We spoke with Rick Smith, Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute. Rick co-authored Slow Death by Rubber Duck, and the newly released Toxin Toxout. We found out if it’s worth buying organic, the popular toothpaste no one should ever use, and 3 easy ways to “Toxout” today.
If we can’t avoid exposure to toxins, is it worth trying?
Absolutely. Every little bit helps. What our two books show clearly is that using products that are less toxic measurably and quickly reduces chemical levels in the body. Given that children are disproportionately impacted by pollution (e.g. increasing rates of childhood asthma), this is particularly important to do for them. Not all chemicals are bad! I like caffeine, for instance. What we try to do is zero in on the handful of chemicals that doctors are now saying are a big health concern and demonstrate that progress is possible.
How did you justify experimenting with toxic chemicals on yourself?
The best way to tell this story is to use the human guinea pig approach. In the experiments in both Slow Death by Rubber Duck and Toxin Toxout, we and the other volunteers don’t actually do anything different than millions of Canadians do every day, we’re just careful to measure the before and after results with respect to chemical levels in the body.
Do you eat organic?
Big time. More than ever.
What are the biggest changes you’ve made personally since beginning your research about toxins?
I’m more determined than ever to eat organics, use greener products in the bathroom and buy less-toxic things whenever and wherever I get a chance. The good companies that are trying to make a difference deserve our support. (Can you hear us cheering? We believe that every time you spend money, you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want!)
You co-wrote both books with Bruce Lourie. Does that make the process easier or more difficult?
Easier! Bruce is a good friend. We have fun together. And it’s much easier writing half a book than a whole one.
Which book should we read first?
Either works. It’s not like “Game of Thrones” where if you don’t start from the first episode, you’re totally lost! (We think “Toxin Toxout” is the place to start – don’t be surprised if you get a copy as a gift from Lisa!)
When you travel, do you ask hotels about their green initiatives?
I do. And I complain bitterly if the only toothpaste they have at the front desk is Colgate Total (which is the only toothpaste containing the toxic chemical triclosan). (We encourage taking your own everything, especially since we deplore excess plastic packaging and waste from those sample size products in hotels! Here are some of our clean travel picks!)
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
Getting BPA banned in baby bottles in Canada. We became the first country in the world to do this. Then jurisdictions around the planet followed suit. Most recently, China just followed Canada’s lead. (Incredible. We will all continue to thank you for this, as will generations to come!)
Ultimately, we need our governments to ban these problem chemicals and properly protect human health and the environment. Canada is falling behind the rest of the world. Do kids in Europe and the US and elsewhere really deserve better standards than Canadian kids? The last chapter of Toxin Toxout focuses on what it will take to build a greener, less-toxic, economy. That’s where Bruce and I are going to focus next.