Case Studies

Taking Action

Image from Upstream Reports

Image from Upstream Reports

Post By: Molly Esselstrom, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

When something is on fire in front of you, wouldn’t you throw water on the flames? What about if your child was in danger; you’d do everything in your power, right? Of course, these are extreme examples so let me put it in a slightly less-dire context.

If you knew there was something in your environment – air, water, soil, etc – putting you and your family at risk and you knew how to help, wouldn’t you?

Our Upstream Reports now provide users with Action Steps where they can view advice and further information about what they can do to improve their health and the health of their family. The risks outlined in Reports are multidimensional and can come in the form of water violations, lead risk, soil contamination, cancer in the area, air toxicity, etc. Our Action Steps help users mitigate risk based on the results of their Report, an important step in empowering users who may be shocked by what is in their personal environment. 

While some actions may be straightforward, such as using sunscreen to avoid skin cancer and having children wash their hands after playing in soil, others can be more complicated. Some even suggest users purchase DIY test kits for their water or soil and, even, to contact their local agencies to speak with them about risk in their area.

The main goal with these Action Steps, however, is to make sure people who see risk in their area are also able to see a way to fix the situation and take their health into their own hands.

See an example of these actions steps here.


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Children at Risk

Screenshot from MSNBC piece

Screenshot from MSNBC piece

Post By: Molly Esselstrom, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

If you knew something was bad for your health, would you change your habits or behavior? Perhaps this is something that you eat/drink or it’s a behavior, like smoking. But what if this something bad was where you lived? More than ever, we are becoming aware that the environment can harm us – especially if it is unmonitored.

 A March 31, 2017 MSNBC piece, “Inside a ‘Super Polluter power plant,” focused on a small county in SW Indiana that is suffering from the devastating effects of the nearby power plants. MSNBC journalist Jacob Soboroff’s reporting of the Rockport Generating Station is a disturbing look at big polluters and their big consequences.

 While two men from the plant mention they are working to reduce emissions, Soboroff has to prompt them about the consideration of the public’s health in the area. Their reply? “Public health is a concern of ours” as they go on to list how they are abiding by all regulations.

 Yet the journalist sees a different side of the public health story when he waits outside a clinic and interviews a couple with a young child. Their 2-year-old had been to this same clinic for the same asthmatic issues over 50 times. Again, he’s only two. When interviewing the pediatrician, Dr. Norma Kreilein, she is visibly upset by the lack of regulations and the simultaneous ill-health of the surrounding community. Especially the children. At one point in the video, she begins to cry as she speaks about the lack of monitoring at the power plants. “They don’t have to take care of these kids,” she says.

 Unfortunately, this gap is a problem that is all too common. The first step? Monitoring. With proper reports from sites like the Rockport Generating Station, communities can be informed about what is in their air, water and soil and they can make the best decisions for the children. With accurate data, real change can begin.


Report for Rockport, IN: where the power plant is directly located

The Report shows an extremely high industrial pollution number, air pollution in the 84th percentile, 6 Superfund sites with 26 schools within 10 miles, and asthma in the 79th percentile.

Report for Washington, INwhere the pediatric office is located

The Report shows that air pollution risk is in the 84th percentile, there are 6 superfund sites nearby, 19 schools within 10 miles, in the 89th percentile for lead risk, and, perhaps most harrowing, 10 out of 1,000 children die before their first birthday (far above the average rate for infant mortality in this country).


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3/3 – Visualizing Environmental Risk: Upstream Toxicity Index

Mockup of an Upstream Report

Mockup of an Upstream Report

The power of protecting your family from environmental concerns begins with awareness and an understanding of what the environmental risk is. Upstream Research has aggregated terabytes of already-available data and put it into a web application that anyone can use to see clearly what’s in their area. These are our Upstream Reports.

And, given the recent changes in the EPA, we have included an Upstream Toxicity Index to even more seamlessly outline the risk in a given area. When someone inputs the address of their choice into the web-app, the system generates a ‘score’ on a scale of 0 to 10 that helps visualize risk in this area. For example, this sample Report in NYC gives a score of 6.3 out of 10, which is “higher than 99 percent of American neighborhoods.”

Index values of 0 or 10 represent extreme cases, and currently no locations in the U.S. have such an extreme index value.  The Upstream Toxicity Index will be updated as new data becomes available and as we refine our indexing methods.

It is important to understand the caveat we include under every Toxicity Index score:

“This risk index gives an idea of the relative risk of toxic exposure in this location by boiling down multiple toxic exposure factors into a single number. Ranging from 0 to 10, a high number means that there is some cause for concern, while a low number means that few risk factors have been uncovered. The national average is 4.1.”

And, while the environment is not the only factor of good health, it is still a factor.


Upstream does not seek to outline correlation or causation with our datasets; we simply wish to inform and empower the public. Get your own 5 free Reports by clicking the button below.

2/3 – Visualizing Environmental Risk: Lead Exposure

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

As we have talked about many times in our blog posts, lead poses a big risk to our country. Flint’s crisis was only the beginning of a conversation that should have started long before it did. Our first words on the subject should have been about prevention of lead in the water, not just eradication. Now, the fact remains that we must do something to make sure that we do not have more crises like Flint’s water.

Unfortunately, in the datasets Upstream have input since our company’s beginnings in mid 2015, we have realized that there are many areas of high lead risk – some places where it’s even higher than Flint’s. On our website, we have added a two tabs to our risk mapLead Risk Exposure and Children Under 5 – that people can use to track their exposure. Lead Risk Exposure is self-explanatory and can be used to see in what percentile of risk someone’s area is. The Children Under 5 tab speaks to our mission of fighting for children’s environmental rights and outlines how many children in a given area are at a high risk for lead exposure.

The main point of these tabs on our risk map is to make people aware of their personal environment – with knowledge leading to empowerment.

Upstream does not seek to outline correlation or causation with our datasets; we simply wish to inform and empower the public. Get your own 5 free Reports by clicking the button below.

1/3 – Visualizing Environmental Risk: Chlorpyrifos

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

After the EPA announced the reversal of its decision to ban the harmful pesticide, Chlorpyrifos, Upstream Research took action. Chlorpyrifos is a toxic pesticide that attacks the nervous systems of insects and humans and is especially harmful to young children and pregnant women. The below excerpt from the National Pesticide Information Center outlines its harm:

“Researchers studied the blood of women who were exposed to chlorpyrifos and the blood of their children from birth for three years. Children who had chlorpyrifos in their blood had more developmental delays and disorders than children who did not have chlorpyrifos in their blood. Exposed children also had more attention deficit disorders and hyperactivity disorders.”

However, despite these findings the EPA still has decided not to ban the pesticide. Upon learning of their reversal, our team at Upstream Research worked to add a new dataset into Upstream Reports – presence of chlorpyrifos. Our website’s risk map now also includes an easily-searchable section on the agricultural use of the pesticide, which may be useful to people trying to find out if they or their children are at risk.

Upstream does not seek to outline correlation or causation with our datasets; we simply wish to inform and empower the public. Get your own 5 free Reports by clicking the button below.

Where You Live Matters

It’s the tagline to our company, but where you live truly matters to your health. In some studies, life expectancy in certain areas is linked to the environmental concerns.

In fact, a case study titled “Life Expectancy and the Environment” from 2009 by Fabio Mariani et. al has the following abstract:

“We present an OLG model in which life expectancy and environmental quality dynamics are jointly determined. Agents may invest in environmental care, depending on how much they expect to live. In turn, environmental conditions affect life expectancy. As a result, our model produces a positive correlation between longevity and environmental quality, both in the long run and along the transition path. Eventually, multiple equilibria may also arise: some countries might be caught in a low-life-expectancy / low-environmental-quality trap. This outcome is consistent with stylized facts relating life expectancy and environmental performance measures. We also discuss the welfare and policy implications of the intergenerational externalities generated by individual choices. Finally, we show that our results are robust to the introduction of growth dynamics based on physical or human capital accumulation. “

Below are 5 cities with the lowest life expectancy in the U.S with the corresponding Upstream Report. And 5 cities with the highest life expectancy. We do not seek to make direct correlation, simply demonstrate that environmental risks play a role in health.

Lowest Life Expectancy:

1. Gadsden, Alabama - 72.9 years

2. Beckley, West Virginia - 73.4 years

3. Florence, South Carolina - 73.8 years

4. Hammond, Louisiana - 73.9 years

5. Columbus, Georgia - 74.4 years

Highest Life Expectancy: 

1. Naples, Florida - 83.5

2. Sunnyvale, California - 83.3

3. Corvallis, Oregon - 82.1

4. Norwalk, Connecticut - 82.1

5. Ames, Iowa - 82.0

Poisoning Our Values

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Post By: Molly Esselstrom, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

Cuts to the CDC might have more impact than you think.

An article March 9, 2017 via CNN online brought to light an important policy change that will have ripple effects in health care and the environment. According to the article, “the plan to repeal Obamacare will eliminate nearly $1 billion in Centers for Disease Control & Prevention funding” which is used for preventing outbreak of diseases and lead poisoning in children.

The cut and its effects could be devastating, especially for a problem like lead poisoning which has become all too common for children. Upstream Research’s new lead risk map exposes problem areas in the U.S where residents are most at-risk, especially if they are five years and younger. In fact, this map reveals that there are dozens of other communities that have lead in the water as bad as or worse than the case of Flint, MI. Likely in most of these areas, parents are unaware of the water they are exposing their children to whether in their homes or schools.

Foundations like Lead Safe America even offer free lead test kits if you think your child might be at risk. These resources for parents are the first step in finding a solution for an ever-growing problem. As the new administration continues to repeal policies aimed at climate change and reducing our impact (and are simultaneously promoting big industry), there will likely be even more stories of lead poisoning as well as polluted water, soil and air.

Furthermore, a $1 billion budget cut to the CDC could gravely hurt the chances of addressing these problems before they become major issues. Perhaps this is where Upstream Reports steps in, as a community advocate and resource when policy is up in the air. With any address in the U.S, you can pull a Report of the environmental risk for that area. This includes lead risk, disease, overall toxicity, and other socioeconomic data in the area you input. The ability for everyone to have access to five free Reports makes this a true resource for communities that otherwise may not know what’s in their soil, air and water.

To pull a Report, go to

To speak to your state official about a problem in your area, search here



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In Children We Trust

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Post By: Molly Esselstrom, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

Kid President is certainly a joke, a satire even, but it brings to mind an important question. What rights do the children of the United States (and the world) have? They cannot lead a country, they cannot vote, they cannot decide policy. Yet, the leaders, voters, and policies that we put in place now are going to affect them the most. Their unalienable rights should be the same as anyone else over the age of 18 and, in fact, their voices deserve to be heard as well.

Our Children’s Trust is a true illustration of children’s rights. This is a lawsuit where kids are suing the government. Let that sink in: kids are suing the government. The mission according to their website is to “elevate the voice of youth to secure the legal right to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere to the benefit of all present and future generations.”

The lawsuit is present and future-oriented, and the end-goal is to affect climate change policy and give a voice to those most vulnerable (and those climate change will most impact in future). Our Children’s Trust does this by facilitating youth programs that provide public education and civic engagement in these environmental matters. A press release on February 28, 2017, mentioned the progress of the plaintiffs and federal defendants, specifically regarding role of oil and gas industry in impacting climate change. 

A recent BBC article, “Is there a way to tackle air pollution?” by science editor David Shukman, posited this question in light of the World Health Organization’s calculation that “92% of the world’s population are exposed to dirty air.” In recent news, Paris, Athens, Mexico City and Madrid are planning to ban all diesels by 2025.

The article mentions that the University of Leicester conducted a study where children volunteered to carry around pollution monitoring devices in their backpacks. The personal monitors showed levels that were much worse than they had been expecting. The implications of such a study (and others like it) have the potential to be life-changing to many people around the world. Especially children, who are most at risk to air pollution.

Now, more than ever, is the time when children can take a stand in their environmental education and their impact. Not only is proper knowledge of environmental concerns and solutions critical to curriculums, but the empowerment of children’s voices being heard as those of the future is invaluable. When we trust in our children and give them the environment they deserve, we are making huge, forward-thinking changes that will surely benefit more than our generation.  

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HIMSS 17 – A Review

Post By: Molly Hover, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

Lights, action, colors. Giveaways, promos, and staged presentations. These are the sights you might typically associate with a trip to NYC or Las Vegas. Yet picture this scene inside a massive convention center in Orlando, Florida with tens of thousands of exhibitors (“the brightest minds”) showing the latest innovations in health and IT.

This is the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Convention – or, HIMSS 2017. 

The annual event is the largest healthcare tradeshow in the United States with over 40,000 attendees from all over the states and the world. Upstream Research participated with our partner, Cognosante and their other partner Protenus in booth #3323. The “theme” of the weekend was tracking lead exposure in a particular Missouri neighborhood – calculating risk, taking this risk to better help a patient, and altogether transforming healthcare – a topic that is all too familiar in recent news.

In fact, many of the innovations seen in walking around the booths were pushing the envelope on traditional healthcare. Improving the patient experience, applying analytics and Big Data, and customization within these realms were some of the largest overall themes. Companies like Cognosante, MITREESO Solutions, ERSI, and Orion Health are leading their respective areas in the healthcare industry so that patients can get more out of their healthcare and live healthier lives overall.

While this convention is a show of sorts with prizes, games and gadgets, it is also an important display of possibility.

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Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Post By: Molly Hover, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

You’re running low on gas and, as you watch the needle get closer to the big E on your dashboard, you can’t ignore it any longer. So, you pull into the nearest gas station, uncap your gas tank and reach for the pump. Then there’s the choice of what type of fuel you’d like: regular unleaded, plus unleaded, premium unleaded, diesel. You make your choice without a second thought to the type of gas you’re using. What does unleaded really mean anyway?

Well, it means it doesn’t contain lead. Obviously.

Before 1974, “unleaded” gasoline was not an option for patrons using the pump. “Tetraethyl lead was added to fuel to reduce the volatility of the gas and increase the octane rating” ( Lead was an additive that was meant enhance gasoline, but the harmful effects of breathing in lead for children and the negative environmental impacts led to the switch in the mid ‘70s.

In 2017, we take the bi-weekly look at “unleaded” for granted. In a time where lead is on the mind of the nation (think Flint, MI), we should be focused on our consumptions that do not contain lead.

Among its worst effects, lead “attacks the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death." Children are the most at-risk group because they absorb as much as five times the amount of lead that adults do. The effects in behavior and neurological functions are commonly believed to be irreversible, which makes avoidance of exposure vital.

Most alarming of all, “there is no known safe blood lead concentration” making any exposure, a hazardous one especially for young children.

See our other blog posts for a guide on toxic-free products, risks of toxics to expecting mothersa look at the water crisis, and at the harmful effects of lead paint. While many companies and cities have made advances in “unleaded” products and city services, there is still much work to be done. The next time you need to gas up, think about the effort that was made to turn a necessary chore into a safer one.



See Upstream environmental risk map here, which highlights lead risk especially in children under the age of five.

Lead prevention tips:

Certified lead contractors:



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Upstream's First Podcast

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Good things are worth sharing–again. 

On January 9th our CEO, Nick Bedbury, was featured on Frank Peters' podcast via breathOregon. Peters hosts a podcast series called The Frank Peters Show and his interviews are featured on multiple outlets. His subject matter is usually environmentally-centered as he is an advocate for clean air, water and soil.

Listen to the complete podcast below:

Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankPetersShow

Toxic Trails

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Post By: Molly Hover, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

Imagine you’re four years old and looking wide-eyed at the contrails of the planes speeding above you. For a few moments they leave their mark on the sky–a white dusting like chalk on a board. Just as quickly, they disappear and your attention moves elsewhere.

Contrails may be a sight to behold, but they quite literally leave their mark with their release of chemicals. An article from the Star Tribune in 2008 used a Question/Answer format to the question: “Is life under a flight path more toxic?”

The answer the Tribune gave was inconclusive, citing a study conducted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that tested air in four neighborhoods underneath airplanes’ flight paths. The results showed the “amount of toxics found was below the maximum accepted health benchmarks for those compounds” such as benzene and formaldehyde and was further complicated by the pollution-emitting cars nearby.

The follow-up question to this study may be: What are the “maximum accepted health benchmarks” for compounds such as benzene?

A paper by the U.S. Energy Information Administration outlines the path to biofuels in aircrafts and says that “jet fuel is a 22-billion gallon per year market in the United Sates” with biofuels only now starting to trickle into the market. “Biojet” or biofuel is made from renewable and biologically derived materials, but is up against the larger market of jet fuels before it is the norm.

In fact, a paper through the World Wildlife Fund this year reported that a week prior to the article’s publishing on October 10, 2016, the “United Nations’ civil aviation body agreed…to put a cap on the emissions for an international sector rather than a country.” And, as one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, “this is the starting block.”

However, although these two sources outline jet fuel’s role in greenhouse emissions, they do not delve deeper into the flight path of their toxic trails. It seems related that the need to change from jet fuels to bio fuels not only affects our climate but also our health.

An article from the LA Times does, though. The 2014 piece measured exhaust particles released in neighborhoods below the Los Angeles International Airport and "found that takeoffs and landings at LAX are a major source of ultrafine particles...equal in magnitude to those from a large portion of the country's freeways." In contrast to the Tribune article that could not decipher between the roadway pollution and the toxic trails of the planes, the LA Times article reports a "'novel and alarming set of results.'" The results of breathing in such particles can be asthma, blocked arteries, and an aggravation of lung and heart conditions. 

With pollutants such as benzene hazing out skies, it is important to take our observance of those pretty contrails one step further and demand to know what’s in the air we breathe.


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Review of TEDEX

Post By: Molly Hover, Upstream Research™ Marketing Manager

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, or TEDEX, is a non-profit “dedicated to compiling and disseminating the scientific evidence on the health and environmental problems caused by low-dose exposure to chemicals that interfere with development and function, called endocrine disruptors” (

The focus is on the endocrine systems in our bodies, which is a complex web of hormones and glands that “regulate vital functions” and interact with overall health. The increase of synthetic chemicals in our products over the last 60 years has introduced new chemicals into our endocrine systems. TEDEX filters this exposure down more fully to “plastics and resins” that are now found in cars, sporting goods, medical equipment, and pharmaceuticals.

“This project was designed to explore the health effects of products and chemicals used in drilling, fracturing (fracking, or stimulation), recovery and delivery of natural gas. It provides a glimpse at the pattern(s) of possible health hazards posed by the chemicals being used.”

The above excerpt gives TEDEX’s mission: to create awareness and attempt to fix a growing problem. In our blog post “Playing with Fossils,”[LINK HERE] we outline the negative consequences of living near power plants and being exposed to pollution. TEDEX likewise shows the degradation that fracking causes and the resulting contamination of water supplies.

The project acknowledges that there are hundreds of products and processes that are having negative environmental and health impacts on the public but they still “make no claim our list is complete.” By compiling facts, however, they are bringing this issue to light and helping to inform the public.

To learn more, go to


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