Canadian environmentalists Smith and Lourie collaborate again in a follow-up to Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Effects Our Health (2010).
As in their previous book, the authors offer themselves as guinea pigs. This time, they focus on “the multibillion-dollar detox industry.” In response to the intense interest” awakened by their previous investigation, they examine how the body can eliminate harmful toxins. Though Smith and Lourie welcome a long-term trend to reduce the pollutants in our environment, they respect their readers’ immediate concerns about health and vitality. To what extent can the body rid itself of the contaminants released by common household items, from pesticides to plastic containers, as well as preservatives in cosmetics and processed food? With a group of collaborators, they first compared ordinary cosmetic products to their green counterparts, using a multipart urine analysis. On the first day, in order to establish a base line, participants went cold turkey on cosmetics. On the second day, they used conventional products provided by the authors, followed by another cosmetic-free day and then a day using only green personal care items. The green products were clear winners, but as Lourie notes, despite our best efforts, we are “exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of potentially harmful chemicals.” Then the authors investigated the effectiveness of a variety of alleged detox mechanisms—e.g., fasting, chelation therapy, ionic footbaths, sauna therapy and more. Although ingesting chelating agents is a proven remedy for serious cases of heavy metal poisoning, the agents also remove important minerals from the body. Judging by the analysis of their own urine before and after, the authors found insignificant improvement in most cases, and they often experienced significant discomfort.
A useful warning against embarking on detoxification without medical supervision.