Crowdfunded Study Lets You Test Your Exposure to Common Chemicals

The Silent Spring Institute is seeking participants for a unique research project.

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You may know your blood pressure, BMI, and cholesterol levels. But do you know if you’ve been exposed to triclosan? What about butyl paraben? Bisphenol A?

The above are three of the 10 most common household chemicals, but most of us have no idea if they’ve built up in our bodies. The Silent Spring Institute, a Newton-based environmental health research group, wants to change that.

The Silent Spring Institute has for years studied individuals’ exposure to toxins. Slowly but surely, Director of Research Ruthann Rudel noticed a trend. “Increasingly, we were picking up on the fact that there was a lot of demand [for testing] from other people who weren’t in the studies,” Rudel says.

Rudel and her team decided to lean into that demand. This week, Silent Spring launched a crowdfunded study—believed to be the first of its kind—on Indiegogo. For $299, supporters can purchase a “Detox Me” kit, which includes the supplies for a urine test that detects 10 potentially harmful household chemicals in the body, and the means to ship the sample back to Silent Spring’s research team. Participants will also take an online survey about lifestyle habits and potential sources of exposure.

When the findings are tabulated, individuals will get access to their results as compared to the entire study population, information about the chemicals analyzed and how they affect health, and suggestions for reducing toxicity.

The benefits to this approach are two-fold, Rudel says. “We get a big dataset we can work with to try to learn where exposures come from, and people get to know their own results,” she explains.

While Rudel admits the study’s data will not be generalizable to the entire United States population—the project is likely to attract people who are hyper-aware of avoiding chemicals, as well as those who fear they may have been affected already—she says it’ll be a valuable tool. Silent Spring will be able to compare the results with those gathered by the CDC, and by keeping channels of communication open, the group will glean extra information from participants.

The project is also good for individuals curious about chemicals. “There isn’t any affordable or practical way, that I’m aware of, to get this [testing] done routinely,” Rudel says.

Silent Spring’s study, then, represents a rare opportunity to learn about an area of health that often goes ignored.

“Many people think that all these chemicals that are in consumer products or building materials are tested for safety before they’re put into use, and they really are not at all,” Rudel says. “It’s entirely up to manufacturers what they put in, and we’ve seen a lot of bad decisions, and paid the price for a lot of bad decisions.”

To learn more about Silent Spring’s study, and to get involved yourself, visit its Indiegogo page or watch the video below: