Slow Death by Rubber Duck – Book Review
by Debra Lynn Dadd, “The Queen of Green” – New York Times, author of Home Safe Home www.dld123.com
Most people today have at least a glimmer of an idea that toxic chemicals are in many consumer products used every day in homes across America and around the world, and that toxic chemicals pollute the environment. Both Annie and I have experienced the ravaging effects of toxic chemicals first hand, which led each of us to explore and write about living in a more natural, less toxic way.
Slow Death by Rubber Duck is a story about toxic chemicals in consumer products and their health effects, but with a different twist. Instead of avoiding toxic chemicals, the co-authors deliberately exposed themselves to toxic chemicals in amounts commonly encountered in everyday life, so they could measure the effects these chemicals had on their health. They decided to be guinea pigs and did “a science fair project”. Not something I would do!
Authors Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie are two environmental activists, who work for Environmental Defence Canada’s Toxic Nation project, a campaign that exposed the presence of pollution in the bodies of Canadian citizens by testing the bodies of 40 Canadians for 130 measurable chemicals. But Rick and Bruce wanted to do something simpler. They decided to focus on seven key chemicals. Most of the book is their first-person account of what they learned about these chemicals and how their bodies responded to exposure and avoidance.
To digress for a moment, the first line of the Preface engaged me immediately. “…there is no separation between environmental issues and health issues. In fact, we even go so far as to say that the health of children is perhaps the most urgent environmental issue facing the United States–and the world–today.” That our bodies and the environment are all one system is a concept I hold dear. Life is all intricately interconnected. We can’t say something is “out there” in the environment and expect it is not also “in here” in our own bodies. This book makes this clear. “Pollution is actually inside us all. It’s seeped into our bodies.”
Given that “body burden” studies such as the one done by Toxic Nation had established there are toxic chemicals in our bodies, Rick and Bruce wanted to know where, exactly, these chemicals were coming from. And could toxic chemicals be avoided in an effective way (well, I could have told them yes, they can). And if we avoid them, would doing so result in a significant improvement of our personal pollution levels? I can tell you, yes, avoiding toxic chemicals results in noticeable improvement in health, because I’ve observed that in my own body. Rick and Bruce prove this to be true with blood and urine tests.
The seven chemicals are phthlates, PFCs (perfluorated compounds such as Teflon), brominated fire retardants, mercury, triclosan, the herbicide 2, 4-D, and bisphenol A (BPA). After each of the seven chemicals are thoroughly explored in compelling narrative, the last chapter tells briefly how to remove these chemicals from your life.
Though limited in scope, the depth of research done on each of the chemicals is thorough and well-documented. It examines the minutia of toxic chemicals in our daily lives with a high-powered microscope, in more detail that most of us would even think to question. It’s a sobering look, but hopeful, too. Annie and I have known for years that there is a way out, that we can choose to live without toxic chemicals. This book proves, with laboratory tests on live human bodies, that we were right all along.
This book and other books on household toxics and safe alternatives is available at http://www.debrasbookstore.com.
By Annie B. Bond, the best-selling and award-winning author of five healthy/green living books, including Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999), Home Enlightenment, Clean & Green (1990), and most recently True Food (National Geographic, 2010 and winner of Gourmand Awards Best Health and Nutrition Cookbook in the World). She has authored literally thousands of articles and was named “the foremost expert on green living” by Body & Soul magazine (2009).