Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Slow Death by Rubber Duck - book review

You have all heard about BPA (bisphenol A) by this point, especially moms, but have you given much attention to some of the other scary chemicals in your life? Parabens, phthalates, PCB's, non-stick coatings, pesticides, mercury, triclosan.... new chemicals are coming out all the time and are 'assumed safe' until something horrible happens (think DDT) or until consumers step out and complain (think BPA, recently banned in kids' products in Canada after a huge upcry by parents). By the way, BPA is still approved for things like can linings and many other food containers so if you eat canned food or canned pop, you're still getting it.

Of course we all want a clean, fresh-smelling, bug-, weed-, and germ-free environment. But is all that desire for 'clean' living slowly killing us?

Authors Rick Smith, Bruce Lourie and Sarah Dopp took a novel (sorry) approach to exploring this subject. Rick and Bruce spent four days using products that contain scary stuff. These were not beakers of chemicals or tanks of strange gases, but rather the products we use every day as consumers. Things like shaving cream, hand soap, shampoo and other skin care products, non-stick frying pans and plastic food containers, cans of Coke and a stain-repellant sofa. They tested their blood levels of toxic substances before and after their experiment and made some scary connections between the products we use and an assortment of problems like cancer, reproductive issues, neurological damage, the list goes on. Yikes.

I recommend this book if you are interested in your health and that of your family (who isn't?). It's not preachy, it's not hard to read, it's not boring. I found it at my local library after hearing an interview with the authors on CBC radio.

One comment that particularly resonated with me was about food-safe plastics. Here's the phrase to remember: "4, 5, 1 or 2 - all the rest are bad for you". Take a look at the number in the recycling symbol and see what kind of plastics your food is stored or packaged in. I was shocked to see my favourite yogourt cups, Astro Original - one of the few that meets my vegetarian requirement of not containing gelatin - is packed in #6 plastic, which can leach styrene. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies styrene as a potential human carcinogen. Not cool, Parmalat!

I also still recommend the CBC doc The Disappearing Male, if you haven't seen it yet. You can find it on YouTube as well as the CBC website.

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