cover image Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things

Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things

Rick Smith, Bruce Lourie. Counterpoint LLC, $25 (328pp) ISBN 978-1-58243-567-1

Undertaking a cheeky experiment in self-contamination, professional Canadian environmentalists Smith and Lourie expose themselves to hazardous everyday substances, then measure the consequences. Inspired by data from the Environmental Working Group that shows Americans carry significant amounts of toxic industrial chemicals in our bodies (and published research tying those toxins to obesity, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer's, heart disease, and diabetes), Smith and Lowrie attempt to increase their personal ""body load"" of seven particularly worrisome toxins-phthalates, Teflon, ubiquitous anti-bacterial triclosan, brominated fire retardants, Bisphenol A, mercury, and hormone-based pesticide 2.4-D-through everyday North American activity: eating, drinking, sleeping, cleaning, watching TV, etc. Smith and Lowrie describe in detail the reasons behind and parameters of their self-experiment, including the hows and whys of blood and urine testing, and the specific products (Coke, Stainmaster carpet cleaner, Rubbermaid microwavable containers) purchased to increase their exposures. They also discuss their attempts to flush and avoid toxins before the experiment (Smith tries eating only food that hasn't come into contact with plastics, which proves impossible). Throughout, the duo weave scientific data and recent political history into an amusing but unnerving narrative, refusing to sugarcoat any of the data (though protection is possible, exposure is inevitable) while maintaining a welcome sense of humor.