I began my journey into the world of chemicals around 2006, soon after my 4 ½ year old dog, Truxton, became gravely ill. He suffered from autoimmune hepatitis, a condition that is unusual in dogs, and especially rare for Truxton’s breed, Golden Retriever.
As a mother, and ironically an autoimmune disease specialist—and, of course, completely heartbroken—I searched for a cause that could have made this beautiful dog so sick, especially at such a young age. I wracked my brain about his habits, behaviors, food, and his environment living on a farm in NJ. I recalled that he had been chewing and sucking on a red rubber toy, or Kong, for his entire life…..even while he slept. He had at least 7 of them, all broken down, discolored and cracked…..but that didn’t stop Truxton!
Digging through the literature, I discovered several cases of young, healthy, people who had developed autoimmune hepatitis while working in plastics and synthetic rubber manufacturing plants. Although I will never establish direct chemical cause for Truxton’s early demise, my curiosity about chemicals and chemical oversight in the U.S. was awakened. Everything about the chemicals that we are surrounded by became interesting…and what I discovered, I yearned to share with others. I no longer looked at the world in the same way.
Life is a funny thing and takes many turns. My work in environmental health is dedicated to Truxton….for igniting this journey. I hope to honor his passing with my work.
Watch Dr. Cohen’s TEDx talk and how her dog’s illness launched her into ‘Environmental Health’: