11/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Day One: There Is a New Green in Town

When I was little, green was a color. Years later, it became a movement that could save the 500,000 penguins I saw when I traveled to Antarctica. Today, there is a new, broader and more personal definition of green. It is all about the health of our families. It's this new green that made me change everything about the way that I live. All because of what happened to my son one afternoon in New York City nearly 5 years ago.

Book excerpt, p. 1

"My son Spencer had just turned three when, one day, I noticed he was coughing a lot. At first, I didn't think anything of it. Kids get sick. I told him to lie down, thinking he'd be fine -- it was just a cough. A short time later I realized that his heart was pounding, as if it were trying to beat right out of his chest. Terrified, my husband Roger and I rushed him to the hospital. At the emergency room doctors placed our son on oxygen and gave him strong steroids to help clear his airways. We spent the next two nights in the intensive care unit. The doctors told us he had something called reactive airways dysfunction syndrome -- a form of asthma.

Asthma? How did our little boy develop asthma? We'd never heard of asthma coming on so suddenly. We were confused and sick with worry.

We talked to our son's doctor. We talked to other doctors. We asked questions but never got satisfactory answers. Ultimately, we knew our son's condition had to be either genetic or environmental. Neither my husband nor I had any family history of asthma, going back for four generations. So we concluded the cause was environmental.

I've spent most of my career working as a consumer reporter, so I knew how to dive right in and begin researching. It didn't take long to discover that the United States is in the midst of an asthma epidemic. One in every thirteen school-age children in the United States has asthma. Asthma in children younger than five has increased 160 percent since 1980. Nine million U.S. children under the age of eighteen have been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease in the United States, and it's the third leading cause of hospitalization among children younger than fifteen. The suspected cause of these stunning changes? At least six well-designed epidemiological studies have found one answer: a strong link between the use of certain cleaning products and asthma. That stopped me cold. The cause of my son's asthma may have been me. I may have been poisoning my own son."

I've done an enormous amount of research (check out the 160 endnotes in the book!) since then and I wanted to share it. My book Green Goes With Everything: Simple Steps To A Healthier Life and A Cleaner Planet (it's already hit the New York Times Best Sellers List in its first two weeks!) is a simple, fast, down-to-earth primer on the ways our homes can make us sick, and what we can all do to help transform them into the safe sanctuaries we want and need them to be. It's written for all of us who care about our health and the health of our families.

In my book, I expose the toxic truth behind many of the household products we use every day -- from laundry detergent to toothpaste to lipstick. I explain how these and other seemingly benign stuff can harm us and our children. I offer an array of alternatives, and show you that we're never helpless: Every day, we have the power to make better, smarter, safer choices.

Up next on the Green Goes With Everything agenda: the pollution in our homes and even our bodies! Stay tuned...