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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Exposed - A Book on the Toxicity of Everyday Products

I was recently listening to an interview with Mark Schapiro on NPR. He was talking about his new book Exposed, and I was riveted to the discussion. I knew I had to review the book for The Mommy Spot because it covers so much of what I talk about when it comes to the chemicals present in our everyday lives.

But I'm a hard sell. I come by none of my opinions easily, and when I find something of interest, I really dig into it and research every shred of information before jumping on any bandwagon. For me, this book was a fascinating overview of a topic I know I'm just beginning to scratch the surface of.

Exposed discusses how the U.S. has not stepped up to the plate when it comes to protecting its citizens from chemicals added to everything from plastics to shampoos. While all of Europe and much of the rest of the world struggle to replace harmful chemicals such as lead and formaldehyde, Schapiro tells how the U.S. manufacturers wait for more "convincing" evidence these chemicals are causing us harm.

Some books take a small subject and stretch it to fill enough pages for publication. But Schapiro could have filled volumes with what he covered. He managed to expertly crunch everything down to an easy-to-understand journalistic style. He gave me lots of food for thought and a long list of things I plan to look into further.

Every page covers daunting information, and although I feel every parent should rush to read this book, I would caution not reading it before bed. Stephen King couldn't come up with some of this stuff. I had a hard time reading about the PCBs present in so many of the toys our little ones chew on, and I could hardly wrap my brain around how those PCBs can effect testicular development in our sons.

If you're going to read this book, and I sincerely hope you do, make sure to take pauses and focus on the positive things you can do around your own house. Yes, lead in toys is darned scary. But you can replace questionable toys with safer versions, one at a time. You'll learn about the harmful chemicals in plastic baby bottles, but the good news is they still make glass ones. (No, they won't break that easily - I've dropped them in parking lots with nary a scratch!) Don't look at your dinner plate and fear the chemicals that might be looking back at you. Focus on all the organic and local produce available, and how one step at a time, you can take control over those long lists of nasty chemicals. The good news according to Schapiro is, with all the pressure from other countries, America will have to conform or lose its place in the global market, and I'm confident in time it will conform. In the meantime, learn what you can and take comfort in your own ability to make informed choices. If you choose the natural route, you'll never even have to learn to pronounce things like "phthalates" and "octa brominated diphenyl ether".

I plan on making the book Exposed only the beginning of my education on America's use of chemicals in manufacturing. I'm going to gather together all the arguments and turn over each one carefully. And as I do, I'll err on the side of being "too natural" as much as I can. Because I have to believe the natural choice is the right choice.


Jane O' said...

I am surprised each and every time I hear about the chemicals in our environment and the coverups surrounding it. I am a believer in the American system, but this is one area that is letting me down.
I feel better with your suggestion to try to change around my home a little at a time. I was overwhelmed when I first started. But now I can see how I can accomplish it in small ways.
I look forward to reading Exposed to see what new ideas and comments this author has to say on an embarassing and unhealthy problem in the United States.

Gruppie Girl said...

Why can't the US keep up with the EU?

So sad that we are so far behind in keeping our people and planet safe from harmful chemicals and polutants.