"God sometimes does His work with gentle drizzle, not storms. Drip. Drip. Drip." - John Newton (Amazing Grace)
Question #90136 posted on 07/24/2017 3:08 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I am a mother of two children under 3. Everywhere I look there's something to be worried about. For example...

Are flame retardants toxic and, if so, why are they put into children's PJs?
What are the safest type of plates to eat off of?
Do I really need a toddler pillow or is a regular, adult size one just fine for my 3 year old?
Is homemade baby food truly better than store-bought jar baby food?
What are the safest cleaners to use in your home?

The list goes on. I worry about these things. Two questions...

Is there a way to worry less?
Am I choosing items that will eventually lead to cancer in me, my husband, or my kids?

-Worrier (hopefully I'm not alone in this)

A:

Dear Worrier,

Worrying about your family's well-being is definitely a good thing, but it can go too far. This is particularly true when you blame yourself for anything bad that happens to them; this is not constructive. I've never been a parent, but I do have two points I'd like to make that I hope help you to look at this situation differently.

First, everything is toxic at some level. That is, too much of anything will make you sick, no matter how harmless — or even good for you — it is at lower levels. In general, the EPA and other organizations have done a pretty good job of determining what is harmful to humans and at what level, and those substances are not allowed to be used at even 1% of the level required to cause problems for anyone. I'm not saying you should trust the System unquestioningly, but the other option is gaining enough expertise in the required fields to personally review every study for each of the compounds and products in question, which isn't really feasible. In short, trust the experts, because they usually know what they're talking about.

Second, studies have shown that up to two thirds of cancer* is caused by mutations from random DNA copying errors, and not inherited. No matter what you do, no matter how careful you are, cancer is part of being a human being  or, as I often say, life causes cancer. We like to think that we're in control, and that the things that happen to us aren't due to random chance, but that just isn't always the case. Blaming yourself for something that you don't have any control over isn't going to help anyone.

Now that I've written this, it seems kinda nihilistic and depressing, but what I really mean is this: do whatever feels right for you**, realize that everything isn't your fault, and have faith that everything will turn out right in the end, no matter what it seems like in the moment.

-The Entomophagist

*This study didn't look at every type of cancer, and certain cancers (like smoking-induced lung cancer) are much more preventable than others.

**Your instincts are good enough to make personal decisions, but don't carry that into telling other people how to live their lives without some good science to back it up.