Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Monday, February 6, 2012

NTA Book Club: Part 1 - Laying It All Out

Welcome to the first book club post for my book, The Non-Toxic Avenger: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You! This is the first of seven posts and will cover Part 1 of the book, Laying It all Out. The format will be the same for each Monday's postings: review followed by discussion questions. If you have questions from the section outside what I'm mentioning here, feel free to ask! I'm splitting the book up into small chunks to make the book club an easy breeze rather than feel like a midterm exam. So, expect them to be short and fun!

Part 1: Laying It All Out - Review
In this section, I describe why I started looking into environmental toxins in the first place. The most compelling reasons were linked to the fact that my son was diagnosed with developmental problems on the autistic spectrum and, more alarmingly, my husband was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a form of blood cancer with a relatively dire prognosis.

After wondering why two of my family members were stricken with such debilitating diseases, I wondered what environmental factors beyond genetic predisposition triggered these conditions. As I did more and more research on the potential for toxins such as pesticides, solvents and other chemicals to contribute to autism and cancers, I became curious to find out what my own body burden level of toxins were.

I also started looking at my own health problems and wondering what environmental impacts could be triggering those issues. I started looking at the true risks of many of the chemicals exposures we subject ourselves to on a daily basis and looked into whether or not those exposures meant anything significant.

Ultimately, I lined up a number of chemical body burden tests to determine how I ranked in comparison to the average American. Was my body more or less exposed to toxins and, did my aversion to chemical-based products by choosing organic and "natural" products really amount to anything?

Discussion Questions
1. How concerned are you of the long-term health consequences of the chemicals you knowingly (via consumer products) and unknowingly (via background exposure) are exposed to? Do you think they amount to anything or is it just a load of paranoia?

2. All the chemicals mentioned in the book are deemed "safe" by the FDA, do you think they are safe or do you think we need far more testing done on them?

3. Do you feel like you have more and more friends and family members being stricken by diseases like cancers and autism? Do you think these are on the rise or is it just a matter of better diagnosis and reporting?

4. Do you think that organic and "natural" consumer products are safer than conventional ones?

5. Would you undergo toxin body burden testing if you had access to it and it were paid for?

Feel free to answer the discussion questions in the comments of this post, or via Facebook if you are following along from the fan page. And, if you haven't yet read the book, you are welcome to participate as well!


Michelle said...

1. I think that chemical load is absolutely a cause for concern. The past, say, hundred years or so have been a period of unprecedented use, exploitation, and exposure to compounds humans had never before seen. Some bought-and-paid-for government agency announcing that they're 'safe' must be taken with a pillar of salt.

2. See above regarding the pillar of salt.

3. I am dealing with this right now, by way of vaccination problems. My eldest had an awful vaccine reaction as a toddler (he's 13 now) and his father (my ex) has decided that it 'never happened' and has got the court to allow him to resume vaccinations. My son had a flu shot and a DTaP (or whatever they call it now) in December; now he has been sick for the past two weeks with sequential viruses he can't beat, and even before falling ill his schoolwork has nosedived. People can tell me 'correlation does not equal causation' until they're blue in the face, but the tag line ought to be that it doesn't NECESSARILY equal causation; sometimes it does.

4. I don't much trust anything in the way of consumer products. If I want organic and natural, I'll procure it myself, either by my own hand, or hands I can shake in person.

5. Yes, gladly!

Desiree said...

1) I am concerned with the long-term effects of exposure. I noticed you talked a lot about teflon. A few years ago, I'd also heard the info that it's in everyone's bloodstream, so I got all new pots for Mother's Day -- definitely a great gift!
2) As I was reading through the early chapters of the book, I was a little frustrated with the lack of really good, peer-reviewed research. So yes, I think more testing needs to be done.
3) As we deal with my daughter's mild autism, this question often comes up. I can't help but think it's a combination of the two things you mentioned -- more diagnosis and some sort of environmental exposure. I know there's a big debate on this, but I don't think there's enough evidence to point at vaccines, but I think something is going on environmentally.
4) Are alternative products safer? Depends on the ingredients.
5) Sure!

Preston Glidden said...

1. I am very concerned about the chemicals I am exposed to, especially in combination.

2. Without question, I think that we need more research on these chemicals.

3. We have rising cases of cancer in my family, and my cousin has a son that is *severely* autistic. He cannot even talk and panics when overstimulated. It's heartbreaking.

4. When it comes to personal care products, "organic" and "natural" are meaningless terms abused by marketers, so I am skeptical of safety claims for such products. There is a standard for organic food labeling, but agribusiness is trying to twist the meaning of that term as it applies to food. I'd like to see a new label for food that is independent of the government and not beholden to big ag.

5. It would be interesting to see what chemicals are in my system, so yes.

One Green Thing said...

I've recently started to rid my own home/food/products of toxic chemicals, and my biggest frustration has been lack of transparency about the chemicals going into consumer goods. It takes a fair amount of research to get a handle on this stuff! (Also, by the way, hello!, I only just discovered your blog and book and am enjoying reading along.)

To respond to a few of the book club questions...

1. I'm increasingly concerned. I began looking for greener products mostly as an interesting challenge, but the more I look into the health risks associated with various chemicals, the more concerned I get.

3. I teach college English and am surprised by the number of behavioral issues increasingly seen on college campuses (increased instances of autism, ADD and ADHD, anxiety issues, etc.). My evidence for this is only anecdotal, but the issue is widespread enough that it's the focus of an upcoming departmental meeting, where speakers from disability services and the counseling center will be talking with faculty. This increase in students diagnosed with autism, ADHD, etc., may also reflect an expanding demographic of college students (more students have access to college now, which is good). However, it certainly warrants further study.

4.I think Desiree and Preston both make good points about organic and "natural" products. So many products are "natural" in name only! My own approach is to read the labels, try to learn where my food and products come from, and look for products with a low number of ingredients. (Often easier said than done.)

5. Yep. I was interested to hear, in your book, how most testing centers prefer not to test individuals because it's pricier than large studies. But if testing became common (like cholesterol testing, for instance)... well, it seems like the cost would drop, yes? Will be interesting to read on and see what you learn from your tests!

journeygrl said...

1) I tend to be wary of all the chemicals in products and in the environment. I'd like to think that all these ingredients are harmless. But then I hear/read things like - certain chemicals used rampantly in the USA are banned in other countries. Research is discovering how certain individual chemicals are harmful. And I realize if the individual ingredients are harmful, then how bad is the sum of all these parts? Finally I must concede that the companies pimping their products have as their highest priority making a profit. NOT providing the safest product possible. Their balancing act is to provide the cheapest made product the consumer will accept for the highest price that the consumer is willing to pay in order to make the most profit for their investers/business. When I consider all those things...I start to become extremely worried about my exposure to chemicals.

2) I am always one to say more testing. Too much of the government is bought out or paid for by the companies that the gov is supposed to regulate. Bottom line for me is I don't trust the FDA to make calls based on sound, appropriate research. I do trust them to make calls based on who is paying them to accept the minimal amount of data that 'proves' a product 'ok for use'. No really. I'm not an armageddon-ist or anti government/regulating person. I just believe that their good intentions are too easily bought out and there I can't take them at their word.

3)Yes I feel these things are on the rise. I suspect the reason is a triple whammy of chemicals in products, environmental exposure to chemicals and the standard american diet (which more of the world seems to be adopting) - which is not well rounded or nutrative dense.

4) No. See companies and profits and all that rant above.

5)Absolutely! I wouldn't even necessarily wait till my insurance would cover it. I'm curious enough to know what's in my body that I'd consider paying for it myself. What a golden oppurtunity to find out and adjust things in my life for my benefit.

CelloMom said...

THANK YOU to Deanna for the courage to do these experiments on herself - and to tell us about it. Your data speak loud and clear, and have inspired this mom to clean up all around the house.

1. So no, I don't think worrying about toxins is paranoid, there is plenty of other data, including in peer-reviewed scientific publications, that support the notion that some of the things we use daily are unsafe.

2. The FDA (and the EPA) are shackled in many ways. These important agencies need more clout, and independence. They need a lot more funding, and they need to be shielded from corporations whose lobbying and other interference ought to be outlawed. Until that happens we're on our own.

3. We do live longer, so that probably accounts for some of the rise in cancer cases. It's the rise of cases in younger adults, and particularly childhood cases (cancers, autism, hormonal anomalies) that we should worry about.

4. I try to go for organic. I realise that there is a lot of greenwashing, and have my antennae out for that. I personally know my organic-CSA farmer, and my raw-milk farmer, and trust their integrity.

5. Yes I would. Scary? yes. But better to know, then you can do something about it. Again, Deanna's data is very inspiring.

It will take both concerted effort on the part of consumers, as well as government action, before corporations will clean up their act. As journeygrl said, we're up against powerful corporations with large financial clout. But it can be done: just think of what happened with asbestos, lead, and VOCs in things like paint. Next up: parabens, phthalates, heavy metals, flame retardants, BPA, plastics in general.

After all, as consumers we have the last word. We just need to be informed. I encourage you all to request Deanna's book at your public libraries: spread the word.

Sue said...

I just got my copy today! I can already see the detail and research that has gone into producing this, something everyone should read! There is such a need for the average American to wake up and realize the dangerous toxins they are exposed to every day. Thanks!