Brown Universidy

Contested Illnesses Research Group
Brown University , Providence RI

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Linking Breast Cancer Advocacy and Environmental Justice

This project links breast cancer advocacy and environmental justice advocacy through a variety of approaches practiced by the three partnering organizations: Silent Spring Institute (a community-based breast cancer research organization); Communities for a Better Environment (an environmental justice organization); and researchers from Brown University. The project will conduct home environmental exposure assessments, collecting air and dust samples to assess indoor levels of pollutants, especially endocrine disruptors, which have been potentially linked to breast cancer, reproductive and neurological anomalies, and other health outcomes.

Data collection, analysis, community education, and organizational linkages will occur in two locations: Cape Cod, Massachusetts, a region of unexplained high breast cancer incidence that has been the focus of prior work of Silent Spring Institute, and a new site in Richmond, California, that is largely composed of people of color and impacted by industrial facilities. Study results will be shared both as aggregate information presented through community meetings, news media, and on-line, and as individual report-back information to study participants. Using both report-back approaches, we seek to maximize understanding of exposure data and its limitations, and address the ethical issues of ensuring community and individual autonomy, right to know, and ultimately the right to act on scientific information by reducing exposures.

Specific aims for this project include: 1) Conduct community-based exposure assessment research, collecting dust and air samples to assess levels and sources of pollutants in homes locate in Cape Cod and Richmond; 2) Link breast cancer and environmental justice advocacy through community-based outreach, including public meetings, websites, and publications; 3) Develop ethical methods for reporting back study results to communities and individual study participants, and produce a handbook for general use in reporting results of community exposure studies; 4) Pilot test an intervention to reduce household pollutant levels.

Click here to read an interview with Rachel Morello-Frosch in the Brown Alumni Magazine about this project.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences