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Marin Environmental Data Study (MEDS)

Barlow J, Flodmark A, Radtke J, Kianfar S, Yaghoubi S, Farren G, Patterson C, and Yarish T

Zero Breast Cancer
University of California, Berkeley

State of California Department of Health Services, Cancer Research Program though the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services

The purpose of the Marin Environmental Data Study was to set forth the foundation for a community-specific database by investigating community concerns about environmental problems that may relate to breast cancer in Marin, and subsequently identifying existing data sets that may be used to address these concerns.

This was achieved through eight clearly defined activities:

Solicit community input regarding possible current and historical environmental events and concerns that may relate to breast cancer in Marin.

Members of the community had opportunities to contribute their input or concerns about potential environmental causes of breast cancer through several different methods. These options included completing a short questionnaire on the Zero Breast Cancer website, attending a workshop series conducted by Zero Breast Cancer or alternate freeform methods such as email or telephone. These avenues were publicized together using a diversity of strategies, including newspaper articles, televised public service announcements, and flyer distributions at community town meetings, corporations, libraries, and farmers’ markets.


Identify sources of selected other community environmental studies relating to breast cancer.

Significant reports about community-based studies that sought to examine environmental risk exposures and breast cancer in other high-incidence geographic locations were obtained, reviewed, and summarized. Two areas of focus were Massachusetts (The Newton Study and Cape Cod Study by the Silent Spring Institute) and Long Island, New York (The Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project).


Identify sources of environmental data for Marin County.

Sources of environmental data were sought for six categories of environmental risk factors/exposures:

  • Air Pollution
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Geology and Land Use (including animal waste management)
  • Pesticide Use
  • Toxic Sites, Hazardous Waste, and Leaking Underground Storage Tanks
  • Water Quality

Internet search engines were used to locate existing data sets related to the six environmental factors/exposures listed above. Emphasis was placed (where possible) on sources of data most relevant to breast cancer etiology. In addition, a study consultant conducted personal interviews with the general managers of Marin’s nine water districts.


Obtain documentation for selected data sets.

For each identified data set that was selected for MEDS inclusion, a brief protocol was provided that explains where and how the data set and its documentation may be obtained.


Provide a descriptive summary for each data set.

All data sets were summarized in a standard format that facilitates ease in understanding the data set’s subject matter and intended use.

The following data sets were selected for inclusion in MEDS:

  • ARIP- the USEPA’s Accidental Release Information Program Data base
  • CalPip- The California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s California Pesticide Information Portal
  • CAQ- California Air Quality data collected by the California Air Resources Board
  • CERCLIS- The USEPA’s Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System
  • GEIMS- The Geographic Environmental Information Management System of the California State Water Resources Control Board
  • PUSE- The State of California’s Pesticide Use Summaries Data base
  • STORET- The USEPA’s Storage and Retrieval Data base
  • SSURGO- The USDA’s Soil Survey Geographic Data base
  • WTB/ULS- The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s Universal Licensing System Data base


Prioritize data sets to be studied based on community input, literature review and knowledge of selected similar studies.

The data sets listed above were selected from among others that also included Marin environmental data. Prioritization was based on criteria shaped by community input, literature review, and knowledge of similar studies.

Train Zero Breast Cancer personnel and targeted community members and organizations in the basic concepts and applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Zero Breast Cancer sponsored a demonstration on the use of GIS, a sophisticated computerized data base tool that can be used to store, identify, analyze and understand patterns in environmental contamination, the spread of disease and other health and environmental issues. The following GIS map contains geographic data including elevation, slope, and soil erosion trends in relation to toxic sites of interest within Marin County.

By identifying data sets with Marin-specific environmental data, the MEDS pilot project facilitates the development of future research studies designed to investigate the extent environmental factors, including environmental exposures may be contributing to Marin County’s high rates of breast cancer.


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