What’s In The Air You Breathe? New Study to Measure Pollution Inside, Outside Area Homes

June 13, 2006

Research Area: 

(Richmond, CA) – Richmond residents can learn more about a newly launched study of chemical exposures in and outside their homes and a potential link to breast cancer by attending a community forum presenting the study on June 14.

Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), in partnership with Silent Spring Institute and Brown University, is conducting a study of 40 homes in the Liberty/Atchison Village area of Richmond and in Bolinas, CA, to examine the patterns of exposure to chemical pollutants inside and outside homes, as well as ways to reduce exposures. The study will compare exposures between the two communities, in an effort to determine if residents of Liberty/Atchison Village, because of its location near oil refineries and a major transportation corridor, are at higher risk for exposure.

“Participating in this study is giving me the opportunity to find out what chemicals I’m being exposed to without my consent,” said Vicki Sawicki, an Atchison Village resident and member of CBE, who has volunteered to take part in the study. “I have so many friends and family with cancer and feel that there is a high probability that their illness is environmentally caused. We have to stop the assault!”

The pollutants in this study were chosen because they have previously been implicated as hormone disruptors or as potentially causing breast cancer. However, this study will not draw conclusions about the health impacts of exposure to these chemicals. Further studies would need to determine any link between the pattern of exposure and its health consequences. The research is being sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

“This is one key step in a series of studies that need to be conducted to determine how the chemicals we are exposed to in our homes may be affecting our health,” said Dr. Rachel Morello-Frosch of Brown University. “We are looking at these chemicals – endocrine disrupting compounds, which are chemicals that affect hormones – because we believe they may be implicated in breast cancer and other illnesses, but this is just the beginning of making that determination.”

The June 14 forum will give area residents an opportunity to ask questions about the study, volunteer to take part, and learn more about the potential causes of breast cancer. Researchers have already begun testing in these neighborhoods and will be going door to door over the next few months to ask people to participate. Study participants would be asked to open their homes to researchers for two short visits during which samples of air and dust would be collected. The samples will be tested for roughly 100 chemicals used in consumer products or found in outdoor air pollution sources. Representatives of CBE will demonstrate the sampling equipment being used in this study at the June 14 forum.

The forum will take place Wednesday, June 14, from 6-8 PM at St. Mark’s Church (159 Harbour Way, Richmond) in the gymnasium.

CBE is a 28 year old non-profit environmental health and justice organization organizing refinery fence-line communities in West Contra Costa County. Silent Spring Institute is a non-profit research organization that studies women’s health and the environment. Silent Spring has conducted the most comprehensive assessment to date of endocrine disruptors in homes, testing 120 homes in Massachusetts using methods similar to the California study.