We Green DC

Getting Polluted: These Guys Wrote the Book

Lourie and Smith discuss Slow Death by Rubber Duck

Lourie and Smith discuss Slow Death by Rubber Duck

Call it a science project for grown-ups. One day, as a joke, longtime buddies Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, environmental advocates from Canada, decided to marinate themselves in everyday chemicals for a week — innocent-looking things like shampoos, canned food, sofas with stain-resistant coating — and see what happened.

Why? They had been involved with Environmental Defence Canada’s Toxic Nation project, which has tested and found toxic chemicals in Canadians young and old and from all walks of life. But when those test volunteers asked what act, what product, used on what day had put the chemicals into their bodies…well, there were no clear answers.

So Smith and Lourie spent a week in a condo, trying to get polluted, and not in the alcoholic way, but with chemicals that are part of our daily lives. Said Lourie, “I didn’t drink a beaker of mercury. We did nothing millions of Americans don’t do every day.” Still, this idea “delighted our wives no end,” said Smith.

Last Wednesday in their first U.S. event, they told the tale of the resulting book, Slow Death By Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things, to a packed room at the Busboys & Poets at 14th and V. In one experiment, Smith took lots of showers, using highly scented hair products, soap, shaving gel, lotion, deodorant and cologne. Lourie quipped, “Rick never smelled so good.” But did his phthalate levels go up?
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