Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
I read this book in about four days, which is pretty good considering how much life gets in the way of reading 😉 Very interesting read. One warning though: it might make you suspicious of everything you look at for the next few days, which can be a little overwhelming if you’re one to trip out easily. Thankfully, the last chapter kind of deals with that problem a little, and gives you some steps you can start taking without driving yourself completely crazy. The authors also emphasize that the problem is not something one individual can fix. This is going to take a collective effort. Thank goodness we are living in a time when these issues are starting to be taken seriously.
I thought about breaking this post down into a couple of posts because it was so long, but it seems like it would break up any semblance of continuity there might be. So, maybe my next couple of posts will be short so you can finish this one 🙂 .
I heard an interview with one of the authors on NPR a little while ago. After that, I just had to read the book myself. I thought it might be of interest to some other people, so here’s my humble opinion. Let me warn you that I’m relying heavily on quotes from the book. There’s no way I could phrase things any better than the authors did. Oh, and I’m not getting compensated in any way for reviewing this book. It’s just another interesting book that I thought I’d like to share. (Of course, if anyone wanted to pay me, I certainly wouldn’t turn them down…and I’d let you know if that were the case).
This book is a report of the results of an experiment two environmentalists conducted on themselves to see if they could raise the levels of certain chemicals in their body over a couple of days just by doing things that are considered average daily activities. They also discuss some of the history and research that has been done in regards to these chemicals.
The seven chemicals these researchers focused on in this book:
- Phthalates – found in things like air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, and shampoo, just to name a few. It is a hormone-disrupting chemical.
- PFCs – Teflon, Stainmaster, GoreTex, Scotchguard.
- PBDEs- flame retardants.
- Triclosan – antibacterial products.
- BPA – found in products with the number 7 on them. Did you know coke cans are lined with them? (I didn’t).
(Sorry about the following format. It’s a little infomercial-ish.)
Here are some of the quotes that made my eyebrows go a little wonkers:
The book starts right off in the Preface by mentioning that although asbestos has killed 45,000 Americans in 30 years’ time, that it is still not banned.
Page 4 “…it’s been estimated that by the time the average woman grabs her morning coffee, she has applied 126 different chemicals in 12 different products to her face, body and hair.” I read that and I knew I was going to have to start making pencil marks in the book. It’s a library book, so you know that’s pretty serious, ’cause now I’ll have to go back and be sure to erase all the markings. Can you imagine? 126! Almost made me want to go and try and count up how many I personally would use…wonder how I compare.
Page 33 “…compelling evidence that levels of phthalates currently in the environment are very possibly screwing up our children’s testicular function. Smaller penis size, incomplete testicular descent and little kids with scrotums that are small and ‘not distinct from surrounding tissue’ are the highlights“. (Can you imagine the spam I’m going to get from that paragraph…but it sounded kind of important). I’ve got two boys. This does not sound like good news for them…but probably some chemical company out there will try to make it sound like good news…you watch.
Page 59 “The Breast Cancer Fund’s interest in phthalates was sparked by increasing evidence that hormonally active chemicals could be, in part, responsible for women reaching puberty at an earlier and earlier age”…”the reason we care about this phenomenon is that the earlier girls experience puberty, the earlier their bodies start to be exposed to estrogen. A women’s risk of breast cancer is directly linked to her lifetime exposure to natural and artificial estrogens.” Well, at least it’s nice to know that I’m not crazy because I’ve often thought it seemed like puberty was occurring at younger and younger ages!
Chapter three begins with a transcript from this skit from SNL:
Hmm…a little foretelling of the future?
Page 85 “In centuries past canaries were lowered into coal mines, and if they died, miners knew that the air below ground could be toxic to them as well. Perhaps we should heed the modern-day equivalent…It seems that the delicate respiratory systems of birds cannot tolerate the fumes from non-stick pans when they are heated to high temperatures.” Anybody out there have respiratory problems? Or know someone that does? Wonder what kind of effect this has on them? Are they even aware of such issues?
Ready for a little science lesson on Mercury? The authors referred to this video. It’s a little long for a blog post, but it’s pretty fascinating if you can spare 5 more minutes to watch it.
Page 149 “The American Dental Association (and its Canadian counterpart, the Canadian Dental Association) became the de facto proponents of this practice in dentistry, ignoring the health concerns first expressed over 150 years ago. To this day the American and Canadian Dental Associations remain among the staunchest defenders of mercury. They have vigorously opposed any ifforts to restrict mercury use, and they have even fought proposals to make information about mercury available to patients.” Not just one eyebrow goes up. Two. I’m thinking I might be looking at my dentist in a different light now! I’m thinking it might be time to take that blaring light and shine it directly in his eyes while I grill him about a few little things that are on my mind!
Page 165 “Another study, of two hundred American households, concluded that people who use antibacterial products have no reduced risk for infectious disease symptoms“. I don’t even have a comment about that…except I guess you can choose to believe it or not to believe it. But you might want to consider reading the rest of this chapter before you decide.
Page 184 “…the use of fear to peddle chemicals is a theme you’ll find...” Page 185 “ The irony in all this is that environmenal advocates…are frequently accused of ‘fearmongering’ by the chemical industry.” I bet you couldn’t watch 10 minutes of commercials on TV without witnessing the use of fear to sell something.
Page 233 ‘”BPA increases the susceptibility to prostate cancer under certain conditions’ and it can achieve a permanent effect in cells at a molecular level, ‘reprogramming the prostate gland and affecting how it functions throughout life’“. Damn! That sounds really bleak!
Page 237 “Specific human illnesses these experts believe may be linked to rising levels of BPA include increases in prostate and breast cancer; uro-genital abnormalities in male babies; a decline n semen quality in men; early onset of puberty in girls; metabolic disorders, including insulin-resistant diabetes and obesity; and neurobehavioural problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” Did anybody get left off that list, ’cause that sure seems to cover about everyone I know!
Page 248 “Vom Saal explained that babies have a very different metabolism than adults and that the rate at which they are able to flush the BPA out of their systems and into their urine is much slower.” I’m starting to feel a little nauseated. Anyone else?
I thought about telling you some of the actions the authors suggest that you could take, but it’s a pretty long list…and I probably should leave something for you to read 😉 . They also have a website: Slow Death by Rubber Duck .
A couple of other websites that they mentioned in the book that might be interesting to check out:
In all fairness, I tend to believe things pretty quickly and easily. Some might call me a little gullible. And I started reading this book with a pre-conceived opinion about chemicals. So, I’m pretty biased. So, I guess it’s probably not a good idea to rely on my opinion. Instead, let’s just let things go unchecked and see what happens. After all, we wouldn’t want to act pre-maturely! (Insert compulsory “God, forbid” here).
My little itty-bitty personal story:
I found the sections talking about Parkersburg, West Virginia and the Dupont plant particularly interesting. Maybe it’s just coincidental, maybe it’s not, but I’ve always wondered. When I was almost 16, for a year we lived in a small town in WestVirginia that was right across the river from the Dupont plant.
- That little town smelled disgusting all of the time. We pretty much had to keep ourselves locked in the house with the air conditioning on if we didn’t want to be affronted with that smell.
- And the water was so highly chlorinated that the first time I turned on the water to take a shower I almost fainted from the fumes. I have never fainted in my life, so that might give you an idea of how strong the chlorine was. And to try to drink the water was a daily struggle. I never could drink it straight. We had to blend it into orange juice to gag it down. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me I was probably dehydrated during that time.
- Another thing, I would try to run outside for exercise, and invariably when I came back, I would end up with the worst stomach aches. May have been dehydration. May have been a combination of other issues.
- Ever hear the phrase, “must be something in the water”? (Of course you have). It seemed to me there was an unusually high incidence of twin births in that school district.
- During that time living there, I started to have sharp pains in my right side. My mother thought that (being the age I was) that it was ovulation pain and so we just passed it off as “normal”. Well, I had that pain pretty regularly until about 6 years ago, when it became so bad and was happening so frequently that I went to the doctor. At first she thought it was a hernia. She sent me to a specialist who informed me it was not a hernia. He sent me to someone else. To make a long story short, it turned out that I had endometriosis. I had an operation and for quite a few years I took natural progesterone to keep it from re-occurring. While I read up on endometriosis, I learned that one of the possible causes of endometriosis could be exposure to chemicals during the pubescent years. Hmm. Maybe this is a stretch…and maybe it’s not. But even when I was that young, I always had some kind of feeling that something was not quite right about that whole situation. Call it intuition. Call it paranoia. Whatever. It’s not a big appalling story, (there are plenty of those out there), but it does make you wonder. Well, I mean, it makes me wonder.