Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book Review: Dangerous or Safe? by Cara Natterson, MD

Thank you again to the Penguin Group/Hudson Street Press for sending another fabulous book!  This one I just couldn't put down, as it deals with many of the very same issues that led our family to make greener, organic, and healthier choices. 

Dangerous or Safe?: Which Foods, Medicines, and Chemicals Really Put Your Kids at Risk (available Oct 8, 2009 from Hudson Street Press) is the third book by Dr. Cara Natterson; a California pediatrician and the mother of two young children.  I think this is the book that many of us parents have been waiting for; one from the perspective of a medical professional AND a parent, also raising her own children in the same fast-paced, bio-tech-heavy, and corner-cutting era that we are currently living in.

In "Dangerous or Safe?", Dr. Natterson discusses 25 of the top "hot-button" issues that she says were the ones keeping the parents of her patients up at night.  The book is broken up into subject areas, including food, drinks, our surroundings, things that we put on our bodies, and finally, medicines.  With such a wide-ranging number of topics to discuss, Dr. Natterson stays focused by presenting each issue in the same easy-to-follow format:
  1. What is the issue in question (vaccines, sunscreen, plastics, etc)?
  2. What is the scientific data (from medical journals and other sources, as translated into layman's terms)?
  3. What is the bottom line (after looking at all the available data and examining the issue from all sides)?
  4. What is in Dr. Natterson's home, and how does she deal with the issue as a mom?
Having focused on science courses throughout most of my academic career, I can really appreciate all the time and effort that went into researching for this book.  We're always hearing about the latest contradictory study, but Dr. Natterson gets past all the hype and gets to the bottom of each matter.  She's also not afraid to say that sometimes, the data is inconclusive, but she still errs on the side of caution, or sometimes she'll go with the flow.  As a mom, she realizes it's not practical to be wary of EVERYTHING, and sometimes we just have to "not lose sleep" over it.

While Dr. Natterson says that she does buy organic foods whenever possible and practical, and she briefly mentions the environmental impact of disposable diapers, I don't get the impression that Dr. Natterson is a "green mom".  In talking about organic produce, she mentions that she "focuses on thin-skinned and 'naked' foods", and can't wrap her mind/wallet around buying organic bananas.  I invite her then to buy a bunch of organic bananas and taste the difference (and then bake them in my recipe for Organic Banana Bread).

Overall, this is a great book, answering questions that you would want to ask a pediatrician/mom about potential health risks affecting your children.  I hope there are future editions coming, as there are many other "hot-button" issues on the minds of today's parents, and I certainly would love to hear what Dr. Natterson has to say about them.  Thank you to the Penguin Group and Dr. Natterson for putting at least one parent's mind a bit more at ease ;)

"Dangerous or Safe?" book image courtesy of
One free copy of "Dangerous or Safe?" was provided for review.

No monetary compensation was paid for this post.


  1. Sounds like a great read! You think Org bananas are that much better? I've never tried them so I'd love to know what I'm missing.

    I bought a whole bunch of organic pears a while back and WOWZA!!! Loved em! And my organic berries from my own garden beat any grocer ones hands down. ;)

  2. And VACCINES!! My husband works in healthcare and is being FORCED to get the new H1N1 vaccine. We are enraged!

  3. Wow, if she "Can't wrap her mind/wallet around buying organic bananas" then she really doesn't get it, and that makes me not trust her. Bananas are one of the highest pesticide foods and their soft peel means the pesticides soak through to the fruit. She clearly hasn't researched. This one is pretty basic. Not sure I'd buy the book, sounds like she relies on her medical degree to gain your confidence, but doesn't actually research the issues she's writing about. That's actually pretty dangerous.

  4. Danika, thanks for pointing that out. I also felt like the "organic" aspect was kind of breezed-over. I was a bit surprised at that, coming from an author who lives in California, where so many organic things are grown. I think Dr. Natterson would do herself a big favor, if she paid a visit to Earthbound Farm, and had a chat with co-founder Myra Goodman. Mrs. Goodman would have a thing or two to tell Dr. Natterson about all the other reasons to choose organic, and it's not all about pesticides.