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Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  305 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Nothing could be more important than the health of our children, and no one is better suited to examine the threats against it than Sandra Steingraber. Once called "a poet with a knife," she blends precise science with lyrical memoir. In Living Downstream she spoke as a biologist and cancer survivor; in Having Faith she spoke as an ecologist and expectant mother, viewing h ...more
Hardcover, 350 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Da Capo Press (first published March 1st 2011)
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Amelia Kibbie
Aug 21, 2016 rated it liked it
I can see what the author is trying to do here. I appreciate that she took the time to do all that research to show us how our children are in peril from climate change, arsenic-treated wood, air pollution, fraking, and fossil fuels. Her writing style is pretty good overall, and I could see a former version of myself really getting sucked into this text and freaking out about all of the dangers and just jumping right on that rage train to create change.

However, I do have some issues with some of
I don't know if I can do this book justice with a short review. Steingraber writes about arsenic in playgrounds (who knew that we all played on wooden playstructures and backyard decks that had arsenic levels orders of magnitude higher than what is considered toxic?), chemicals that literally alter the way a young brain develops by hindering the movement of brain-building cells (she convinced me that this could be related to autism and learning disabilities), and endocrine disruptors that may re ...more
On the one hand, Sandra Steingraber has an important message about the toxicity of products all around us all the time and we should all listen to it. On the other hand, Sandra Steingraber is not the prophet who's going to bring the message to the masses.

In each chapter of Raising Elijah, Steingraber lays out a different toxic threat and how it affects children. Unfortunately, she also presents a new way to alienate me. In the first chapter it was the fact that she would prefer her children's p
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I HIGHLY recommend biologist Sandra Steingraber's book. Parents should not have to be regulatory agencies, she boldly proposes. Instead, industry ought not be allowed to manufacture and sell poison disguised as children's toys, plastic water bottles, couches, lumber, stuff to make plants grow.... What a concept. She writes about how we are storing chemicals in our (especially our children's) bodies and in our atmosphere that will be our undoing. The book includes a chapter on fracking. Steingrab ...more
Alexandra Grabbe
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Many of you probably know Sandra Steingraber for her second book, Living Downstream. Perhaps some of you have seen the film by the same name, featuring this erudite biologist and cancer survivor? Now comes Raising Elijah, a tale of her son’s childhood and the environment.

At the beginning of the story, the author turns down a job offer due to her determination to raise children in a town, presumed to be free of pollution. She and her husband choose an idyllic spot near a lake in upstate New York
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First of all, I'm not a mother or plan to be any time soon. I'm a college student finishing my bachelor's degree. But, I must say that this was a good read! I enjoyed reading about Steingraber's journey as a mother of two wonderful kids. Her love, drive and most all her willingness to provide the two most important things a mother wants for her children protection and a safe future. But, in the times we are living this seems the hardest jobs parents face each and everyday, is as though the world ...more
Mar 07, 2012 rated it did not like it
It's not really fair for me to review this book because I only (thoroughly, though!!) skimmed it. I just couldn't stand the author or the style, even though I picked up the book because I felt totally prepared to take in her platform. This book read like Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," only way less pretty and even more preachy and pretentious. I did connect with the part about Elijah Lovejoy, a radical abolitionist who was eventually killed for his absolute stand against slav ...more
May 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I love Sandra Steingraber's writing. Although the subject matter is exceptionally scary to me, Ms. Steingraber writes about science in ways that I can completely understand the scariness involved. Ms. Steingraber is not one of the 'doomsday' writers that describes how awful things are in the environment then ends the book; she provides concrete, tangible suggestions on micro, meso and macro levels in Raising Elijiah. I was scared about the information she provided about our environment on both a ...more
Jul 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Steingraber is a wonderful storyteller, whether she's writing about her daughter choosing her preschool or that same preschool choosing to keep in place aresenic-shedding play equipment--or, for that matter, the history of pressure-treated wood or the chemical processes involved in fracking. She makes the case that individual parents shouldn't be responsible for protecting their children y choosing the right toys, sippy cups, etc.--what we need is better regulation of chemicals in our environmen ...more
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-group-books
In this book, Steingraber mixes science, parenting advice, and environmental manifesto. At times while reading it, I felt annoyed by her slightly superior tone (her kids love veggies, never watch tv, read piles of books, AND she works out for an hour every day. Woo-hoo!) But my annoyance is probably derived from guilt that I haven't done more as a parent and environmentalist. At other times while reading, I felt physically ill with worry about the future. But mostly, I felt inspired to do more a ...more
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
While the subject matter is downright scary and depressing, the author does a good job of explaining the science behind what is happening when we breathe polluted air, eat pesticide-ridden food, and are exposed to all sorts of chemicals in everyday life. It is a call to action to advocate for policy changes to keep us all safe, especially children whose young bodies are most impacted by the environment.

Mel Foster
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
An engaging survey of the myriad environmental hazards faced by developing children and their well-intentioned parents. Steingraber's overarching thesis is that even in the best of circumstances, trying to protect one's children from the array of poisons in the environment is likely to result in frighteningly dangerous exposures, and feel like a complex marathon of whack-a-mole. She would like to more rigorous government oversight of most of the substances and pollutants mentioned, something lik ...more
A thought-provoking and personal exploration of what scientists, policymakers, and others know (and don't know) about how environmental toxins interact with human development and health. The strength of Steingraber's work is that -- although she narrates her own family's choices and discussed small changes we might make in our own lives (dry clothes on a line rather than in a dryer, etc.) -- she emphasizes that these huge problems require societal rather than individual change. Instead of placin ...more
Feb 08, 2019 added it
Shelves: bowdoin-reads
Reader in group–I am reading "Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis" by Sandra Steingraber. I heard about it by chance, and by now I've ordered all her other books. The author is a biologist and mother of two who writes about raising children in the age of chemical contamination. Our children face an environment that is more polluted than ever before, and many of the very things that are poisonous have become so common that we simply don't think about it (for ...more
May 30, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Good concept and full of technical and important information about toxicities in our daily lives, but for that reason also felt a little disjointed in trying to marry that with a personal story. It certainly was well researched and will terrify anyone who cares about health and the environment.
Moriah Miller
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think I’ll be thinking about this book for the rest of my life. It’s already impacting my political views, my lifestyle, and my decisions about my future. Well worth the read, speaking as a woman, a biologist, and a Christian.
Jade Yarwood
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
If you have a hard time understanding scientific jargon this book is not for you. I did enjoy the little stories the author told about her family, but the science was hard to get through. She makes some valid points, but it is not realistic to shield our children from their childhood.
Nesya Sloane
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sick book! Probably a little outdated now (although probably in the direction of things are now even worse), but I’m not even a parent and this made me a) cry and b) want to fight a petroleum company and/or the government.
Nov 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Clean Air Carolina hosted Dr Steingraber in Charlotte on March 20, 2012. What a wonderful speaker (and a darn nice lady, to boot).
Raising Elijah moved me unlike any other nonfiction book in recent memory. You can pick out pages at random and learn something so startling, so moving that you want to stop the person walking by and shake them and ask, "Did you know this?!"

For example, on page 22: "Here is what we know about the boy babies of women
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Such an important and yet readable book. How do I get everyone to read this book and care about its issues? And what am I going to do about what I now know and care about? For one, I think I am going to look into purchasing a reel lawn mower. Some reasons:
“Individual residents are responsible for 21.1 percent of total US carbon dioxide emissions. Add driving and that number rises to 38 percent. This is not a trivial figure and, in one respect, is good news because it means we don’t have to wait
JS Found
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The world is a vampire. The industrial world, which means the world to you and me. It is toxic. It has airborne chemicals and dangerous pesticides on industrial food, which, in America, means all food. There is climate change. Fracking. Pollution from fossil fuel factories. And in America it's not law that harmful chemicals be forbidden. An eco-conscious parent might as well despair.

Sandra Steingraber has two young children. She does not despair. This is all the more remarkable because she is a
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a very well written, well researched book by a very intelligent author. The information contained therein is vital information; information that I wish all citizens of the USA (indeed, the world) would become privy to.

A couple of recurring thoughts, though:

1. Why was animal agriculture not addressed even one time in this book? Not only is our massive-scale animal agriculture industry destroying our environment through land degradation, it is sucking up much of our fertile land for the s
Nov 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
I did not love this book as much as "Having Faith," and there was a fair amount of information i already know. Nonetheless, it is worth a read for the new information that makes your jaw drop to the floor, and for Steingraber's refreshing insistence that our job as parents shouldn't be to personally protect our children from the ever-longer list of environmental dangers in the world- we need to ask and act on why these problems exist to begin with.
I get enraged reading books such as these, and t
Read this for class, and honestly, if it hadn't been on the syllabus, I doubt I would have carried on past the first or second chapter. (Well—I wouldn't have picked it up to begin with. Not my normal thing. So bear that in mind.) Steingraber is without question a good writer, and she has the science background to substantiate the things she talks about, but it's definitely aimed at parents. It's also kind of aimed at making you sure that everything around you is going to kill you, and probably s ...more
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
A total eye-opener about environmental hazards around us. Now I know why the instructions said to coat the wooden playset with a sealer every year, there's arsenic (poison) in them*. Sandra is one of our dept alumna, who I met and interviewed and so it was great to read one of her books. I love when her writing goes into the personal accounts about her children, it's very moving. When I saw her give a lecture and she spoke about the sadness of our children's birthday cakes, it moved me to tears. ...more
May 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Charming anecdotes of the author's own family present a useful model for keeping kids as healthy as possible - in particular through local whole foods and awareness of the risks posed by toxic building materials in the home. But the book's real argument is an evidence-based call for political action to demand stronger environmental standards, on the grounds that nobody can really protect their family (or themselves) from unreported, unregulated toxins that appear without warning in our natural a ...more
Literary Mama
Jan 29, 2012 added it
Shelves: memoir
One of the most appealing aspects of Raising Elijah is the window Steingraber provides into her own experience of motherhood. In each chapter, she uses an anecdote from her family's life to illustrate an element of the environmental crisis. The arsenic-treated play structure at her daughter's nursery school emphasizes how federal chemical policy has failed. Her son's asthma brings the issue of air pollution uncomfortably close to home. The family's course of rabies shots after a bat is discovere ...more
Thorn MotherIssues
Sep 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2011
I love Steingraber's writing always, and this wasn't as eye-opening to me as Having Faith was but I still thought it was fantastic. I love the way she's able to intertwine parenting and ecology in such beautiful and thoughtful ways, but in some sense it doesn't feel entirely pertinent to the kind of parenting I'm doing. She talks about how she can't protect her kids from pollution, but I'm parenting a child who came to our home with a history of elevated lead levels, asthma, etc. She addresses t ...more
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: green-living
"Once you know you can't not know."

This is the theme for environmental and health conscious moms, and all part of why I wrote Spit That Out! and continue to blog.

Once you know their could be arsenic in the playground and lead in the house paint and toxins in the toys, you can't not know. Is blissful ignorance better? Ask that to the people I know whose children have been lead poisoned or are asthmatic because of the chemicals in their homes.

We have to be aware and we have to RALLY! We have to vo
Katie Cole
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The author does a great job of addressing serious issues that are often complicated and require a bit of background and intelligence to understand, but illustrates them in stories that reach out to her audience. Even though many of the problems in this book are huge, the author does a great job of giving small steps that the reader can do to make an impact. This book was very informative and yet enjoyable to read. It takes somewhat overwhelming and frightening issues that we and our children fac ...more
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Ecologist, author, and cancer survivor, Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized expert on the environmental links to cancer and reproductive health. She received her doctorate in biology from the University of Michigan and master’s degree in English from Illinois State University. She is the author of Post-Diagnosis, a volume of poetry, and coauthor of a book on ecology and huma ...more

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