Books and Blogs

Published on June 20th, 2013 | by Scott Cooney

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Wellness Book Review: Non-Toxic Living via The Non-Toxic Avenger

Have you ever tried to use deodorants without chemicals? Attempted to clean a clogged drain with a natural drain Nontoxic Avenger Bookcleaner? Ever tried “no-poo” (not using shampoo but trying to create your own from nontoxic ingredients)?

Luckily for us, Deanna Duke has tried all these experiments on herself and details them in her book, The Non-Toxic Avenger: What you Don’t Know can Hurt You. Duke is a 30-something wife and mother, cruising along through life with 2.3 kids, a white picket fence, a career, and a husband that likes to bake (had to throw one wrinkle in there). Then her life gets turned upside down. Within a few months of each other, her son is diagnosed with autism and her husband with cancer. Without much family history of either, Duke is faced with the common lament of “why us?” Soon after she stumbles upon a book called Slow Death by Rubber Duck. What she finds is a startling description of a world of toxic chemicals where we least expect them. In other words, everywhere.

As a mother, this particularly concerns Duke. As she writes:

Most chemical substances have been shown to be anywhere from 3 to 10 times more toxic to fetuses and newborns than to adults. And by the time you are six months old, you have already received 30% of your lifetime toxic load of chemicals. 

Duke chronicles her quest to rid her home and her family of toxins, recounting stories from hanging Christmas lights to handling EMF radiation from her laptop to futile attempts to replace chemical food colorants with organic substitutes. The resulting book, the Non-Toxic Avenger (New Society) takes this in-depth and personal look at the pervasive chemicals in our homes and workplaces and guides readers through Duke’s quest to clean out her life step-by-step.

The detrimental effects of chemicals on children are wide ranging and well documented. Duke cites evidence from even as early as 1985, when the medical journal The Lancet reported “a study where 79% of hyperactive children improved when artificial colorings and flavorings were removed from their food.” Also, children living in homes with vinyl floors (which can emit phthalates), are more likely to have autism.

toxic ingredients in everything

toxic ingredients in everything

From ingredients to avoid in makeup to recipes for homemade body care products to assessing sunscreens without oxybenzone, Seattle-based Duke takes readers for a ride that just might save their lives.

In the Non-Toxic Avenger, you will learn:

  • The ins and outs of personal care products, and why ingredients like sodium laurel sulfate are used in the first place, and why they should be avoided
  • The regulatory environment around certain chemicals, and why they’re allowed in the U.S. while banned elsewhere
  • Recipes for greener living
  • The health effects of a wide variety of common household chemicals
  • … and much more.

What really stands out about this book, though, is the fact that Duke really goes through it all. Coupled with in-depth research, Duke does her own body burden tests to assess where she stands in terms of “acceptable” levels of bioaccumulated toxins– but I won’t ruin the ending for you. I greatly enjoyed reading the book, learned a ton of interesting and scary information, and would suggest it to anyone who is worried about that little rubber duck and what it’s leaching into the bath water. There are many ways to reduce your toxic load, and consequently the footprint you have on this planet and other people. This book is a solid guide to get you started on that journey.

Vibrant Wellness Journal would like to thank New Society Publishers for sending a review copy of the book.

Photo from Shutterstock


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About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on



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