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The Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Well-being Hardcover – August 5, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This is a chilling look at the questionable safety of nearly everything we store food in, drink from, wear, walk on, rest on and drive. Chemicals used to make everything from water-repellant jackets and flame retardants to unbreakable plastics used for food storage are building up in our bodies and the environment with possible far-reaching consequences, says journalist Baker. She focuses on endocrine disruptors that alter hormone levels, even in fetuses. Individual chapters consider the weed killer atrazine; phthalates found in many cosmetics; and perfluorooctanoic acid, used in nonstick and stain-repellant coatings. Lab studies have linked these chemicals to cancer, diabetes, obesity and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, among other problems. Baker blasts both Democrats and Republicans in Congress for the toothless Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, which leaves testing and reporting results to the manufacturer. But the companies rely on skilled public relations firms to attack scientists who raise safety concerns. The current pro-business administration also takes some licks from Baker. Although she offers suggestions for reducing exposure to these chemicals, No place—and no one—is immune. (Aug. 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Subsequent to reading a New York Times article about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new practice of periodically monitoring the number of chemicals in human blood, award-winning journalist Baker decided to have her own blood tested. That the CDC would even think to do this intrigued her. When her body burden analysis revealed that her blood had traces of more than three-dozen toxic chemicals, including two that had been banned more than 30 years ago, she knew why. Our bodies, she says, are becoming toxic chemical dumps, thanks to hollow government policies and toothless policing agencies that have little to no effect on a runaway chemical industry. In what ends up being a self-help book for curbing chemical poisoning, Baker profiles a half-dozen of the worst of the worst, explains chemical industry constraints that European countries and Canada are embracing (so far none are practiced in the U.S.), and concludes with suggested ways to limit or mitigate, though not eliminate, the damage. --Donna Chavez

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; First Edition edition (August 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865477078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865477070
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,306,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Bend Sinister on November 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel agreed Friday that the agency had erred in August when it said that a chemical widely used in baby bottles and other plastic packaging for foods and beverages posed no health risks." This is a quote from and article that appeared in The Washington Post on Nov 1, 2008. Newspapers across the country reported what many, including Baker, already knew to be true. The panel, made up of toxicology experts, also concluded that the FDA had relied too heavily on studies funded by industry. Baker has brought to light information about toxics that the industry would prefer to be kept from the public. Baker does not draw conclusions beyond her reach, rather she presents valuable data about a number of toxic chemicals through stories about people who have given their lives to the subject. At times, I wished she had more vehemently opposed the use of toxics in consumer products. I wished she had pointed the finger directly at the companies and executives making millions of dollars by polluting our environment and introducing toxic chemicals to our bodies. But then she would have been no better than the industry PR flaks who had been trying to convince the public that BPA was safe because the FDA said it was safe. Well, now we know that the FDA needs to revisit the subject. Now we know what our guts already knew: everytime you make a purchase, ask yourself if it's really worth the potential damage to our bodies and our planet. As I type this from my Apple laptop (one of the most toxic products on the market), I appreciate Baker's less than accusatory tone, but her book compels me to make better decisions going forward.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By T. Winston Morgan on August 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Nena Baker's "The Body Toxic" is an informative, well-documented call to action about how everyday toxins - unregulated in the United States - get into our bodies and accumulate over time. Unlike in the European Union, the United States - I was shocked to learn - allows chemical companies to produce toxins for use in U.S. consumer products with little-to-no oversight. If you have kids, read this book. If you thought that consumer safety was a hallmark of the U.S. economy (which I did, naively), think again and read this book. If you are worried about the rising rates of cancer, autism, asthma, and other diseases, read this book. You will learn what you need to know to protect yourself, your family, and maybe even get involved to help eliminate the environmental hazards that are part of our everyday existence. Baker's book is a not a zero-sum argument, either; there is a way to grow our economy and still mitigate the hazardous substances that are heaped on us even though these substances are known to be toxic.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Fact Checker on November 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is well researched and invaluable to understanding the hazardous chemicals that we are exposed to every day. Its strength is that the author, Ms. Baker, does not make conclusory statements without factual and scientific substantiation, like some books in this area unfortunately do. (Compare "The Body Toxic" with "Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Children.") Ms. Baker carefully and precisely sets forth the scientific facts underlying the book's theme yet does so in an engaging way by including real-life stories that illustrate the hazards behind the scientific facts. The way that she exposes the dangers of assuming that the FDA is protecting the public with regard to these chemicals is especially compelling. In summary, "The Body Toxic" is an exceptionally well-written investigative book that we can't afford to ignore.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Porteus on March 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend this book after reading it. It is not a book of great scientific detail, but Nena Baker performs a vital public service as that of a journalist in sounding alarms for dangers that are escaping the interest and awareness for most in our American society. I believe that most of us have come to embrace a myth that there are powers in our society watching our backs and protecting our families adequately from dangers unseen. Hopefully this remains true to some extent, but Nena Baker does a sound job in highlighting threats that remain inadequately opposed.
I used the provided information as an introduction and researched further those topics that seem to pose a threat to our children. Upon further research I was alarmed at what we have been missing. We have been making adjustments.
I think our problem stems from the fact that science advances much more rapidly than our ability and willingness to regulate, and we need people like Nena Baker to inform us when others may not. We may never fully realize the impact or scope of the roads taken versus those not taken in this life, but I am confident that my family will fare better thanks to our introduction into a number of environmental health issues by Ms. Baker.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Katheryn Lorimor on October 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If anyone wonders what have we done to ourselves in the past fifty years, or if anyone is concerned about your own health or those you care about, let alone the world we live in, you gotta read this book! The Body Toxic is the most informative, well-written and useful book of any of the books I've read about the reality of toxic chemicals in our everyday lives and products (and bodies). This book is written by a journalist who knows how to explore and expose how we got into this mess and then explains what the challenges and problems are concerning some of the chemicals I hear about sometimes in the news. Like bisphenol A, phthalates, flame retardants and those perfluorinated substances that the Environmental Working group and others call the "teflon" chemicals. What I appreciated most in this book is how The Body Toxic ends with examples of what other countries like Canada and Europe are doing to better protect people from toxic chemicals everyday and then gives examples of some simple changes everyone one of us can make to help reduce exposures. Since I read this book, I have been changing the way I shop, cook and buy. I read labels from food to cleaning supplies to shampoo and conditioners and more. Overall, this book is a thoughtful, thoroughly researched and important book. As I finished it, I could tell that this is the beginning of a subject that needs to become a national conversation for changing the way we live. I strongly recommend it.
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