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Slow Death by Rubber Duck: A Half-Shell Lover's World Tour

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,214 Ratings  ·  198 Reviews
Pollution is no longer just about belching smokestacks and ugly sewer pipesa€-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 po ...more
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Published January 5th 2010 by Counterpoint LLC (first published January 1st 2009)
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Mar 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

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
Feb 23, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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
Aug 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Essi Pölhö
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a chemist and have worked in product safety, so I do know quite a lot about exposure to chemicals. However, this book was still quite an eyeopener and very thought provoking. To think that we get exposed to such a cocktail of chemicals on a daily basis, often without even realizing it, really angers me. Most of the chemicals are also totally unnecessary in the products we use. I definitely recommend this book to those wanting a crash course to chemical exposures, as well as to those wanting ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative; took me months to finish as I found it quite depressing.
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
Sylvia Lyons
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
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
Oct 12, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, "
Rachel Bhattacharyya
Rick Smith's Slow Death by Rubber Duck" is a very compelling read. Each chapter offers the history, impact/effects, and possible future of an assortment of ubiquitous chemicals that have been introduced to an unwitting public - not only in the U.S./Canada, but throughout the world. This information is delivered in a factual, yet personal manner - making it a riveting read. Smith and his co-author Bruce Lourie have used themselves as test subjects, and the reader realizes the personal investment ...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
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blog-ready
"Slow Death by Rubber Duck" is a entertaining take on why we need to care about the chemicals that we use and are around on a day in, day out basis. In plain language, the authors showcase information in an easy to understand way that is accessible to all. The book covers everything from plastics to antibiotics (the antibiotic and germ chapter was my personal favorite).

The writing of the book was good. I think that many readers fear picking up books like this if they don't feel well-versed in sc
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was really interesting from a thought perspective. I also think that we should learn more about what chemicals we are exposing ourselves to on a regular basis and how they affect our bodies. But the author's experimental design left more than a little to be desired. Trying to avoid chemicals for a short period of time and then exposing yourself to large quantities over an even shorter period of time and saying "look it does this thing!" just isn't good science. Most people do ...more
Rebecca Lee
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm so glad I found this book in the $1 SF Public Library book sale! It's informative, not just from a "presenting data" perspective, but also because these guys tested themselves and shared their experiences. This book made me change: how I see the world (of lots of synthetics), products I buy, my awareness of ingredient lists (not just for foods, but their packaging, shampoo & conditioner, etc), and my awareness of my environment. Thank you! (that being said, it feels like there's a thin p ...more
Jillian Kitchen
May 08, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
An extraordinary exercise in converting junk science into fear mongering.
Haley Hodgkins
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really great.
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

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
Lee L.
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This riveting report by Canadian environmentalists Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie is a wake-up call for all Americans, no matter where in North America you live, and for that matter, the world. It does and should leave you stunned. The premise of the book is self-experimentation, as Mr. Smith and Mr. Lourie offer themselves up as guinea pigs by exposing themselves to a host of common household products, everything from dish soap to personal care products to tuna fish, measuring blood and urine samp ...more
May 15, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Only two stars because I won't say I liked it as a read, but it was a very informative read I learned a lot. Now, to implement some changes! The kids aren't gonna like it, but tough.

The frustrating thing about all this is that I am only one person in a very large society. While I do my best by buying organic foods and avoiding (now even more) substances that could be harmful to my body or that of my children, many people still live in blissful ignorance. Worse yet, they gobble up anything and ev
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very disappointing book. What I hoped would be an unusual but thought provoking experiment on how the various chemicals in our life affect our lives, instead was a largely pointless and ultimately unscientific polemic centered around two guys who used varioud products and then measured the amounts of various chemicals in their blood.

Surprise surprise, their levels went up. What was NOT addressed however, was what this indicated. There was a LOT of "potentially" and "possibly" and "what if" state
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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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