The Science and Environmental Health Network


Blog, Updates, and In the News

Crafting the New Story.png

October Networker: The Story of Health

Volume 22 (5) October, 2017

Friends of SEHN,

Dr. Ted Schettler, SEHN’s Science Director has said that most people think of health as a feature of an individual. What if health is not simply our personal choices, but also an expression of our policies, the way we organize our communities, and how we use materials like plastics? The modern discipline of environmental health arose in part because we learned that chemicals can cause cancer and air pollution can cause asthma. We also learned that the world is complex. Most of us don’t live in a simple, pristine environment where we are exposed to only one or two environmental hazards. Demonstrating what caused our infertility, cancer, or dementia would be so much easier if the world was simple.

So how do we parse out contributors to disease in a complex world, especially if we want to prevent health problems? We use stories. Stories help us organize information in such a way that we can make sense out of many details. Finding the causes of problems like infertility is much like a detective story—you have to track the clues. Paraphrasing the old board game of Clue, sometimes it really is the flame retardant rug in the library with the plastic toy. Doctors use stories (what they would call “cases”) to understand patterns that lead to an understanding of causes, diagnoses, and treatments.

Ted and his co-authors have designed just such a story around infertility and reproductive disorders.


Carolyn Raffensperger Executive Director


A new chapter in A Story of Health introduces Reiko and Toshio, a Japanese-American couple, former college sweethearts now married. Thrilled with anticipation of having children, they are frustrated because Reiko is not yet pregnant after more than a year. This story follows Reiko and Toshio as they seek to understand why, weigh their options and decide what to do.

Reiko and Toshio are not alone. Infertility steadily increased in the US during the latter 20th century. Although recent trends are difficult to determine, about one in ten women of reproductive age in the US who want to have a child, including many who are relatively young, are unable. But this is not just a women’s problem. Female-, male-, and couple-related factors are responsible for infertility in roughly equal proportions. This chapter investigates the diverse biologic, environmental, lifestyle, and social variables that alone or in combination can influence reproductive health.

Written for health care providers, prospective parents, public and environmental health advocates, educators and policy makers, the story includes links to videos featuring medical and scientific experts, infographics, authoritative articles, and abundant references—a rich, engaging learning experience. READ MORE >






3rd Women's Congress

November 3-5, 2017

We are ready for this! A powerful gathering of women.*

Come. Let’s take a collective breath, connect, learn, explore, renew and restore ourselves for the work ahead.


We invite you to take a break, be in beloved community, gather your energy for the work ahead. As adrienne maree brown says: things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. we must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.

These times call for warriors of the human spirit. For those who hear the call for justice and are ready and willing to respond. For those who are eager to come together in Beloved Community and protect our beautiful earth and one another...we need your voice.

Thanks to so many of you, we have raised 75% of our individual fundraising goal for the Women’s Congress. We welcome your support, particularly now leading up to the Women’s Congress. We have many young women who are working in the environmental movement who want to come, students from around the metro as well as artists, our elders, and those with limited incomes. We are committed to a highly inclusive Congress and could use your support now. If you can sponsor a registration, check out the program and make your donation here.

*Please note: ALL are welcome at the Women’s Congress. Please join us!

Recent SEHN Board Publications

The environmental writer and sociologist, Rebecca Altman wrote an extraordinary essay on Benzene in The Atlantic. Read the article here

Professor and environmental justice advocate, Bhavna Shamasunder, coauthored an article in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology on the environmental injustices of cosmetic products marketed to and used by women of color. Read the article here

Copyright © 2017 SEHN, All rights reserved.