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A Butterfield and Zuckerman Production in Association with Women's Network on Health and the Environment

By Elaine Batcher

Singer Olivia Newton-John, a survivor of breast cancer, introduces the topics and relates her own experiences in this excellent documentary from the Canadian-based environmental activist group, the WEED Foundation, and its American affiliates. From the opening shots of women's upper bodies, their breasts, we are in the hands of filmmakers who know how to fill the screen with meaningful visuals as well as serious 'talking heads'.

There is now a substantial body of evidence to suggest that toxic substances in our air, food and water are increasing women's chances of getting breast cancer. Given the subject matter, this film should be scarier than it is. But because of an intelligent script and an informed, dedicated cast of speakers - researchers and activists who are multi-aged and multi-racial - it is quick-paced, factual, at times humourous, often using art and music to make a point. Among those interviewed is Matuschka, the artist whose one-breasted chest is widely known to the world of art and activism, Bella Abzug, former American Congresswoman, Dr. Susan Love, surgeon and author, and Dr. Rosalie Bertell, epidemiologist.

When Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, first cautioned the world about the dangers of chemical pollution 35 years ago, she was vilified by the chemical industry. In Exposure, the backdrop of filthy shores and skies teeming with visible pollution remain with the viewer long after the film is over, as does the art installation of casts of women's breasted torsos, which look like tombstones dotting the green hill that serves as a canvas. Exposure looks at the possibilities for the prevention of cancer that are beyond the control of simplified explanations like diet and heredity. Included with the video is Taking Action for a Healthy Future, the Educational Resource Guide and Community Handbook, which summarizes the scientific data discussed, lists print resources and activist groups and gives suggestions for using Exposure to raise awareness in your own community and take action to eliminate toxins in the home and in the larger environment.

Exposure: Environmental Links to Breast Cancer, is available from: The Women's Network on Health and the Environment, 736 Bathurst St., Toronto ON M5S 2R4. Cost is $32.07 for individuals and $106.92 for institutions. Please add $6 shipping and handling for Canadian orders ($8 for USA and $10 for foreign).

Other Resources:

  • Beyond Early Detection: A New Look at Breast Cancer by Sharon Batt. Available from DES Action Canada for $5 each. Send cheque to DES Action Canada, 5890 Monkland Avenue, Suite 204, Montreal QC H4A 1 G2. [Available in French and English.]

  • The Canadian Breast Cancer Network is calling for consumer input into more research on the environmental links to breast cancer. The organization is also calling for a phase out of endocrine-disrupting chemicals through strong legislation and enforcement. To find out about joining the Breast Cancer Network (which also publishes an informative newsletter) contact The Canadian Breast Cancer Network at 102-207 Bank Street, Ottawa, ON K20 2142  Tel (613) 788-3311 or Fax (613) 233-1056.