Silent Spring Institute

What is the mission of Silent Spring Institute?
Silent Spring is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to identifying the links between the environment and women’s health, especially breast cancer.

Why was Silent Spring Institute founded?
Silent Spring Institute was founded in 1994 by activists from the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition who questioned the elevated breast cancer rates throughout Cape Cod and called for an investigation into their causes.

Fueled by the realization that decades of the war on cancer had not stemmed the tide of a rising breast cancer incidence, these activists wanted science to be conducted in a new way, with a focus on answering questions about possible environmental links to the disease.

Today, the Institute comprises scientists, activists, physicians, and public health advocates united around the common goal of finding preventable causes of breast cancer. Their shared vision now underlies the core values of the Institute:

  • To search for environmental factors in health with an ultimate goal of disease prevention;
  • To conduct scientific research in the context of alliance and dialogue between scientists and activists;
  • To achieve scientific excellence and innovation, conducting research unlikely to be done elsewhere; and
  • To foster multidisciplinary teams incorporating toxicology, epidemiology, computer science, environmental science, and communications in an integrated research program.

How was Silent Spring Institute’s name chosen?
Silent Spring Institute is named in recognition of Rachel Carson, author ofSilent Spring, the seminal book on the threats that synthetic chemicals pose to our environment. Published in 1962, Silent Spring is credited with changing the public’s consciousness on environmental issues. Carson’s book and her tireless campaign to take its message to the public helped establish what many consider to be her principal legacy: the modern environmental movement. Carson died of breast cancer in 1964.

What strategies do Silent Spring Institute staff members use in seeking to reduce their own exposure to potentially harmful chemicals? 
We avoid and limit exposure whenever we can, and we avoid untested chemicals by opting for substitutes that have been proved safe. If we have to substitute, we try to choose substances that have been used since ancient times, since humans have had a chance to evolve in concert with those substances. We prefer wood, wool, and cotton for furniture and textiles, for example, and plant-based ingredients in personal care products and cleaners. If such an approach is not possible, we aim for remedies used at least since our great-grandmothers’ day. Baking soda and white vinegar, for example, can successfully replace a range of toxic commercial cleaning products.

We remember that eliminating or reducing exposure works. The switch to unleaded gasoline, for example, has significantly reduced blood levels in children. The ban on smoking in public places has helped decrease rates of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.

We keep in mind the cumulative effects of the hundreds of chemicals we encounter in our daily lives. We remind ourselves that “no evidence” often means no testing. We don’t believe industry reports that contend that tiny amounts don’t matter. New science shows, for example, that some endocrine disruptors have biological effects at lower levels than shown in traditional toxicology tests.

We continue to work at Silent Spring Institute and within our communities to make things better for the next generation. And we try not to obsess about the risks and exposures that we are powerless to avoid.

Where is Silent Spring Institute?
Silent Spring Institute is located at:
320 Nevada Street, Suite 302, Newton, MA 02460
phone: 617.332.4288
fax: 617.332.4284