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Take two house plants and call me in the morning

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Houseplants help capture chemicals from the air.My 18 year old sister called me not long ago and said, "So what's the deal with these plastic bottles?"

"Which plastic bottles, exactly?" I asked.

"The Nalgene ones -- is it true that they're bad?"

It seems I've become the go-to person for friends and family on all things toxic. I don't mind at all (I mean hey, it's nice to be treated like an expert), but I tend to get a little bogged down in the details.

"Well," I told my sister, "Your bottle is made of of a kind of plastic called polycarbonate, which contains a chemical called Bisphe--"

"Yeah yeah. Is it going to make me sick?"

"Well, not right away, but BPA is a hormone disruptor, which means--"

She cut me off again. "It'll give me cancer?"

"I take it you never read my blog," I laughed.

"It's too much!" She said. "Just tell me what to do."

Ahh. That again. It makes perfect sense, too. We're all busy people. and we don't have time for details on every subject that enters into our lives. It all boils down to one big question: what should I do?

Dr. Natalie Jeremijenko has taken that often overwhelming question and put it to a script that all of us will recognize: a trip to the doctor's office. But Jeremijenko isn't a medical doctor. She's an engineer and visual artist with a remarkable understanding of human nature.

In her NYU office, Jeremijenko holds clinics to discuss solutions to a problem many medical doctors ignore: environmental pollution. Her "impatients" leave with prescriptions for actual actions they can take to improve their immediate environments, from raising houseplants to attaching a "solar awning" to capture sunlight.

Dr. Jeremijenko is profiled by Amanda Schaffer in this New York Times article. Her philosophy is interesting, and well worth a read.

Oh, and yes, I told my sister to ditch her polycarbonate bottle in favor of one made from stainless steel or HDPE.

Photo by Living the American Dream.