Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie,
Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things
(Counterpoint, 2010)

This riveting report by Canadian environmentalists Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie is a wake-up call for all Americans, no matter where in North America -- or, for that matter, the world -- you live. It does and should leave you stunned. The premise of the book is self-experimentation, as Smith and Lourie offer themselves up as guinea pigs by exposing themselves to a host of common household products -- everything from dish soap to personal care products to tuna fish -- and measuring blood and urine samples before, during and after exposure. Scary results are revealed.

The human body is a magnificent machine, one which we unwittingly mistreat with the tens of thousands of chemicals commonly in use at present. The body is forgiving to a certain degree. For example, a group of chemicals called phthalates is flushed from the system fairly quickly when exposure is reduced or eliminated. But what happens when exposure to a great multitude of chemicals is chronic and long term? What happens when our environment is saturated with them? Well, we know a lot, but new information is revealing an even more disturbing picture.

Pollution isn't just billowing from smokestacks anymore. It is in your home, in your household dust and your kids' toys, lining your canned goods and your popcorn bag, sprayed on your lawn, sofa and carpet, in your baby's plastic bottle. We are exposed to and bathing in this "toxic soup" everyday -- we inhale it, we sit on it, we sleep with it, we cook with it, eat it and drink it. Everyday products expose us to chemicals that not only cause cancer, but are also suspected and in some cases proven to disrupt hormones, lead to insulin resistance, cause high cholesterol, neurological and reproductive disorders, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders and even obesity. In some cases, especially with reproductive abnormalities, damage is seen across multiple generations.

Smith and Lourie have brought us an enlightening report that can help us rid ourselves of at least some of the toxins in our everyday environment. For example, we no longer apply weed-and-feed to our lawn, cook with Teflon or use disposable plastic water bottles. We have switched from a vinyl shower curtain to cloth and avoid air fresheners. We pop our own popcorn, try to buy clothing made of natural fibers and use scentless laundry detergent.

The authors give many suggestions for making simple changes that can help rid your home of unnecessary chemicals.

Still, scariest of all, the authors expose in detail the inescapable saturation of the environment with persistent chemicals such as mercury, PCBs and DDT. This book will open your eyes to what is in your environment, both at home and in the world. As scientists are becoming even more aware of the dangers of environmental toxins, new regulation has been successfully demanded, but with the strong resistance of big industry and slow government response, we still have a long way to go. This book will give you a place to start.

book review by
Lee Lukaszewicz

5 August 2017

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