Slow Death by Rubber Duck

by Guest Blogger

February 12, 2010

Guest blogger Anastasia Khoo is a former Greenpeace employee. She currently lives in Washington, DC.

When I think about toxic pollution, I usually think about smoke-filled skies and dirty lakes, not toothpaste. But attending the Washington D.C. book launch of Slow Death by Rubber Duck by authors Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, I’m starting to view my medicine cabinet as a toxic cesspool.

I worked for Greenpeace for six years so I considered myself fairly environmentally-savvy. I buy post-consumer recycled toilet paper, use green cleaning products and don’t microwave anything in plastic but I’m also a cosmetic junkie with preferred customer status at Sephora. Slow Death by Rubber Duck points out that between phthalates (contained in products to make them smell good), triclosan (the active ingredient in most anti-bacterial products) and brominated flame retardants (found in upholstered products and electronics), a lot of common household products contain an unnecessary levels of toxics.

rubber ducky

The authors of Slow Death embarked on an experiment using themselves as human guinea pigs to test the amount of toxics in their bodies. The one iron-clad rule of the experiment was that the experiment had to mimic real life. For seven days, they secluded themselves and went about life like any other normal American. They ate tuna. They used anti-bacterial soap. They used a Teflon pan. They wore latex (ok, I made that last part up but the question about safety of latex did come up at the book launch!). They tested their blood and urine before the experiment, during and after. The results were astounding. After bathing and using off the shelf shampoo, an antiperspirant and toothpaste for 48 hours like any other normal person, Rick’s phthalate levels went up by almost 3,000 times. Rick is a grown man who stands at about 6 ft. Can you imagine what the effects on a child would be?

The book demonstrates the insidious nature that the chemical industry has in our daily lives, ranging from your toothpaste to your safety. Greenpeace has worked for years to educate consumers and legislators about the hazards of the chemical industry and have fought for stricter standards and the use of safer alternatives. But only when there is an outpouring of of consumer activism can change really happen. As the book points out, legislators and companies need to hear from you. So, please take action today on these toxics issues and take a close look at your medicine cabinet.

AnastasiaFor more about Slow Death by Rubber Duck or to buy the book, you can visit the site here. (



We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.