Why we should be optimistic (guest blog by the co-author of “Toxin Toxout”)

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Guest blog by Rick Smith, author of "Toxin Toxout"

When Bruce Lourie and I first began speaking to people about toxic chemicals after our first book, "Slow Death by Rubber Duck" was released five years ago; the world was a very different place. We would quite often ask “Who has heard of BPA? Of phthalates?” and not a single hand would go up in the audience. 

How times have changed. 

In the past few weeks, as we’ve spoken to very similar audiences about our second book “Toxin Toxout”, consumer awareness is considerably higher. Many people now know that of the 80,000-odd chemicals currently in commerce, most have never been adequately tested for safety. They know that countless consumer products that Americans use every day are full of these toxic ingredients, and they are quite concerned that their health – and that of their families – is being negatively impacted as a consequence.

They want solutions. They want to get these chemicals out of their bodies and their lives. And that’s what “Toxin Toxout” is all about.

Let’s face it: the toxic chemical issue is hard to get your arms around. The chemicals in question have long, often unpronounceable names. And with every men’s and women’s health magazine claiming to have the new definitive detox treatment it’s hard to figure out which chemicals to worry about and how to take effective action. “Toxin Toxout” tries to answer these questions head on. 

Through a series of direct experiments on ourselves and other intrepid volunteers we tease apart fact from fiction. As one example, we show that eating organic food can dramatically lower levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the bodies of children. We experiment on two cosmetics industry insiders and demonstrate that using greener cosmetics can quickly alter body levels of parabens (linked to breast cancer) and phthalates. Because there is nothing we won’t do in service of science we even sit in a new car for a day, breathing in the off-gassing, to shine a light on the chemical effects of the “new car smell.” Along the way we also delve into the whole weird world of detox therapies and discover that many of the potions and cleanses on offer are nothing more than modern-day snake oil. The book concludes with a handy “Top 10” list of simple, everyday, actions that are guaranteed to reduce levels of toxins in the body. 

In both our books we are honored to be able to feature the work of the Breast Cancer Fund. A true pioneer in the effort to investigate the links between toxic chemicals and rising rates of breast cancer, the Breast Cancer Fund continues to lead the way in defense of human health and the environment

Because of the perseverance of the Breast Cancer Fund and others, over the past year major companies like Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Avon and Walmart have all announced that they are moving to eliminate toxic chemicals from their products and their inventories. Jurisdictions around the world are making progress to eliminate chemicals from different aspects of our lives, such as the recent California crackdown on toxic flame retardants, and the US FDA’s new study of the health effects of triclosan. And millions of consumers across the US are getting educated like never before.

Fundamentally, “Toxin Toxout” is an optimistic book. Though it may be true that the toxic chemicals we have created are driving increased rates of serious disease such as breast and prostate cancer, the solutions to the crisis are within our grasp. Five years ago, audiences stared at us blankly when we asked them if they had ever heard of BPA. Now, every hand in the audience shoots up in answer to the same question. That’s progress!

So please check out “Toxin Toxout”, support the Breast Cancer Fund, and let’s keep the momentum going. Together, we’re winning! 

RICK SMITH is co-author of the new book TOXIN TOXOUT: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World  (St. Martin’s Press) and of the international bestseller SLOW DEATH BY RUBBER DUCK: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things. A prominent Canadian author and environmentalist, he is executive director of the Broadbent Institute and was the executive director of Environmental Defence for almost 10 years.

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