How far would you go to prove an eco-point? Would you chow down on a neurotoxin? Guzzle a reproductive toxicant? Fill your lungs with likely carcinogens? That’s what authors Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie did — to show that people are blithely and unknowingly taking in all these environmental pollutants into their bodies on a daily basis.
The two men detail their eco-Jackass-esque experiments — and the more sobering scientific numbers from those physical trials — in a new book dubbed Slow Death By Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things. While the amount of chemicals the men introduced into their bodies was indeed frightening, the scariest part of the authors’ experiments is that for the most part, what the men did wasn’t particularly strange. In fact, most experimental acts were normal tasks — like taking a shower, or eating sushi, or drinking from a reusable bottle.
That’s how Slow Death points out that “normal” tasks are what pollute our bodies these days. While the air we breathe LOOKS less polluted than it did in the 70s, our bodies are getting bombarded with all manner of chemicals we don’t see — or at least don’t see as dangerous.
Each chapter of Slow Death looks at the seemingly innocuous but secretly dangerous items in our daily lives, kicking off, of course, with the rubber duckie, a.k.a. floating hunk of phthalates, chemicals linked to birth defects, hormonal disruptions, and cancer.
Read through the chapters, and the average home begins to feel like a torture chamber full of hidden dangers. Washed your hands with antibacterial soap (infused with Triclosan, linked to endocrine disruption and thyroid problems) before eating a casual tuna dinner (loaded up with nerotoxic mercury) cooked in a Teflon pan (made with perfluorochemicals) and drinking water from a hard plastic cup (made with BPA, a reproductive toxicant linked to cancer, heart disease, and sexual dysfunction) all while sitting on a couch (doused with dangerous fire retardants linked to thyroid disease)? Your evening probably doesn’t seems so quiet and harmless now, does it?
No, Slow Death isn’t exactly full of light humor — but the authors insist their book is “downright hopeful.” After all, knowledge is power — and knowing what the environmental health concerns of the day are will help people actively work to change them. And in fact, Slow Death tells the stories of many environmental wins, from California banning some phthalates in kids’ toys to Canada regulating a dangerous pesticide called 2,4-D.
Plus, Slow Death ends with a “Detox” chapter that outlines quick actions you can take, from getting rid of products with “fragrance” to nixing Teflon pans — thereby dramatically reducing the environmental pollutants in your home. And the book also points out ways to get involved beyond the home, by writing legislators, teaming up with fellow environmentalists, and supporting nonprofits working to reduce environmental pollution.
To that end, environmental health nonprofit Environmental Working Group’s gathering signatures right now for a petition to get Congress to introduce the Kid Safe Chemicals Act, which would overhaul the U.S.’s chemical regulatory law requiring chemical safety testing, proof of chemical safety from companies, and better EPA oversight for consumer products. Visit EWG’s website to sign the petition.