Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D.

Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D.

PSR-LA is proud to honor Sandra Steingraber with our 2009 Environmental Health Champion award. Ecologist, author, and cancer survivor, Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized expert on the environmental links to cancer and human health.

Steingraber’s highly acclaimed book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment presents cancer as a human rights issue. It was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with newly released data from U.S. cancer registries. Living Downstream won praise from international media, including The Washington Post, the Nation, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, The Lancet, and The London Times.  Steingraber was named a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year, and later received the Jenifer Altman Foundation’s first annual Altman Award for “the inspiring and poetic use of science to elucidate the causes of cancer,” and from the American Medical Writers Association, the Will Solimene Award for “excellence in medical communication.”  The Sierra Club heralded Steingraber as “the new Rachel Carson”, and Carson’s own alma mater, Chatham College, selected Steingraber to receive its biennial Rachel Carson Leadership Award.

Continuing the investigation begun in Living Downstream, Steingraber’s new work, Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, explores the intimate ecology of motherhood. Both a memoir of her own pregnancy and an investigation of fetal toxicology, Having Faith reveals the alarming extent to which environmental hazards now threaten each crucial stage of infant development.  In the eyes of an ecologist, the mother’s body is the first environment for human life. The Library Journal selected Having Faith as a best book of 2001, and it was featured on “Kids and Chemicals,” a PBS documentary by Bill Moyers. Most recently, Sandra has contributed to What We Do Now, an anthology of individual manifestos outlining a series of passionate new ideas for living.

An enthusiastic and sought-after public speaker, Steingraber has keynoted conferences on human health and the environment throughout the United States and Canada and has been invited to lecture at many universities, medical schools, and teaching hospitals–including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  She is recognized for her ability to serve as a two-way translator between scientists and activists.  In 1999, as part of international treaty negotiations, she briefed U.N. delegates in Geneva, Switzerland on dioxin contamination of breast milk.  Interviews with Steingraber have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, on National Public Radio, “The Today Show”, and “Now” with Bill Moyers.

Steingraber is currently a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Ithaca College. She received her doctorate in biology from the University of Michigan and master’s degree in English from Illinois State University.  She is the author of Post-Diagnosis, a volume of poetry, and co-author of a book on ecology and human rights in Africa, The Spoils of Famine.  She has taught biology at Columbia College, Chicago, held visiting fellowships at the University of Illinois, Radcliffe/Harvard, and Northeastern University, and served on President Clinton’s National Action Plan on Breast Cancer.