Photo: Nola Lopez
So are BPA and related chemicals serious bad news, or are they relatively benign by-products of modern life? While the United States debates this question, Canada has already banned the use of BPA in baby bottles, and Walmart has pulled BPA bottles from its shelves. Meanwhile, to call attention to the effects of common chemicals, including BPA, on all of us, two Canadian environmentalists conducted their own extreme experiment using themselves as guinea pigs (think Super Size Me, with a laboratory twist). Rick Smith, executive director of Canada's Environmental Defence, and Bruce Lourie, president of the Ivey Foundation, a Canadian conservation group, holed themselves up in a condo for two days and exposed themselves to a handful of household chemicals. Before and after the test, they sent blood samples to labs that specialize in trace detection of pollutants in humans.
Though the results detailed in their new book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck (Counterpoint), don't qualify as rigorous science, they are frightening—clearly the authors' intention. But the book isn't just alarmist environmental shock and awe. It's a thoughtful look at how pollution has shifted over the years from something tangible and transparent (industrial pollutants as the cause of acid rain) to something abstract and nuanced (BPA's links to breast cancer). The challenges this change presents, as many of the world's top scientists explain in these pages, should be of serious concern to us all.