Simple explanations of what chemicals are and why some (but not all) deserve a bad rap.
Starting out with the observation that “everything on our planet is made of chemicals,” Rae first looks at her own morning routine. She invites readers to wonder along with her what all those ingredients in her shampoo and toothpaste are as well what the environmental costs of growing and processing her breakfast food, or throwing away that teabag and milk container, might be. She then goes on to explain some differences between natural and synthetic chemicals, with special references to plastic and DDT, and to trace the course of contaminants up the food chain. She briefly mentions disasters such as the Love Canal and Bhopal, along with more-insidious dangers like lead poisoning, before closing on a relatively upbeat note with general advice about “greener” practices and attitudes. Though her presentation is simple enough that the only formulas in sight are decorative elements in the margins, she does define significant terms like “chemical reaction” and also gives young eco-activists a leg up on the uses and dangers of classes of chemicals from parabens to PCBs. Family groups and smiling children of diverse nationality and ethnicity feature prominently in the cramped but colorful photos along with glimpses of idyllic natural scenes and wildlife.
This consciousness-raiser downplays the more frightening prospects in favor of a mildly cautionary message. (glossary, index, resources) (Nonfiction. 8-10)