The core ideas that motivate the Ecology Center’s Healthy Stuff program are simple. People should know about the chemicals that surround us and affect our bodies, pets, and environments. If we find out something being made and sold is causing harm to health, we should act to stop that harm.
Our product testing happens in a lab space of just 15 by 15 feet, plus a storage alcove. If you removed the equipment and divided the room, it might house a cluster of four or five desk cubicles. In a home, it could make an average-sized master bedroom with the addition of windows.
Here’s what you’d see if you walked into the lab. Straight through the door stands a big piece of equipment that resembles a glass museum display case. A bench to the right holds a nondescript gray instrument on a table that is far more powerful than it looks, a handheld device that looks a bit like a speed cop’s radar gun, a computer station for data analysis, and a rack of tiny test tubes holding material samples. Shelves line most of the other walls, stacked with papers and a rotating assortment of products, when they fit.
You can catch a glimpse of these things in the video above, in which Senior Scientist Gillian Miller gives a tour and says a bit about our methodology.
The people behind the projects make them successful. Our research sees the light of day in public because of the dedication of a small team: Jeff Gearhart, Gillian Miller, Melissa Cooper Sargent, Erica Bloom, and our interns. They combine strategic and scientific expertise to help Healthy Stuff punch way above its weight for what you might expect from such a small group.
Jeff, who started and directs the program, describes his job as "helping where needed and trying to come up with new directions."
Gillian oversees the scientific research process, including academic literature review, product testing, methodology, data analysis, and scientific report writing.
Melissa works on translating our scientific findings into societal change, conveying our research findings to the public in consumer-friendly ways and working with manufacturers to shift the marketplace toward healthier products.
Erica directs our campaigns. She also coordinates the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network, working to help affected community members share their stories.