Movie and Book Reviews: Toxins in our Environment

By Marguerite Langlois

Can we change the way chemicals influence our home life? What’s the state of our environmental health?

About 40 people gathered at Greenwood Senior Center (GSC) on Sept. 27 to view the movie “Chemerical,” part of GSC’s “Meaningful Movies” series. Leading with the theme of “defining clean for a new generation,” the movie told the story of one family’s journey from using multiple toxic chemicals to using only non-toxic materials as part of their daily lives. Along the way, added commentary provided some history of how we got to our current over-use of toxic chemicals in our homes. Handouts provided resources and ways to make your own safe products.

Chemerical movie poster

I liked the movie because it didn’t preach. It was practical, down-to-earth, and encouraging. Yes, we can make changes in how we use chemicals in our daily lives. And, we can do it one step at a time. The movie family did it all within a few weeks, as part of the making of the documentary. But anyone can begin with a few simple changes: start simply with using fewer products: if you have 15 or 20 of them, cut down to the 4 or 5 that have the lowest toxicity. Experiment with using products like baking soda and vinegar to make an effective scrubbing cleaner (I’ve done if for years. It cleans even the worst messes out of my oven.) Start anywhere…but do start. Several practical handouts were available with further information.

If you’d like to rent the movie or get the handouts for your family or group, contact Shannon Markley at GSC: 206-297-0875.

Here’s a link to the trailer:
You may also view the entire movie online on Vimeo:


The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement
By Kate Davies
(Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013)

The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health MovementIn discussing the history of environmental issues, the movie told the story of Love Canal, the neighborhood in New York state build on a toxic waste dump. Residents were not told about the dangers. But mothers noticed…they noticed how often their children got ill, with serious health problems. Lois Gibbs, one of the mothers and president of the homeowners’ association, petitioned the school board to investigate, got other families involved, learned the truth about the chemicals and their effects, and in the process made history for their actions.

The Love Canal story is also told in The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement, by Kate Davies, just published this past summer. When Kate was 8, her mother developed cancer, and Kate decided then that she would do something about things that made people sick. Her mother survived, and Kate kept and strengthened her interest, eventually working with a number of major groups involved in environmental health. The book tells in detail the history of the environmental health movement, and what individuals like Lois Gibbs, and an ever-growing number of groups, have done and are doing to change the chemical toxicity of our homes, our buildings, our cities, our environment. Kate, currently core faculty in Antioch University’s Center for Creative Change, has worked extensively in environmental health.

When Kate was 8, her mother developed cancer, and Kate decided then that she would do something about things that made people sick.

The book provides valuable information on the chemical industry, legislation (or lack of legislation), and the various issues and organizations involved. It’s a fascinating story that touches each of our lives and communities. Kate discusses key issues, such as the “burden of proof” concept: currently, in the US, products are considered safe until someone proves they are harmful, instead of the burden of proof being on the company to prove a product safe before distribution.

There’s a practical path for anyone who wants to be part of change, whether you want to work with an established group, start a small group, or work individually. Extensive discussion of organizations, movements, and progress provide readers with multiple ways to begin and develop involvement. Kate reassures us that there is hope: it will take years, but think of the years it took to gain the vote for women, or civil rights. Anything we can do is a step forward, and we need to take our place in a long chain of those who have worked and continue to work so that we can all live more healthy lives and leave a legacy of health for our children and future generations.


Find this book!

Seattle Public Library:



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One thought on “Movie and Book Reviews: Toxins in our Environment

  1. Thank you, Marguerite, for your review of these 2 items, raising awareness of the problem of toxins in everyday life. As one who suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitvities (MCS), I have, along with others, tried for years to do just that. So again, a heartfelt thank you!
    For further information please check out the more than informative website of the
    Environmental Working Group (EWG):

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