Audience Questions to Jill Stein - March 14, 2021 Forum

In Our Own Backyard: Cancer and the Environment, Where are We Now?

  1. Is it necessary to buy organically grown food to avoid carcinogens?

    Organically grown food has been shown to have little to no pesticides residues as compared to conventionally grown foods. Consumer Reports found that even a single daily serving of some conventional produce can deliver unsafe levels of toxic pesticide residues for young children.

    Consumer Reports

    To reduce exposure to pesticides, follow these guidelines: buy organic if possible, otherwise buy in season, buy locally grown produce, and wash and peel fruits and vegetables.   Buying organic also protects the farm workers, their children, and their environment from the harmful effects of pesticides.

  2. Regarding Wellesley’s Water 1) Does drinking water cause cancer? I tasted or smelled iron from the drinking water from my faucet. We drink it every day by cooking soup. Are we going to have cancer in the future? 2) My sister has cancer; she is only 45 years old. I worry about myself.

    Everyone’s body is different and it is impossible to known who will or will not get cancer. Certain people are more prone to getting cancer, certain environmental factors increase peoples’ risk of getting cancer, and certain behaviors reduce people’s risk of getting cancer.

    Wellesley’s drinking water does not contain any chemicals in amounts above the legal limits. However, it does contain minerals and chemicals which can give it an unpleasant taste and may adversely affect some people. And in some homes, the plumbing within the home can add lead to the water.

    Testing Your Water Using a Mail Order Lab

    You can get your water tested to find out what’s in it. First, ask your water system for a copy of its official water-quality report. Second, try testing your water by mail. Consumer Reports found four mail-order labs that can reliably assess your water, often for not much money -- Clean Water Lead testing, 704-251-6800; Daily Analytical Laboratories, 800-752-6651; Spectrum Laboratories, 800-447-5221; and Suburban Water Testing Laboratories, 800-433-6595.   Testing is a good idea if your water simply tastes bad or looks dirty; those symptoms sometimes are markers for inadequate water purification.

    You should test for the following:

    NITRATE: If you get your water from a private well or a small water system: test for nitrate, pesticides, and bacteria if you live in an agricultural or suburban area, and test for volatile organic compounds if you live near a landfill or factory.

    LEAD: If you live in an older house or in an older neighborhood, it's a good idea to test for lead. You can test your tap water for lead by calling : Massachusetts Department of Public Health at 617.983.6654

    CHLOROFORM: If your water often has a strong chlorine odor, check for chloroform.

    Reduce Your Exposure

    Even if you don’t test your water, you can take steps to reduce your exposure to any chemicals which might be present. In particular:

    Filtering Your Water

    An activated charcoal (AC) filter is usually effective. AC filtration does remove trihalomethanes (THM), pesticides, industrial solvents (halogenated hydrocarbons), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  AC filtration does not remove microbes, sodium, nitrates, fluoride, and hardness. Lead and other heavy metals are removed only by a very specific type of AC filter. Unless the manufacturer states that its product will remove heavy metals, the consumer should assume that the AC filter is not effective in removing them. Remember to replace the filter according to manufacturer’s directions.

    Other types of filters are available. You need to read the label of the filter itself to determine which chemicals it can remove. The National Sanitation Foundation tests filters and has a list of products and the chemicals they remove on their website:

  3. Is there any known relationship between car exhaust and increased cancer rates? With all the talk about gas guzzling SUV’s, wouldn’t it be important for cancer prevention programs to make people aware that benzene is a major emission of gasoline – the more gas used, the more the emissions. Benzene has been seen under a microscope to cause mutations in human cells and is considered a potent carcinogen.

    Many of the chemicals in gasoline and in car exhaust are known or probable carcinogens. We are exposed to gasoline at filling stations, and of course car exhaust is ubiquitous in our society. Lawn mowers and other two-stroke engines produce even higher amounts of some of these chemicals. And diesel exhaust contains fine particulates now known to cause cancer. Car exhaust also contributes to asthma, air pollution, and global warming. The more miles per gallon your car gets, the less you contribute to these environmental problems. And each time you chose not to drive your car, you help everybody.

  4. Is bottled water safer than tap water/ than filtered?

    Not always. In general, the safest water is filtered tap water, as long as you maintain your filter properly. A Natural Resource Defense Council finding in 1999 is that bottled water regulations are inadequate to assure consumers of either purity or safety, although both the federal government and the states have bottled water safety programs. At the national level, the Food and Drug Administration is responsible for bottled water safety, but the FDA's rules completely exempt waters that are packaged and sold within the same state, which account for between 60 and 70 percent of all bottled water sold in the United States (roughly one out of five states don't regulate these waters either). The FDA also exempts carbonated water and seltzer, and fewer than half of the states require carbonated waters to meet their own bottled water standards. Even when bottled waters are covered by the FDA's rules, they are subject to less rigorous testing and purity standards than those which apply to city tap water See

  5. How can we blame learning disabilities on toxic substances? What scientific evidence is there?

    Find and read at least one of these references. It will get you started on the science behind the crisis:

           Weiss, B. 2000. Vulnerability of Children and the Developing Brain to Neurotoxic Hazards. Environ Health Perspect. 108 Suppl 3:375-381.
           Weiss, B. and Landrigan, P.J. 2000. The Developing Brain and the Environment: An Introduction. Environ. Health Perspect. 2000   108 Suppl 3:373-374.
           Weiss, B. 2000. Vulnerability to pesticide neurotoxicity is a lifetime issue. Neurotoxicology. 21(1-2):67-73.
           Weiss, B. 1998. A risk assessment perspective on the neurobehavioral toxicity of endocrine disruptors. Toxicol. Ind. Hlth. 14: 341-359.
           Generations at Risk: How Environmental Toxins May Affect Reproductive Health in Massachusetts, by Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, Gina Solomon, MD, MPH, Paul Burns, JD and Maria Valenti,
           Unthinkable Risk: How Children Are Exposed and Harmed When Pesticides Are Used at School, The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides,
           Unreasonable Risk: The Politics of Pesticides, by the Center for Public Integrity,
           Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment by Sandra Steingraber
           Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood by Sandra Steingraber
           Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival? A Scientific Detective Story by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John P. Myers,
           Toxic Deception: How the Chemical Industry Manipulates Science, Bends the Law, and Endangers Your Health, by Dan Fagin, Marianne Lavelle, and the Center for Public Integrity,
  6. What are some ways of testing a chemical’s effect on brain development?

    Chemicals can be tested in the lab for how they interact with other chemicals, how they interact with living cells in a test tube, and how they affect laboratory animals such as rats, rabbits and dogs. The results of such tests can give us an indication of what chemicals might do to the brain development of a fetus or child. Toxic chemicals are never tested on human subjects, however, so we really can’t say for certain what the effects will be, particularly “out in the wild” in everyday life where most human exposure occurs. Since all chemicals are released into our environment without knowing what they do to the brain development of a child, most children get exposed to them anyway. When the adverse effects are large enough for doctors (or  parents) to notice behavioral changes in a large number of people, an epidemiological study is often done. This will see if there is a correlation between a particular chemical exposure and a particular neurological disorder. It is very difficult to get conclusive results from this sort of study because the scientist hasn’t been able to control the experiment, limit the influence of outside factors, measure the exact exposure, and compare it with a control (unexposed) group. Another way to discover the effects on brain development comes about after a chemical is put on the market. In all too many cases, accidental poisonings occur either at the manufacturer, the transportation, distribution, use or disposal of a toxic chemical. This creates a case example and doctors can learn a lot about the toxic effects on a human this way.

  7. What are consequences of chromium intoxication? What will happen if you swim in Waban Lake?

  8. Is the nickel found in batteries harmful? What are the consequences?

    Nickel is a carcinogen. However, the bigger problem with nickel-cadmium batteries (NiCads) is exposure to cadmium, also a carcinogen. Exposure happens mostly in the workplace where cadmium products are made, but also in disposal. If workers breathe high levels of cadmium, it damages the lungs and can cause death. Eating food or drinking water with very high levels of cadmium severely irritates the stomach. Long term exposure to lower levels of cadmium in air, food, or water leads to a buildup of cadmium in the kidneys and possible kidney disease. Other long term effects are lung damage and fragile bones.

  9. Re: Pesticide Application in Schools I came into my son’s nursery school to experience a powerful odor. I was told they had sprayed for cockroaches. Should I have taken him home for the day, or even a week?

    It is against Massachusetts State Law to spray any pesticide inside a school. You should report this incident to the Massachusetts Pesticide Bureau at 617-626-1781. You should ask to see the label of the pesticide to find out what was sprayed. Generally, pesticides used indoors can linger for weeks to months. All surfaces which were sprayed should be washed, and all surfaces which the children contact should be washed. Windows should be opened for ventilation as much as possible. As a general rule, if you can smell the pesticide, your children should stay out of the area. To find out more about the Massachusetts law “An Act Protecting Children and Their Families from Harmful Pesticides” please contact the Pesticide Bureau or visit their website:

  10. Literature does show toxins in breast milk; please inform audience the in most cases benefits of nursing still outweigh risks of formula feeding (referenced at Current studies show that breastfeeding actually helps protect nursing mothers and female nurslings from breast cancer.

    Yes. Breastfeeding is still considered the best for babies. Formula’s can also have chemical contamination, as does much of our food supply.

  11. Is there any test or body of tests that can establish a toxicity baseline in our bodies?

    The Center for Disease Control and also Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York have studies underway to find out what man-made chemicals average Americans are carrying in their bodies. There are hundreds to thousands of chemicals to test for, so it is not practical to have this done on a personal level. However, if you think you have been exposed to a particular kind of chemical, and especially if you are a woman either pregnant or planning to have a child, you could ask your doctor if you could be tested for that exposure. Examples of this include exposure to lead, mercury, and high levels of pesticides or solvents.

  12. Have conditions such as ADHD genuinely increased or are they merely being diagnosed more frequently due to greater awareness?

  13. Please explain why thresholds for lead and mercury are declining.

    As time goes on, more people show adverse effects of these chemicals, more studies are done, and our understanding of low-level effects becomes clearer. Unfortunately, the more subtle the effects, the more people who have to become sick before we notice the effects and understand them.

  14. Toxicity of herbicides –lawn care use?

    All pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, pre-emergents, weed and feed products, and the like are toxic and should be avoided. Choose organic lawn care in consideration of your health, your neighbor’s health, improved environmental quality, and to reduce water usage. Luckily, most pests can be controlled without pesticides, and lawns can be maintained without them. In fact, long-term use of pesticides on lawns will degrade the soil and ultimately your lawn condition. For more information and a list of ecologically minded landscape professionals, visit, call the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission and ask for a free brochure on “Healthy Lawns and Landscapes,” or visit the Needham Garden Center or Russell’s Garden Center in Wayland for advice on organic lawn care.

  15. Do microwave ovens pose a health threat? Is there any link between breast cancer and microwaves?

    “There is a growing body of scientific evidence supporting an association between exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and many types of cancer, including breast cancer in both men and women.” This statement opened a presentation made by Cindy Sage to the First World Conference on Breast Cancer in Kingston, Ontario in July, 1997. Sage is a consultant based in Montecito, California specializing in EMF issues, and one of the world’s foremost advocates for the practice of prudent avoidance of EMFs. “While we do not yet have scientific certainty that a causal relationship exists between EMFs and cancer (nor was there one between smoking and lung cancer until 1996), the link is based on epidemiological, laboratory and animal studies.” Until or unless EMFs are exonerated, Sage says, ‘prudent avoidance’ makes a great deal of sense from both a personal and public policy standpoint. The following are at approximately 1.2 inches from the source. In general, the older the appliance, the higher the EMF fields. EMF fields fall off quickly as the distance from the source. Electric blankets are particularly worrisome because they are used so close to the body.

    Electric Blankets 100 milligauss. Don't Use!
    Hair Dryer 60-20,000 milligauss
    Television 25-500 milligauss
    Clothes Washer 8-400 milligauss
    Electric Razor 150-15,000 milligauss
    Microwave Ovens 750-2,000 milligauss
    115 kV 30-63 milligauss
    230kV 58-118 milligauss

    Interestingly, microwaves are now being used to detect breast cancer, and appear to offer a promising way to treat breast cancer.

  16. Do the higher cancer rates translate into higher cancer mortality? Is there any consideration that our higher cancer rates relate to higher screening?

  17. Please identify products used by the average consumer that increase the risk of the 4 types of cancer which have elevated rates in Wellesley (breast, prostate, multiple myeloma and leukemia), and which products affect which cancer.  Identify alternative products that do not increase the risk of these 4 types of cancer.