May 13, 2011

Book Review – What’s Gotten Into Us? – By McKay Jenkins –

We all know by now — don’t we? — that many of the synthetic chemicals in our food, personal-­care and cleaning products, toys and household goods are harming not just the environment but ourselves. Body-burden tests, for measuring exposure to chemicals, reveal flame retardants, plasticizers, pesticides and perfluorinated chemicals in the blood of almost every person studied. We see rising rates of some cancers, autoimmune disorders, reproductive illnesses, autism and learning disabilities. Meanwhile, our consumption of synthetic chemicals, a majority of which haven’t been tested for human health impacts, has skyrocketed. A growing number of books make the case that these phenomena are linked….

Consumers are hardly blameless, Jenkins says. We’ve allowed ourselves to become alienated from the products we use: we don’t know where they come from or how they’re made (let alone where they go when we’re done with them). The more this physical and psychological distance between our stuff and ourselves grows — a breach filled by brands — the more confused we get. “The dumber we feel, the less confident we are in our decisions,” Jenkins riffs. “The less confident we are, the more susceptible we become to the suggestion that everything is as it should be.” When we reach unthinkingly for a familiar brand, “we implicitly grant authority — and trust — to what manufacturers have told us, that a product is ‘safe.’ ” But doesn’t surrendering to corporate marketers cut both ways? Seventh Generation, a brand synonymous with a lighter environmental impact, is just as eager to win our trust as Dow Chemical.

excerpt from   What’s Gotten Into Us? – By McKay Jenkins –