May 17th Call for Community Solutions: Environmental Pollution and Cancer

by | May 17, 2021 | Past Events | 0 comments

“This exposure rate in our region, in particular, if you look across race, ethnicity, and social-economic strata and the correlation to cancer and asthma, one could deduce we need to do a better job around educating, informing, and empowering the sector in ways we enrich their quality of life.”

Fred Brown, President and CEO of The Forbes Funds

The Forbes Fund was joined today by three guest speakers. The first was Dr. Polly Hoppin, the Strategic Advisor for the Lowell Center for Production. The second was Talor Musil, the Network Coordinator for Women for a Healthy Environment. And the third was Jamilah Ducar, the Director of Community Engagement at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Polly Hoppin and Talor Musil discussed the issue of environmental cancer in the region and Jamilah Ducar spoke briefly about Pitt’s upcoming Diversity Forum 2021. A recording of this call can be accessed at this link.

Environmental Cancer Risk in Allegheny County and Pennsylvania

In her talk, Dr. Polly Hoppin shared an intimate story with the audience. She revealed that her husband suffered from an aggressive case of testicular cancer over 25 years ago but survived. She noted that if he had the same cancer 50 years ago he would have most likely died but at the same time the odds of getting testicular cancer back then were also lower. Why is this the case?

Broadly speaking, Dr. Polly Hoppin observed that the overall decline of cancer rates in the United States and Pennsylvania is due to the drop in smoking. However, cancers associated with environmental exposure are increasing in different populations and age groups.

Chart showiing data of cancer types with incidence of known enviornmental causes that are elevated in Allegheney County

She illustrated how Pennsylvania in general and Allegheny County, in particular, have cancer rates that exceed national averages. The higher rates cannot be limited to lifestyle and behavioral choices so environmental factors are playing a role too. They include air pollution and fracking. Dr. Polly also remarked that the incidence of cancer is not evenly distributed between racial groups, with black men and black women suffering higher rates of cancer compared to their white counterparts. This is partially due to the lack of cultural competency in the healthcare sector, which has lead POC communities to be poorly served, especially for cancer treatment and prevention.

Despite southwestern Pennsylvania having a cancer and pollution problem, Dr. Polly said that there are multiple pathways to prevention. She gave one example from the healthcare industry, which is seeking to reduce pollution by closing incinerators and promoting clean building practices.

Given the sheer scale of the problem, it required the foundation of the Cancer and Environment Network of Southwestern Pennsylvania to take a systemic approach to the issue. It is a collaborative network of like-minded organizations and partnerships dedicated to reducing and preventing environmental cancer risks.

The Declaration

Reductioon pollution slideshow

Building on Dr. Polly’s talk, Talor Musli delved deeper into the work of the network. They are currently developing a critical statement inspired by the Asturias declaration developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to tackle environmental and occupational cancers. Therefore, the network wanted to produce a local one that clearly defines the problem, a call for action, and practical solutions. Thus, this is how they can begin to address the twin crises of rising environmental exposure and cancer rates.

Following the talks their was a brief Q & A where Dr. Polly reiterated the importance of a multi-level and multi-actor strategy to combat and reduce environmental and cancers. She also highlighted the app “Detox Me” by the Silent Spring Institute as one guide to reduce personal toxic exposure and to also check out the environmental working group for more tips and resources

Talor in her response highlighted the network’s resource sheet but also brought attention to two apps that can used to monitor and report the air quality in Pittsburgh. They are Air Now and Smell Pittsburgh. The discussion then segued to a Jamilah Ducar’s talk regarding Pitt’s Diversity Forum 2021.

Diversity Forum 2021

2021 Diversitty Forum from the University of Pittsburgh

Jamilah Ducar has announced that Pitt’s Diversity Forum 2021 has extended its call for proposals, which are due on 21 May 2021. She is hoping that individuals in The Forbes Funds network would be interested in submitting one. Specifically, they are looking for proposals that showcase organizational work aligned with the forum theme “Dismantling Oppressive Systems: Building Just Communities.”

Public Policy Updates from Colleen Young

Covid Update

The CDC has released new mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people. They do not need masks either indoors or outdoors with some exceptions. These include state & local guidance, schools, businesses, and workplace restrictions. However, the CDC is not recommending the guidelines for hospitals or public transportation.

Pennsylvania will follow CDC mask guidelines for vaccinated people and will retain mask requirements for the unvaccinated until a 70% vaccination rate is achieved.

As of 17 May 2021, the capacity for outdoor events was raised to 75%, and indoor seating was raised to 50%. All capacity caps will be lifted starting on 31 May 2021.

Covid-19 cases in Pennsylvania are trending downwards due to increased vaccination rates. Across the state, around 38% are fully vaccinated while 54% have one dose. Unfortunately, there continues to be a racial disparity when it comes to vaccination rates.

Unemployment Update

Pennsylvania has ended the extended unemployment benefits for traditional employment because the unemployment rate has fallen below 5%, which trigged the stop. However, the rate does not include gig workers or the self-employed. They are covered by the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC), which is a federal program.

Workers who received unemployment benefits moved to the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) scheme. It is a federal program that will expire on 9/4. There will be no change in payments just a reflection of where the money is coming from.

Western Pennsylvania businesses continue to struggle to find workers. Therefore, some businesses have resorted to offering increased wages and signing bonuses. For example, the lack of proper childcare is one barrier.

Public Comment Update

Allegheny County Board of Health has recently approved a public commenting period regarding sick leave, which will run from 20 May to 26 June. Information on how to submit written comments can be found on this link.

Also, there will be a public hearing that will take place on 26 June 2021. For more information on how to register and please follow this link.

Just Harvest and the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger are seeking public comments on how to improve the PA WIC program. The forums will be open on 19 May from 3 pm to 4 pm or 5/20 from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm. For more information, please follow this link.

Voting Update

Do not forget to vote on 18th May. For more information please follow this link

Upcoming Events


Colleen Young announced the upcoming GPNP Policy Committee Meeting on 5/20 from 1 pm to 2:30 pm. To register please follow this link.

ACCEL and tHRive

Olivia Benson announced the upcoming ACCEL Roundtable on building a fundraising budget on 18 May from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm. For more information including how to register, please follow this link.

Olivia publicized the tHRive program with the final sign-up today. It is a program for small and medium nonprofits interested in enhancing their knowledge of HR practices.

Innovation Lab and Equity Hackathon

The Forbes Funds Innovation Lab and Equity Hackathon launched to implement AI for Good and help social enterprises operationalize the latest innovations in machine learning and AI to tackle challenges faced. This is a partnership with Pennsylvania State University’s Nittany AI Alliance and other actors looking to bring innovation to the nonprofit sector. For more information, please follow this link.

“This work that we do is about reimagining a future for all of us, which requires us to be transparent, agile, and iterative.”

Fred Brown, President and CEO of The Forbes Funds

Future Events

You can register for future Community Solutions Calls and programming by The Forbes Funds at this link. See you at the next Community Solutions Call, or a number of our upcoming events here!


Submit a Comment

Next Upcoming Event
20 June 2024
  • 00


  • 00


  • 00


  • 00


Organization name and meeting title

Stay in the know with The Forbes Funds!

Subscribe to receive the latest events, news, innovative program opportunities, and more.