Diagnosed with bladder cancer in her twenties while her mother was living with metastasized breast cancer, author and biologist Sandra Steingraber is the subject of tonight’s film, Living Downstream, directed by our guest Chanda Chevannes. Sandra cannot help but notice a cancer cluster in both her family and in her hometown, including an aunt who died of the same type of cancer she had. But here’s the rub: Sandra is adopted, so the genetic cause is ruled out, leaving her to conclude that environmental pollution is at the root.
Living Downstream follows Sandra’s personal story and her scientific journey through cancer and the chemical pollution of North America’s groundwater and land, studying the toxins that can turn male frogs into egg-laying females, poisons that infiltrate the breasts and milk of humans passing into the bodies of infants, chemicals that cause the cellular changes leading to cancer. (Tonight Sandra is speaking at an anti-fracking conference in Upstate New York).
Ten years into diagnosis, Sandra discovered a link between a specific pesticide used in the farmlands where she grew up and her type of bladder cancer, so she left her tenure-track position to write about environmental science for the public.
Now married with two children, Sandra goes in for a routine cancer checkup, and the film follows the outcome, as well as Sandra’s ongoing activism.
Director Chanda Chevannes created a lyrical, gentle documentary that mirrors the subject: Intelligent, warm, concerned, providing shocking and stunning information in a way that allows us to absorb and process both the scientific and personal facts.