I just got word that a copy of Daniel Goleman's Ecological Intelligence: The Hidden Impacts of What We Buy is waiting for me at my local library branch.
I'm very excited to read it, not least because he discusses "the toxicologist’s dilemma": the fact that standard, accepted methods for determining "safe" levels of exposure to different chemicals don't take into account today's environmental realities.
But the good news is that we don't have to accept those methods.
In this post (adapted from Goleman's book) on the Environmental Working Group's blog, Goleman writes that if each of us did three things, we could get companies to phase out their use of toxic chemicals: "(1) Know the true ecological impacts of what we buy. (2) Favor improvements. (3) Tell everyone we know."
In other words, the more demand we create for safe products, the more incentives corporations have to find or develop safer alternatives. Granted, it's not always easy to know the true ecological impacts of our consumption, but there's more info out there now than ever before. Like, for example, Goleman's book.
Other helpful titles that come to mind (specific to chemical safety) are Mark Schapiro's Exposed and Stacy Malkan's Not Just a Pretty Face. Online, the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database, the Good Guide (which is also an iPhone app), and Consumer Reports' GreenerChoices are all great resources.