Must Reading: Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History

A new book by Florence Williams, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, explores a topic that is generally glossed over in the conversation about environmental toxins. After giving birth to her second child, Williams had her breast milk tested for various pesticides and toxins, including flame retardants. Her results came back "higher than expected, and ten to a hundred times higher than those found in European women."  Williams' exposure came from electronics, furnishings and food. Further testing for other chemicals, including perchlorate, a jet-fuel ingredient, came back positive.

This rude awakening led Williams to write a "must read" book about the accumulation of environmental toxins routinely absorbed in the fatty breast tissues of women and girls. Williams moves the conversation started fifty years ago by Rachel Carson's classic, Silent Spring, beyond the broad impact of industrial chemicals on animal life to the specific impact of those chemicals on breast tissue and milk. Ironically, Carson was dying of breast cancer when her book was published in 1962.

Williams' book is a clarion call to women everywhere who are seeking answers to the doubling rate of breast cancer since the 1940s. Witty, as well as scary, the book calls on all women to think about their environmental exposure to toxic chemicals -- chemicals found in cleaning products, food, plastics, products made with toxic glues and flame retardants and more.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and Williams' new book is a fitting and informative look at one of the most serious issues facing us today. For more information, you can also download the latest scientific findings of the Breast Cancer Fund at