(photo: Dale Robbins)
Photo: Dale Robbins

Sandra Steingraber

Biologist and Activist

Ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber is an internationally-recognized authority on environmental links to cancer and human health. Called “a poet with a knife” by Sojourner magazine, Steingraber has received many honors for her work as a science writer. She was named a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year, and the Sierra Club has heralded her as “the new Rachel Carson.” Carson’s own alma mater, Chatham College, selected Steingraber to receive its biennial Rachel Carson Leadership Award. Steingraber received a Hero Award from the Breast Cancer Fund in 2006, and the Environmental Health Champion Award from Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles, in 2009.

Steingraber has testified in the European Parliament, before the President’s Cancer Panel, and has participated in briefings to Congress and before United Nations delegates in Geneva, Switzerland. She has also been invited to speak throughout the United States and Canada at conferences on human health and the environment, and has been invited to lecture at many universities, medical schools, and hospitals. Her bladder cancer diagnosis at age 20, and her belief that this diagnosis was caused by toxins in her environment, is a frequent subject of her talks.

Steingraber’s highly acclaimed book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment, was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with data from U.S. cancer registries. It won praise from international media including The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, The Lancet, and The London Times. Another of Steingraber’s books, Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, was both a memoir of her own pregnancy and an investigation of fetal toxicology. The Library Journal selected Having Faith as a best book of 2001, and it was featured in Bill Moyers’ 2002 documentary Kids and Chemicals.

In Steingraber’s most recent book, Raising Elijah: Protecting Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis, she describes the challenge of raising children in a world where toxic chemicals are legally permitted circulate in our economy, and makes the case that our ongoing environmental crisis is fundamentally a crisis of family life. A columnist for Orion magazine, Sandra Steingraber is currently a scholar in residence in Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York.