Not sure what to get your mom for Mother's Day? I have the perfect gift. Now more than ever, mother needs to KNOW BEST, so get her a copy of Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things. Two wild and crazy Canadian science-policy geeks, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, write about the slightly horrific and sometimes hilarious experiment they conducted on themselves. For one week, they lingered in a rented apartment inhaling and ingesting a variety of toxic chemicals which are present in everyday household products. Some examples; personal-care products containing phthalates and triclosan, bisphenol A (BPA) leaching from baby and other plastic bottles, mercury found in tuna and the off-gassing from new carpets. The authors carefully monitored themselves taking urine and blood samples throughout the experiment to send for analysis to a highly respected forensic laboratory. "While we were voluntarily and deliberately exposing ourselves to these substances, thousands of people were unknowingly and involuntarily exposing themselves to the same chemicals," writes Rick Smith. By doing these ordinary things that people do everyday, for one week, Smith increased his urine levels of phthalate (MEP) 22 times, his level of BPA 7.5 times and his levels of triclosan 2,900 times.
A large and growing body of scientific research links exposure to toxic chemicals to many ailments including several forms of cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects, respiratory illnesses such as asthma and neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Simmer down, now. I promise you won't get depressed when you read this book but you may just get fed up with being a guinea pig to a feral chemical industry who spends millions lobbying publicly elected officials who are either a. oblivious, b. negligent, c. super rich, or d. all of the above! You just may become an outspoken leader and activist. C'mon already. We need you! "There are 82,000 chemicals in use in the United States with 700 new ones added each year. Of those roughly 82,000, only 650 are monitored through TRI (EPA's Toxic Release Inventory), only 200 have ever been tested for toxicity, and only five have been banned under the Toxic Substances Control Act, " says Bruce Lourie. "Not even asbestos is banned, a known carcinogen that has killed nearly 45,000 Americans over the past 30 years."
If that's not insane, I don't know what is. Well actually, this is also in the Looney Tunes category: 93% of Americans tested have measurable amounts of BPA in their bodies. "What in God's name were they thinking when they started making household plastics out of a chemical that has been known for over 70 years to screw up the human body's hormone system?" writes Smith. Smith ate only canned products and drank out of polycarbonate for one full day during his experiment. His level of PBA increased more than sevenfold as an adult male. Babies are essentially doing that all day, every day.
The authors conclude that we can't completely succeed. The toxins are too widespread. You may eat organic at home but the chairs, bus seats and carpets are coated with toxic stain-resistant chemicals and the air fresheners in the cab, bathroom or office are spewing out phthalates. We need to first, get informed, so that we can make wise, educated choices as consumers. And secondly, we need bona fide government regulation and oversight of toxic chemicals.
Read, weep, and chuckle here and there. Then get active by joining the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) who is working tirelessly to change arbitrary and outdated chemical laws. (Just this month EWG worked with Senator Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) to introduce the 'Safe Chemicals Act' which would regulate all chemicals and protect consumers.) Also visit www.cosmeticdatabase.com to see how many possibly carcinogenic chemicals you're lathering on to your skin in your favorite cosmetics.
Last, I give you permission to join me in being bitter, jaded and spitting mad. It looks good on you, really. Nothing will change unless companies see their profits decline. Mothers must unite, network and spread the word to support companies who don't hide scientific research on the hidden toxicity of their products, especially their baby products; baby bottles, rubber ducks, baby pajamas. As the League of Maternal Justice bloggers (www.leagueofmaternaljustice.com) write on their home page "To use the power of the mom internet community to expose the injustices perpetrated against mothers everywhere and to exact vengeance through excessive finger-wagging and online shaming."
Fire it up, Mothas!
IT IS ON!
Get this book for your friends who are having babies and for your mom who is still spraying all that fake-floral air freshener. Open the window. Let in fresh air.
There is no fresh air anymore.
Go hide under the sheets and don't come out till I text you.
Ten Tips From the Book:
1. Eat organic. Non-organic fruits and vegetables are grown with pesticides that can cause cancer and neurological disorders, as well as damage our immune and reproductive systems. (Visit www.whatsonmyfood.org)
2. Avoid Phthalates: Found in vinyl shower curtains, PVC plastic, synthetic air fresheners and many perfumes. Choose unscented body care products when possible. Phthalates mimic human hormones and harm children.
3. Say 'no' to non-stick and stain repellents: Found in fast food wrappers, carpets, furniture and non-stick frying pans. PFC's are linked to cancer and can affect childhood brain development. Use stainless steel or iron pans instead of non-stick and pop your popcorn the old fashioned way. (Microwave bags are coated with PFC's.)
4. Get gardening. Grow your own organically. All it takes is compost! (Visit dirtdiva.com for organic gardening tips. I hear she's a real witch.)
5. Dump the toxic flame retardants: PBDE's are linked to cancer and impaired brain development. They're found in furniture, mattresses, carpets and electronics. Use natural fiber such as wool, hemp and cotton.
6. Eat fish in moderation. Mercury builds up in certain fish, so smaller fish are safer to eat than big fish.
7. Make friends with germs! Triclosan, found in antibacterial products, weakens the immune system and is suspected of causing cancer. It's over use can lead to to the creation of 'superbugs.' Use anti-bacterial soaps and products made with alcohol instead.
8. Get rid of BPA. It mimics estrogen and has been linked to breast cancer and diabetes. It's found in polycarbonate plastic containers such as baby bottles, sports bottles, and microwaveable containers. The plastic is the hard one that is nearly impossible to squeeze or break. Never microwave any plastic container and choose frozen food or fresh instead of canned, since BPA is used in can liners.
9. Use some elbow grease! Household cleaning products have a toxic mix of chemicals that often go unlabelled, but are linked to a variety of health problems. Mix your own using ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice. (Or support companies who have been creating safe soaps for years such as Seventh Generation.)
10. Become a smarty-pants! (Or an active consumer.) Do a bit of research online for safer products. Read labels and make a fuss. Ask store staff questions or call the 1-800 number of products and ask what's in them. Raise these issues with your local elected officials.
Every Friday, HuffPost's Culture Shift newsletter helps you figure out which books you should read, art you should check out, movies you should watch and music should listen to. Learn more