A friend in Sydney put me onto a radio interview she heard recently featuring two Canadians, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, the authors of Slow Death By Rubber Duck.
The local ABC radio interview with the authors (note, their interview starts about halfway through the podcast) is both fascinating and horrifying. Using themselves as lab rats, they chose seven common household toxins to monitor. Mimicking real life situations, they monitored their exposure to the chemicals through blood and urine tests. Over the course of two years Smith was exposed to phthalates (in toys and personal care products); bisphenol A (found in plastics); brominated flame retardants (found in upholstered products and electronics) and triclosan (the active ingredient in many anti-bacterial products). Lourie experimented with non-stick chemicals, mercury (one of the oldest toxins known) and pesticides.
Their discoveries were shocking; from potentially harmful anti-bacterial compounds being watered on the garden via the store-bought hose, to a tripling of blood mercury levels in less than a week from eating tuna. However the pair do offer some practical advise in reducing exposure, especially in children who are most vulnerable to the negative effects of such toxins.
A few tips from the podcast (listen to it or buy the book for more details)
• Avoid Teflon (non-stick pans, cosmetics and other sources). The synthetic chemicals in Teflon mimic hormones that are linked to cancer and asthma. An empty non-stick pan left on high heat for ten minutes releases enough toxic gases to kill a bird.
• Reconsider your tuna intake. From their own experiments, they now suggest women avoid tuna entirely if planning to conceive or in pregnancy.
• Don’t microwave in plastic, even the ones that are “microwave safe”.
• Avoid products containing triclosan, from your toothpaste to your kitchen bench, read the fine print.
• Eat organic food whenever possible.
• Avoid plastics with the recycling numbers 7 (may contain bisphenol A), 3 (vinyl), especially in child related products and toys.