Living Downstream

84 min / 55 min | HD | 2010


“Handsomely photographed and powerfully argued. . . . Steingraber's scientific cool and unflagging sense of mission make for an arresting portrait of a self-styled modern-day Rachel Carson.”

- Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

“…a deftly interwoven examination of how cancer is experienced, treated and understood…forceful, reasoned and visually impressive.”


– Tom McSorley, Canadian Medical Association Journal 



Based on the acclaimed book by ecologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber, PhD, Living Downstream is an eloquent and cinematic documentary film.

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.


Living Downstream has screened publicly over 200 times, including

  • 2010 Bonus Screening Day of the DC Environmental Film Festival, Washington DC 
  • 2010 Reel Earth Film Festival, North Palmerston, NZ 
  • 2011 International Documentary and Short Film Festival, Belgrade, Serbia 
  • 2011 Projecting Change Film Festival, Vancouver, BC 
  • 2012 Mountainfilm in Telluride Festival, Telluride, CO 
  • 2012 Film Society of Lincoln Center, Mountainfilm in New York Screening Series, New York, NY 



  • Winner, Outstanding Documentary, 2012 Gracie Awards from the Alliance for Women in Media
  • Winner, Special Jury Prize, Feature Documentary, 2011 Worldfest Houston 
  • Winner, Best Documentary, 2012 The People’s Film Festival, NY 
  • Winner, Best Documentary, 2010 Salem Film Festival 
  • Honorable Mention, 2010 Columbus International Film & Video Festival  

Visit the film’s official website >
Like the film on Facebook >
Follow the film on Twitter >

Living Downstream was produced with the generous support of the Ceres Trust, Kendeda Sustainability Fund of the Tides Foundation, The Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, Canada Council for the Arts, Park Foundation, Canadian Auto Workers - Social Justice Fund, The Cancer Prevention Challenge (YA YA Sistahs & Bruddahs Too! and Team Vitality), Doris Cadoux and Hal Schwartz, and Saunders-Matthey Cancer Prevention Coalition.

The Living Downstream outreach and distribution project, including the creation of three written guides, was produced with the generous support of the Ceres Trust, Kendeda Sustainability Fund of the Tides Foundation, Ontario Arts Council, The Fledgling Fund, and Adelaide Gomer.