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RAISING ELIJAH: Sandra Steingraber
Transcript of RAISING ELIJAH: Sandra Steingraber
Chapter 1: Milk (and Terror)
This chapter begins with the pregnant author speaking of her soon to be born child named after Elijah Lovejoy. She spends a lot of time at cabin and enjoys listening to the mailman come and go, until he dies. She finds that breast milk is better than formula because it helps fight disease and illness (ie. leukemia, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, etc.), and also results in a higher IQ, It is better for the mother as well. After conducting research she also documents that premature babies and those born with asthma near Ground Zero were majorly due to the air pollution from the terrorist attacks.
Chapter 2: The Nursery School Playground (and Well-Informed Futility)
In this chapter we learn CCA-treated wood contains high levels of copper, chromium, and arsenic which are all disabling elements. This type of wood could be found in the wood of homes, patios, playgrounds, parks, etc. until 2004 when the EPA finally took action after banning CCA-treated wood in 2002. This type of wood also affects the soil around it and the water supplies nearby. We learn the author is a bladder cancer survivor, which is why she studies the effects of environment on human health. Arsenic is a bladder carcinogen. The author ends up removing her children from the school near their house because the school would not replace the playground that contained CCA treated wood. This forced her to have to drive much further to a new school, but she felt it was well worth it because her children would be safer.
Chapter 3: The Grocery List (and the Ozone Hole)
The author, in this chapter, talks about the CSA farm her family joined, an organic grocery store, and the family's nutritionist. Those who eat mostly organic food have ⅙a lesser amount of organophosphate insecticide in their urine than those who eat conventional food. We also learn that children with higher level of pesticides in their system from conventional produce are more prone to ADHD. The author has strict rules about what her family is allowed to eat. She also tells us that drug resistant bacteria is being driven by antibiotics and that Methyl Bromide is a strong neurotoxicant that is destroying the stratospheric layer. We find out near the end that there are alternatives that are not being used.
Chapter 4: Pizza (and the Ecosystem Services)
The author tries to find ways to conserve money to spend on activities with kids. She finds organic is more expensive than conventional. She makes two pizzas: one with food from a supermarket and one with organic food to conduct a taste test and compare cost. Organic cost 25% more. The taste was the same in 2003. In 2010 she conducted the experiment again when organic food options were greater. She could make it cheaper organically and it tasted better. We learn obesity is related to cancer, heart disease and diabetes and is cause by cheaper inorganic foods that cost less at grocery stores. She looks into why organic wheat is more costly than conventional. Conventional Durum wheat is produced with over 80 pesticides. 2,4-D is one herbicide used that is linked to birth defects. She went on to define the chemical pesticides in each of the ingredients bought at the convenience store and their effects on the environment and humans, then compared their prices with the organic. The author then goes further and discusses the benefits and downfalls of organic farming vs. commercial farming.
Chapter 5: The Kitchen Floor
(and National Security)
Chapter 6: Asthma (and the Intergenerational Equity)
Chapter 7: The Big Talk ( and Systems Theory)
Chapter 8: homework (and Frontiers in Neurotoxicology)
Chapter 9: Eggs (and Sperm)
Chapter 10: Bicycles on Main Street (and High-Volume Slickwater Hydraulic Fracturing)
In this chapter, the author begins describing how the geography surrounding her home connects her family to both the modern world of the village she lives in and the nature close by- within biking distance. She goes on to describe the impact of the glaciers in New York which created the finger lakes and provide natural gas when they are drilled into beneath the state. This process called fracking is detrimental to the environment because chemicals and fresh water are pumped into the ground to create pressure which creates toxic flow back. The diesel trucks used to transport all of the necessary objects for the process are harmful as well. This process also fractures the earth beneath ground level preventing wildlife habitats to exist. The combustion by products of this process release gasses that cause health problems such as premature birth and cancer and heart disease in children. It makes water disappear because several million gallons are used for 1 project.
In this chapter there is a big brown bat trapped in the children's room and the author realizes that a percentage of these bats carry rabies. She realizes that she must capture the bat or her children could be harmed because rabies is fatal without the vaccinations and sometimes the bites can go undetected. She calls the Rabies Prevention Hotline and a wildlife removal specialist comes to catch the bat. She finds out the next day that the bat was indeed rabid. She has to make the choice to get her family vaccinated being that she was unsure if the bat actually came in contact with her children. She decides to go forward with the vaccinations which her insurance company paid for and cost $5,758.04. Had the insurance company not covered the bill the county would have. Rabies kills on average one maybe two Americans a year. She explains the way professionals have prevented the spread of rabies from animals to humans and the preventions that are taken to ensure safety. She then begins to go into the “menace” of climate change on today's children and the children of the future. She explains that how the climate change is dramatic and global so there is no way to specify the damages it causes to us. She sees a rabid animal as an undeniable danger and the climate change as one that's not so clear. While making a Halloween costume with Elijah she is worried that he will be able to read that polar bears are becoming extinct, their ice is melting, ect. She wonders if the costume will outlast the real bears and if other mothers before her had thought the same thing. She begins to go more into detail about global warming and how she is able to explain it to her children. She talks about three things to do to help the crisis: 1. Plant a garden. 2. Mow grass without fossil fuels, 3. Replace clothes dryer with evaporation. She talks about bats developing white-nose syndrome causing them to die by the millions. White-nose syndrome appears on a hibernating bat and causes them to wake up, act erratically, and eventually starve to death. No one knows why this is happening.
The family moves from their cabin to a village because it is more convenient with the kids. Elijah has a persistent cough that they think may be asthma. The author describes why it is less likely for children born naturally than via cesarean or if they are born prematurely to have lung problems. The author then goes into a further description of the types of asthma. Most commonly diagnosed is atopic asthma: inflammatory agents recognize something benign as a pathogen and attack it causing an allergic reaction. She confronts the idea of asthma being caused by household materials and finds that the environment is more of a contributing factor. She also finds that minorities, premature babies, and obese children are more at risk. Minorities tend to live in very urban setting where there is more air pollution. Even if a mother is exposed to more exhaust while pregnant the child is more likely to develop asthma. Air pollution does not only cause asthma, but some forms of diabetes and premature death.
In this chapter the author suffers a serious burn that takes many months to heal. This inspires her to write a research paper on the health effects of burning PVC in a building fire- which we first heard about in Ch 1. Does PVC belong in buildings that are certified "green" by LEED? No, because it causes to many detrimental effects to one's health and the environment as it burns. PVC is found in raincoats, wallpaper, toys, and shoes, all things children come in contact with regularly. Like CCA wood, you can't get rid of it easily. It contains ethylene dichloride which is linked to liver, blood and brain cancer.
In chapter 8, Elijah and Faith are in their early years attending a Montessori school. The author discusses chemicals known as developmental neurotoxicants, which are substances that impair the growth of the brain in ways that interfere with learning. She discusses the variety of intellectual deficits that are correlated with children's ability to learn and their brain functions. The author includes mental retardation, ADD, and autism. The author reviews the danger of lead, mercury, coal, and air pollutants in children and how its exposure effects their brain. The disorders are becoming more prevalent in children and due to so many factors that parents cannot be 100% liable for. Children are ultimately becoming more and more at risk without theirs or their parents' control.
In Chapter 9, the author discusses puberty right after birth and puberty after childhood years. She focuses a lot on endocrinology, which concerns itself with hormonal messages and chemicals known as endocrine disrupters. These disrupters have the power to change the developmental pathways during childhood and there are more than 200 that have already been identified. The author explains that they have the potential to interfere with the hormones that oversee the creation of the reproductive system. She focuses on the three disrupters that are of main concern: Bisphenol A, Phthalates, and Atrazine. They are all produced in high volume and human exposure is extremely widespread. All three disrupters interfere with the reproductive system in different ways, but are overall extremely harmful. The author then turns her focus to females and analyzes their age onset of puberty. She explains that external environmental factors are decreasing the average age of the onset of puberty. The earlier the onset of puberty, the less plasticity the brain has and their ability to learn complex new skills declines dramatically. The author talks about other factors that correlate with the average age decrease, but she reasons with evidence why external factors are causing a greater prevalence. A way to help prevent the decline is that young girls can maintain a healthy lifestyle, however, outside disrupters cannot be controlled and are the main source to the decline.
Brief Summary of Novel
In the novel Raising Elijah the author and narrator, Sandra Steingraber, addresses an environment more threatening to the health of today’s children than any generation preceding it in history. She confronts this crisis with scientific studies that she has performed and/or researched and connects her studies to her own family in a harmonious manner. Each chapter of the book focuses on one of the universal components of childhood, including: milk, laundry, pizza, homework, and the “Big Talk”, and delves into the concealed, social, political, and historical forces behind each one. Throughout the novel, Steingraber exposes how closely the cherished and affectionate world of parenting connects to the public world of policy-making, and how the continuously developing environmental crisis is undoubtedly creating a crisis in family life.