- Everyday Chemical Exposures
- Chemicals and Breast Cancer
- Environmental Justice
- Water Research
- Health and Environmental Mapping
- Communities with High Breast Cancer Rates
- Research Updates
Ever wonder whether your risk for developing breast cancer might be related to where you live? Or whether the rates of childhood cancer in your region are higher than normal? Perhaps you’ve been wondering whether any hazardous waste facilities are in the vicinity of your child’s school, or maybe you’ve noticed that such facilities seem to be disproportionately located near communities of color.
Those living in Massachusetts can now do more than merely wonder; they can answer such questions by using a web-based mapping tool known as the Massachusetts Health and Environment Information System, or MassHEIS. This tool, developed by Silent Spring Institute with funding from the National Library of Medicine, allows browsers to explore how pollution sources, environmental quality indicators, and certain health outcomes vary across the state. Browsers can also examine relationships among these factors.
MassHEIS is unique in combining health, demographic, and environmental databases into one web-based tool. One of the first publicly available sites of its kind, MassHEIS represents an important step in increasing the public’s access to essential health and environmental information and in sharing the Institute’s own research. The tool allows researchers to access important underlying databases developed as part of the Institute’s Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study. MassHEIS also enables residents to learn about historical rates of cancer in their home communities and in other towns where they have lived.
Users can view preexisting maps or build their own maps to explore the relationships among such factors as asthma and air pollution, polluting facilities, incidence rates for numerous cancers, and pesticide use. Carefully researched links to scientific and news sources such as PubMed and MedlinePlus offer up-to-the-minute information to contextualize the maps, providing, for example, information on health effects of certain chemicals, pollution sources in the user’s area, or listings of the latest scientific studies in a specified topic area. MassHEIS also enables browsers to print maps to share with others in their community. More technically adept users may merge the maps with other information to perform separate analyses.
“Maps are a powerful tool for identifying spatial disparities in health and grasping relationships between disease and environmental characteristics,” says Dr. Julia Brody, executive director of Silent Spring Institute. “MassHEIS provides valuable access to information for residents who want to find out more about the potential health hazards in their town or region and for community members who want to advocate for change.”