Amy's Reviews > Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health

Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Rick     Smith
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's review
Mar 08, 2010

really liked it
Read on March 08, 2010

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

Ch. 2 – phthalates – evidence that they possibly screw up our children’s testicular function, various deformities, testicular cancer, and various syndromes.
*They break down quickly – only 12 hours in your body.
*listed as Fragrance or Parfum in the ingredients list in products

Ch. 3 – Teflon (PFOA) and PFC (perflourinated compounds)
Considered to cause birth defects (cleft palate, tear duct deformity, other facial defects), developmental problems, hormone disruption and high cholesterol, and is a likely carcinogen. One man who was over exposed had asthma, prostate cancer, heart trouble and a liver condition. Workers at the Dupont plant had 3 times the rate of prostate cancer. Cooking fumes from Teflon has killed pet birds.
Cooking pans, Goretex, Stainmaster and Scotchgard
*use cast iron, oil and a metal spatula
*hardwood floors
*furniture without flame retardants (IKEA)

Ch. 4 – Flame Retardant – the new PCBs
Bromine – brominated flame retardants are:
1. stable (persistent)
2. Lipophilic (stored in fat) – and so they biomagnify – stack up at the end of the food chain
3. can be endocrine disruptors
It breaks down and is in house dust from furniture and carpet. It is woven into polyester pajamas, TVs Stainmaster, halogenated flame retardants,. IKEA avoids them, hardwood floors help etc.

Ch. 5 – Mercury – tuna
Is still in old switches, thermometers, thermostats, fillings, light bulbs, waste incineration, coal burning is a big source still
*flaked or chunk light tuna is smaller fish, so less mercury bioaccumlates
*sushi – bad
*lake fish – bad – especially big ones – walleye, pickerel
*don’t vacuum it!

Causes brain damage, kidney, nervous system, liver, shaking, endocrine disruptor
It is stored in protein.
ZERO mercury is ok – very important for babies.

Ch. 6 – Triclosan – antibacterial – listed as Microban etc.,
1. Infectious microbes adapt – we are helping the rise of “superbugs”
2. In many products, it works no better than without the triclosan
3. Higher levels of triclosan in people and the environment are now linked to health problems.
Nano technology may even be worse and more toxic – not yet fully understood, but already fully used.

Avoid “antibacterial” , Microban, etc.
Dr. Chuck Gerba (Dr. Germ) – We need to reinvent hygiene. New pieces of electronic equipment are germ transfer points. Nobody ever cleans the pen on the credit card try in a restaurant, the TV remote in a hotel, the cell phone – don’t share.

Ch. 7 – lawn herbicides
2-4-D is a hormone herbicide – causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, asthma, neurological impairment, immune suppression, reproductive problems, birth defects

like mercury – ZERO is the only safe level

*Ban cosmetic use of pesticides

Ch. 8 BPA
BPA in baby bottles etc. – the history behind changing that in Canada
Cans are lined with them – food cans, pop cans,
They leach out of plastic into food – especially when heated
Even food boxes are often lined with plastic
The smallest amount was an endocrine disruptor in mice.

Ch. 9
two conclusions –
1. Our choices as consumer really do have an effect on the pollution levels in our bodies.
2. No matter how hard you try you can’t succeed completely in elimination of toxic chemicals from your body.
Their recommendations:
Phalates –
1. Avoid personal care products with heavy artificial fragrances, especially those with “Fragrance” or “Parfum” listed as an ingredient.
2. Replace your PVC shower curtain with one from recycled polyester, organic cotton or natural fibers.
3. Opt for fresh air, not air fresheners.
4. Use to check products that have been tested
5. Reduce your fat intake

PFC’s - perflourochemicals – non-stickies

1. Dump your old non-stick frying pan – especially if it is scratched. Also avoid Gore-tex and Scotchgard.
2. Avoid too much fast food – the packaging may be covered in PFCs.
3. Read the labels and avoid consumer products with PFCs.
4. Remind politicians that chemicals should be proved safe before they’re made commercially available.
5. Encourage politicians to introduce legislation to phase out PFCs from food wrappers and other consumer products.

Flame Retardants – PBDEs – polybrominated diphenyl ethers
1. Use naturally fibred products – like wool, hemp and cotton. They are chemical free and naturally fire resistant.
2. Buy newer, PBCE-free furniture or replace old upholstery with proper ventilation.
3. Dust and vacuum often to keep the dust and PBDEs away.
4. Buy electronics that are PBDE free
5. Find a local organization that will accept and reuse your old computers and other electronic equipment.
6. Write letters to politicians telling them to enact legislation to protect our homes and communities from PBDEs. There are groups all over North America working to ban PBDEs and to institute e-waste legislation.

Mercury –
1. Eat fewer big fish, and avoid larger predatory fish. Eat more small fish.
2. Return used or discarded mercury-containing products to the store where you bought them or to hazardous waste depot. Don’t throw them in the garbage.
3. Check out eh US Natural Resources Defense Council tuna calculator to see the extent to which the fish you’re consuming are cranking up your mercury levels.
4. White albacore tuna should always be avoided. Try canned light (skipjack) tuna instead.
5. Wild fish – especially salmon, are often eco-responsible options.
6. Ask your grocery store to post government advisories about safe fish.
7. Support legislators who are pushing for emissions reductions from products and industrial process.


1. Avoid products labeled “antibacterial” that contain triclosan, and be wary of brand names such as Microban, Biofresth, Irgasan DP 300, Lexol 300, Ster-Zac, or Cloxifermolum. It is sometimes labeled by its chemical name 5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)phenol.
2. Wash your hands the “old fashioned” way – with a good 30 second lather of soap and water.
3. Check out to find out what’s in your cosmetic products.
4. Check the and read labels to avoid hazardous household cleaners.
5. Use baking soda, borax or other natural household cleaners to clean the bathroom or kitchen.
6. Avoid products containing nanosilver and be wary of other nanoparticles, such as nanozinc (in sunscreens). Demand that these chemicals undergo safety testing prior to being used in products.
7. Press your elected officials to legislate for better control of triclosan and nanotechnology.


1. Use environmentally friendly lawn care.
2. Go with a chemical free lawn.
3. Replace your lawn with a native plant garden.
4. Support local efforts to ban cosmetic use of pesticides.
5. Put a pesticide free sign on your lawn or in your garden.
6. Eat local and or organic. Avoid pesticides and chemical additives in your food.
7. Wash produce well to help remove pesticide residues.
8. Clip the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list and put it in your wallet, so you can avoid foods that likely contain more pesticides than others. (see
9. Shop at a local farmers’ market and ask about pesticide use.

Bisphenol A

1. When puzzling over the small recycling numbers on the bottom of plastic containers, remember this mantra: 4-5, 1 and 2; all the rest are bad for you.
2. Hang the Handy Plastics Guide on your fridge.
3. Use glass baby bottles.
4. Download a copy of the Zrecs shoppers guide for your purse of wallet or text message Zrecs to find out about the product you’re looking at in the store.
5. Check the Environmental Working Group guide to infant formula and baby bottles.
6. Organize your child’s daycare to go BPS free and sign on at the Toxic Nation website (
7. Eat fresh or frozen food or food stored in glass bottles instead of canned foods.
8. Avoid putting plastic containers in the microwave.
9. Use cloth bags instead of plastic bags for shopping.
10. Contact your local representative to encourage your city to ban disposable plastic water bottles.

More tips and info at:
World Wildlife Fund’s Detox Campaign
Canadian Health Measures Survey

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05/18/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Dave (new)

Dave This book even has me scared and I haven't read it yet!

Tiffany This review was helpful--it summarized a lot of the pertinent issues in a way I wish the authors had done. They needed an editor to cut a lot of extraneous material, which you did nicely.

Another reviewer wrote a squiffy little piece calling it " junk science"..... I don't think it was meant as science. These were journalists, not scientists, and not science writers. Their point is that we should be paying attention to what the chem companies are serving up on the platter. Healthy, young scientists who are intent upon discovery and invention often lack the temperance that age, caution and a life time of observation develops.

Whatthehangojango Thanks for saving me the effort - I've just finished the book and was about to summarise the chapters too. Unlike Tiffany, I don't think the book needed more editing to cut material. I'd be miffed if I didn't read everything that's in there as it is. For those less inclined, perhaps a website summary (by the authors) would suffice.

message 4: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy So, almost five years later, and I still find myself going back to this book and thinking about it. I still remind people not to microwave in plastic. I still drink out of a metal bottle instead of plastic. I did stop looking up every shampoo and soap I use to see how poisonous it is.... picked a few good brands and try not to freak myself out all the time. I notice that not much has changed as far as public knowledge/outcry/legislation. Time for a re-release of the book and a wider circulation to get some discussion going? I think I'll go search what those authors have been up to lately.

Tiffany Amy wrote: "So, almost five years later, and I still find myself going back to this book and thinking about it. I still remind people not to microwave in plastic. I still drink out of a metal bottle instead ..."

In one of the major national papers I saw a short article recently about Well-Informed-Futility Syndrome ... which could explain why knowing more doesn't bring huge change. I was trying to cook a healthy meal for my parents last week and between the pesticide-laden kale, the arsenic-rich salmon and the glycemic deadliness of the common potato even eating well is no longer eating well. Sometimes sticking your head in the sand is the only way to get through the day.

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