Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith are the authors of a previous bestseller called Slow Death By Rubber Duck. In that book, they detailed a shocking list of toxic chemicals that are present in almost everything surrounding us; the air we breathe, the water we drink, our food, the containers we package it in, the toys we buy our children, and even the personal-care products we use to keep ourselves clean, fresh and healthy. They bravely experimented on themselves to determine whether purposeful exposure to harmful chemicals could measurably increase the levels of toxins in their own bodies.
In Toxin Toxout they have now gone one step further to answer the question they were frequently asked on promotional tours for their first book. “How do I get this stuff out of my body?” They detail their attempts to find ways of reducing the levels of harmful industrial compounds that invade our bodies from exposure to things that seem a normal part of our lives; makeup, deodorant, antibacterial soap and even toothpaste.
One heartening thing that comes from their research is that our bodies are constantly working to eliminate toxins. Simply by breathing, sweating and urinating our body is cleansing itself. But the overwhelming assault of the ingredients in our shampoos, our antiperspirants, the dust in our homes, the gases given off by the myriad plastic things that surround us, have swamped our natural cleansing systems.
What are we doing to ourselves?
Although the title promises to tell us what we can do to rid our bodies of these poisons, and the authors detail and describe their own personal experiments with different methods — leaving out New Age gimmicks and the promises of snake oil salesman — their common sense answer is to avoid ingesting any of these toxins in the first place. It turns out something that would seem so simple is actually work.
Even though the book necessarily includes a lot of complex explanation of chemistry,Toxin Toxout rarely reads like a textbook. Lourie and Smith personalize their research and experience and take us along as they subject themselves to overheated saunas, intravenous chelation therapy and eight hours in an overheated, brand-new Chevy Tahoe (to determine whether “new car smell” is really the off-gassing from so many synthetic chemicals in its thousands of manufactured parts).
In the end, although the authors do find successful strategies to improve our personal situations, they devote a whole chapter to explaining why more needs to be done. Of course they advocate governmental oversight, which is sorely lacking in this area (one fact that stood out as particularly frightening is that of the 80,000 or so commonly used chemicals present in commercial products, toxicology data exists on only about 400). But they go further to suggest that we need a complete re-evaluation of the culture of industrial manufacturing and chemistry. Yes, they realize that this is a large undertaking. But in the history of environmentalism, major shifts have been achieved over time.
The final chapter is a brief summation of the real steps we can take to have an immediate effect. Use genuinely green products, eat a mostly vegetarian organic diet, get plenty of exercise and throw out your non-stick frying pans. Easier said than done of course, but these are achievable strategies for measurable success.
If you want to reduce your risk of getting cancer, asthma, allergies and a host of other medical problems, read this book.
This article originally appeared in the Toronto Star.