What's Gotten into Us?
Staying Healthy in a Toxic World
By Mckay Jenkins
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400068036, 336pp.)
Publication Date: April 19, 2011
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What’s Gotten into Us? is a deep, remarkable, and empowering investigation into the threats—biological and environmental—that chemicals now present in our daily lives.
Do you know what chemicals are in your shampoo? How about your cosmetics? Do you know what’s in the plastic water bottles you drink from, or the weed killer in your garage, or your children’s pajamas? If you’re like most of us, the answer is probably no. But you also probably figured that most of these products were safe, and that someone—the manufacturers, the government—was looking out for you. The truth might surprise you.
After experiencing a health scare of his own, journalist McKay Jenkins set out to discover the truth about toxic chemicals, our alarming levels of exposure, and our government’s utter failure to regulate them effectively. What’s Gotten into Us? reveals how dangerous, and how common, toxins are in the most ordinary things, and in the most familiar of places:
• Our water: Thanks to suburban sprawl and agricultural runoff, 97 percent of our nation’s rivers and streams are now contaminated with everything from herbicides to pharmaceutical drugs.
• Our bodies: High levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals from cosmetics, flame-retardants from clothing and furniture, even long-banned substances like DDT and lead, are consistently showing up in human blood samples.
• Our homes: Many toxins lurk beneath our sinks and in our basements, of course, but did you know that they’re also found in wall-to-wall carpeting, plywood, and fabric softeners?
• Our yards: Pesticides, fungicides, even common fertilizers—there are enormous, unseen costs to our national obsession with green, weed-free lawns.
What’s Gotten Into Us? is much more than a wake-up call. It offers numerous practical ways for us to regain some control over our lives, to make our own personal worlds a little less toxic. Inside, you’ll find ideas to help you make informed decisions about the products you buy, and to disentangle yourself from unhealthy products you don’t need—so that you and your family can start living healthier lives now, and in the years to come. Because, as this book shows, what you don’t know can hurt you.
McKay Jenkins holds degrees from Amherst College, Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, and Princeton, where he received a Ph.D. in English. He is the author of The Last Ridge, The White Death, and Bloody Falls of the Coppermine. The Cornelius A. Tilghman Professor of English and director of journalism at the University of Delaware, Jenkins lives with his family in Baltimore.
Praise for What's Gotten Into Us?
“The landscape of health has changed. When you look at the increases in the rates of cancer, diabetes, obesity, allergies and autism, the statistics are numbing. But epidemics don’t have genetic causes, they have environmental ones. And today, as McKay Jenkins details in What’s Gotten Into Us?, some of the greatest threats to our health aren’t found in our DNA, but in our food supply and environment. This book is jam-packed with information and is not only an invaluable resource for those interested in protecting their loved ones, but a sound investment and a book that will pay health dividends for a lifetime.”
– Robyn O’Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth and founder of AllergyKids Foundation
"All of us long for answers on how to navigate our perilous chemical world. You could not find a better guide in exploring such important questions than What's Gotten into Us. In this wonderfully readable journey of a book, McKay Jenkins illuminates not only the science of everyday toxic compounds but the best ways to manage them in everyday life. Read it and keep it. You'll be glad you did."
Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine
in Jazz Age New York
“McKay Jenkins allows the discovery of a tumor in his left hip to lead him – and us – into the world of failed chemical regulations. What's Gotten Into Us? is a story of unflinching courage combined with hardheaded research. It's chock full of suspense… and footnotes, too. Be warned: the answer to the title's question will almost certainly amaze you – and may just send you to the barricades.”
– Sandra Steingraber, author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist's Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment
“What's Gotten Into Us delivers a scary punch. The everyday environment of American life is seething with little-understood and sometimes demonstrably dangerous chemical compounds—weird stuff that's crept into all our bodies, whether we know it or not. And we don't know what it does or could do to us. A nice piece of work, a Silent Spring for the human body.”
– Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone
"In this serious exposé that is surprisingly entertaining and positive, Jenkins uncovers the ubiquity and danger of [everyday] chemicals and offers some solutions, both personal and political..." -Publisher's Weekly, starred review