Dr. Sandra Steingraber is an American activist, biologist, author, senior scientist, and cancer survivor. She was born in 1959 in Tazewell Country, Illinois, United States. Steingraber nowadays spends time writing and lecturing about environmental factors contributing to reproductive health problems and the ways cancer is linked with the air, water, and food we get in contact with.
She devoted her life’s work to understanding which chemical pollutants in our environment endanger our health and well-being. Sandra is an international anti-fracking activist and biologist who fights for the environmental protection of all living beings and sees this as our basic human right.
Steingraber was adopted as a baby and grew up with parents who encouraged her interest in sustainable development and organic agriculture from a very young age. Her mother was a microbiologist, while her father worked as a community college professor, and they were both highly influenced by Rachel Carson.
During her 20s, Sandra got bladder cancer which she described in several books as a disease cluster (a high number of cancer cases that occur in a particular geographic area for a certain amount of time).
After bladder cancer went into remission, she completed an undergraduate degree in biology from Illinois Wesleyan University, where she studied. Later on, she spent time working as a field researcher, which eventually earned her doctorate in biology from the University of Michigan.
During her researches, she started studying Rachel Carson, who she considers her “guiding spirit.” In 1997 she wrote a book, “Living Downstream,” in which she assesses the connection between environment and cancer. In this book, she claims that although we cannot change our genetic inheritance, we still can do a lot about reducing human exposure to carcinogens that can be found in our natural homes.
This book is the basis for a documentary by The People’s Picture Company, in which Steingraber’s struggles as a cancer survivor get portrayed. The documentary also reflects on her contributions as an ecologist and cancer prevention spokesperson, and activist.
In March of 2013, Steingraber was part of the protest that blocked the Inergy natural gas facility entrance. She protested the industrialization of the Finger Lakes and was arrested alongside nine other protestors. Steingraber refused to pay a fine and served ten days in the Chemung County jail before she was released.
In 2014 she participated in the civil disobedience campaign where she was arrested again, this time for trespassing and blocking a chemical truck at the gates of Crestwood Midstream (formerly Inergy). She was sentenced to fifteen and served eight days in the Chemung County jail.
In 2017 documentary “Unfractured” got released, in which the main subject was Sandra Steingraber and her struggles and fights as an outspoken activist. She is a winner of numerous awards and honors and nowadays lives in Trumansburg, New York, with her husband Jeff de Castro and their two children.