Rachel Carson’s Legacy – The Silent Spring Institute

Rachel CarsonI first learned of Rachel Carson’s work when I read her book Silent Spring in my high school biology class. The book, published in 1962, shed light on the toxic effects of pesticides on nature, especially birds. Silent Spring inspired many people to join the modern environmental movement. Rachel Carson died of breast cancer less than two years after the publication of Silent Spring.

The Silent Spring Institute was founded in 1993 to investigate links between environmental toxins and women’s health issues – breast cancer in particular.

The Richmond Times Dispatch recently published advice from the Silent Spring Institute about dealing with indoor air contamination.

“It ends up being part of your environment,” says Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute. “You end up breathing it, and it gets on your hands.”

Many chemicals found in the home contain endocrine disruptors that can mimic or interfere with hormones. Such endocrine disruptors can increase the risk of cancer. In a Silent Spring Institute study, the average home was contaminated with 26 different chemicals, including chemicals from plastics, detergents, personal care products, and pesticides.

It’s difficult to keep chemical contamination out of the home because products are not always labeled with the chemicals they contain, but you can make your home healthier by following this advice from the Institute:

  • Use natural fibers such as wool for flame resistance, rather than chemicals.
  • Avoid stain-resistant fabrics.
  • Use cast-iron or enamel-covered cookware instead of the nonstick kind.
  • Natural Cotton Mattress Covers

  • Choose natural fabric over vinyl for your shower curtains and mattress covers.
  • Seal cracks in your home and use traps for pest control, rather than chemicals. “That’s number one,” says Brody. “Get rid of pesticides.”
  • HEPA vacuum cleaners

  • To avoid spreading contaminants to household dust, use dusting and vacuuming methods that don’t stir up contaminants. A wet or magnetic-style dust cloth, for instance, will trap contaminants and allergens rather than suspending them in the air. HEPA vacuum cleaners also eliminate the majority of these contaminants (while other vacuum cleaners simply spray them into the air).

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