What was made clearer to me when I finished reading this book is how complex our pollution problems are. The important issues around the health of our environment aren’t just global warming, air and water quality or… We need to be more aware of the chemical pollution in our everyday lives. There are many toxic chemicals of which we unknowingly bring into our homes and many times straight into the mouths of our little ones.
Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie get up close and personal with six types of man made chemicals (and mercury) that are slowly killing us. These chemicals are in the food that we eat and the products we buy, sometimes without our knowledge and sometimes with the mistaken belief that the damaging chemicals are actually a product feature. A graphic example of this in the book is that “by the time the average woman grabs her morning coffee, she has applied 126 different chemicals in 12 different products to her face, body and hair.” A woman may see a product featuring it’s ability to penetrate deeper into the skin and it’s likely she’ll never ask how it does this or why this could be a very bad idea.
Being a parent and learning more about how many children’s toys are made with toxic chemicals is very disturbing. We can’t rest easy even with newer laws in place to keep especially dangerous chemicals out of toys for children 3 and under. Those especially dangerous chemicals are still usually in toys labelled for children older than 3 and it’s almost guaranteed that they are in hand-me-down toys made before the laws came into being. Let’s not forget that toy manufacturers don’t simply take out these toxic chemicals from toys rated for under 3. They replace them with other chemicals that may or may not be quite as harmful as the ones removed. It’s no wonder that many of the chemicals talked about in this book are actually showing up in higher levels in children than in adults, because children often handle so many plastic and vinyl toys in their hands and in their mouths and with little regard to the age the particular plaything is rated to.
I remember a number of years ago reading about the dangers of teflon. What had I read about freaked me the hell out! Our non stick pans were immediately taken out of use. Over the years I’ve wondered about how teflon could still be in most people kitchens and homes as non stick pans, sometimes lining the oven, on irons…. This chemical is dangerous and has caused illness, birth defects and death. Scary stuff. Bruce heads to “Teflon Town” in West Virginia to look at the destruction it has caused over the years and the many lawsuits and settlements with the company DuPont. A recurring theme in this book is how chemical manufacturers knowingly make dangerous chemicals, try and hide the fact that they are killing people (slowly and painfully or quickly) and even try to find more markets to put their chemical products into.
This is especially noticeable nowadays when you see products of all kinds that are “germ resistant”. Clothing, soap, cutting boards, sheets, steering wheels… all with antimicrobial chemicals weaved into the very fabric of their making. These germaphobic chemicals are unneeded and often ineffective, being absorbed into our bodies to cause known and unknown harm and also contributing to the problem of germ resistantancy or creating “superbugs”.
This book was validating to many of the choices we make in keeping our lives simpler but shocking also to realise that we’re still far from chemical free. We refuse to buy or own (and play with when we can) toys that are plastic and filled with phthalates (tha-lates), keep plastics to a minimum in general, choose organic foods over pesticide ridden alternatives, shop for furniture that is flame retardant free (“Ikea has moved away from all halogenated flame retardants”), refuse to buy or use products that are antimicrobial… and yet there are still often flame retardants in electronics, which are often built with plastics and other chemicals, high gloss “carbonless” receipt paper is very high in BPA, the epoxy lining in tin cans (especially highly acidic tomatoes) are also a source of BPA and on and on. All we can do is be informed and minimise these products in our lives as much as possible.
The last chapter of this book touches on detox and how you can avoid or minimise the use of many of these chemicals. I highly recommend checking this book out.