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Dangerous or Safe?: Which Foods, Medicines, and Chemicals Really Put Your Kids at Risk Hardcover
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Natterson, in her role as pediatricion, has heard all these questions from concerned parents. In her role as mother, she's had to answer them for herself. This book offers her answers. More than that, however, Natterson offers the data she has collected on each question, followed by the kind of reasoning she follows in turning the data into decisions. Far too often, the question is not "safe or not?" but "safer than what?" For example, oils in some foods can oxidize to form known carcinogens. So, when weighing potential effects of preservatives in food, potential effects of not using them need to be weighed, too. Seeing Natterson's reasoning won't make you agree with her in all cases. I know I found a few things to dispute. But, when the whole discussion is laid out, the reader can intelligently decide what to dispute, and why. Some readers may be surprised that even the most solid, fact-based reasoning can and does have room in it for personal beliefs and preferences. For example, protecting a child from sunburn is important. But so is plenty of outdoor play time. It's not either/or, it's both.
Each of the book's twenty-five chapters addresses a common concern, from aritificial sweeteners to antibiotics and vaccines. Each chapter follows the same four-part pattern:
- What is the question?
- What is the data?
- What is the bottom line?
- What's in my home?
An extensive bibliography lets the reader go back to original sources, in many cases, and decide for herself what the studies really mean. Among them, Natterson includes a range of web resources to help parents get the newest data and recommendations, long after this book's content had been frozen in printed form.
On the whole, I prefer to let Natterson's conclusions speak for themselves. I find her reasoning sound in nearly all cases. It somewhat surprised me however, that she omitted artificial colors from discussion, but the interested parent can use Natterson's sources and reach conclusions of her own. I found only a few points where I really disagreed. One arose in the discussion of pesticides, where she (p.138) included sarin in one category of poisin. That was quite correct except that, to the best of my knowledge, sarin was developed as a military chemical weapon and has never been put to peacetime use. It is a "pesticide" in only the macabre sense that a human enemy could be called a pest. I found her discussion of acetaminophen (found in Tylenol and many other preparations) weak, in that it did not mention the potentially fatal consequences of overdose (p.218). When someone takes multiple different cold remedies and each contains some amount of acetaminophen, the total dose can quickly add up to dangerous levels. Likewise, the discussion of risks due to radio frequency energy cell phones skipped facts that I consider relevant. Yes, studies on individual cells show some effect. Many effects tend to shield deeper tissue from radio waves, however, so extrapolation to human health from single cells seems dicey at best. I certainly agree with Natterson's assertion that cell phone use can lead to car accidents, but I don't agree with her assessment of the risk due to radio signals.
That's the value of this book, however. Real issues can't be summed up in sound bites and slogans. Intelligent, well-meaning people can see the same evidence and reach different conclusions. Natterson discusses the best scientific evidence available, and shows how thoughtful decisions are made. I know of no other source that covers so many risks of daily life, so thoroughly, or with such attention to the reader's intelligence and decision making abilities.
Dr. Natterson has taken the hype and hysteria out of today's most common worries (micro waving food in plastic, vaccines, peanut allergies and the like), and lays out a solid explanation of the safety or dangerous nature for each topic she covers. She provides a great deal of scientific data, but you do not need a degree from Harvard or Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to understand it (she has degrees from both schools, by the way). And, if you want, you can cut to the chase, and skip the wealth of information to simply get the answer. At the end of each chapter, she provides a section called "What's the bottom line?". It puts the information in a nutshell. She then proceeds to tell you what she has/does in her own home, with her two children. (Interesting to know she is operating not only as a doctor, but as a mom).
While the book covers all the topics I expected in a book about children's health, there were a many pleasant surprises. I have a 4-year-old boy and a 7-year-old boy, so the chapters on cell phones, cosmetics and antiperspirants don't really apply to them. Yet, they were still very informative, as they are products I use in my daily life. I didn't expect to find pearls of wisdom for myself, and yet, there they were.
The timing of this book couldn't be better. With all the conflicting information, questionable emails filled with "medical advice" from unknown sources, and legitimate reasons for confusion on so many topics, Dr. Natterson has provided a clear, smart, easily read book that can help parents make the right choices for their children's' health.
I know lots of friends of mine who will be getting this book from me as a gift this holiday!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Leafing through this book, everything is out of date, superficial and a...