When I saw this book at the local library here in San Francisco, I thought, "oh no not another 'environmental illness' scare. The reason why I say this is because more than 15 years ago when I was working in social work, the agency I worked with initiated a then-ground-breaking policy. No use of scented or dyed products. For me back then in the early 1990's that was like taking a crash course or starting a starvation type of diet.
I was taken aback at how many common products we use everyday are filled with dyes, perfumes, fragrances and chemicals. These additives are simply to enhance the customer's attraction to buy the product. At that time I was not aware that a simple deodorant has more in it that what is actually necessary for the human body to consume, just to smell nice
Also, many of the perfumes and colognes we buy are loaded with chemicals that have very little to do with the actual natural elements of the fragrance. Yet, we become so accustomed to them, it is easy to not think much about them. I remember really being a bit annoyed almost that I had to cut out, even really basic stuff like shaving cream, lotions, soaps, and yes even fabric softener. Oh, no!
Yet, to comply I did it. It was like fasting or going on a strict diet. Yet, I must say after about three months or so, I happened to have a very chilling experience. I was to meet my mom for lunch at the local mall downtown. She said to meet her at the cosmetics counter at her favorite department store. Well, as I walked in I started to have a bit of a reaction to all the fragrances that filled the air. I did not savor the aroma of fine perfume, all I could smell was chemicals and rubbing alcohol. I began to sneeze and feel a bit uneasy. Later my supervisor at work, who was a staunch supporter of the new policy, noted that my system had rid itself of all those toxins and when i came in close contact with them, my system as now able to detect them more readily.
It was an eye-opening experience. Not to say that I am completely scent free as I was then but I do not use shaving cream anymore. Hey guys, you can save money, using a regular bar of skin-sensitive soap. Also, less shaving cream cans saves on the environment.
Anyway, enough about that. So when I saw this book I was interested to know, what new frontiers in scent and dye-free environments could be explored. The author Deanna Duke is a mom from Seattle who realized that there were many more things out there that still have not been challenged with regards to health and public safety.
As one of the baby-boomer generation people, having lots of stuff made out of plastic was a part of mid-20th Century Americana. It is smooth, sometimes soft and of course hard to break. And like high fructose corn syrup, it is everywhere and coats almost everything. Yet, as Duke points out frequently in the book, the amount of chemicals and harmful elements like lead and toxic gases is still there.
The book is easy to read. Duke is very personable in her writing style, as I said she is a mom and wife at heart. All moms and homemakers want to ensure that their families are save and healthy.
The journalist in me applied some skepticism to her sounding-of-the-alarm bell of facts, for it is easy to become indifferent or feel a bit overwhelmed by such info.
Yet I did notice that for each subject chapter, she has a bibliography of pages of works cited and an index.
Duke also provides a series of chart tables that list all the various toxic elements, like arsenic, cadmium, etc. This is helpful, really because when for example, a word like cobalt is used in most day to day conversations, something like "cobalt-blue." Yet, so many of us are unaware of the realities of the elements and metals like cobalt. This also includes basic chemical charts that often we casually decline to know and figure, "well, my doctor can worry about that."
Yes! But how many doctors take the time to explain what too much chromium or cobalt elements in the blood stream can do to the human body? With limited time frames placed upon doctors for even routine check ups, it is important that people take time to know and understand a bit more and not just be passive and idle about these things.
Okay, so Duke is just a mom (of course, she is much more than a mom). Yet it takes someone like a mom or an everyday citizen to wake us up to the realities of our modern convenience world. There is a cost for all our plastic this and Teflon-coated that.
As I read "The Non-Toxic Avenger," I thought about someone like Rachel Carson and her ground-breaking book, "Silent Spring."
I think Duke's book stands in that type of company and should not be ignored, especially by moms.