328 pages, b/w illustrations
Pollution is not only an abstract, distant problem seen in belching smokestacks and contaminated waterways; it's also personal. Some of the most dangerous pollutants come from commonplace items in our homes and workplaces – shampoos and toothpastes, carpets and children's toys.
To prove this point, leading environmentalists Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie conducted their own research by ingesting and inhaling a host of things that are part of our everyday lives. Using their own bodies as the reference point to tell the story of pollution in our modern world, they expose the miscreant corporate giants who manufacture the toxins, the weak-kneed government officials who let it happen, and the effects on people and families across the globe. Slow Death by Rubber Duck – the testimony of their experience – exposes the extent to which we are poisoned every day of our lives.
"Beware the smiling creature in your bathtub: it's yellow, it squeaks, your kids love it, and it gets into your bloodstream – literally."
- High Country News
"Undertaking a cheeky experiment in self-contamination, professional Canadian environmentalists Smith and Lourie expose themselves to hazardous everyday substances, then measure the consequences . . . Throughout, the duo weave scientific data and recent political history into an amusing but unnerving narrative, refusing to sugarcoat any of the data (though protection is possible, exposure is inevitable) while maintaining a welcome sense of humor."
- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Slow Death by Rubber Duck's real achievement is in documenting how chemical giants stay a step ahead of regulators, and those revelations make the book a fascinating and frightening read."
- The Week
"Slow Death by Rubber Duck . . . isn't just alarmist environmental shock and awe. It's a thoughtful look at how pollution has shifted over the years from something tangible and transparent (industrial pollutants as the cause of acid rain) to something abstract and nuanced (BPA's links to breast cancer). The challenges this change presents, as many of the world's top scientists explain in these pages, should be of serious concern to us all."
- O: The Oprah Magazine
"Slow Death by Rubber Duck is hard-hitting in a way that turns your stomach and yet also instills hope for a future in which consumers make safer, more informed choices and push their governments to impose tougher regulations on the chemicals all around us."
- The Washington Post
"This is one scary book. Using a variety of test methods, the authors determined individual 'body burdens,' or the toxic chemical load we carry. The innocuous rubber duck, for example, offers a poison soup of phthalates that 'permeate the environment and humans.' From other products and food we also have a collection of chemicals shorthanded as PFCs, PFOAs, PSOSs, and PCBs. None of them are good, and they are everywhere, thanks to Teflon (which drew the largest administrative penalty against a company ever obtained by the EPA), Stainmaster, nonflammable pajamas, tuna (hello, mercury), and, would you believe, anti-bacterial products. The legacy of our chemically addicted society is not just all around us but also inside us and it is killing us, as the Teflon case proved. (Workers in West Virginia believed that 'having a high-paying job often meant getting sick,' and many were reluctant to sue and possibly scare DuPont away.) Poised between chirpy green-living manuals and dense academic papers, Smith and Lourie have crafted a true guide for the thinking consumer. If readers don't change their ways after reading this one, then they never will."
- Colleen Mondor, Booklist
"Fantastically important--an indispensable guide to surviving in an industrial age."
- Tim Flannery, author of Now or Never and The Weather Makers
"One of the most disturbing facts I've heard in the last few years is the new scientific evidence showing that Arctic people who rely on traditional diets--fish and marine mammals--are experiencing a world without baby boys. Well, not quite--but twice as many girls are being born, because male fetuses are weaker (you women knew this!), and baby boys cannot survive the level of PCBs, mercury and other toxins that find their final home in the Arctic. Slow Death by Rubber Duck tells the other end of this story--how ordinary household products we consume here in the U.S. are the font of this toxic rain that falls on the Arctic--but that while the Arctic is the most distant victim of these poisons, we ourselves are the first."
- Carl Pope, executive director, Sierra Club
"This book is a powerful reminder that what we do to Mother Earth, we do to ourselves. Read it to see why we have to change the way we live and get off our destructive path."
- David Suzuki, environmental activist and host of The Nature of Things
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