Source: Children's Health Environmental Coalition
Parents of a certain age remember the slogan, "a better world
through chemistry" in the 1950s and '60s, which promised new
compounds as the key to a life of luxury in a carefree future.
It seems toxins are everywhere these days, but
purging chemicals from life can be a hard pill to swallow.
A couple of generations back in the gene pool, those parents are
mostly grandparents, and contemporary science is telling us that
the chemical cures to our ills and irritations may be worse than
the nuisances they were created to eliminate.
Making connections between our chemical frenemies and runaway
rates of developmental disabilities isn't just for tree-huggers and
hippies anymore. The link between toxins and the American pandemic
of autism, attention deficit disorders and allergies is moving into
the mainstream, say agencies supporting people with
Dr. Peter Orris, who co-authored an American Medical Association
resolution calling for federal reform on chemicals, says experts
are just beginning to connect the dots between chemicals and
"Many substances that we previously thought were toxic only at
higher levels, we are beginning to understand now in fact
incorporate in people's bodies," says Orris, professor and chief of
service in Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the
University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center School of Public
This generation of children is exposed to an enormous number of
toxins before they are even born, says Cindy Schneider, medical
director of the Center for Autism Research and Education and the
mother of two children with autism.
"Doctors and medical researchers are just now beginning to
realize the cumulative effects of the many, many toxins to which we
are exposed each day," she says.
But purging chemicals from life can be a hard pill to
The culprits are so much a part of our everyday world, it
boggles the mind to imagine how we could cope without them.
Cathy Ficker Terrill, of Elmhurst, took on the overwhelming task
of detoxifying her family's living space. When Terrill started
tracking her 4-year-old daughter Beth's meltdowns, she saw how they
came in tandem with home projects: When they resurfaced the
driveway, when they scrubbed with ammonia-based cleaners, when the
lawn service sprayed the lawn.
Terrill and her husband took extreme tactics. They built a new
house as a fortress against Beth's neurological-based allergens.
The house has all-wood floors and low-chemical paint that was baked
on the walls to minimize chemical emissions. The family stopped
using perfumed personal products, banished pesticides and
fertilizers from the yard and stopped cleaning with chemicals. Now
they just use vinegar and baking soda.
Terrill says she figured it out the hard way.
"Parents of children with learning disabilities need to take a
long, hard look at their environment and the chemicals that are all
around us and start making some critical connections," she
Robyn Monaghan is a freelance writer living in Plainfield.
See more of Robyn's stories here.
Robyn Monaghan is a mother and long-time journalist.
See more of Robyn's stories here.
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