Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review of "Slow Death by Rubber Duck"

For those interested (even in a looking-through-fingers-covering-your-eyes kind of way) in avoiding some of the most harmful chemicals in household products all around us, this is a must read.  It isn't, however, a good book to read right before going to sleep at night.  I found it distinctly unhelpful for that purpose, because I'd lie awake in bed and think about the alarming statistics or historical account of the industry's development of products and their impact on the environment.

Since most people probably won't go running to the book store (or library, if you're cheap like me) to find out all about scary chemicals in products, I thought I'd summarize some of the most useful info from the book.  Initially I wrote seven, but had to come back and make it an even fourteen:

1.  If you want to check the possible health risks in personal care products (toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, gel, sunscreen, shampoo, etc.), a very thorough analysis of products is available at Environmental Working Group's website:

You click on their "skin deep" cosmetic resource in the bottom right corner, and then there's a task bar where you enter a product name and they give you an overall rating with an explanation of why and an analysis of the safety of each ingredient.  It's really helpful, I've found.

Castille soap works great as a body wash and as a shampoo, if you are interested in a cost-effective safe alternative to either of those products.  Shea butter is a great moisturizer.  And Purple Prairie makes an affordable sunscreen called "Purple Prairie Sun Stuff" that was the best product for the best price I could find after a lot of time (about 4 hours) on the EWG website and searches from sellers.  You can get it from them directly and get free shipping if you spend $40 (which isn't hard if you find someone(s) who want to go in and get a bottle, too) at the following web address:


2. Get chunk light instead of white tuna.  It's made from smaller fish and has way less mercury.

3.  Buy close fitting 100% cotton pjs--all the others, by law, are sprayed with hormone-distrupting flame retardants.

4.  Remember this rhyme to help avoid scary plastics:
"4, 5, 1, 2, all the rest are bad for you."
And don't buy tomato products in cans.  All cans, but especially tomatoes (to combat the acidity), are lined with BPA that leaches out into the product.  Never microwave plastic containers.

5.  Replace your BPA vinyl shower curtain with a recycled polyester one.

6.  Avoid nanoparticles (nano-silver, etc.) and triclosan as ingredients or anti-bacterial products (the only safe antibacterial products are alcohol-based).

7.  Switch from teflon anything to cast-iron or stainless-steel (teflon is a big one to avoid).

8.  Use a stainless steel water bottle.

9.  Don't spray pesticides on your lawn. (Or use an environmentally friendly company.)

10. Buy local and/or organic.

11. Use reusable bags for shopping.

12.  Buy electronics that are PBDE free.

13.  Avoid too much fat (that's where your body stores chemicals and toxins--and where animals' bodies have stored theirs).

14. Buy fragrance-free products (fragrance is pthalates) and "rubber" children's toys (also pthalates).

I highly recommend the book, but thought some people might rather get a short summary, so here you go.  Really implementing any individual change involves becoming a label-reader.  But if you read what all these chemicals are doing to us and especially our children, there's plenty of motivation to do so.  It also compels us to join any kind of combined efforts to pressure government into passing bans on dangerous chemicals.

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