Rachel Carson Council


The Rachel Carson Council is a nonprofit organization that focuses on the dangers of pesticides and other toxic chemicals and their impact on human health, wildlife, and the environment.


The purpose of the Rachel Carson Council is to work for conservation of natural resources, to increase knowledge about threats to the environment, and to serve as a clearinghouse of information for scientists, government officials, environmentalists, journalists, and the public.


The Rachel Carson Council is a nonprofit organization that promotes the use of alternative and benign pest management. The organization maintains that using these methods can lead to healthier and more sustainable living. The council's board of directors includes experts and leaders in the fields of environmental science, medicine, education, law, and consumer interest, and a board of consulting experts with scientists from many fields.


Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, her 1962 book on pesticides, generated enormous interest in the subject of pesticides. People asked for information and advice. Shortly after Carson died in April 1964, her colleagues and friends established an organization to keep the public informed on new developments in the field of chemical contamination. Originally called the Rachel Carson Trust for the Living Environment, the organization was incorporated in 1965, and in 1980, it became known as the Rachel Carson Council.

Research and general acceptance

The Council has long warned that many pesticides, regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and widely used by homeowners, farmers, and industry, are extremely harmful. Many of these chemicals can cause cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, genetic damage, and harm to the central nervous system in humans, as well as destroy wildlife and poison the environment and food chain/web for years to come.

Other, less acutely toxic chemicals that are commonly used, the organization points out, can cause delayed neurotoxicity, a milder form of nerve damage that can show up in subtle behavior changes such as memory loss, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbance, and altered brain wave patterns. Concerning termiticides used in schools, “children are especially vulnerable to this kind of poisoning,” the Council observes, “and the implications for disturbing their ability to learn are especially serious.”

Through its studies, publications, and information distribution, the Council has provided data strongly indicating that many pesticides now in widespread use should be banned or carefully restricted. The group has urged and petitioned the EPA to take such action on a variety of chemicals that represent serious potential dangers to the health and lives of millions of Americans and to future generations.

The Council has also expressed strong concern about and sponsored extensive research on the link between exposure to toxic chemicals and the dramatic increase in cancer incidence and death rates. The group's publications and officials have warned that the presence of dozens of cancer-causing chemicals in food, air, and water is constantly exposing Americans to deadly carcinogens and is contributing to the mounting incidence of cancer, which eventually strikes almost one American in three, and kills more than 500,000 Americans every year.

RACHEL CARSON (1907–1964)

Activist and author Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring led to a study of pesticides, testifies before a Senate Government Operations Subcommittee in Washington, DC on June 4, 1963.

Activist and author Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring led to a study of pesticides, testifies before a Senate Government Operations Subcommittee in Washington, DC on June 4, 1963. Carson urged Congress to curb the sale of chemical pesticides and aerial spraying.
(AP Photo)

Rachel Carson initially pursued an English degree, but eventually changed her college major to zoology. She was able to pair her two passions, biology and writing, into a successful career as a biologist and a writer for the Bureau of Fisheries. Upon leaving the Bureau, she was a biologist and chief editor for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Eventually, Carson devoted all of her time to her writing—creating best-selling environmental literature classics. One of these classics, Silent Spring, is considered required reading for those interested in the environment. The bulk of the book details the effects of pesticides on living things.

The book quickly gained mass market appeal and appeared on the New York Times best-seller list. People became aware and concerned about their role in the environment's future. Silent Spring is credited with the United States' 1972 ban of DDT as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Council publishes numerous books, booklets, and brochures on pesticides, toxic chemicals, and alternatives to their use. Other publications discuss the least toxic methods of dealing with pests in the home, garden, and greenhouse; nontoxic gardening; ways to safely cure and prevent lawn diseases; and the dangers of poisons used to keep lawns green. The Council also highlights the increased use of spoton flea control treatments for pets, providing pet owners with a guide for safe usage of the pesticides and pushing for manufacturers to more accurately list the products' ingredients and possible side effects. Additionally, the Council provides information to veterinarians and pet owners on the effects of common household and yard pesticides on pets, including advising New York City animal shelters in 2012 on the least-harmful pet care products.

Criticism has been aimed at Rachel Carson, her book, and the Rachel Carson Council. An uproar developed over dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) in the 2000s. Critics of Carson said that she had called for the ban of DDT in her book, which led to millions of people dying worldwide from malaria that could have been easily prevented using DDT. The Rachel Carson Council released a statement that Rachel Carson never called for banning of DDT completely, and that a year after the publication of Silent Spring, an independent body, the President's Science Advisory Commission, recommended a ban on DDT. Many critics continue to publicly criticize Rachel Carson and have put a special emphasis on their arguments during the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of her book in September 2012.

See also Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) .



Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962.


Griswold, Eliza. “How Silent Spring Ignited the Environmental Movement.” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/magazine/how-silent-spring-ignited-the-environmentalmovement.html?pagewanted=all (accessed October 29, 2012).

Mahoney, Linda. “Rachel Carson (1907–1964).” http://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/rachel-carson (accessed October 29, 2012).

Rachel Carson Council. “Tips for Researching a Pesticide Product.” http://www.rachelcarsoncouncil.org/index.php?page=pesticides (accessed October 29, 2012).

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “DDT: A Brief History and Status.” http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/chemicals/ddt-brief-history-status.htm (accessed October 29, 2012).


Rachel Carson Council, PO Box 10779, Silver Spring, MD, 20914, (301) 593-7507, rccouncil@aol.com, http://www.rachelcarsoncouncil.org .

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ariel Rios Bldg.,1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20460, (202) 272-0167; TTY (202) 272-0165, http://www.epa.gov .

Lewis G. Regenstein
Revised by Tish Davidson, AM

Harmless, not disease causing. Most often, benign is used to mean not malignant or noncancerous.
Any substance capable of causing cancer.
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)—
A synthetic organic compound first developed in 1874 and made popular in the 1940s for its use as an insecticide. DDT was banned by most developed countries in the 1970s, including by the United States in 1972. In 2006, the World Health Organization promoted the use of DDT indoors as a vector control in African countries.
Disease caused by the presence of sporozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium in the red blood cells, transmitted by the bite of anopheline mosquitoes and characterized by severe and recurring attacks of chills and fever.
An insecticide used against termites.
  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.