Book Review: Slow Death by Rubber Duck

Author: Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Book Publication: 2009

After reading Shawn Buckley’s analysis of Ottawa’s Bill C-6 in this issue, go pick up a copy of this book. Buckley’s deconstruction of C-6 shows it to be a low-brow legislative crowd-control measure, aimed at intelligent citizens, which buys plenty more time for the toxic chemical industry to continue making a killing in more than one sense.

Written by the executive director of Environmental Defence (Bruce Smith) and the president of the Ivey Foundation (Bruce Laurie), Slow Death by Rubber Duck will show you how we can wake up to and escape from our government’s betrayal of their mandate to act in the public interest. Observes author Bruce Laurie in a recent interview with Colleen Kimmett: “over the last few years, we’ve evolved to a regulatory system… that doesn’t protect us from these kinds of chemicals that are subtle and sometimes inter-generational.” Laurie was talking about the 60,000 plus chemicals the EU started to ban a decade ago. George W. Bush, no less, outlawed phthalates (that make plastic and vinyl soft, such as rubber ducks), which are extremely toxic to children. Meanwhile, Health Canada merely advises manufacturers (not the public – that would presumably be too radical) of the potential health risks to babies. Bill C-6 doesn’t even mention the stuff.

In 2007, the authors began the Toxic Nation Campaign (, which resulted in this book. It does more for public health and education than Canada’s federal government has done in the past 25 years. The authors tested the blood and urine of many Canadians, including prominent politicians such as Jack Layton and Tony Clement. All were loaded with toxic chemicals, soaked up daily by our “sponge-like” bodies from lotions (e.g. fragrance actually contains phthalates), shampoos, toilet cleaners, air fresheners, cosmetics, deodorants, canned food, plastic-wrapped foods, the meats from animals exposed to the same chemicals while alive, the plastic containers used in microwave ovens (which themselves kill whatever nutrients may have remained in those dead/processed foods), intravenous tubing in hospitals, stain-repellant clothing, bed sheets, your living room couch and TV screen, non-stick cookware and more. Even “unborn babies were found to have hundreds of these chemicals in their tiny bodies.”

According to the book, in the past couple of years, some of the worst sources of toxic chemicals have turned out to be toys, some of which were found to be leaching the hallucinogenic date rape drug GBH. Barbie and Sesame Street dolls were painted with lead, asbestos was in a best-selling board game, and vinyl toys are sources of gender-benders and carcinogens. The authors observe that learning that toy companies knowingly expose kids to such poisons is “a bit like realizing that Santa’s elves long ago started consorting with Darth Vader and were ‘turned to the dark side’ without anyone noticing.”

The book goes on to report how these chemicals arrived in our lives and are maintained by the manufacturers’ dogged determination. I have reported on the politics of environment and health for 15 years and these guys shocked even me, page after page.

To see exactly what enters our bodies, from where and how fast these carcinogenic and gender-bender chemicals do it, the authors decided to expose themselves deliberately to all that everyday stuff our regulators allow to be sold.

Abandoning their customary organic diets and use of environmentally friendly household and bathroom products for a week, they measured their blood and urine before, during, and after these exposures. The results are appalling.

This book is based on their own research as well as the 27 comprehensive ‘body burden studies’ currently in the scientific literature. These often nationwide studies tested for 500 chemicals and usually found up to 413 in people. Unlike the pollution of the previous centuries, we now have a situation where pollution is global, has moved from highly visible events to the invisible realm of the body, and its effects are chronic and long-term, rather than acute.

While Ottawa postures, dithers and supports the chemical industry, our scientists are getting mad and focused. The University of Montreal’s Dr. William Fraser initiated this year a study entitled “Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals,” which will test for low-level exposure to 400 chemicals (all discussed in this book) in hundreds of pregnant women and follow their kids after birth. It is now known that while the fetus grows, toxic chemicals mess up the DNA-controlling switches called hormones and signal errors that later emerge as chronic disease and cancer. These chemically mediated pattern derailments can also be inherited and passed on over several generations. When the results of this study are published, Ottawa might finally have to take note.

Every Canadian should read this book and follow its authors’ clearly explained road map to show you how to avoid all this stuff. It can most certainly be avoided. Your choices will force the industry into decency through consumer demand.

No book I have seen so far explains with such clarity (and so entertainingly) just what’s out there, what it does and how to stop it. The research and source material is exemplary and the authors name names, brands and manufacturers. This is the most BS-free book I have yet seen on this topic for the general public. I am buying a dozen copies for Christmas. Please do the same.

(Note: The only thing this book does not do is teach how to detoxify through the various forms of chelation and how to test yourself for environmental toxins, so see suggested sources below.)

J. Krop MD. Healing The Planet One Patient At A Time, 3ed edition, Kos, 2008 (519-927-1049)
S. Rogers MD. Detoxify or Die! Prestige, 2002 (www/
Subscribe to Townsend Letter for Doctors And Patients,
H. Ferrie. Dispatches from the War Zone of Environmental Health, Kos 2004. For free downloading at

Helke Ferrie is a medical science writer with a master's degree in physical anthropology. Her specialty lies in investigative research into ethical issues in medicine and the politics of health. She started her investigative journalism career in the mid-1990s, looking at issues of medicine and environment. She has been a regular contributor to Vitality Magazine ever since. Helke has also authored several books on various subjects including: "Ending Denial: The Lyme Disease Epidemic", "What Part of No! Don't They Understand: Rescuing Food and Medicine from Government Abuse", and "The Earth's Gift to Medicine". Here are links to some of her works: Book Review Find her book -Ending Denial Read her article: When governments abandon the public interest — look out for your own health Find her book -What Part of No! Don't They Understand Helke has also been a regular contributor for the Vitality Magazine. Links to few of her articles: The Tyranny of Government Protection Success Story - How I Recovered from Lyme Disease IN THE NEWS: Fluoride Dangers; Roundup Lawsuits; Lyme Disease Epidemic Helke Ferrie now lives a retired life and can be reached at

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