Perhaps finding peace in an impure world means learning to deal with a little contamination. The medium-density fiberboard shelves in your custom closet will off-gas formaldehyde; your child will visit a friend’s home and be offered nonorganic milk. The neighbors will polyurethane their floors; you will use the laundry machines in the basement immediately after a lover of bleach. Everyone will be better served if you don’t flip out.
Lately, I’ve been flipping out less. It’s not because I buried myself in scientific studies and drew informed conclusions about phthalates. It’s simply because of the inevitable demands a child places on your life. Every day, I have less time to Google and more-immediate things to worry about. (The day my son faceplanted at the playground, I could not have cared less about PBDEs.) My approach to the purity problem is piecemeal: I do what I can, and try not to worry about the rest. We’re repainting our apartment with no-VOC paint. I’ve warned my husband off the no-iron shirts at Brooks Brothers, which—despite the label that says ALL COTTON—are chemically treated. And if we have another child, I might like to try the ecofriendly gDiapers. But Pampers seem to be working fine for my son. Besides, he now lifts his shirt and points to the character printed on the waistband when he wants me to turn on Sesame Street. Perhaps I should be worried about the fact that my child, who is under the age of 2, watches TV. There are those who would argue that Elmo is causing subtle neurological damage. I just don’t see the harm in a little Bert and Ernie. But every mother has her own purity test.