International Summit on Breast Cancer and the Environment

Marj served as lead consultant to the 2002 International Summit on Breast Cancer and the Environment. She led the planning of this collaborative convening of community members, breast cancer advocates, and researchers. The result was the development of a research agenda to identify environmental exposures that are associated with the national and global epidemic of breast cancer in women.

Since the summit, participating organizations have achieved a major success in moving forward the agenda they developed. One key element was a call for testing of Americans for the presence of chemicals and other toxic exposures from the environment. In 2006, the California legislature passed and the governor signed a bill launching the nation’s first statewide effort to measure human exposure to toxic chemicals linked to diseases such as cancer and asthma. The California Biomonitoring Program is voluntary and confidential. It will include a statewide report on environmental chemical exposure among Californians. This will allow the state to track exposures over time, identify high-exposure communities, and prioritize chemicals for scientific study.

“One figure stands out as key to ensuring the integrity and ultimate success of the International Summit—Marj Plumb. In the 18 months of preparation for the Summit, Marj worked with both the advocacy groups and the scientific advisors and managed to harmonize the process in a way that many thought impossible at the outset. Many of us have gone on to work on the recommendations of the Summit and to achieve success in advancing the environmental health movement in the California State Legislature.”

—Jeanne Rizzo
Executive Director, The Breast Cancer Fund

“When asked by the federal government to organize an International Summit on Breast Cancer and the Environment, I quickly learned that I was faced with an almost impossible challenge in pulling together various breast cancer advocacy groups who had not previously worked together (even though they have a common agenda). Marj recognized the importance of the project, assured me that it was definitely doable and agreed to help me make it happen. She left no stone unturned in ensuring the Summit was a smashing success. It was a wonderful experience for me to see a real ‘pro’ in action.”

—Pat Buffler, PhD
Former Dean, UC Berkeley School of Public Health