The Toxic Paradox: What Are You Protecting Your Kids From?

03/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Every morning, as part of their daily routine, my husband slathers our daughter with all-natural sun block that claims to ward off skin cancer without causing something worse. Because of suspected harmto children's reproductive systems, we don't microwave in plastic or use shampoo containing phthalates. We limit tuna, since elevated mercury levels are linked to learning delays. Better safe than sorry, I say. But safe from what? And, more to the point, safe from which? My own mother forbade me to drink the water in the Minneapolis suburb where I spent my teens: creosote from a closed plant had leached into several of the town's wells. Although they were shut down, she remained suspicious. Better safe than sorry, she said. Still, during six years of daily showers, my skin would have absorbed plenty of whatever may have been lurking there. Could that be why I scored lower on my SAT's than I thought I should have? Might the creosote have contributed to my breast-cancer diagnosis at age 35? Or was the culprit the pesticide sprayed each year over my summer camp to combat mosquitoes? (To be fair, we were told to put our pillows under our blankets beforehand.)