Slow Death by Rubber Duck (Book Review)


I am a big fan of Rick Smith, and the work he has done at Environmental Defence. He has been a leader of the campaign to get Bisphenol A, phtalates and brominated flame retardants out of our bodies. He and Bruce Lourie have done great stuff.

So I picked up "Slow Death by Rubber Duck" eagerly. After all, these guys write well, and have been regular sources for posts on treeHugger. Surely this book will pull all this together in a convincing package.


the authors and some of their poisons

Alas, it was not to be. In the interest of being more "popular" and "accessible" they wrapped the book around a silly conceit: They would lock themselves up in a condo, spray their furniture in stain protector, eat tuna, drink out of polycarbonate bottles, bathe in Right Guard and pthalate-filled shampoo, whatever they could to increase the levels of these chemicals in their bodies. They write:

We set only one ironclad rule: Our efforts had to mimic real life. This may seem obvious, but it was actually a very useful guiding principle as we wrestled with the details of the experimentation. We couldn't chug a bottle of mercury. We couldn't douse ourselves in Teflon. Whatever activities we undertook had to be run-of-the-mill things that people do every day...

Except they didn't do "run of the mill things that people do every day"- they essentially did douse themselves in teflon and ate tuna like Jeremy Piven.

It is silly and unscientific. If the stuff is bad then it should not be allowed on the shelves. If the stuff is harmless, as the manufacturers and the National Post says, then who cares if you can hide in a condo and crank up your BPA levels? Even the authors admit that they pee it away in 24 hours, that is not the problem with BPA.

We have to get rid of BPA, triclosan and pthalates because they are endocrine disruptors that affect us at the molecular level. We have to get rid of BPDEs because they are cumulative and we don't actually know what they are doing, just that they are building up everywhere.

While it is shocking how quickly the levels rose and how high they got in the experiment, it is a diversion. A greater concern should be the long term, low levels that everyone is exposed to throughout our lives. The tomatoes in BPA lined cans. The triclosan in toothpaste, of all places. The phtalates in makeup and shampoos.

Other than the whole self-experimental thing, the book is a valuable contribution to the lay person's understanding of the problems with the chemical soup we are drinking and bathing in.

Slow Death By Rubber Duck

More On Rick Smith and Environmental Defence:

Big Step in Building: Use Green Gravel To Make Concrete :
It's Official: Canada Declares Bisphenol A Toxic
Bisphenol A Is In Your Tomato Sauce
Ontario May Ban Bisphenol A

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