We are running a collective chemical fever that we cannot break. Everyone everywhere now carries a dizzying array of chemical contaminants, the by-products of modern industry and innovation that contribute to a host of developmental deficits and health problems in ways just now being understood. These toxic substances, unknown to our grandparents, accumulate in our fat, bones, blood, and organs as a consequence of womb-to-tomb exposure to industrial substances as common as the products that contain them. Almost everything we encounter—from soap to soup cans and computers to clothing—contributes to a chemical load unique to each of us.
Scientists studying the phenomenon refer to it as “chemical body burden,” and in The Body Toxic, the investigative journalist Nena Baker explores the many factors that have given rise to this condition—from manufacturing breakthroughs to policy decisions to political pressure to the demands of popular culture. While chemical advances have helped raise our standard of living, making our lives easier and safer in many ways, there are costs to these conveniences that chemical companies would rather consumers never knew about. Baker draws back the curtain on this untold impact and assesses where we go from here.