Friday, April 04, 2008

Review: Healthy Child, Healthy World

Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home by Christopher Gavigan of Healthy Child Healthy World.

I've been making an effort in the past several years to get my life greener; use less energy and go natural or organic as much as possible. I'm doing it for the planet, for my children and grandchildren, and because I think it makes my life more pleasurable and satisfying. I've tried to reduce the amount of paper products we use (cloth napkins, cloth diapers), I compost and garden organically most of the time, and I recycle everything possible. I am planning to join a Community Supported Agriculture garden this summer (see the "eat well" widget in my sidebar to find one near you) so that we can get organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables at a reasonable cost.

However, the more I try to adjust my lifestyle to become "greener", the more complicated and confusing it can become. That's why I was so delighted to take part in this opportunity to review the book Healthy Child, Healthy World. From the publisher:

"Filled with easy steps and simple solutions to improve family living without wreaking havoc on schedules or budgets, this book includes inspiring ideas for safe, eco-friendly cleaning methods, choosing healthier food, pet and garden care, nursery and home building materials, plus extensive tips for energy saving and family fun. With contributions from environmental science and public-health experts such as Dr. Harvey Karp, as well as many celebrity supporters (including Gwyneth Paltrow, Brooke Shields, and Tom Hanks), Healthy Child HealthyWorld is the essential guidebook for parents and children’s health advocates. "

It's a quick read and very direct. I finished in in two evenings. Simple, dramatic changes in the products you use around your house and yard can make a big impact on the health of your family and the environment. I am glad to have a guide to making the quickest, most effective changes.

My favorite chapters were the ones on toys and food. We have a fabulous new grocery store opening right down the street from us and I was delighted to see they have a large gluten-free and organic section. After reading this book I decided to buy all organic produce on the "Dirty Dozen" list. (listed in the book on page 69) These are the ones most likely to bear high levels of dangerous chemicals; the ones most important for young children to eat organic. They include: peaches, apples, bell peppers, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, grapes (imported), pears, spinach, and potatoes. I loaded up my cart with my son's favorites and bought some other gluten free items like cookies and bread that cost more than the average products. Yikes! My grocery bill almost doubled. I was glad to feed my kids organics that week but I don't know how I will sustain it. Maybe we'll have to cut back on some items and hope the CSA is more affordable.

I also went toy shopping for my youngest son's birthday right after reading the book. The chapter on plastic toys really spooked me.
"The plastic used in so many cheap, colorful toys, especially PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic, releases toxic fumes into the air (known as off-gassing), exposing kids to the risks of inhalation. Soft plastic toys are particularly troublesome -rubber ducks, bath books, plastic cars, inflatable figures, dolls, and learning toys also contain phthalates, softening agents used to make PVC pliable, the same stuff used in vinyl flooring. Studies have proven that phthalates can be hormonally disruptive in animals, and can easily leach out when kids suck or chew on a toy, like flavor out of gum."

Lord Have Mercy. I threw out the rubber duckies sitting beside our tub immediately. But what toys to buy for my three year old? I searched for the perfect tricycle, only to end up buying a hard plastic one that I could afford and I thought would fit him. I'll just have to make sure he doesn't suck the handle bars, right? I am going to work on getting more of the plastic out of our house.

One thing I was glad to see is the chapter on improving indoor air quality. Using "green" cleaning products, wood floors with area rugs, and keeping house plants are all things we already do. I feel pretty good about those aspects.

I really appreciated the last chapter on how to "grow your impact". There is a list of things you can start doing right now to make a difference. Smart ways to make simple changes; that's exactly what I want to have at my fingertips. The back of the book has an extensive list of resources for products, services and information. The index is helpful when you have a specific question and you're in a hurry.

This book was very helpful and inspiring, and I recommend it to anyone interested in improving the health of their living environment. I plan to keep working on improving things for myself and my family little by little. I invite you to join me and share what you have discovered.

This review is part of the MotherTalk blog tour for the book.


Unknown said...

I've been trying to do the same for the past couple of years, but I have not been doing as much as I should. Sounds like this will give me more advice. I hope you enjoy your CSA...I've belonged to one for three years now, and I absolutely love it.

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

We are trying to be greener, too, but it is hard in Marrakech. There is no recycling. But you can read about what we are trying to do here: