Cindy Duehring

Awarded 1997

USA

For putting her personal tragedy at the service of humanity by helping others understand and combat the risks posed by toxic chemicals.

Cindy Duehring (1962-1999) campaigned for the rights of people injured by chemicals after having severely poisoned herself by a gross misapplication of pesticides in her apartment. She founded and directed the Environmental Access Research Network (EARN), later merged with the Chemical Injury Information Network (CIIN), raising awareness of the effects of chemicals on human health and the cost of ignoring them. She did this by making scientific, medical, legal and government literature available both to experts and average people.

The aim of Duehring’s work was to get society to reassess the impact of the more than 75,000 synthetic chemicals in common use, whose human toxicity testing was very limited.

Many consumer products are protected by laws on trade secrecy and go virtually unregulated. Exposure to neurotoxins is one of the top ten causes of illness and injury in the US workforce, while indoor air pollution is leading to untold human suffering and rising healthcare costs.

The cost of ignoring the chemical effects on human health is quietly but steadily growing ever higher, creating a dangerous risk to the very underpinnings of society.

Cindy Duehring, 1997 Laureate

Poisoned by pesticides

Cindy Duehring, a promising student, was training to become a doctor when, in 1985, she was severely poisoned by a gross misapplication of pesticides in her apartment. This caused her to develop a vulnerability to seizures upon low-level exposure to chemicals. It became so acute that she could not leave her sealed, filtered house built of non-toxic material on a remote slope in the North Dakota grasslands because breathing unpurified air triggered a bronchial shutdown. Visitors had to follow an exhaustive cleansing routine to avoid bringing pollutants into her home.

In 1986, Duehring founded the Environmental Access Research Network (EARN) for which she served as Director. In 1994, it merged with and became the research division of the Chemical Injury Information Network (CIIN). CIIN is a support and advocacy organisation for the benefit of chemically injured people with over 5,000 members in 35 countries.

Its primary focus is education, credible multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) research, and the empowerment of the chemically injured.

With one of the largest private libraries on chemical health issues in existence, EARN's main task was to make scientific, medical, legal and government literature available to healthcare professionals, expert witnesses, attorneys, and average people.

Through EARN, Duehring wrote and published Environmental Access Profiles and the bi-monthly newsletter Medical & Legal Briefs: A Referenced Compendium of Chemical Injury.

The Chemical Injury Information Network

The aim of Duehring's work was to get society to reassess the impact of the more than 75,000 synthetic chemicals in common use, concerning which there is very limited human toxicity testing.

Many consumer products are protected by laws on trade secrecy and go virtually unregulated. Exposure to neurotoxins is one of the top ten causes of illness and injury in the US workforce, and the National Academy of Sciences estimated that indoor air pollution contributes from 15 billion US dollars to 1,000 billion US dollars annually to national healthcare costs. The costs in terms of human suffering are incalculable.

Considered one of the leading organisations in this field globally, CIIN/EARN works with healthcare professionals and governments in many countries. The United Nations Environment Programme and the European Union have both recognised CIIN/EARN's work. In 1991, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry designated CIIN a clearinghouse to aid communities and individuals on the toxic health effects associated with low levels of chemical exposure.

In 1994, CIIN/EARN initiated the steering committee for the National Coalition for the Chemically Injured. In 1996, CIIN/EARN established the MCS Research Fund, which is dedicated to funding peer-reviewed research into the physiological causes of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).

Duehring passed away on June 29, 1999, at the age of 36, from complications of her pesticides poisoning.

After Duehring's death, the Fund was renamed The Cindy Duehring MCS Research Fund. CIIN/EARN is a non-profit organisation that receives no government funding and operates primarily on private donations.

In 1994, Duehring received the Resourceful Woman Leadership Award.

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