Monday, 3 May 2010

Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Rick Smith, Bruce Lourie and Sarah Dopp (Book Review)

From the publisher:

“Funny, thought-provoking, hopeful, and incredibly disturbing, Slow Death by Rubber Duck is an alarming yet informative book about the toxic elements around us. It reveals that just the living of daily life creates a chemical soup inside each of us, and empowers readers by offering some simple ideas for how they can protect themselves and their families and change things for the better.”

What intrigued me about this book was that the two authors, both environmentalists, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, decided on a whim to expose themselves with a variety of chemicals and see what kind of test results might be produced. They wanted to know what kind of chemical toxins their children were exposed to. These chemicals are ones that everyone is exposed to on a daily basis and all of them are toxic to the human body. It made me aware that toxins in the products available to consumers have more impact on a personal level than other environmental concerns such as global warming and oil spills. And it is very, very scary that corporations care more about their profit margin than the current health and future health of the consumers that purchase their products. It’s also appalling corporations get away with this.

Although I had already changed some brands of my daily toiletries and cosmetics to ones that have less toxic substances in them, this book provided a real eye opener to others. For example, “flame-retardant chemicals from electronics and household dust polluting our blood; toxins in our urine caused by leaching from plastics, run-of-the-mill shampoos, toothpastes and deodorants; mercury in our blood from eating tuna; and the chemicals that build up in our body when carpets and upholstery off-gas.”

When did this start? When companies brainwashed consumers through advertisements that they needed these products to have a cleaner, safer home and neighbourhood environment. Early ads for DDT told families it was safe to use, and later it was discovered not to be safe at all. Use Teflon so your eggs don’t stick! Use flame retardant clothing on your children in case they play with matches!

The topic seems to be overwhelming, but the light approach taken by the authors provides information and a variety of avenues the consumer can make to change their choice of products in order to limit their exposure and that of their children. They explain about their research into several of the more toxic products on the market: Teflon coated frying pans; triclosan in toothpaste, cosmetics and a variety of other household products, toys, water; PCBs, PBDEs, phthalates in food, food processing, household products, toys and other products. There is medical research outlining triclosan’s “interference on thyroid activity”. Further, “In Scandinavia, government officials have discouraged the use of triclosan as a result of possible endocrine disruption as well as potential bacterial resistance.”

Many chemical manufacturers continue to produce substances which are considered by the Environmental Protection Act [EPA][U.S.] to be hazardous waste materials. These substances are used in food, clothing, cosmetics, fragrances, household items, toys and other products.

People need knowledge of the information that is provided by this book to help provide change in the products consumers purchase. There are various websites listed and intelligent insights about the research conducted on the various products within the book. The authors have provided a positive approach for others to take control of reducing their exposure to harmful toxins.

To assist in remembering which plastic containers are safe to use, the authors made a mantra of “5, 4, 2, 1: all the rest are bad for you.” They also provide a “handy plastics guide” containing the recycling symbol, plastic type and description.

It is important for consumers to be aware of any possible health risks in the use of certain products by providing full disclosure on the package about the ingredients/chemicals within before they are purchased. Consumers have the right to make a well informed decision about any product available especially when there is the possibility of exposing young vulnerable children to it.

This book is a MUST READ for all parents, prospective parents and care givers. Please enlighten yourself about the products you use.

"A fascinating and frightening read leavened by frequent references to pop culture--everything from Saturday Night Live episodes to quotes from Miss Marple--as well as the authors' brio in using their own bodies as test subjects."
The Globe and Mail

"Alarming, engrossing, and just plain loony at times, their experiments drive home just how mundanely day-to-day our mass chemical poisoning has become."
Adria Vasil, author of Ecoholic

About the authors:

RICK SMITH is one of Canada's leading environmentalists and executive director of Environmental Defence. He holds a doctorate in biology from the University of Guelph.

BRUCE LOURIE is an environmental professional with expertise in toxic pollution and mercury. He works closely with governments, businesses, foundations and non-profit organizations. He is president of the Ivey Foundation.

SARAH DOPP is a veteran grassroots organizer, political staffer, and campaigner.

They all live in Toronto.

Book format: Paperback, 340 pages
Publisher: Vintage Canada, an imprint of RandomHouse Canada


Available at:


Leah J. Utas said...

Thanks, I've been wondering about this book. It sounds scary.

laughingwolf said...

scary stuff, barbara :(

but then, the epa is as effective as health canada, both in the pockets of big biz/pharma, and only marginally for the protection of average folk, when enough of a stink is raised!

this reminds me of the horrors of not only the fast food industry but all foods... our very air, water and land are already over polluted, and that crap envelops us daily... seems nothing and nowhere are truly 'safe' :(

Teresa said...

Thank you for sharing this important book with us, Barbara. I love the title.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds very scary but I suppose I need to read it.

Barbara Martin said...

Leah, I find the scary concepts in environment issues are easier to deal with once you know what they are, how they affect a person and what you can do about it.

Barbara Martin said...

Tony, if enough people know about the toxic products then they can through the appropriate channels make changes in the manufacturing. Governments have to be lobbied for change to occur. Consumers cannot sit back and let others do it for them.

Barbara Martin said...

Teresa, unfortunately rubber ducks will never be the same again.

Toxins used to be acute and immediate 40 or so years ago. Now they act more slowly but with just as much danger.

Many medical conditions that seem to have no organic basis are as a result of chemical toxicity in the body. Fibromyalgia is an example of one.

Barbara Martin said...

Charles, there are health food stores which sell safe products for the consumer. In Toronto, I frequent Noah's Natural Health Foods where I purchase biodegradable laundry detergent (I had to stop using Tide because of rashes) and other products which are better for me and the environment.

Anonymous said...

I try to be very conscious of this Barbara.Battling complacency is a big challenge and I am glad these authors are trying to do just that. Well done to them, and you also, for reviewing their book.

RuneE said...

And that is just half the story - now continue with all the "wonderfull" nano-stuff, e.g. silver.