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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ISTC Sustainability Film Festival 2014

A guide to resources relating to the three films screened during ISTC's Sustainability Film Festival, held from April 22-24, 2014. They are: Living Downstream, Terra Blight, and Waste = Food.

Living Downstream Synopsis & Trailer

Produced and distributed by the People's Picture Company, Inc., this documentary is based on the acclaimed book by ecologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. This poetic film follows Sandra during one pivotal year as she travels across North America, working to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links. After a routine cancer screening, Sandra receives some worrying results and is thrust into a period of medical uncertainty. Thus, we begin two journeys with Sandra: her private struggles with cancer and her public quest to bring attention to the urgent human rights issue of cancer prevention.

But Sandra is not the only one who is on a journey—the chemicals against which she is fighting are also on the move. We follow these invisible toxins as they migrate to some of the most beautiful places in North America. We see how these chemicals enter our bodies and how, once inside, scientists believe they may be working to cause cancer. Several experts in the fields of toxicology and cancer research make important cameo appearances in the film, highlighting their own findings on two pervasive chemicals: atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world, and the industrial compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Their work further illuminates the significant connection between a healthy environment and human health.

At once Sandra's personal journey and her scientific exploration, Living Downstream is a powerful reminder of the intimate connection between the health of our bodies and the health of our air, land, and water.

The DVD(s) of this film should be used for educational, non-commercial use only.  The Prairie Research Library has the educational edition, which includes a 1-hour version (used for the festival) and the feature-length version of the film with bonus features. For more information on the film, see

Learn More

Use the resources below to learn more about industrial and agricultural pollution and its effects on human health.

What You Can Do

Below are links to resources to help you assess the environmental quality of your water, safely dispose of unwanted medications, and other things you can do to prevent environmental pollution by synthetic chemicals.

Film Evaluation

Please take a few moments to give us feedback on the film. Your input is appreciated so that we can assess and continue to improve our efforts in public engagement on important issues in Illinois and beyond.