Deanna Duke is not your average green mom blogger. A self-described urban homesteader living in Seattle, Duke was happily puttering along, living and writing about her eco-savvy lifestyle on her blog at Crunchy Chicken. With her blog's tagline of "putting the mental in environmental," you can kind of get a feel for the irreverent, straight-shooting blog that Duke is writing over there.
But over the course of the five years that Duke has been writing her blog, her family's health took a nosedive, and Duke couldn't help but wonder if her son's diagnosis of Asperger's and her otherwise healthy husband's diagnosis of multiple myeloma — an incurable, extremely life-shortening form of leukemia — could somehow be linked to the toxins in her environment.
This train of thought started Duke down her path from her blog at the Crunchy Chicken to her new book, "The Non-Toxic Avenger: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You." Here, with Duke's permission, is an excerpt from her new book, explaining how and why she became such a strong advocate of getting toxins out of her family's life:
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Chapter 1: In The Beginning
I thought I lived a fairly clean lifestyle. I didn’t use pesticides in my yard, tried to choose organic foods, stayed away from overly processed products and didn’t smoke. What I thought was the whole shebang of avoiding toxins. But, like most people, I had my faults. I still used conventional cosmetics and some body and hair care products and I relied on the good old power of caustic cleaners. Since I lived a pretty focused life of trying to lower my carbon footprint, I thought that, by reducing my petroleum usage and generally choosing natural products, I was in the clear.
I firmly believed that if a product were sold on the shelves in the store, that product was safe to use unless it stated otherwise. Some of them may not have been the most environmentally friendly to use but they were safe. The FDA says so, doesn’t it? And I was more than happy to put my faith in government agencies and turn a blind eye to the real story just to keep believing that those plastics in my mascara and the preservatives in my shampoo were innocuous and I could have silky hair and glowing skin in spite of what the ingredient labels did and did not tell me.
It wasn’t until I received a review copy of the book "Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things" for my environmental blog, The Crunchy Chicken, that I started to think otherwise. In the circle of individuals who were blogging on environmental topics, there was always a subset that focused on toxins in products. I figured that was their bailiwick, not mine. I was more concerned with reducing waste, energy usage and the strain on the environment from personal carbon footprints. The closest I got to dealing with the topic on my blog was really in relation to issues with agriculture and its incumbent petroleum-based fertilizer and pesticide use. But that didn’t matter to me personally because I didn’t choose products produced by conventional agriculture. Or did it? Were the health problems my family faced a result of environmental toxins, bad genetics or both?
Since I started writing my blog and really focusing on environmental issues, two very personal things had happened. The first was that my son, Henry, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism. The second was that my husband, Hank, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable, extremely life-shortening form of leukemia. Both were diagnosed the same week in September 2007. I still haven’t recovered from it all but, then again, neither have they.
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Be sure to check out a copy of "The Non-Toxic Avenger: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You," to read about Duke's efforts to get any and all toxins out of her body. You can also following along on her non-toxic journey over at Crunchy Chicken.