Monday, August 13, 2012

Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie

A.A. Knopf Canada, 2009

A very entertaining book with lots of useful information about the dangerous chemicals we take into our bodies from consumer products and the environment.  They write in an engaging, personal manner rather than delving too deeply into the chemistry that this topic could easily get lost in. If it had been weighed down by reams of scientific description, I would likely have just skimmed the book rather than read it cover to cover.  It is clearly meant for general consumers (like me) without a solid background in chemistry.  

They talk about the chemicals, what kinds of products they are used in, and how to reduce their usage in your own life.  I also found the history of each chemical and the challenges (past and ongoing) to control these substances particularly interesting.  

This book covers phthalates (plasticizers), PFOA (Teflon), brominated flame retardants, mercury, triclosan (antibacterial agents), 2,4-D (pesticides), and  BPA (found in clear plastics).  All of this takes place within the context of the authors' personal experiment to load up their bodies with these chemicals through continuous usage of designated products, and then test their levels.  I'm not sure what to think of the authors wilfully taking these chemicals into their bodies, but the point was made that we all do this to some degree.

Discussion Questions
  1. How worried are you about the absorption/ingestion of toxic chemicals?  Did this concern you before reading this book?
  2. Is there a particular chemical that you are most worried about?  
  3. Do you regularly use any of the product types identified in this book?
  4. Are there any chemicals that you avoid already?
  5. What do you think of the authors’ methodology? How reliable is it scientifically?
  6. What do you think of the documented efforts to control these substances, and how the industries respond?
  7. They state, “our choices as consumers really do have a profound, and very rapid, effect on the pollution levels in our bodies.”  Will you change anything in your life in response to this book?
  8. Many of the products were created with good intentions, and consumers obviously purchase these items.  How can we strike a better balance between the needs of our health/environment and the development of consumer goods?
  9. Have you noticed a shift in the way society views environmental chemicals?
  10. The authors live and work in Toronto, Canada.  Did the Canadian perspective of this book affect your reading in any way?
Find this book in the Mississauga Library System's online catalogue.

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