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

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  831 ratings  ·  169 reviews
Pollution is no longer just about belching smokestacks and ugly sewer pipes—now, it’s personal. The most dangerous pollution, it turns out, comes from commonplace items in our homes and workplaces. To prove this point, for one week authors Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie ingested and inhaled a host of things that surround all of us. Using their own bodies as the reference poin...more
Hardcover, 328 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by Counterpoint (first published January 1st 2009)
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Eek. Is this why all the little kids I know have asthma or allergies or lots of trouble processing language? I really like their approach, and they do make it a little hopeful in the end (I read ahead to make sure it wasn't too depressing). The experimented with their toxin levels on themselves. The surprising part to me was that it was only for one week, yet they still saw big changes in level.
Here are my notes to myself:
Slow Death By Rubber Duck
Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie

This book is full of junk science. Had a hard time following it, because it was so bogged down with sensational hand-wringing and hair pulling over dangers in our own home. My thoughts? Don't agree with flame retardant material? Then don't buy it. As usual mini-statists don't agree with something then it should be banned for all. There is no definitive correlation between chemicals used on clothing, plastics and cleaning products that lead to death or cancer. This book shows no 'proof' other tha...more
I recommend this book very highly, and consider it to be the second most important book I’ve read this year. The most important was “Sea Sick: The Hidden Crisis of Global Ocean Change”. “Slow Death by Rubber Duck”, however, is more personal and more entertaining to read, and while it contains very disturbing data, it ends with a hopeful message and action items to improve our lives and those of our families. Written by a couple of Canadians out of Toronto, it is well written, with plenty of refe...more
Barbara Martin
What intrigued me about this book was that the two authors, both environmentalists, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, decided on a whim to expose themselves with a variety of chemicals and see what kind of test results might be produced. They wanted to know what kind of chemical toxins their children were exposed to. These chemicals are ones that everyone is exposed to on a daily basis and all of them are toxic to the human body. It made me aware that toxins in the products available to consumers hav...more
I'm recommending this book to just about everyone... if you've ever wondered if those pesticides on your neighbour's lawn might cause you problems, or assumed that rubber ball in your son's mouth was no problem, or noticed how fast polycarbonate baby bottles disappeared from the shelves in spring 2008 when the previous December they were about the only choice available, then this book will open your eyes. Not to be doomsday or anything, but it turns out... it is true... that a dozen substances w...more
A few ways to avoid toxins in every-day life:
1. Avoid personal care products that have "fragrance" or "parfum" listed as an ingredient. Choose the product with the simplest ingredient list. (Pangea Organics is one company that has natural care products or find more at
2. Get a shower curtain made from natural products (cotton, hemp, etc)
3. Make your own natural air fresheners from baking soda and essential oils.
4. Check for a list of phthalate-free...more
I thought this book might be boring or dense, but it's actually very readable and conversational, integrating personal experiences and case sutdies, and I sped through in no time. While parts of it can be scary, the authors focus on the possibility of change, and the lists of action items at the end are very helpful. This book has already affected one of my purchases: dryer balls, which would be an "eco-friendly" fabric softening device, but they were made with PVC, which are serious off-gassers...more
Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie have written a book about the dangers of some of the chemicals found in common household products, their effects on our bodies and the environment, and what we can do about them. They examine the history and effects of phthalates, PFCs (Perfluorochemicals), PBDEs (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers), mercury, Triclosan, pesticides, and Bisphenol A. They have taken a unique approach, in that in addition to giving readers the facts, they have also experimented on themselves...more
Reading this book has caused me to make some definite lifestyle changes. I wish everyone would read it--especially every parent. The authors examine seven types of toxic chemicals (Phthalates, Mercury, non-stick chemicals like Teflon, bromine-based fire retardants, triclosan, pesticides, and BPA), give the histories of these chemicals, their effects, and suggestions for decreasing exposure and absorption. I've tried to be careful to avoid these chemicals by only buying soap without triclosan; on...more
Being informed about the chemicals that are so ubiquitous in our environment today, such as phthalates, PFCs (Teflon, etc.), flame retardants, mercury, Triclosan (Microban and other antibacterial potions), pesticides, and Bisphenol A (BPA), is important to me.

Certainly, I learned many things while reading this book (I had a cursory understanding of many of the issues), however, most surprising to me was the following passage, as I have never heard any information about it anywhere else before, "...more
I gave this book one star for a few reasons. One, I disagreed with it politically. That's that, nothing more to be said. Two, I had to read it for environmental science class, which is another downside. And three, I found it rather dull. The writing wasn't particularaly bad, but on occasion the organization was incomprehenisble. Each chapter was themed with a particular toxic product that we find in everyday life, but within the chapters there was no rhyme or reason to the organization of the pa...more
Good book.

Things to remember:

- avoid personal care products with "Fragrance" or "Parfum"

- avoid vinyl - replace the shower curtain liner with one that's made from recycled polyester or natural fibers

- buy PBDE-free furniture

- avoid eating tuna and other big/predatory fish, avoid white albacore tuna, eat light skipjack tuna instead

- avoid antibactierial products with triclosan, Microban, Biofresh, Iragasan DP 300, Lexol 300, Ster-Zac, Cloxifermolum, or 5-choro-2-(2.4-dichlorophenoxy) phenol

- chec...more
Not only is it cleverly written by two of my fellow Canadians, it has amazing information about the ways in which our society has blithely created myriad chemicals which poison us daily. Yeah, yeah, we've all heard it before. But when you actually read some of the scientific evidence about such things as phthlalates (pronounced tha-lates) that are hormone disrupters which cause little boy babies not to develop proper equipment (shall we say) - and the fact that these chemicals are in virtually a...more
It took me a while to read this book because it scared me. LOL! It's full of great information and it's not a boring read at all - the narrative voices are really interesting and they present the material in a way that doesn't come off as uber-scientific, on the contrary - it's clear and concise and easy to understand...but it's scary stuff. Scary stuff that is important for us all to read.

Definitely worth a read.
Kimiya Aghevli
apart from making me hysterical dinner company and scared of my teflon pans.. ;-) Seriously, it was very interesting and gave a lot of food for thought on how many toxins and chemicals to which we expose ourselves on an hourly basis. Frustrating how current laws have a "safe until proven otherwise" outlook.
Canadian authors.
Sample reading > positive impression > recommend as useful book
Dewey Catalog 615.9
CIP Subject Headings
1. Environmental Toxicology-Popular Works
2. Pollution-Health aspects
3. Pollution-Environmental aspects
4. Industries-Environmental aspects
5. Business enterprises-Environmental aspects

Reviewer caveat - I have been tested in an environmental illness clinic and experience has me taught to believe the validity of this book. Although not having read much environmental illness...more
Susan Olesen
Not as good as "Plastic", but a good follow-up in that the authors show without a doubt the impact even small things like tuna and shampoo plasticizers have on ordinary people and that its not a single dose you need to worry about but t eh combined toxins in EVERYTHING, from shampoo and toothpaste to register receipts to microwave popcorn bags to tuna fish that are poisoning everything.

Eyeopening, and information that will be repeated in several books I've read, which only deepens the message.
Wow. WOW. That booked really changed my life.

I thought I knew my priorities and I considered myself to be quite well-educated when it comes to the dangers of the present-day world. I try to buy as much organic food and cosmetics (and local produce) as my purse would allow me, I recycle everything I can and opt for used things when I need to get something for the house, I dumped everything that could be tested on animals and/or manufactured by the "great evil" of the Monsanto/Nestle/P&G kind....more
I read this book a while ago, but the one thing I vividly remember is being afraid of buying anything plastic and checking and re-checking the ingredients on food lists.

Slow Death by Rubber Duck is a story of two men who decide to experiment with toxic substances in everyday items, and document the effects on their health. By tracking the levels of pollution in their bodies before and after ingesting or inhaling toxic substances, Rick Smith, and his partner-in-crime Bruce Lourie demonstrate the...more

Review, Outline and Topical Rant

Well-paced, with fascinating historical examples, personally relevant testing, and limited political bias considering the authors, "Slow Death" is a fantastic book and an excellent look at the state of our chemically-drenched society. The pacing; dividing the books into chapters on specific environmental contaminants and various sub-sections, enabled me to easily skim through components I found weaker (blabbing on about their personal lives a bit too much, too man...more
Sylvia Lyons
Very thought-provoking. As a reader, you do need to understand that the authors are active environmentalists (Canadian). They (rightfully, I thought) pointed out that over the last several decades, much progress has been made in reducing what could be termed "overt" pollution - what is easily seen in water (scummy or floating trash) or air (smog). But there are many chemicals to which we - and our children, whose bodies are smaller and less able to process and protect themselves - are exposed on...more
Jan 11, 2012 Chloe rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Parents who want a primer on the chemicals in our everyday lives.
Shelves: 2012, non-fiction
Slow Death by Rubber Duck focuses on the 'hidden pollution' of our bodies which caused as a result of chemicals used in a variety of every day products.

I already knew a bit about the sort of chemicals which are in products but I'm always open to learning more, particularly if it's written a way that's accessable to someone like me, who is not a scientist. I found that the authors did, in some places, get a bit bogged down by the science but for the most part this is a good book for someone who...more
Personal pollution. This Silent Spring style book focuses, not on environmental threats to the natural world, but to pollution that is more personal in nature which is occurring in our bodies and homes.

Two curious Canadian scientists decide to experiment upon themselves to understand the impact of individual actions and ordinary lifestyle choices upon the toxin levels in their bodies.

As parents, they were particularly concerned about understanding better the problem and learning what actions...more
Scary, because the things in this book are in our everyday lives. What is so scary, the average person has only so much control over how many of these toxins get in our system. Sure you can control some of it, but for the most part people are at the mercy of big corporations.

I wish I would have known more of these things when my kids were little. Even before this book I had been working on replacing the plastic containers in my kitchen because of other things I have read. i have been trying new...more
Smith and his "partner in crime" subject themselves to situations in which they are exposed to certain chemicals and then test their blood to show how every day things that we do are exposing us to toxic substances. I can't even remember all the things they talked about because well most of them have long chemical names. They do talk about mercury, BPA, and fire retardants, and some chemical that is used to create fragrances which I do remember. This book pretty much made me think I needed to to...more
Two environmental activists try to find just exactly how normal everday activities change the amount of toxins / pollution in one's body - by using their own as guinea pigs.

The premise of the book is very exciting, however, those looking for an purely entertaining read will have to go elsewhere. You will learn things if you read this book. You will end up looking at rubber ducks (and almost everything around you in) in a different way. It's scary, but ultimately this is also a book on hope and...more
Jun 15, 2010 Shirley rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Shirley by: Book Passage, Cindy K
This might be the most relevant book for my day-to-day life that I've read in years (up there with Omnivore's Dilemma). There is a lot to digest here (while reading, I kept posting stickies on one page, then the next page, then the next page...), but briefly... This book is about all the chemicals that we're exposed to (unwittingly) daily. This includes especially babies and children. Everyone is polluted. Pollution used to be this localized, visible, acute issue (cholera outbreaks). Now it's wi...more
This book is a great first-time-I've-paid-attention-to-pervasive-chemicals-in-my-midst primer. It is not a good book for someone who is already well-aware of the chemicals and wants to find complete and helpful advice on how to better avoid them.

Well, if cheekily, written, this book gives a sketched history of how some of these chemicals came to be so omnipotent, as well as the history of how people have begun, and continue to, fight them.

The final chapter, entitled Detox, gives practical advic...more
This is one of those books that is so hard to rate because I just don't know what would be appropriate. The writing itself was very conversational for such a hard topic as chemical awareness. The book could have easily been an essay in a medical journal filled with terms only a trained professional could understand, but instead as it followed the experiments and work of the authors it read more like a diary or a letter to a friend. The amount of toxins in everyday items is actually shocking when...more
Food for thought. These two men use themselves as human specimens in trying out several "chemicals" on their bodies. They take urine and blood samples before and after exposure to common, everyday things we are surrounded by - like carpeting, plastics (like rubber ducks...hence the name of the book), canned tuna, deodorants, shampoos, soaps, etc. They seem to have scientific backing for most of their theories about how our environment affects our health. Could many of these substances be the cau...more
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Rick Smith is a prominent Canadian author and environmentalist and Executive Director of Environmental Defence Canada (since 2003).

A biologist by training, Rick completed his doctoral research on an endangered subspecies of freshwater harbour seal in arctic Quebec with a nearby community of Cree hunters. From 1997 to 2002 Rick was Executive Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare's...more
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“Far from being the rock or island in the Simon and Garfunkel song, it turns out that the best metaphor to describe the human body is 'sponge.” 1 likes
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