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Staying Healthy in a Toxic World

by McKay Jenkins

Pub Date: April 19th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6803-6
Publisher: Random House

An alarming view of the storm of synthetic chemicals sweeping into our homes, workplaces, retail shelves and, inevitably, our bodies.

Nonfiction adventure writer Jenkins (English/Univ. of Delaware; Bloody Falls of the Coppermine: Madness, Murder and the Collision of Cultures in the Arctic, 1913, 2005, etc.) developed a benign tumor the size of an orange and pondered how it could happen to him, someone who strives for healthful living. Among other places, his search led to an unnamed big-box store permeated with the smell of synthetic lavender, where he opened a jar of fabricated fragrance and gagged. The book goes on to detail in nontechnical terms the often oil-derived and frequently unlabeled concoctions that have soaked into much of what consumers buy, wear, eat and drink since the end of World War II. Even bathtub rubber ducks for children, rendered temptingly chewable by synthetics, are not immune. A rule of thumb is to avoid ingredients with unpronounceable names, like the ubiquitous phthalates. Jenkins provides suggestions for staying clear of the worst of it, but, like others before him, he recognizes that the cumulative impacts of synthetics are not yet scientifically understood and, in fact, painfully understudied. In the tradition of Rachel Carson, Jenkins has little doubt that those impacts are dire. There is still hope that humanity and nature are resistant to this toxic flood, but as the author makes clear, it's a thin hope at best.

Wholesome take on a toxic subject.