one book that fits both of these criteria? Please, allow Dr. Sandra Steingraber to prove you wrong!

Steingraber is a scientist and a storyteller. She weaves biographical information, history, and scientific data into a coherent picture of how “Lifestyle and environment are not independent categories that can be untwisted from each other: to talk about one is to talk about the other” (Steingraber, 1997).


Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment examines the link between chemicals and cancer, challenging the heavy emphasis we place on genetics and lifestyle as causes for cancer.  Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood discusses the ecology of pregnancy. Both books are a strong argument for the precautionary principle: that chemicals should not be released into the environment until we know they are “almost certainly not going to hurt anyone” and that least toxic alternatives should always be used (Steingraber, 1997).

Dr. Steingraber is the key note speaker at PPNNE’s upcoming Critical Link conference. She is as compelling a speaker as she is a writer. We hope you will come see her in person.

Read any good environmental health books lately? Let me know. I am looking for more summer reading.

Posted by on June 15th, 2009 No Comments

Deodorant Stinks

I’ve known for a while that conventional deodorants — which often contain triclosan and/or aluminum — do more than stop sweat in its tracks. Unfortunately, many of the deodorants and antiperspirants on the market are also linked to adverse health effects, such as problems with sweat glands after years of use, discoloration in the skin, and possibly even Alzheimer's and breast cancer.


Whether or not the research is conclusive, there’s enough evidence to warrant a switch. But at what cost?




I recently traveled to Ames, IA, with eight kids between the ages of 8 1/2 and 12. (It’s a long story, but only two of them “belonged” to me...) Long before reaching our final destination, my all-natural deodorant up and died. While the preteens I was traveling with didn’t seem to notice, I was mortified every time I had to raise my arms to stow luggage in the overhead bins. So, what’s a girl to do?


Given my sweat-inducing situation, I opted for an antiperspirant/ deodorant with a natural-sounding cucumber and green tea scent for the return trip. Knowing that you can’t judge a book by its cover — or MOST personal care products by their label — I visited Skin Deep, an online safety guide created by the Environmental Working Group. WORRIERS BEWARE: You’ll never be able to look at those benign-looking tubes, jars, and bottles the same way! According to their database, the product I’d chosen earned a “hazard score” of 5 (with 10 corresponding to highest concern). Not horrible, but 61% of antiperspirant/deodorants have lower concerns. With so much to choose from, I’m hopeful that I can find an effective, healthier alternative — without breaking a sweat. Please feel free to send suggestions!

Posted by on June 11th, 2009 No Comments

Hop on the BPA Ban Bandwagon

This session, PPNNE worked on bills to reduce our exposure to environmental contaminants  at the state level in the Maine & Vermont . Now state legislatures are wrapping up for the summer,  and we're watching the US Congress.

Remember Bishpenol-A (aka BPA)? Yes, that BPA-- the ubiquitous chemical linked to reproductive health problems including breast cancer, low sperm counts and early puberty.

Is Bisphenol-A lurking in this can?

Is Bisphenol-A lurking in this can?

It's time to make BPA a thing of the past! Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and Representative Markey (D-MA)  introduced the Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2009, a bill that bans BPA from food and beverage containers.  Over 90% of us harbor detectable levels of BPA in our bodies and food contamination is the primary culprit, so this is a common sense way to reduce exposure.

You can help speed up BPA's departure from our beverages and our bodies by  asking your elected officials to support this bill. Take action now!

Thanks to the Breast Cancer Fund and VPIRG for their work on this important issue.

Posted by on June 1st, 2009 No Comments

Pondering Parabens

I’ll admit it – I’m a compulsive label reader. Lately I've noticed plenty of shampoos, cosmetics and personal care products boasting labels stating they are "Paraben Free." Why are some companies going out of there way to get rid of these parabens? There are many parabens: methyl paraben, propyl paraben, butyl paraben and ethyl paraben. Should we care when a product is Paraben Free?




According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “parabens are widely used synthetic preservatives found in most of the 25,000 cosmetics and personal care products in the Skin Deep” database. Parabens extend the shelf life of moisturizers and your shampoos and other products.

Parabens have chemicals that mimic estrogen in female bodies-- they mimic women's hormones and disrupt women's endocrine system. When the endocrine system is disrupted, the body’s ability to communicate with itself is thrown off. Some endocrine disruptors, such as parabens, have been linked to breast cancer. EWG reports “parabens were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied." According to the Breast Cancer Fund , “measurable concentrations of six different parabens have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors.”

So, should we care if a product is Paraben Free? At the expense of quoting a certain someone, I’m going to answer with an enthusiastic “You Betcha’!” If possible, choose a Paraben Free product.

To learn more about estrogenic chemicals in cosmetics and how they can affect a woman’s body, check out this video made by Cornell University. MAKE-UP: Breast Cancer and the Estrogen Connection

Posted by on May 1st, 2009 No Comments