by Breast Cancer Fund President and CEO Jeanne Rizzo
When I first got involved with the Breast Cancer Fund in the late 90’s, our organization’s founder, Andrea Martin had a dog-eared copy of Our Stolen Future and told me to read it.
Andrea had begun to amass file boxes of research papers and commentary on the environmental links to breast cancer and when I stepped in at the Breast Cancer Fund in 2001, it was clear to me that we had to aggregate the evidence linking carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals to breast cancer. We held study groups on the subject and invariably someone would reference something in Our Stolen Future. When I eventually met Theo it was like meeting a rock star for me. I was in awe of the work she had done.
Theo’s breakthrough discovery of endocrine-disrupting chemicals came after reviewing hundreds of studies on the health impacts of contamination in the Great Lakes. She found exposure to these chemicals was associated with abnormal thyroid function in birds and fish; decreased fertility in birds, fish and shellfish; decreased hatching success in fish, birds and turtles; demasculization and feminization of male fish and more. These health effects were observed in areas where wildlife were being exposed to man-made chemicals, such as pesticides and the byproducts of industrial chemical synthesis. The effects of these exposures, according to Theo and fellow researchers, are irreversible.
Her work, and her fearless drive to translate the science on endocrine-disrupting chemicals for the general public, not only inspired a movement, it also helped shape the direction of the Breast Cancer Fund. When the Breast Cancer Fund first started more than 20 years ago we distributed grants to women with breast cancer. Since then we shifted our focus to prevention by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease.
And because of Theo’s work to educate and expose the truth about these chemicals, laws throughout the country and the world have banned these chemicals from children’s toys, baby bottles and more.
Because of pressure from consumers, companies have started to remove chemicals like phthalates, parabens, bisphenol A and more from products. We still have a long way to go but Theo left a legacy so that we can take our futures back.
We must act with great urgency as Theo described in her final essay:
“EDs [endocrine-disruptors] dehumanize the human race by stealing the ability to love, socialize, enjoy each other, and sit down to converse with others in order to solve problems. Now into the fourth generation of individuals exposed to fossil derived EDs the prognosis is bleak. The recent rapid increase in human health pandemics, especially autism spectrum disorder, provides powerful re-enforcement to the climate change argument. Governments must take heed immediately or there will be too few healthy, intelligent individuals left to preserve our humanitarian society and create some semblance of world peace.”
Though we’ve lost a visionary leader, she has left a legacy that will outlive her for many years to come.
Our world will never be the same.
Jeanne Rizzo’s vision guided the Breast Cancer Fund to adopt its bold mission to work to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease.