Since I began blogging, one of the illnesses I learned a lot about was MCS – Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. This is an illness that develops after a certain amount of exposure to chemicals where your body becomes hyper-sensitive to almost everything. In a sense, you become “Allergic to Life,” which is the title of a book by one of the bloggers who first taught me about MCS – Kathryn Treat.
The thing that I found most profoundly frightening about MCS was that it could happen to anyone. Chemicals are like drugs, and the “overdose” amount for each one is different from person to person and hasn’t been studied much. While you may think you couldn’t possibly be at risk for this “overdose,” you have to remember that chemicals are in literally everything – your soaps, lotions, perfumes, shampoos, cleaning products, water, the air outside – EVERYTHING.
And like Pee Wee says, you don’t know how much will be too much! Well, that is freaking overwhelming! And reading about Kathryn’s life wherein she was forced to live without chemicals – and consequently had to live away from her husband in a cold tile house with minimal furniture – well, it was clear that I wouldn’t be able to like 100% chemical free like her.
Before she passed away, I left a comment on her blog expressing my anxieties about chemicals. I was worried because I was trying to have a baby, but it seemed like everything everywhere was unsafe! In response, she mailed me this book – Healthy Baby, Toxic World. I’m very glad she did, because this book does a lot of things right.
First and foremost, it’s realistic. It begins by assuring you that even taking small steps to lessen the chemicals in your life can make a world of difference for your baby. It also encourages you to do what you can no matter if you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or already have kids. It tells you not to feel guilty if you didn’t get chemical-free soaps and things for your babies when they were little, and promises that doing it in any stage of life is beneficial.
The book also offers lists of “simple steps” at the end of each chapter that you can take to help your baby/kid lessen their toxic load. The book will occasionally offer complex solutions that are not very realistic – like not using baby wipes but instead carrying around a spray bottle of purified water – but it is quick to call it a “perfect world” solution. It also reminds you that chemical-free products are available more and more in regular grocery stores as demand grows – so you can probably find “all natural” baby wipes before you need to turn to the purified spritzer (seriously I don’t even have kids yet and that idea was so unpractical that I actually laughed out loud when I read it).
The third thing that really makes this a worthwhile read is the final few chapters. These chapters talk about the very early years of a baby’s life, and how you can work with them to encourage brain growth and proper development. Even if you exposed your baby to some horrible chemical, like illegal drugs, while they were in the womb, much of the brain damage can be reversed or lessened both by natural defense mechanisms while your baby develops and by simple exercises and a rich learning environment in those early years.
The methods outlined were developed by psychologists to help reverse some of the effects of ADHD, dyslexia, and even autism, but they will benefit any child. Simple things like seeing new places or things as much as possible, being read to and told stories, and being encouraged to finish things they start, like drawings or meals, can have a huge impact on brain development.
This book is 100% worth the read for those last few chapters. They’re fascinating and encouraging. They empower moms to be with the idea that they really can do a lot to help their child blossom.
But there are a few negatives about the book as well. They can pretty much all be summed up in this fact: copyright 1999.
This means that the sources listed are mostly useless, and some of the information is flat-out wrong. For instance, the section about prenatal vitamins. Now, it was still a good section to read because I had just gotten a talking to from my doctor about my own prenatal vitamins. While I took care to find one with all the nutrients I knew I needed, I was uninformed on the amount I actually needed. My vitamin was actually lacking in a couple of crucial areas.
Healthy Baby, Toxic World backed this up. It talked about the amount of vitamin A and DHA, but it also mentioned vitamin D. It was saying that it’s easy to get too much vitamin D, and when I looked at my own vitamins I saw it was way higher than the “too high” amount listed in the book. Oh dear! But some quick googling explained that it was found that higher levels of vitamin D were actually associated with fewer pregnancy complications and nowadays prenatal vitamins come packed with a lot more vitamin D than they used to.
Things like that I’d just make a notation about and move on. You have to use this book a little creatively since it is out of date. Reading it is mostly guidelines for what you should be looking for in various products, but you’ll need to supplement your reading with google to get exact answers.
Of course, none of this is a problem if there are more recent editions. I don’t know personally, but if you find an updated copy then tally ho! But do keep in mind that science makes strides and changes every day, so take whatever you find with a grain of salt. Do your own research and just do your best. By the time the next kid comes around, loads will be different and that’s okay.
I definitely recommend checking it out, especially if you want to make changes towards a healthier lifestyle, but you aren’t really sure where to start or what’s what. This book is a great primer, and you can pick and choose the changes that are practical for you and just do your best to moderate things you don’t feel you can practically change. I’ll leave you with the alternate title my sister gave the book, not for any reason but just for silliness. She thought the title was silly and fun to say. Here’s one of her iterations: