In this unusual and compelling account of her pregnancy, Sandra Steingraber, an environmental activist who is on the faculty at Cornell University, presents a masterful overview of the human body's mysteries and miracles. Along with that, the author explores all the scary threats to a fetus on its nine-month journey.

Check out Steingraber's poetic description of the placenta: (It) "is a biological mystery. It is an evolutionary shape-shifter. It dodges the mother's immune system while immunologically guarding the fetus. It is the flat cake that feeds us all. It is another brain that is slowly overriding my own. It is a blood-drenched forest. It is the sapwood of pregnancy." Despite its remarkable abilities, the placenta cannot keep the fetus out of harm's way.

Steingraber throws out the following bomb: "Of all members of the human population, fetuses are most vulnerable to toxic harm." The author points out that only 20 percent of birth defects have identifiable causes; the vast majority are of unknown origin. But here are some of the known suspects — exposure to solvents, pesticides, lead, mercury, PCBs, and air pollution. Steingraber concludes with a thought-provoking overview of the benefits of breastfeeding.

The decision facing the United States and other industrialized nations is whether to take the costly steps needed to protect fetuses from toxic threats. Are the children of tomorrow worth it? Steingraber believes they are.