‘Slow Death by Rubber Duck’ book sheds light on everyday exposure to toxic chemicals

The new 10th anniversary edition of the book ‘Slow Death by Rubber Duck’ examines health impacts and calls for stronger regulations against toxic chemicals in Canada and around the world.

“Bruce and I poisoned ourselves so you don’t have to,” joked Rick Smith, speaking at the launch of the 10th anniversary edition of the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxicity of Everyday Life Affects Our Health in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Ten years ago, Smith and co-author Bruce Lourie set out to write a book about the insidious, invisible toxic chemicals found in the products consumers handle every day, from shampoo and shaving cream to non-stick frying pans.

They took an unconventional approach, and decided to become guinea pigs themselves.

Through a dozen experiments, Smith and Lourie examined the impacts of chemicals including Teflon, triclosan, and bisphenol A — better known as BPA — on their own bodies.

They sat in a new car for six hours to measure levels of volatile organic compounds, such as benzene. They slathered themselves in products containing phthalates and parabens. Lourie ate tuna for a day to see if it would lead to higher levels of mercury in his body.

Across the board, Smith and Lourie measured increased toxins in their bodies.

“If we took the science related to these toxic chemicals seriously, this would be a huge societal priority,” said Smith, who is also executive director of the Broadbent Institute, an independent research organization founded by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent that promotes democracy, equality and sustainability. “We’ve created an enormous problem for ourselves that’s at the root of a lot of the diseases our families experience.” MORE


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Making progress in tough times: Lessons from 2018

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CleanBC plan — probably the most comprehensive Canadian attempt to date to achieve the transition to a low carbon economy. (flickr.com)

…But in the midst of these setbacks and outright tragedies, key leaders and movements across our country fought back with great ideas and even greater energy and resolve.

Movements such as “$15 and Fairness” and #MeToo and Black Lives Matter continued, in many places, to gain ground and ensured that out-dated and damaging attitudes were confronted.

Led by great progressive mayors in cities as varied as Vancouver, Saskatoon and Montreal, municipal councils took action to help their neediest citizens, including critical expansions of affordable housing.

The governments of British Columbia and Alberta, though divided on the issue of pipelines, continued to implement ambitious plans to create jobs including with First Nations, build critical infrastructure, and protect the rights of vulnerable communities, to name but a few of their accomplishments. Right before the holidays, BC announced its widely praised CleanBC plan — probably the most comprehensive Canadian attempt to date to achieve the transition to a low carbon economy. MORE