Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Three Ducks

The Three Ducks have been cohabitating with me for about twelve years. I bought them when I moved to Portland. I needed friends and so did they. Always in the bathroom either on the sink, toilet tank top or window sill, I recently corralled them into a big shell I found at the beach. Now that I bathe regularly, I thought it might be fun to invite them along for a swim one of those nights.

In the meantime, I went online to see if there was anything about the birth of these delightful little creatures. There really isn't anything too interesting other than records showing that the first patent was issued in 1886 which was also around the time the first rubber factories were opened. And then of course, there was the infamous debut of Ernie's rendition of Rubber Duckie on Sesame Street in the 1970s - a child's Oprah back in the day.

I kept nosing around but never really found anything worth noting until I ran across mention of a book called Slow Death by Rubber Duck, The Secret Danger From Everyday Things by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. The book is about how Smith and Lourie exposed themselves to chemicals found in everyday products - shampoo, shaving foam, household cleaners, etc. They monitored their blood and urine levels before and after a few days of interacting with specific products. The only rule was that they could only use products the way the products are used in everyday life - no doing the mice thing.

So - what did they find out about The Three Ducks?

"Perversely, it turns out these days that rubber ducks are not made out of rubber. Virtually every rubber duck you can buy is made out of vinyl, and vinyl in its natural state is hard as a rock. So, if you want to make vinyl soft and rubbery, you have to add various synthetic chemicals to it including a chemical called phthalates that mimic hormones," said Smith.

He added, "When it gets into our bodies it acts like estrogen... So, what happens is if your kids are like mine--my youngest son will chew on anything that he has in his bath-- and so you have a little rubber duck floating in the bath. The child starts chewing on the duck. The chemicals release into the child's mouth, and then is absorbed into the body."


The Three Ducks • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12"x 12" • $200

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