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Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis

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Nothing could be more important than the health of our children, and no one is better suited to examine the threats against it than Sandra Steingraber. Once called "a poet with a knife," she blends precise science with lyrical memoir. In Living Downstream she spoke as a biologist and cancer survivor; in Having Faith she spoke as an ecologist and expectant mother, viewing h Nothing could be more important than the health of our children, and no one is better suited to examine the threats against it than Sandra Steingraber. Once called "a poet with a knife," she blends precise science with lyrical memoir. In Living Downstream she spoke as a biologist and cancer survivor; in Having Faith she spoke as an ecologist and expectant mother, viewing her own body as a habitat. Now she speaks as the scientist mother of two young children, enjoying and celebrating their lives while searching for ways to protect them--and all children--from the toxic, climate-threatened world they inhabit. Each chapter of this engaging and unique book focuses on one inevitable ingredient of childhood--everything from pizza to laundry to homework to the "Big Talk"--and explores the underlying social, political, and ecological forces behind it. Through these everyday moments, Steingraber demonstrates how closely the private, intimate world of parenting connects to the public world of policy-making and how the ongoing environmental crisis is, fundamentally, a crisis of family life.


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Nothing could be more important than the health of our children, and no one is better suited to examine the threats against it than Sandra Steingraber. Once called "a poet with a knife," she blends precise science with lyrical memoir. In Living Downstream she spoke as a biologist and cancer survivor; in Having Faith she spoke as an ecologist and expectant mother, viewing h Nothing could be more important than the health of our children, and no one is better suited to examine the threats against it than Sandra Steingraber. Once called "a poet with a knife," she blends precise science with lyrical memoir. In Living Downstream she spoke as a biologist and cancer survivor; in Having Faith she spoke as an ecologist and expectant mother, viewing her own body as a habitat. Now she speaks as the scientist mother of two young children, enjoying and celebrating their lives while searching for ways to protect them--and all children--from the toxic, climate-threatened world they inhabit. Each chapter of this engaging and unique book focuses on one inevitable ingredient of childhood--everything from pizza to laundry to homework to the "Big Talk"--and explores the underlying social, political, and ecological forces behind it. Through these everyday moments, Steingraber demonstrates how closely the private, intimate world of parenting connects to the public world of policy-making and how the ongoing environmental crisis is, fundamentally, a crisis of family life.

30 review for Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amelia Kibbie

    I can see what the author is trying to do here. I appreciate that she took the time to do all that research to show us how our children are in peril from climate change, arsenic-treated wood, air pollution, fraking, and fossil fuels. Her writing style is pretty good overall, and I could see a former version of myself really getting sucked into this text and freaking out about all of the dangers and just jumping right on that rage train to create change. However, I do have some issues with some of I can see what the author is trying to do here. I appreciate that she took the time to do all that research to show us how our children are in peril from climate change, arsenic-treated wood, air pollution, fraking, and fossil fuels. Her writing style is pretty good overall, and I could see a former version of myself really getting sucked into this text and freaking out about all of the dangers and just jumping right on that rage train to create change. However, I do have some issues with some of her arguments. Claiming that the weather makes women have babies earlier, and because of air pollution and climate change, more premature babies are born, just sounds like an episode of Ancient Aliens. I'm sure it's true that pollution causes premature birth, but adding into it this mystical "it's tied to the weather" thing just sounds crazy, to be frank. I was on board with the whole arsenic-treated wood thing. I'm convinced by that argument and I'm glad my daughter's daycare has a metal and (hopefully safe) plastic playground. Also I loved her ideas on lawn mowing and using line-drying for laundry. Growing up we always hung the clothes out and one of my big regrets of having a condo is nowhere to hang clothes (I do have a little hanging place in the bathroom luckily). I adore this idea of using your exercise time to actually accomplish something. What if we all had exercise bikes in our houses that could create and store electricity while we were biking? I know there's a prototype out there of a washing machine powered by biking. We need to start rethinking how we use our human energy and time. I also am only buying organic tomatoes and strawberries from this point onward. So Sandra, you've got me on your side on quite a few things. But sometimes I was mad at her. Weaving in the memoir part was actually more off-putting to me. I would have wanted to just read the facts woven together in a way that was still engaging. Because it sounded like a big brag-fest about how great of a mother she is. Of course, she tried to temper it here and there with self-deprecating statements about her house not being clean, but basically it's easy to get the message "you should raise your kids like this because I am the ultimate mother and you all suck for letting your kids touch plastic." Not everyone can parent that way. The author is a white person of privilege and education. When the daycare was letting kids play on the poisoned playground, she just switched preschools. A lot of people don't have that option. Or when she was given that job offer with benefits and then turned it down because her son's asthma acted up during the trip. There are a lot of people who don't get a choice on where they live or what kind of work they do, where to shop etc. This is a "call to arms" that like a very small sliver of the population could actually answer. Also I honestly questioned some of her parenting decisions. Okay so you want to be all nature-ey so you live in cabin in the middle of nowhere that is apparently by some very sketchy other rentals. These guys (whose race isn't mentioned, hmm) move into a nearby place and they have a ton of scary dogs that might hurt your kids. I get it, that is freaky, and I would be upset too. But if the author spends pages and pages going into the backstories of everything, all the theories and data and whatever, and all these people get is a snap judgement. "They were young, they flipped me some shit, they were drug dealers so I sicked the police and all these government agencies on them and they got evicted." ATTENTION EVERYONE! WHITE WOMAN IN TROUBLE! Um, what evidence was there that they were drug dealers? What evidence was there that your kids were in danger? Perhaps it existed, but it was not mentioned in the text. And if your kids were in danger, are you really such a good parent to be living hippie granola in a dangerous place? Why did you live out there if it was by other sketchy rentals with dangerous people? Then the job that she turned down because of the trash incinerator and other air pollution to protect her son's asthma. Okay, so your kid has a chronic medical condition and you turn down a job with BENEFITS? PS If you have a kid with a chronic medical condition why don't you already have benefits? I'm sorry. I guess since the author was calling into question my parenting I'm calling hers into question. I'm not a supporter of the "mommy wars" and it's not my place to attack other parents based on their decisions. Has some good info, but I wouldn't read it again.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    I don't know if I can do this book justice with a short review. Steingraber writes about arsenic in playgrounds (who knew that we all played on wooden playstructures and backyard decks that had arsenic levels orders of magnitude higher than what is considered toxic?), chemicals that literally alter the way a young brain develops by hindering the movement of brain-building cells (she convinced me that this could be related to autism and learning disabilities), and endocrine disruptors that may re I don't know if I can do this book justice with a short review. Steingraber writes about arsenic in playgrounds (who knew that we all played on wooden playstructures and backyard decks that had arsenic levels orders of magnitude higher than what is considered toxic?), chemicals that literally alter the way a young brain develops by hindering the movement of brain-building cells (she convinced me that this could be related to autism and learning disabilities), and endocrine disruptors that may render an even larger percentage of future children infertile (an issue particularly salient and sad for me). The environmental exposures we are passing along to future generations dramatically increase the chances that our they and their friends will suffer from more negative health consequences than we currently do. She doesn't talk about this, but all I could think about was how this means more illness and more sadness as they have to support friends who are ailing. The subject matter is depressing and scary, and the book provides a good understanding of how our policies are doing our children a disservice by failing to protect them. She does a wonderful job of outlining the things parents can do and also demonstrating that we really can't do enough. No matter how safe we make our homes, we can't do anything about the chemicals that are entering our bodies and our children's bodies through the air we breathe, the water we drink, the surfaces we touch, and a large portion of the food we eat. Many of these chemicals aren't benign, and as a country we need to advocate for policy change that will do much more to keep us safe than buying organic milk will. This book is a call-to-action, complete with websites at the back to channel those advocacy efforts.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    On the one hand, Sandra Steingraber has an important message about the toxicity of products all around us all the time and we should all listen to it. On the other hand, Sandra Steingraber is not the prophet who's going to bring the message to the masses. In each chapter of Raising Elijah, Steingraber lays out a different toxic threat and how it affects children. Unfortunately, she also presents a new way to alienate me. In the first chapter it was the fact that she would prefer her children's p On the one hand, Sandra Steingraber has an important message about the toxicity of products all around us all the time and we should all listen to it. On the other hand, Sandra Steingraber is not the prophet who's going to bring the message to the masses. In each chapter of Raising Elijah, Steingraber lays out a different toxic threat and how it affects children. Unfortunately, she also presents a new way to alienate me. In the first chapter it was the fact that she would prefer her children's preschool have no playground rather than one made with pressure treated lumber. In another chapter, it was the methodical way in which she trained her kids to sit quietly through four-hour meetings with her. But the low point was when her son received a much-loved Curious George raincoat for his birthday....but it was made out of vinyl. She threw it away. Then added her smug commentary, "(What, I was supposed to donate the toxic raincoat to the thrift store?)" YES! Yes, you crazy bitch, you were supposed to donate that raincoat to the thrift store! The raincoat's already made - what good are you doing keeping it away from another kid who's already being exposed to vinyl everywhere - and, by the way, isn't going to have a raincoat this year because there weren't any at the thrift store?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    I HIGHLY recommend biologist Sandra Steingraber's book. Parents should not have to be regulatory agencies, she boldly proposes. Instead, industry ought not be allowed to manufacture and sell poison disguised as children's toys, plastic water bottles, couches, lumber, stuff to make plants grow.... What a concept. She writes about how we are storing chemicals in our (especially our children's) bodies and in our atmosphere that will be our undoing. The book includes a chapter on fracking. Steingrab I HIGHLY recommend biologist Sandra Steingraber's book. Parents should not have to be regulatory agencies, she boldly proposes. Instead, industry ought not be allowed to manufacture and sell poison disguised as children's toys, plastic water bottles, couches, lumber, stuff to make plants grow.... What a concept. She writes about how we are storing chemicals in our (especially our children's) bodies and in our atmosphere that will be our undoing. The book includes a chapter on fracking. Steingraber has been in the forefront of the anti-fracking movement in NY and donated her $100,000 Heinz award to the movement. The title comes from Elijah Lovejoy, who risked all to abolish slavery and was murdered at age 35 for his efforts. Sandra named her son Elijah in his honor. And so the title is both a treatise on raising her and all children in this age of environmental crisis and a call for systemwide changes. As Steingraber says in the introduction, this is NOT a book about shopping differently. It's about changing everything. Just as we had to get rid of an economic system based on the enslavement of humans, we have to end our enslavement to fossil fuels and all the poisons created with them.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra Grabbe

    Many of you probably know Sandra Steingraber for her second book, Living Downstream. Perhaps some of you have seen the film by the same name, featuring this erudite biologist and cancer survivor? Now comes Raising Elijah, a tale of her son’s childhood and the environment. At the beginning of the story, the author turns down a job offer due to her determination to raise children in a town, presumed to be free of pollution. She and her husband choose an idyllic spot near a lake in upstate New York Many of you probably know Sandra Steingraber for her second book, Living Downstream. Perhaps some of you have seen the film by the same name, featuring this erudite biologist and cancer survivor? Now comes Raising Elijah, a tale of her son’s childhood and the environment. At the beginning of the story, the author turns down a job offer due to her determination to raise children in a town, presumed to be free of pollution. She and her husband choose an idyllic spot near a lake in upstate New York. By the final chapter, entitled "Bicycles on Main Street and High-Volume Slickwater Hydraulic Fracturing," the couple has realized their hometown is targeted by hydro-fracking companies. I especially enjoyed the chapter on arsenic, with its description of how the chemical industry re-marketed a poison by inventing pressurized wood, used for children’s playgrounds. That arsenic now leaches out of these playground structures, endangering all kids who touch the wood and put hands in mouth. (Note Norway was the only nation to take action when this information became known.) The other chapters cover topics that range from what causes asthma to endocrine disruption and hydro-fracking. I had a bit of a problem with the weaving of Elijah’s childhood into the real nitty-gritty, ie. what Dr. Steingraber’s seeks to communicate about environmental risk in today's world. Still, the book was very informative and, at times, lyrical. Take this passage, for instance: “The land that lies above the Marcellus Shale is full of farms and vineyards. It's the state's food shed and wine-growing country. It also contains some of the largest unbroken forest canopy in the Northeast. Fracking, thus, represents the industrialization of a rural landscape. If it goes forward, it will usher in the biggest ecological change since the original forests here were cleared. More than shale will be fractured.” “Ultimately the environmental crisis is a parenting crisis,” Dr. Steingraber concludes. Indeed, life for young parents has become an obstacle course, with food labels to read, if labels are available, toxins to avoid, whenever risk is known, and fingers to cross that the very air children breathe is not laden with polluted particles that will make them sick later in life. Protecting children should not be this difficult. All parents of young children should read this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Luisa

    First of all, I'm not a mother or plan to be any time soon. I'm a college student finishing my bachelor's degree. But, I must say that this was a good read! I enjoyed reading about Steingraber's journey as a mother of two wonderful kids. Her love, drive and most all her willingness to provide the two most important things a mother wants for her children protection and a safe future. But, in the times we are living this seems the hardest jobs parents face each and everyday, is as though the world First of all, I'm not a mother or plan to be any time soon. I'm a college student finishing my bachelor's degree. But, I must say that this was a good read! I enjoyed reading about Steingraber's journey as a mother of two wonderful kids. Her love, drive and most all her willingness to provide the two most important things a mother wants for her children protection and a safe future. But, in the times we are living this seems the hardest jobs parents face each and everyday, is as though the world is out to get the young children of this generation. She does a nice job highlighting the threads children face along with her hopes to make it all better for the sake of Faith and Elijah. There's a lot I want to say about this book but it would just ruin it for those that still want to read. So go ahead and read it! Btw, this wasn't a requiere book for any of my classes I just wanted to read it because she will be coming to my campus (Worcester State University on Feb. 27th) and the English Department was giving free copies of the book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lily

    It's not really fair for me to review this book because I only (thoroughly, though!!) skimmed it. I just couldn't stand the author or the style, even though I picked up the book because I felt totally prepared to take in her platform. This book read like Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," only way less pretty and even more preachy and pretentious. I did connect with the part about Elijah Lovejoy, a radical abolitionist who was eventually killed for his absolute stand against slav It's not really fair for me to review this book because I only (thoroughly, though!!) skimmed it. I just couldn't stand the author or the style, even though I picked up the book because I felt totally prepared to take in her platform. This book read like Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," only way less pretty and even more preachy and pretentious. I did connect with the part about Elijah Lovejoy, a radical abolitionist who was eventually killed for his absolute stand against slavery, and I stayed with Steingraber as she wrote about our contemporary need for people who take absolute stands against environmental degradation. But the book goes downhill from there (and "there" is the forward)...She comes across as a completely unsympathetic, judgmental mom (the bit about formula-using-moms being the cause of increased childhood mortality and illness made me SO angry), and I am glad I didn't waste any more time than I did on it. I totally do not recommend this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    I love Sandra Steingraber's writing. Although the subject matter is exceptionally scary to me, Ms. Steingraber writes about science in ways that I can completely understand the scariness involved. Ms. Steingraber is not one of the 'doomsday' writers that describes how awful things are in the environment then ends the book; she provides concrete, tangible suggestions on micro, meso and macro levels in Raising Elijiah. I was scared about the information she provided about our environment on both a I love Sandra Steingraber's writing. Although the subject matter is exceptionally scary to me, Ms. Steingraber writes about science in ways that I can completely understand the scariness involved. Ms. Steingraber is not one of the 'doomsday' writers that describes how awful things are in the environment then ends the book; she provides concrete, tangible suggestions on micro, meso and macro levels in Raising Elijiah. I was scared about the information she provided about our environment on both a small and large scale, but insipred by her experiences as a scientist, mother, active community member and cancer survivor. I have read all of Ms. Steingraber's books and I appreciate all of them greatly.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

    Steingraber is a wonderful storyteller, whether she's writing about her daughter choosing her preschool or that same preschool choosing to keep in place aresenic-shedding play equipment--or, for that matter, the history of pressure-treated wood or the chemical processes involved in fracking. She makes the case that individual parents shouldn't be responsible for protecting their children y choosing the right toys, sippy cups, etc.--what we need is better regulation of chemicals in our environmen Steingraber is a wonderful storyteller, whether she's writing about her daughter choosing her preschool or that same preschool choosing to keep in place aresenic-shedding play equipment--or, for that matter, the history of pressure-treated wood or the chemical processes involved in fracking. She makes the case that individual parents shouldn't be responsible for protecting their children y choosing the right toys, sippy cups, etc.--what we need is better regulation of chemicals in our environment because we are all exposed through the air we breathe and the water we drink.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Milly

    In this book, Steingraber mixes science, parenting advice, and environmental manifesto. At times while reading it, I felt annoyed by her slightly superior tone (her kids love veggies, never watch tv, read piles of books, AND she works out for an hour every day. Woo-hoo!) But my annoyance is probably derived from guilt that I haven't done more as a parent and environmentalist. At other times while reading, I felt physically ill with worry about the future. But mostly, I felt inspired to do more a In this book, Steingraber mixes science, parenting advice, and environmental manifesto. At times while reading it, I felt annoyed by her slightly superior tone (her kids love veggies, never watch tv, read piles of books, AND she works out for an hour every day. Woo-hoo!) But my annoyance is probably derived from guilt that I haven't done more as a parent and environmentalist. At other times while reading, I felt physically ill with worry about the future. But mostly, I felt inspired to do more and better as an enviro-parent. I'm glad I read this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    While the subject matter is downright scary and depressing, the author does a good job of explaining the science behind what is happening when we breathe polluted air, eat pesticide-ridden food, and are exposed to all sorts of chemicals in everyday life. It is a call to action to advocate for policy changes to keep us all safe, especially children whose young bodies are most impacted by the environment.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mel Foster

    An engaging survey of the myriad environmental hazards faced by developing children and their well-intentioned parents. Steingraber's overarching thesis is that even in the best of circumstances, trying to protect one's children from the array of poisons in the environment is likely to result in frighteningly dangerous exposures, and feel like a complex marathon of whack-a-mole. She would like to more rigorous government oversight of most of the substances and pollutants mentioned, something lik An engaging survey of the myriad environmental hazards faced by developing children and their well-intentioned parents. Steingraber's overarching thesis is that even in the best of circumstances, trying to protect one's children from the array of poisons in the environment is likely to result in frighteningly dangerous exposures, and feel like a complex marathon of whack-a-mole. She would like to more rigorous government oversight of most of the substances and pollutants mentioned, something like the action taken to eliminate lead in paint and in gas. This despite the repeated narratives in the book demonstrating the government's failure to protect consumers from known hazards such as pressure treated lumber and bisphenol A. Nevertheless, here are some convincing and heartfelt arguments for the need for government regulation of industry toxins. The discussion of well-informed futility in chapter 2 is excellent. "In my attempt to counteract the allure of online role-playing games where many children gather, the childlessness of nature is the big problem." p222 "Everyone needs an older sister to demythologize the childhood stories created by one's mother." p232 "During the Cold War, when the specter of nuclear annihilation hung in the air, a teacher asked her third graders how many of them thought that nuclear war would happen. Only one child did not raise her hand. And in response to the question, Why not? the lone dissenter answered, Because my parents are working to stop it." p178 "Well-informed futility refers to a particular kind of learned helplessness. It's a term that was coined in 1973 by psychologist Gerhart Wiebe who was writing in an age when television had brought war into the living rooms of Americans for the first time. Wiebe noticed that a steady onslaught of information about a problem which people feel little sense of personal agency gives rise to futility Ironically, the more knowledgeable we are about such a problem, the more we are filled with a paralyzing futility. Futility, in turn, forestalls action. But action is exactly what is necessary to overcome futility." p46

  13. 5 out of 5

    passeriform

    A thought-provoking and personal exploration of what scientists, policymakers, and others know (and don't know) about how environmental toxins interact with human development and health. The strength of Steingraber's work is that -- although she narrates her own family's choices and discussed small changes we might make in our own lives (dry clothes on a line rather than in a dryer, etc.) -- she emphasizes that these huge problems require societal rather than individual change. Instead of placin A thought-provoking and personal exploration of what scientists, policymakers, and others know (and don't know) about how environmental toxins interact with human development and health. The strength of Steingraber's work is that -- although she narrates her own family's choices and discussed small changes we might make in our own lives (dry clothes on a line rather than in a dryer, etc.) -- she emphasizes that these huge problems require societal rather than individual change. Instead of placing responsibility on parents' (which generally means mothers') shoulders, she insists that our society must step up and protect individuals from corporations ... and invest in renewable approaches to food and energy production that don't carry immense hidden costs to children and to all people. Of course, it's also a pretty depressing read, since we live in an alarmingly toxic world and can't possibly just think 'okay, I'll fix that right up, then' or even buy our children's way out of the toxicity. As Steingraber points out, no matter what consumer choices you make, you can't stop the wind from blowing or take your children out of the larger ecosystem that creates and sustains (and simultaneously poisons) their bodies. Less depressing than it would be in another, less sensitive and human, voice, but still: not a big upper.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bowdoin

    Reader in group–I am reading "Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis" by Sandra Steingraber. I heard about it by chance, and by now I've ordered all her other books. The author is a biologist and mother of two who writes about raising children in the age of chemical contamination. Our children face an environment that is more polluted than ever before, and many of the very things that are poisonous have become so common that we simply don't think about it (for Reader in group–I am reading "Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis" by Sandra Steingraber. I heard about it by chance, and by now I've ordered all her other books. The author is a biologist and mother of two who writes about raising children in the age of chemical contamination. Our children face an environment that is more polluted than ever before, and many of the very things that are poisonous have become so common that we simply don't think about it (for e.g. play yards made of pressure treated wood). Steingraber writes simply and to the point about things in our every day life (orange juice, tomatoes, lawn mowing and cloths drying) and documents everything. Not at all uplifting, but eye-opening.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    3.5 stars. Good concept and full of technical and important information about toxicities in our daily lives, but for that reason also felt a little disjointed in trying to marry that with a personal story. It certainly was well researched and will terrify anyone who cares about health and the environment.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Moriah Miller

    I think I’ll be thinking about this book for the rest of my life. It’s already impacting my political views, my lifestyle, and my decisions about my future. Well worth the read, speaking as a woman, a biologist, and a Christian.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jade Yarwood

    If you have a hard time understanding scientific jargon this book is not for you. I did enjoy the little stories the author told about her family, but the science was hard to get through. She makes some valid points, but it is not realistic to shield our children from their childhood.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nesya Sloane

    Sick book! Probably a little outdated now (although probably in the direction of things are now even worse), but I’m not even a parent and this made me a) cry and b) want to fight a petroleum company and/or the government.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Clean Air Carolina hosted Dr Steingraber in Charlotte on March 20, 2012. What a wonderful speaker (and a darn nice lady, to boot). ***************************************************** Raising Elijah moved me unlike any other nonfiction book in recent memory. You can pick out pages at random and learn something so startling, so moving that you want to stop the person walking by and shake them and ask, "Did you know this?!" For example, on page 22: "Here is what we know about the boy babies of women Clean Air Carolina hosted Dr Steingraber in Charlotte on March 20, 2012. What a wonderful speaker (and a darn nice lady, to boot). ***************************************************** Raising Elijah moved me unlike any other nonfiction book in recent memory. You can pick out pages at random and learn something so startling, so moving that you want to stop the person walking by and shake them and ask, "Did you know this?!" For example, on page 22: "Here is what we know about the boy babies of women pregnant during the 9/11 attacks: Some of them disappeared. That is to say, they were never born at all. And they vanished not just among women living in New York City but throughout the United States. Three to four months after 9/11, significantly fewer boys were born, and the death rate of male fetuses (those more than twenty weeks gestational age) increased by 12 percent." Here's something I learned that will remain with me whenever I see a wooden playground structure, backyard deck, wooden fence or telephone pole: "pressure treated wood," which is so useful because it is rot and pest resistant, is a euphemism. The process squeezes out the water in wood and replaces it with arsenic and copper (CCA). As time passes, that arsenic leaches into the ground, or into the mulch that surrounds playground equipment, "far in excess of the clean-up standard for toxic waste sites." Children play in and around this pesticide-treated wood and get arsenic on their clothes, their shoes, and their hands, which they put in their mouths "eighty-one times per hour for children under the age of two." "The average five-year-old playing on a CCA play structure could exceed within two weeks the lifetime cancer risk considered to be acceptable under federal pesticide laws." The environment matters, what we touch, eat, breath and experience matters, from the time we are in utero to the day we die. Steingraber issues a call to arms akin to the civil rights movement. But she recognizes that it is a tall order to swap out fossil fuels for carbon-free, renewable energy. Instead, "a thousand molehills," individuals, "really do a mountain make:" reduce the use of cars, green the house, plant a garden. Individual households with cars are responsible for 38% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. I vow to do more to prevent fracking in my state. It isn't here yet but it's coming. I do not mean to make Steingraber sound like a self-serious scold. Or a shrieking Henny Penny. Besides a few sections that literally brought me to tears (pg 261 and the sadness of birthday cakes gets me every time) there are truly funny and entertaining paragraphs. Steingraber writes as if it is effortless. She is conversational, smart and passionate. It is not every day that you get to meet a hero. Fortunately for me, on March 20th I got to do just that.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cara

    Such an important and yet readable book. How do I get everyone to read this book and care about its issues? And what am I going to do about what I now know and care about? For one, I think I am going to look into purchasing a reel lawn mower. Some reasons: “Individual residents are responsible for 21.1 percent of total US carbon dioxide emissions. Add driving and that number rises to 38 percent. This is not a trivial figure and, in one respect, is good news because it means we don’t have to wait Such an important and yet readable book. How do I get everyone to read this book and care about its issues? And what am I going to do about what I now know and care about? For one, I think I am going to look into purchasing a reel lawn mower. Some reasons: “Individual residents are responsible for 21.1 percent of total US carbon dioxide emissions. Add driving and that number rises to 38 percent. This is not a trivial figure and, in one respect, is good news because it means we don’t have to wait around for political change before making immediate and radical transformations within our own spheres of influence. We can break the spell. We can prepare the way” (Steingraber 180). Three things we can do: (1) plant a garden (and compost), (2) Mow grass without the assistance of fossil fuels, and (3) replace the clothes dryer with evaporation. “Together, food waste and yard trimmings make up 26 percent of the municipal solid waste stream in the United States. And, when buried in landfills, they become fuel for the production of methane, a long-lived gas that is twenty-three times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat” (Steingraber 185). "An hour of cutting the grass is not the same as burning a half-gallon of gasoline in a car. In fact, the mower emits in one hour the air pollution equivalent of driving an average car 200 miles. (Riding mowers are even worse.) Although the EPA required pollution reductions for new mowers starting in 1997--and may do so again by the time your read this--lawn mowers are still chimneys on wheels, and walking behind one is still more toxic than walking behind a car. Lawn mowers expose those who push them to benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and fine particles. The exhaust from lawn mowers is especially rich in the chemical compounds that serve as raw materials for the creation of the lung destroyer, ozone. Five percent of smog is from lawn mowers" (Steingraber 187-8). “The acquisition of new personal habits and new skills can change our thinking. It compels us to ask new questions. If all food scraps in the United States were composted, how much natural gas could we save? (Natural gas is the raw material for synthetic fertilizer.) What if homeowners associations encouraged, rather than forbade, clotheslines? (Project Laundry List is working on this.) What if all family homes and apartments had clothes-drying closets that doubled as humidifiers? What if landscaping services offered carbon-neutral care? What if student athletes mowed their own playing fields with fleets of reel mowers as part of warm-ups? Another world is possible. Creating it requires courage” (Steingraber 194.)

  21. 4 out of 5

    JS Found

    The world is a vampire. The industrial world, which means the world to you and me. It is toxic. It has airborne chemicals and dangerous pesticides on industrial food, which, in America, means all food. There is climate change. Fracking. Pollution from fossil fuel factories. And in America it's not law that harmful chemicals be forbidden. An eco-conscious parent might as well despair. Sandra Steingraber has two young children. She does not despair. This is all the more remarkable because she is a The world is a vampire. The industrial world, which means the world to you and me. It is toxic. It has airborne chemicals and dangerous pesticides on industrial food, which, in America, means all food. There is climate change. Fracking. Pollution from fossil fuel factories. And in America it's not law that harmful chemicals be forbidden. An eco-conscious parent might as well despair. Sandra Steingraber has two young children. She does not despair. This is all the more remarkable because she is a biologist. Her work involves writing reports on the things that peril her kids. Knowing them intimately. She knows and presents in this book the hard science. What the chemicals are, where they come from (mostly us in our attempts to control nature and ease civilization), and how they get into little bodies and change them. This is frightening stuff, or it would be if she lost her cool describing all of it. She presents the information matter of factly, letting us know precisely how these toxins destroy young bodies and brains. How they lead to asthma, neurological diseases, lung diseases, cancers, birth defects, early puberty, and unfortunately much more. The chemicals are all around us. The government will not help because of business lobbying. So she will be master of her own home and her own kids safety. She lives in a central New York, in a village. Her entire food budget is spent at a organic, local co-op instead of the supermarket. She has a garden and she grows the rest of what her family needs. She inculcates in her children a love of nature and knowledge of the risks of man as he attempts to take nature over. She doesn't own a TV. She'll be damned if her children suffer from the hidden and unmentioned threats that are all around her, all around us. A sobering book but also a witty and beautifully written memoir of a parent. The crucial information is subsumed in a folksy story of a everywoman who is trying to be a good mother. It could be a sitcom. But with a biting edge. I really hope President Obama and his wife know about this book. Even more, I hope members of Congress read it. This country is First World in many things, but in environmental regulation, it seems to be Third. Money trumps everything, including human life. These are my opinions not hers. She doesn't say them. If I were in her shoes, I would be much angrier than she is. But she's level headed as a good scientist must be. And that's good for us because in this book we have the evidence of everyday, allowed toxins that harm our children. Now all of us need to use it to politically act.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alysson

    This is a very well written, well researched book by a very intelligent author. The information contained therein is vital information; information that I wish all citizens of the USA (indeed, the world) would become privy to. A couple of recurring thoughts, though: 1. Why was animal agriculture not addressed even one time in this book? Not only is our massive-scale animal agriculture industry destroying our environment through land degradation, it is sucking up much of our fertile land for the s This is a very well written, well researched book by a very intelligent author. The information contained therein is vital information; information that I wish all citizens of the USA (indeed, the world) would become privy to. A couple of recurring thoughts, though: 1. Why was animal agriculture not addressed even one time in this book? Not only is our massive-scale animal agriculture industry destroying our environment through land degradation, it is sucking up much of our fertile land for the sole use of growing food for food animals. Further, it is polluting all of our waterways, and the industry also utilizes vast amounts of petroleum to make its wheels turn, at every stage of production, totally beating out the general transportation industry. Were these blatant facts left out for fear that the author would be labeled an animal rights activist (despite her attempting to make a comedic reference toward her practice of vivisection at one stage in her career.. Something that is not funny, no matter how one looks at it)? Or were they left out because it would have been hard to stop at just one chapter of the animal agriculture topic? I am unsure, although very dismayed. 2. Where is the hard and fast information that one can take away to "protect our children in an age of environmental crisis?" There was a lot of knowledge sharing in this text, however, nothing that left me feeling empowered enough to actually bring kids into this rotting world. I was hoping to learn some ways I could, literally, protect my hypothetical kids, if I chose to have them. But truly, this book just sealed the deal in that this world we live in during 2016 is no place to bring a child. Sandra showed me even more evidence than I was previously aware of in regard to how we are just on a fast train toward hell. Overall, though, great book! I highly recommend it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    michelle

    I did not love this book as much as "Having Faith," and there was a fair amount of information i already know. Nonetheless, it is worth a read for the new information that makes your jaw drop to the floor, and for Steingraber's refreshing insistence that our job as parents shouldn't be to personally protect our children from the ever-longer list of environmental dangers in the world- we need to ask and act on why these problems exist to begin with. I get enraged reading books such as these, and t I did not love this book as much as "Having Faith," and there was a fair amount of information i already know. Nonetheless, it is worth a read for the new information that makes your jaw drop to the floor, and for Steingraber's refreshing insistence that our job as parents shouldn't be to personally protect our children from the ever-longer list of environmental dangers in the world- we need to ask and act on why these problems exist to begin with. I get enraged reading books such as these, and then get perplexed when i share the information with other parents and am given a shrug as a response. Another of Steingraber's central themes rests in a couple quotes in chapter 2: "...a steady onslaught of information about a problem over which people feel little sense of personal agency gives rise to futility. Ironically, the more knowledgeable we are about such a problem, the more we are filled with paralyzing futility. Futility, in turn, forestalls action. But action in exactly what's needed to overcome futility. Just down the street from well- informed futility resides denial... We all instinctively avoid information that triggers intolerable emotions-- such as intolerable fear or intolerable guilt. In the face of knowledge too upsetting to bear, there is nothing to do but look away." Steingraber, of course, makes a case against doing the latter, and does so with the commendable attempt not to overhwhelm.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liralen

    Read this for class, and honestly, if it hadn't been on the syllabus, I doubt I would have carried on past the first or second chapter. (Well—I wouldn't have picked it up to begin with. Not my normal thing. So bear that in mind.) Steingraber is without question a good writer, and she has the science background to substantiate the things she talks about, but it's definitely aimed at parents. It's also kind of aimed at making you sure that everything around you is going to kill you, and probably s Read this for class, and honestly, if it hadn't been on the syllabus, I doubt I would have carried on past the first or second chapter. (Well—I wouldn't have picked it up to begin with. Not my normal thing. So bear that in mind.) Steingraber is without question a good writer, and she has the science background to substantiate the things she talks about, but it's definitely aimed at parents. It's also kind of aimed at making you sure that everything around you is going to kill you, and probably sooner rather than later. It's not a difficult read, and I learned a lot. Accessible and clear. Didn't love her tone (my mother did a lot of the stuff that Steingraber touts as good things—breastfeeding, shopping at co-ops, keeping a garden, line-drying, using a human-powered push mower, etc.—but without...well. Without suggesting that others were doing it wrong and were doing themselves a tremendous disservice by, say, not breastfeeding?) but I respect what she's doing. I might pick up Living Downstream at some point.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    A total eye-opener about environmental hazards around us. Now I know why the instructions said to coat the wooden playset with a sealer every year, there's arsenic (poison) in them*. Sandra is one of our dept alumna, who I met and interviewed and so it was great to read one of her books. I love when her writing goes into the personal accounts about her children, it's very moving. When I saw her give a lecture and she spoke about the sadness of our children's birthday cakes, it moved me to tears. A total eye-opener about environmental hazards around us. Now I know why the instructions said to coat the wooden playset with a sealer every year, there's arsenic (poison) in them*. Sandra is one of our dept alumna, who I met and interviewed and so it was great to read one of her books. I love when her writing goes into the personal accounts about her children, it's very moving. When I saw her give a lecture and she spoke about the sadness of our children's birthday cakes, it moved me to tears. I highly recommend this book, just be ready for some of the science and statistics but overall, it's really good and most of all, important. As she says, once you know these things, you can't ignore them. There's so much in the news about fracking, she has a lot of great information against the practice. Altogether, a lovely blend of realism and hope for the future. *I was curious and so I just looked it up and manufacturers stopped using arsenic in the pressure treated wood for decks and playsets in 2003 but if yours is older than that, it most likely does contain arsenic.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    Charming anecdotes of the author's own family present a useful model for keeping kids as healthy as possible - in particular through local whole foods and awareness of the risks posed by toxic building materials in the home. But the book's real argument is an evidence-based call for political action to demand stronger environmental standards, on the grounds that nobody can really protect their family (or themselves) from unreported, unregulated toxins that appear without warning in our natural a Charming anecdotes of the author's own family present a useful model for keeping kids as healthy as possible - in particular through local whole foods and awareness of the risks posed by toxic building materials in the home. But the book's real argument is an evidence-based call for political action to demand stronger environmental standards, on the grounds that nobody can really protect their family (or themselves) from unreported, unregulated toxins that appear without warning in our natural and built environments. As with Sandra Steinberger's earlier book, Having Faith, I was captivated from beginning to end. She uses the brilliant technique of introducing potentially dry and depressing information about pollution, toxic substances and health risks through warm, irresistible stories about her own life and family. Parents are the target readers, but I'd recommend Raising Elijah to anyone who is concerned about public health, or their own.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Literary Mama

    One of the most appealing aspects of Raising Elijah is the window Steingraber provides into her own experience of motherhood. In each chapter, she uses an anecdote from her family's life to illustrate an element of the environmental crisis. The arsenic-treated play structure at her daughter's nursery school emphasizes how federal chemical policy has failed. Her son's asthma brings the issue of air pollution uncomfortably close to home. The family's course of rabies shots after a bat is discovere One of the most appealing aspects of Raising Elijah is the window Steingraber provides into her own experience of motherhood. In each chapter, she uses an anecdote from her family's life to illustrate an element of the environmental crisis. The arsenic-treated play structure at her daughter's nursery school emphasizes how federal chemical policy has failed. Her son's asthma brings the issue of air pollution uncomfortably close to home. The family's course of rabies shots after a bat is discovered in the children's bedroom demonstrates how the precautionary principle can and should work. Readers not immediately interested in science or environmental issues will be drawn in, and possibly converted, by Steingraber's honest and intimate stories. Read Literary Mama's full review here: http://www.literarymama.com/reviews/a...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Thorn MotherIssues

    I love Steingraber's writing always, and this wasn't as eye-opening to me as Having Faith was but I still thought it was fantastic. I love the way she's able to intertwine parenting and ecology in such beautiful and thoughtful ways, but in some sense it doesn't feel entirely pertinent to the kind of parenting I'm doing. She talks about how she can't protect her kids from pollution, but I'm parenting a child who came to our home with a history of elevated lead levels, asthma, etc. She addresses t I love Steingraber's writing always, and this wasn't as eye-opening to me as Having Faith was but I still thought it was fantastic. I love the way she's able to intertwine parenting and ecology in such beautiful and thoughtful ways, but in some sense it doesn't feel entirely pertinent to the kind of parenting I'm doing. She talks about how she can't protect her kids from pollution, but I'm parenting a child who came to our home with a history of elevated lead levels, asthma, etc. She addresses the impact of pollutants on fetal development but not the impact of drugs and alcohol (though admittedly this isn't her pregnancy book) and that feels even more relevant to me as a foster parent. I still recommend this and think I'll be buying a copy.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    "Once you know you can't not know." This is the theme for environmental and health conscious moms, and all part of why I wrote Spit That Out! and continue to blog. Once you know their could be arsenic in the playground and lead in the house paint and toxins in the toys, you can't not know. Is blissful ignorance better? Ask that to the people I know whose children have been lead poisoned or are asthmatic because of the chemicals in their homes. We have to be aware and we have to RALLY! We have to vo "Once you know you can't not know." This is the theme for environmental and health conscious moms, and all part of why I wrote Spit That Out! and continue to blog. Once you know their could be arsenic in the playground and lead in the house paint and toxins in the toys, you can't not know. Is blissful ignorance better? Ask that to the people I know whose children have been lead poisoned or are asthmatic because of the chemicals in their homes. We have to be aware and we have to RALLY! We have to vote with our wallets, petition our government, and SPEAK UP in our schools, our churches, and our places of business! Thank you Sandra Steingraber for all you do.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katie Cole

    The author does a great job of addressing serious issues that are often complicated and require a bit of background and intelligence to understand, but illustrates them in stories that reach out to her audience. Even though many of the problems in this book are huge, the author does a great job of giving small steps that the reader can do to make an impact. This book was very informative and yet enjoyable to read. It takes somewhat overwhelming and frightening issues that we and our children fac The author does a great job of addressing serious issues that are often complicated and require a bit of background and intelligence to understand, but illustrates them in stories that reach out to her audience. Even though many of the problems in this book are huge, the author does a great job of giving small steps that the reader can do to make an impact. This book was very informative and yet enjoyable to read. It takes somewhat overwhelming and frightening issues that we and our children face and provides knowledge and encourages the audience to use the actionable methods she provides to make changes. I look forward to reading Sandra's other works.

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