Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Protecting ourselves: Lessons from "The Body Toxic"

As a parent, you want to do everything you can to protect your children. What worries you most are the things far beyond your reach.

We bottle-fed our non-nursing son during the height of the BPA controversy, wondering if we were doing the right thing. In my ignorance, I didn't realize it was a minute tip of the iceberg.

And then I read "The Body Toxic: How the hazardous chemicals of everyday things threaten our health and well-being" by journalist Nena Baker. It's quite possibly the scariest book I'll read all summer.

In it I learned about the breakdown of my government in protecting our nation's health. Spurred by lobbyists from the chemical industries, we've evolved the last 50 years into a toothless siutation where weak laws and tiny budgets leave littel room for our government to examine what chemicals are truly hazardous to our health. In fact, we're often lagging far beyond Canada and European nations in taking action against known harmful substances.

What's scary is that the chemicals you're exposed to come from the most unthinkable of everyday places:
  • the microwave popcorn packaging
  • your shower curtain
  • the flame retardants in your TV
  • non-stick skillets
  • grease-resistant food packaging

One interviewee in the book likened the situation to 9/11, where the hijackers were under the radar screen and grabbed control. "Certain contaminants can hijack the control of gene exppression, contributing to a number of illnesses on the rise."

What frightens me the most is potential damange not done to me but to future generations. Tiny bodies are more susceptible to the chemicals exposed to during pregnancy or through breast milk and every day life outside the womb. (Not that formula is immune - chemicals can leach from its packaging, too!)

So what do you do?

  • Write your political leaders and encourage stronger legislation (an update to the Toxic Substances Control Act) regarding oversight of chemicals, and larger funding for those oversights.
  • Choose organic whenever possible.
  • Ditch plastic, particularly for food and drink - reheating can cause hazardous substances to leach out.
  • Avoid stain protection treatments from floors and upholstery.
  • Filter your tap water rather than use bottled.
  • Use low-VOC paint.
  • Choose cast-iron or hard anodized aluminum pots.
  • Think twice about using air fresheners.

It's a little overwhelming, to be honest. Keep in mind that the author writes: "I don't obsess about chemical pollutants; I make informed decisions based on my understanding of the hazards of pesticides, plasticizers, flame retardants and stain protectors."


Corie said...

Yikes! I don't know if I'd like to read that book or not! I'm already a paranoid mom. All I need is more fuel for the fire! Interesting, though...very interesting.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing all this in your blog..I agree 100% with all you said..Actually I did a post yesterday that I have 3 things I want to rid in my life...and it is the toxins..I have gone back to cast iron cooking but beware of the new ones on the market..some are made in china and who knows what is in the iron..My father told me a long time ago about flame retartdent chemicals in childrens PJ's..he said that was very scary and would cause cancer some day...I wonder sometimes why so many children have cancer...I think my dad was right..My father was a Veternarian and he was very wise...Everyone must protect themselves against all the toxins you confirmed to me I am on the right track...Thank you..Lisa