Welcome to the Hey Mami podcast!
Our guest today is Lara Adler, an environmental toxins expert and educator who teaches health professionals how to eliminate the #1 thing holding their clients back from the results they are seeking — the unaddressed link between chemicals and chronic health problems.
She’s been a featured speaker on over a dozen summits, several podcasts, and she appeared in a nine-part documentary film series viewed by millions around the world.
Lara has attended lectures and symposiums presented by highly respected institutions like the New York Academy of Sciences and the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center, as well as many of the top names in Epigenetics, Hormone Disruption, and Environmental Health (on topics ranging from prenatal chemical exposures to environmental chemicals’ impact on the developing brain).
In today’s episode we will be talking about environmental toxins, and how to avoid them during preconception and pregnancy.
- Lara’s story
- The Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act
- Can endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) affect fertility?
- How to reduce your toxic exposure
- Pros and cons of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15
- Things to look out for when eating seafood
- Water quality
Find Lara online here
“My focus is really on guiding people to how we start significantly reducing exposures in as many places as possible with the understanding that the goal is not a hundred percent perfection because it’s just not possible.”
“If you do want your house to smell a certain way, you can use a high quality, good quality, essential oil diffuser or something like that. And even then I encourage people to use those very judiciously because they’re very potent. And just because it’s natural, doesn’t always mean that it’s safe.”
013: Avoiding Toxins In Preconception And Pregnancy w/ Lara Adler TRANSCRIPT
Dr. Maren: Welcome back to the Hey Mami Podcast. In today’s episode, we’re talking all about environmental toxins in preconception and pregnancy. We’re going to cover the impact of toxins in preconception and fertility, as well as the most common environmental toxins to watch out for and practical ways to avoid them. So our guest today is one of my favorite people, Lara Adler, who you might also know as the environmental toxins nerd. Lara is an environmental toxins expert and educator who teaches health professionals how to eliminate the number one thing holding their clients back from the results they’re seeking, which is the unaddressed link between chemicals and chronic health problems.
Dr. Maren: She’s been featured in a dozen summits, dozens of podcasts. She’s appeared in a nine-part documentary film series viewed by millions around the world. She’s attended lectures and symposiums presented by highly respected institutions like The New York Academy of Sciences, The Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center, and by many of the top names in epigenetics, hormone disruption, and environmental health, on topics ranging from prenatal chemical exposures to environmental chemicals and how they impact the developing brain. So we are super excited to have her here as a friend and colleague and thanks for being here.
Lara: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me back.
Dr. Maren: We are excited to pick your brain and this is obviously something I talk about a lot, just because it’s a big part of my history and I think Alex can relate. We have lots of patients who are dealing with this too and I think, when we’re talking about improving fertility and pregnancy outcomes, it’s like an undeniable, huge topic.
Lara: Well I think that the fact that you do talk about it as much as you do in your work is to be applauded, because frankly not that many people even in the fertility space and in children’s health and pregnancy… even within that space there’s not as many people as needed to be addressing these issues. So I really applaud and appreciate you for bringing that forward because there’s just such a lack of good, solid information and understanding within that space, so thank you.
Dr. Maren: Yeah. Thank you. Well and hopefully… on Hey Mami, we’ve got tons of articles on this and we’ll be writing more, but it’s obviously something we’re passionate about. And we… even in speaking with our colleagues, our OB-GYN and midwife and fertility colleagues, they know that the literature really supports this too. It’s not really a question of even is there a science behind it because the answer…
Dr. Maren: … is yes, there is unquestionably science behind it. We all know it’s important, but it’s just such a hole, because I think when you go and see a physician, they get like a 15, 30 minute slot, maybe if you’re lucky and they just don’t have time. It’s such a vast topic.
Lara: Right. Well they don’t even have time to address it, but even taking a couple steps back, they don’t actually have any formal training typically, even in traditional allopathic, medical school curriculum. On average for programs that offer training and environmental health, which is very few of them, the average number of hours is only about seven. And when surveyed, both medical school graduates, nurses have stated that they feel like woefully inadequate in terms of their capacity to even address these exposures. And the training that is offered… that curriculum that is offered in those average of seven hours is really looking at things like cigarette smoking, drug use, and occupational exposure. So it’s not really looking at the chronic low dose exposures, which is reflective of our real life experience. And so that training isn’t even that valuable.
Dr. Maren: Yes, that’s so true. And it’s like… it’s sometimes in medicine we study sort of the thing that’s like all the way to the far right. Like the person who has total lead toxicity, but it’s like, well…. but there’s a burden between this low level of lead plus the low level of mercury from the dental amalgams, plus the plastics, plus the mold in your house. Like whatever. It’s a chemical soup, unfortunately. So rather than focusing on all of the crazy, overwhelming… I love how you break it down and make this approachable and doable and it’s progress, it’s not perfection, and you don’t have to be perfect, but there’s a lot of practical things that we can do to clean up our environment so that we are healthier ourselves. Our families are healthier, our children are healthier, our babies have better outcomes, all of that. So let’s just start. I want to hear just a little bit about you, why you got in this space, why you do what you do.
Lara: I… Yeah. So I do what I do… it’s funny because whenever people ask me this, I’m always like, “How do I say this in a way that makes it… doesn’t… that makes me not sound like I’m an angry person?” But I got into this space because in doing this work and talking about this topic, because I was frankly outraged at the fact that this is even a thing that needs to be discussed. I was always interested in health and wellness. This was not a topic that was really on my radar for most of my life until I started working with… as a health coach and kind of trying to figure out how can I work… have my clients… get achieve weight loss that they wanted or whatever. And when I kind of stumbled into this whole space of environmental health, I was outraged.
Lara: I was really just absolutely stunned at the fact that one, at that point, not professionally, but at that point, I’d spent 15 years of my life as a health nerd person really reading everything that I could. And this was kind of news to me, but also that every health professional that I talked to was like, “Wait. What?” They just… there was this massive education gap. And I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how these product manufacturers and industries could do what they do, that it could use chemicals that are known carcinogens or suspected endocrine disruptors in the products that are being sold to consumers. And that we now have evidence that those chemicals are moving from consumer products and food and air and water into human beings, and that they’re being associated with health effects and that they were okay with that.
Lara: That just blows my mind. It still does. And that sort of feeling of this is not okay and people need to know about this is what propelled me into doing this work. And I’ve been immersed in this space for about 10 years now. I’ve been teaching for about eight, and it’s actually been really inspiring to see how much the conversation has grown in that amount of time. 10 years ago when I was reading and learning and talking to people about this, people had no clue what I was talking about. And it felt like it was very… considered to be very fringe topic. And now that’s not the case at all. And we have such an expanded dialogue and understanding, certainly within the health space, but also just general consumer awareness. Maybe not obviously to the degree that we need, but the landscape has changed so much.
Lara: And that’s really exciting to me. Do we have a lot more… a lot more to go. Absolutely. For sure, without question. But the fact that awareness has increased to the degree that it has is actually really exciting and inspiring. And now, before I honestly felt like I didn’t have anybody to talk to who understood any of this, and now there’s so many books and there’s so many people in the health space that are talking it. And it’s really exciting. There’s more products on the market that are specifically designed to serve this. When I started learning about this 10 years ago, I couldn’t find deodorant and makeup and skin care products at all, so I ended up making my own.
Dr. Maren: Totally.
Lara: Going and getting the books on herbal skincare and Rosemary Gladstar books that were 20 years old. I’m learning how to make my own lotions and creams and deodorants, because I couldn’t find anything. And now there are so many brands, I can’t keep up.
Lara: And I think that that’s happening, one, because of awareness and people like me were getting really fired up about this being an issue. But also because so many people have been dealing with chronic health issues and they’ve been forced down this path and they go, “Oh, when I learned about, and I saw that there were no products in the market, I figured that I could fix that problem.” And when you look at the origin story of a lot of these skincare lines and household cleaners, that is the origin story of the founders, is they were sick.
Dr. Maren: Totally. So the good news is we’re moving forward, which is awesome. Can you just clue us in on, I know California has a new law the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act.
Dr. Maren: Can you close in on why that’s so awesome?
Lara: Yes. So I posted about this on my Instagram recently and I was like, “Let me just double post on this topic because I don’t think people get why this is a big deal.” So first of all, I’ll kind of back up a little bit just to give a little bit of broader context before I get to California. So in the United States, there’s… we have our chemicals inventory, which is where all the chemicals that are used or have been used, have to get signed up on this registry. There’s about 86,000 chemicals on the registry. In reality, there’s about 40,000 chemicals on the registry that are actively being used. The vast majority of those have never been adequately tested for safety. So we don’t have safety data on the vast majority of chemicals in commerce and the data that we do have isn’t reflective of what our real life exposures are. It doesn’t take into account so many of the health effects that are more subtle, like a gut dysbiosis or a subtle change in thyroid hormone, which during pregnancy can be devastating. Right? But that’s not considered toxic by traditional toxicology standards.
Lara: So lots of chemicals, very few are tested. The testing that we do have is not necessarily a good reflection. When it comes to personal care products, people just assume that the ingredients that make up those products have been tested for safety. And that is not the case. The industry basically self regulates and they say, “Don’t worry. You don’t need to regulate us. We will take care of it. We’ll regulate ourselves.” And the result of that is that there are hundreds of chemicals that are used in personal care products and other household items that are harmful… that we know are harmful.
Lara: And California has really been one of the most progressive states. There’s other states like Washington that’s also been pretty progressive. And I think some of the New England, New Hampshire, Maine states as well, but California has taken the lead on a lot of environmental policies because the federal government policy is so poor. And so what happens is because the federal policy is so bad and so weak, you have individual states that are going, “You know what? We can do a better job protecting our citizens,” and the federal government is when it comes to these chemicals. And so California just passed this new law that restricts or bans the use of 24 different chemicals that are used in personal care products and cosmetics. Now the reason why this is such a big deal is because California has the largest economy of any state in the country. And what California does often becomes the de facto standard. And that is why this isn’t a big deal.
Lara: So they banned the use of a lot of perfluorinated compounds. They banned the use of mercury. They ban the use of phthalates, and I don’t have the list in front of me, but a lot of sort of like the big hitters that people are the most concerned about these endocrine disrupting chemicals, these thyroid suppressing chemicals. And they said, “The data is sufficient that we don’t need these in our products. We’re going to pass this bill.” And so the bill doesn’t go into effect until 2025, which is normal. We got to give companies the opportunity to pivot and change their manufacturing. Now, again, going back to why this is such a big deal. When you have a multinational company or even a local company that wants to do business in the state that has the largest economy in the United States, they have to change their formulation.
Lara: They just have to. It’s like, if you don’t… if your products don’t meet this standard, you can’t sell them here. That’s it. And so a product manufacturer is not going to make one line of products for California and a different line for the rest of the country. So that’s how it becomes the de facto standard where whether there’s a national federal law, that’s similar to this California law or not, it changes the landscape for everyone, which is massive because…
Dr. Maren: It is so massive.
Lara: … we have been trying to get these chemicals out of consumer products. And we, meaning this whole field of research and activists that are concerned about environmental health, they’ve been trying to do this for decades.
Lara: And it’s really hard to take this sort of whack-a-mole approach of one chemical at a time. And we certainly saw this with bisphenols where we’re going to ban bisphenol A for use in baby bottles and some children’s toys, but it’s just going to get replaced with BPS or BPF, which is not the same chemical, but is almost identical.
Lara: This California law is massive. Now I’ll say that, just to give people an example, this sort of system where California passes a law and the rest of the country follows suit has also been used in the opposite direction, meaning in a way that’s harmful for everybody not helpful for everybody. And the example that I give there is the flame retardants. The reason why the vast majority of Americans have at least two to four pounds, not grams or ounces, but pounds of flame retardants in their home is because California passed a law in the 1970s decreeing that all upholstered furniture required the use of chemical flame retardants, and that happened specifically because the three largest chemical manufacturers who produce those chemicals lobbied hard specifically in the state of California, because they knew that if California passed it, they would in turn create a national market for their chemical product.
Lara: They were just creating business for themselves. And they went to really extreme lengths to pass that legislation. And the result is that… there’s a New York Times article… I think it was a times article that opened with the sentence, “American children have 10 fingers, 10 toes, and more higher levels of flame retardants than any other kids anywhere in the world,” because other places don’t have these laws. And the… and so that was a situation of the, again, the defacto standard…
Lara: … because furniture makers are not going to make couches for California and then other ones for the rest of the state.
Lara: Thankfully that California flame-retardant law was changed in 2013, went into effect in 2014. But…
Dr. Maren: Yeah. So now if you turn over your couch, it says your couch might cause cancer?
Lara: Well yes.
Lara: [crosstalk 00:16:15].
Lara: You’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to buy this, but actually they all have the sticker.”
Dr. Maren: You mentioned cigarettes, that’s actually the origin of flame retardants in your couch.
Lara: So in the 1970s, people were dying from house fires that were ignited by lit cigarettes. They’d fall asleep in their couch, in their chair, and their house would catch on fire. Federal government told the tobacco industry, “You better create a self extinguishing cigarette, because this is problematic.” They did, but it interfered with the taste. And so they said, “We’re not going to do it. We can’t do it. It’s not our fault that the couch is on fire. It’s the couches fault for burning.” That was literally the logic.
Dr. Maren: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lara: And so it was a whole PR campaign to push the blame on to the furniture. It’s not the cigarette’s fault for burning. It’s the couches fault for starting the fire.
Dr. Maren: Exactly. So that story was the Chicago Tribune.
Lara: Yes, playing with Fire.
Dr. Maren: And the reason I know it is because my father-in-law is an investigative journalist…
Dr. Maren: … and he was involved in that story. So [crosstalk 00:17:16]
Lara: I didn’t know that. Oh my God. Yes.
Dr. Maren: Yeah. Who knew we’ll have to have this [crosstalk 00:17:18] conversation one day.
Dr. Maren: Maybe I’ll introduce you two.
Lara: Oh my God. I would love that. That Chicago Tribune series was so groundbreaking.
Dr. Maren: Yep. Totally. It was awesome.
Lara: Yeah. So I would put that right up there. That piece… it’s not a piece. It was like a 20-part series…
Dr. Maren: Yeah.
Lara: … or something up there with The Intercept… has done a similar long-term reporting. There’s more than 20 articles on PFAS chemicals, which in the context of fertility, are really important because they interfere with sperm count, sperm motility and motility… mortality and motility.
Dr. Maren: Morphology and motility.
Lara: Yes. Thank you. I’m like… I’m somewhere in there.
Lara: I’m like it’s 2020. And also there’s thyroid hormone…
Lara: … which as I mentioned earlier, anything that interferes with thyroid hormone during preconception and pregnancy is a serious concern.
Dr. Maren: Seriously. We have to wonder… so many people struggle with thyroid issues.
Lara: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Maren: So many people struggle with hormone problems, like bad periods or irregular periods or whatever. So many people struggle with infertility. What is the common under… the common denominator? Obviously it’s multifactorial, but like chemicals play a role in all of that.
Lara: They… yes. And that seems to be what people who are studying fertility rates around the world, not just here in the United States, are seeing. They’re seeing fertility rates drop everywhere, and certainly the graph of fertility rates dropping and chemicals increasing are going to align quite well. Obviously that’s correlation and not causation. But when you actually go into the literature to look at how these chemicals are actually interfering, is it because they’re interfering directly with thyroid hormone? Is it because they’re interfering with other sex hormones, reproductive hormones, that can alter the development… normal development of a baby in the womb? And that research is pretty strong to suggest [crosstalk 00:19:29].
Dr. Maren: Yeah. It really is. The Endocrine Society… their most recent statement…
Dr. Maren: … sort of outlines all of that and outlines like premature ovarian failure. All of those things that really have something in common and that’s environmental chemicals.
Dr. Maren: At least we’re moving in the right direction. Right?
Lara: Yeah. And it does start with awareness. And I… It still does quite boggle my mind when I see people that are resistant to accepting that chemicals have any role in anything. I just don’t understand how, with the weight of evidence that is out there, anybody could question whether or not we know this… whether or not this is true. There is just… there’s a tremendous amount of data that, at this point, you can’t really argue with. Even for things with bisphenols and with phthalates, those prenatal exposures, this is where I think a lot of people get tangled when we use the term toxic. Right? This goes back to what I was saying earlier, in terms of how toxicology testing is done. When people think toxic, they are often thinking of acute toxicity. Right?
Lara: Like that trip to the emergency room, the rash, the blistering, the hair falling out, that acute response. But so often that’s not actually what we see. We see these tiny, subtle fluctuations in hormone levels that don’t actually manifest as anything maybe for 20 or 30 years, or that just… that, for example, there’s not going to be a change. It might be a decrease in IQ, which is something that it’s taking away some of the potential of something in the future. So you wouldn’t have anything to compare it to, to say, “Oh yeah, this is what the toxic effect was.” There… it’s just incredibly subtle. And when we’re looking at this bisphenols and phthalates, what we’re seeing is this alteration in fetal development of this masculinization and feminization, or de-masculinization, I should say. Where bisphenols and phthalates, in particular… when women are exposed during these, what are called critical windows of development, these different… what phase of development is happening at what point, is leading to shorter anogenital distance, which is a measure of masculinization or relative feminization. And a shorter anogenital distance is reflect… representative of feminization of males.
Lara: There’s a great little mini documentary called The Disappearing Male. I think you can probably watch it on YouTube. It’s think it’s only 20 minutes long, but it talks about this. And the… some of the results are of these exposures, in addition to that shorter anogenital distance is it’s undescended testicles, it’s a smaller penis size and that leads to reproductive issues as those babies move into adulthood. So it sort of continues that fertility cycle. Maybe it’s not going to affect mom, who’s exposed, and maybe baby will be typically developmentally fine, but down the line, they’re going to suffer with testicular cancers and lowered sperm counts.
Lara: So it’s… I think we have to really redefine what we are understanding and interpretation of what we mean when we say something is toxic.
Lara: Well I think-
PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:23:04]
Dr. Carrasco: Well, I think that kind of one of the bottom baseline issues is that we’re really all simmering in a toxic stew all the time.
Dr. Carrasco: And so, how do we that’s overwhelming.
Lara: Absolutely, yeah.
Dr. Carrasco: What do you do?
Lara: I think what we do is, the way that I like to talk about what we do is first of all, we move into taking action because it’s really hard for our brains to occupy the space of being proactive, taking action and being overwhelmed at the same time. Because overwhelm usually comes from this enormous wall of things that I could be doing that I’m not, or that I don’t know how to do. And so when we shift into action, we minimize that overall feeling of overwhelmed. And so, my take is that this sort of magic happens when we focus on reducing our exposures in as many places as possible. And there is data that indicates that those interventions can actually be meaningful. And I’m happy to talk about some of those. While at the same time, really working to support the body’s natural detoxification system, you know?
Lara: Yes. If somebody needs to do a specific detox protocol in conjunction with their medical provider to address heavy metals or mold or something like that. Fine, that’s there if people need it, but everybody, because we’re in this toxic soup, should ideally be working to support what their body’s capable of already. And just kind of giving it a little bit of help because the human body was never designed to be able to detoxify the kinds of compounds that it is exposed to. We were our liver, our detox enzymes were really designed to be able to detox food toxins and natural metals that might be in the environment that we might encounter through eating dirt soil, right? Or eating plants or mushrooms that we shouldn’t be eating or whatever, right? Poisonous plants. That’s the environment in which our physiological system evolved. Not to try to break down these forever PFAS chemicals that have a half-life in the body or these other persistent chemicals that have a half-life 30 years in the body. It’s not designed to do that.
Lara: So the magic happens where we focus on avoidance. I liken this to dialing down the volume on our exposure while dialing up the volume on all of opening up those detox pathways of pooping and peeing and sweating and getting sleep and all that good stuff. But my focus is really on guiding people to how we start significantly reducing exposures in as many places as possible with the understanding that the goal is not a hundred percent perfection because it’s just not possible.
Lara: Right, it’s not possible. And it’s overwhelming. And I love what you say on Instagram or whatever. But it is. It’s about everyday detox. Do it every day.
Lara: [Crosstalk] It’s what we do everyday that matters.
Lara: And small changes add up over time. So let’s dive in. I don’t know how we want to organize this. I always think clean air, clean food, clean water, and that’s something Jill Carnahan always says, right? So we can talk in that way. Or if you have some big hitters that we need to kind of think about.
Lara: So here’s what I have found is to look at the framework through what is free and what is easy first. Because what happens is if you talk to somebody who’s trying to conceive or who’s having trouble trying to conceive, or is pregnant and you go, “oh well, your couch is flame retardant so you better rid of that.” And they’re going to go, “a new couch costs how many thousands of dollars? I can’t afford that.” And so right away, we’ve put an obstacle in terms of moving forward. And I think that really does a disservice to the advice that we’re giving.
Lara: So I like looking at the framework of let’s start with the things that are free and the things that are super easy and that most people can do.
Lara: Yeah, I love that.
Lara: So in terms of things that are free for me, the biggest, no question, heavy hitter is just stop buying scented, air fresheners, scented candles, plug-ins. Those products are made with synthetic chemicals, with phthalates that release VOC like benzene and toluene, which are carcinogenic. They are reproductive toxins. We do not want those in our homes. And that actually saves you money. People like to say, “oh, being healthy is so expensive.” I’m sorry. That’s going to save you money because you don’t need to buy the $4 bottle of Febreeze or whatever.
Lara: Or the like $30 toxic candle. That either.
Lara: Right. Yeah. So don’t give those as gifts either. For the holidays.
Lara: We don’t want those.
Lara: Nobody wants those. No one wants those.
Lara: Don’t poison your friends.
Lara: Yeah. Don’t poison your friends. And so that’s sort of the first thing that people can do that actually is going to save them money. It’s just don’t buy those things. We don’t need to have our home smelling like I don’t know.
Lara: Pumpkin spice, whatever. I mean, there’s the New England candle company, which is the scented candle company. They actually, I don’t know if they still make this, but they used to have a candle who sent was called Hugs and Kisses. And I was just like “what’s that smell like?”
Lara: Like babies?
Lara: What does that smell like? Anyway. I just can’t imagine that smells good. The point is we want to not use those products and unfortunately, and this goes to a bigger, deeper problem is that people use those because their house smells bad and they’re trying to cover up a smell, right?
Lara: Like a musty odor or a mold smell. In which case you might be hiding another type of toxic exposure, which can be really devastating to your health. But you don’t even really know that it’s there. Or you don’t investigate because you’re like, “I’m just going to cover it up. My house smells kind of funky. I’m going to light a candle.”
Lara: That is a mistake. So we want to just not buy those products. Your house, ideally should not smell like anything. Clean doesn’t have a smell. It doesn’t smell like pine or lemon or whatever. And so we don’t need to buy those products. If you do want your house to smell a certain way, you can use a high quality, good quality, essential oil diffuser or something like that. And even then I encourage people to use those very judiciously because they’re very potent. And just because it’s natural, doesn’t always mean that it’s safe.
Lara: And also clean doesn’t smell like a new car. You know, some people associate this like “oh, it’s new.” It’s smells new. That’s called off gassing yes.
Lara: A hundred percent. I think they actually make air fresheners for your car that smell like new car. Which I find fascinating because I’m like, “oh, so you’re basically smelling phthalates.” They’re used in the interior of your pleather, your fake leather and your plastic dashboards. That’s what you smell. I also read a paper. I think this wasn’t a paper. It was a kind of loose study done by the ecology center. That little haze that you get in the interior of your windshield is actually phthalates that have off gas. And then just because they’re semi volatile. So their SVOC is also known as sticky VOC. So they will just stick to your window.
Lara: Wow. Ew. That’s depressing. I need a carwash.
Lara: Yeah I know, but on the inside also.
Lara: But without the chemicals.
Lara: But that’s where Branch Basics and a good microfiber cloth and you’re good to go. So yeah, starting with the free and easy is ditching the scented candles. Certainly from there, I think small things like opening your windows. I mean, maybe not for people that are in forest fires. I know we’re dealing with a lot of that this year. Not in situations like that, but generally speaking, you do want to open your windows because all of these chemicals that we bring into our homes intentionally or not. So the household cleaners, intentional chemicals, unintentional are the stain resistant chemicals that are on our carpets and the flame retardants in our couches and the VOC is coming out of our particle board furniture. Those are harder to deal with, but what happens is they will off gas, like you said. Your new plastic shower curtain, whatever it is. Those chemicals will off gas into the air and they don’t just disappear. Right?
Lara: So they don’t just like vaporize into nothing. They actually stay in your house. And unless you open your windows and increase the air exchange. Meaning fresh air in stale air out. You actually can build up to have pretty harmful levels of those chemicals inside the air in your home. And even the Environmental Protection Agency has found that your indoor air quality can be 5 to 10 all the way up to a hundred times worse than air outside. We have regulations about error outside air quality levels. We don’t have those for inside. There’s no, OSHA for the home. There is no organization that can regulate the air inside your home because it’s your personal airspace. You can do what you want with it. And so opening the windows can actually be really, really helpful. Even if your city has pollution.
Lara: Like I said, not if you’re dealing with forest fires and particulate matter, but otherwise opening your windows is really key. Similarly, taking off your shoes when you come in the house. This is such a small thing but in reality we’re tracking. It’s not just like dog poop that we might’ve stepped on on the way up to the house. I think that’s typically what people are thinking about. Like, “oh, I don’t want the house to get dirty.” But they’re not thinking about the pesticides that are straight sprayed on the lawn or in the park or at the golf course or at your neighbor’s house. They’re not thinking about the particulate matter. That’s coming off of car exhaust, the heavy metals that are being tracked in to your house on the bottom of your shoes. In addition to all of the like bacteria and viruses and stuff, that’s out there.
Lara: And if you have carpeting in your house, then that carpeting is just a magnet. It’s just a sponge for all of those chemicals. And particularly for people that either have small children or want to have small children, this is really key because our babies are crawling around on the floors and they put everything in their mouth. So they have increased hand to mouth behaviors. Babies also breathe more air, drink more water, and have more skin pound for pound than adults do. Babies also don’t have the capacity to detoxify these really complex compounds in the same way that adults do. And so when we have these, whether it’s a wall-to-wall carpet or any other kind of carpet in the home, and we’re not minimizing the amount of toxins that we’re bringing in, those babies are actually crawling around and getting much higher exposures, then the other members of the household, even if they’re in the same household.
Lara: And there was actually, it was more of a case study of a family. I don’t know if they repeated this with more than one family, but there was a case study of a family where they took urine and serum levels of measurements of a bunch of chemicals of a baby, a toddler, and then mom and dad in one household and the person in the house that had the highest body burden was the infant. So it is important. Again, taking off your shoes seems like not a big deal, but it can make a difference in what’s in your house.
Lara: It’s cheap and easy.
Lara: It’s cheap and easy. Yeah. So from there, those sort of the big, heavy hitters for the free and easy conversation. From there I think really prioritizing the food that we eat and emphasizing organic as much as possible.
Lara: I know this is like a drum that’s been beat over and over and over again, but there are a number of intervention studies that have shown that when people switch from conventional to a mostly organic, not even a hundred percent, cause it’s just really frankly, very hard and it can be more expensive, certainly. That you can reduce the circulating levels of pesticides by 80 to 90% within three to five days.
Lara: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lara: And so what that tells us, and I think this is really important. And what that tells us is that the body is actually capable of detoxifying these compounds pretty quickly. They don’t have a long transit time in the body. Sometimes they can be metabolized within 6 to 12 to 24 hours. That’s great. But when the CDC is testing for these chemicals in the American population, they’re showing up oftentimes in 90 to 98% of the population. And the reason for that is because our exposures are so constant that we never actually have the time to drain that bucket. Even though the bucket can drain, technically. It can’t because we’re con we’re filling it faster than we’re able to drain it.
Lara: Yeah. So we have constant levels of these chemicals. Metabolites of bisphenols have been measured in 93% of people. The transit time for that chemical is six to 12 hours. So this is why when we practice avoidance behaviors, meaning I’m going to avoid the foods that have these higher levels of pesticides on them. We can minimize our exposure to levels that are circulating in our blood and in our urine within three to five days. That’s why. It just makes sense. That’s why that is. So certainly prioritizing organic food in as many places as possible is key.
Lara: So I don’t want to go down too much of a rabbit hole, but historically we’ve really looked to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15, but I know definitely some shortcomings there. So can you just educate our audience on why that might be a value and then what the shortcomings are to those recommendations?
Lara: Yeah. So the value of something like the EWG Dirty Dozen Clean 15, is it does help give people a simple framework to prioritize their spending, right? Like okay, the Dirty Dozen are the chemicals that have the highest amount of pesticide residues. And so those are ones that I’m going to prioritize buying organic and the Clean 15 have the lowest amount of pesticide residues. So I can just buy those conventional and save a buck or two and not worry about it. So it gives people a basic framework that they can apply. And that’s great. And if it increases the amount of organic food consumption, great. The downfall or the downside to this framework is that it doesn’t take into consideration the relative toxicity of the pesticide residues that are found. Not all pesticides are equally toxic. Some are far less toxic. Others are far more toxic at the same levels.
Lara: And Lynn Patrick, a naturopathic physician has spent a lot of time digging into the national database literature that we have in the national toxicology program to look at how meaningful is that framework? And what she’s found is unfortunately, it’s actually not that meaningful because what she found is that there’s a 6,000 fold difference in the relative toxicity between the lowest and the highest levels of toxicity. So what that means is if we’re only looking at the amount. What that means is you can have a small amount, that’s maybe thousands of times more toxic than similar amounts of another pesticide. So the amount of pesticide is not the proper framework to view our decision-making process. So it’s kind of like a bubble pop. I think people are like oh, “come on! That was helpful?” Again, if it’s going to help people prioritize and make buying organic easier, great. If people really do have to budget and certainly a lot of people do then just anything is better than nothing. If you have the means and have access to as much organic as possible, then go that route.
Lara: Yeah. Total aside. But it reminds me of this whole marijuana industry. There’s this industry in Colorado. It is legal but they use some of the most toxic pesticides to grow marijuana. So you have to be very careful about that. So just an aside people. If you are using CBD, you really got to be careful about whatever.
Lara: And I know the regulations are quite different from state to state. I know in Oregon, I think we don’t actually allow any of those pesticides.
Lara: They have to look at that here in Colorado.
Lara: Yeah. Okay. So moving on from food, I definitely think on the spectrum of what’s easiest to address is definitely exposure to plastics and not all plastics, but primarily plastics that come in contact with food. There’re some exceptions to that. The chemicals that are found in plastics are not molecularly bonded in a way that keeps the compounds stable inside the plastic. They just fall out. They leach very easily. And what that means is that those plastic compounds bisphenols, if it’s a polycarbonate plastic, phthalates sometimes if it’s a polyethylene plastic, those chemicals can leach out into the food or the water that we are consuming.
Lara: This also is the same if we’re taking our leftovers and we’re putting them into plastic Tupperware containers and throwing them in the fridge, or we’re heating those leftovers in the microwave. These are all exposure forces to these plasticizer chemicals, which are known to the endocrine disrupting. They can totally interfere with fetal development with fertility, with normal, healthy brain development in babies. With normal sexual differentiation in babies. So we just don’t want to needlessly expose ourselves to these plastics if we can avoid it and we can, right? And that just means that we buy glass storage containers, or if someone’s on a budget, they can reuse that glass pickle jar. That’s cheap. I mean, that’s what I did for years. You can buy mason jars $12 for a case and just use those to store your leftovers. So I think people can get a little bit creative. There you go, mason jar.
Lara: I’m drinking out of a mason jar right now.
Lara: What I don’t like seeing, and I see this a lot in the sort of zero waste, low waste eco environmental space, is people reusing plastic because they think it’s preventing it from going into a landfill. And I think that’s where we get a little bit of a headbutt if we’re thinking about environmental health as in the individual toxic exposure versus the broader health of the environment, there is some conflict there. And so reusing your yogurt containers or your plastic butter containers or whatever, not recommended.
Lara: Yeah. It’s so interesting because there really is such a conflict there in terms of home building as well. So for building a home that’s green or energy efficient, it’s usually not good for your health in many regards, right? So, yeah.
Lara: Yeah. I mean even the Lead Certification. It’s primarily a materials certification. People are like, “oh, great, that recycled plastic, whatever.” Okay, well that’s great. How about you just stopped with the plastic production instead of finding a second marketplace for these up-cycled, recycled plastics that are going to continue to leach compounds. So back to these interventions, minimizing the use of plastic. In particularly in food contact, but this also is for things like our plastic shower curtains, or those vinyl shower curtains. It’s got that new shower curtain smell. That smell are phthalates. That is what you are smelling. That cheap sort of plastic smell that you smell when you get a beach ball or some inflatable kid toy. Even some kid bath toys. That cheap plastic smell is off gassing chemicals.
Lara: So we really want to kind of let go of our obsession with plastic. And I’ll kind of add to that. While it doesn’t appear to have very many toxicity issues compared to plastic, we also want to let go of our obsession with silicone. Which people are like, “Ugh, silicone is this great alternative to plastic.” Except that silicone can’t be recycled. It’s not biodegradable. And so even though it doesn’t have the same toxicity issues, generally speaking, there are some exceptions to that. I just see people buying all of the silicone, everything, because it makes it easier to clean. This is a material that at least from a broader environmental standpoint is not different from plastic pollution.
Lara: Oh my gosh. I’m so depressed right now.
Lara: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Lara: I’m so happy to know it. Yeah. I get the point there.
Lara: Yeah. I just want people to think first and foremost, you can think of your own individual health and then what happens. And I think this is a natural progression. Once people start tuning in to individual health and making smarter choices that does sort of bleed out into these other areas, like environmental health and broader environmental issues. And if you’re doing right by yourself and making sure that you’re
PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:46:04]
Lara: You’re doing right by yourself and making sure that your minimizing your exposures for yourself. That will trickle out into these other areas, which is great. Certainly within that conversation is minimizing the use of canned foods, because canned foods have that bisphenol lining. When we are looking at our meat and our seafood, and we can certainly talk about that mercury issue. Especially when people are in this preconception phase, or struggling with fertility issues, or are pregnant, seafood is one of those places that’s so confusing because it’s really dangerous, but you need some omega threes. What do I do? And so a lot of women just say, you know what, I’m just not going to eat seafood at all and that’s also not great either because we do need those omega threes for normal, healthy brain development and seafood is our most abundant source of those. So, no, you can’t flaxseed your way and [inaudible 00:47:04] way to healthy levels of omega threes.
Dr. Maren: Yeah, totally.
Lara: Not to mention that eating that many flaxseeds is probably not good for you.
Dr. Maren: Yeah. Well [crosstalk 00:47:14] yes, and we talk a lot about nutrigenomics like, there are certain people who just don’t do a great job of converting plant-based alpha linoleic acid to the EPA and the DHA that we really need for pregnancy, and healthy baby brains, and Moni brains, and all that stuff.
Lara: Yeah, and unfortunately when we look at the advice that’s given to pregnant women about what seafood is safe to eat. Those species of seafood often are also carriers of mercury, or PCBs, or dioxins, or pesticides, and so we’re swapping one problem for another. And I think that’s a mistake also, and so I think it’s really important for women to navigate what is the seafood that is healthy and that is the most safe to eat, right? There’s no perfect seafood that’s like, this is a hundred percent toxin-free.
Lara: But there’s lower species of seafood, and so the general recommendation there is a acronym is smash. S-M-A-S-H, so smash fish. That’s sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, and herring. So these are the small species of fish that don’t grow large enough and live long enough to bio accumulate as many toxins as the smaller species of fish.
Lara: Those species of fish also have really good levels of that fatty, those fish have fatty acids that we really want. Especially like the sardines and the herring, like those are oily fish and that’s good. And so smash fish is sort of where I want people to focus so that they can kind of get the best of both worlds at the mega threes that they need. They’re not high in omega sixes when we’re looking at things like tilapia, which is that like neutral, bland fish. That’s like, that’s what your fish sticks are made out of. Well tilapia are omnivorous fish, and they will eat anything. They’re always farm-raised, and they are often farm-raised in deplorable conditions where they’re being exposed to human excrement, to banned pesticides. They can also thrive being fed shredded newspapers and chicken feathers. And that’s cheap, so people that are farming these fish in Southeast Asian countries where they just don’t have the regulations, and they don’t really care because they’re exporting all this fish.
Lara: These are garbage fish. That’s what I call them because they’ll eat garbage. And tilapia is often being fed soy, genetically modified soy and corn. And so what that does is it actually raises those inflammatory omega six profile of the fish. So it’s like garbage in garbage out, right? Like if you put garbage into the fish, you’re going to get a garbage health profile out. And so tilapia to me is a no fish at all. Certainly those higher mercury, you know the tunas and the swordfish should be consumed by no one, let alone somebody who is pregnant or people that are trying to get pregnant. That includes men, this is not just about what women should be doing. Everything that I’m making recommendations here applies to both men and women.
Dr. Maren: Yes. Thank you for mentioning that.
Lara: It is just always falls on the woman’s shoulders to do these things. And you know like I mentioned earlier, those PFS chemicals seem to have a greater impact on male fertility than female fertility. So dudes need to get in on this as well.
Dr. Maren: For sure.
Lara: So it’s not a one gender problem.
Dr. Maren: Totally.
Dr. Carrasco: And I think as far as PFS chemicals go, I was very saddened to find out a few weeks ago that Topo Chico has a lot of pretty-
Lara: Oh my god.
Dr. Carrasco: And like-
Lara: I’m sad.
Dr. Carrasco: I’m drinking in my glass bottle, Topo Chico, and thinking. Well, I’m not taking in Xeno estrogens, but I’ve been drinking a lot of PUFAs.
Lara: Yeah. I was actually also very sad about that because Topo Chico is my go-to mineral water when I’m out in a restaurant and I want something.
Dr. Carrasco: Yeah.
Dr. Maren: It’s so bubbly.
Dr. Carrasco: I know.
Dr. Maren: It was like someone died, but [crosstalk 00:51:26] they’re dead to me now.
Lara: It was not okay. [crosstalk 00:51:32]
Dr. Maren: I was going to ask one more question. What are your thoughts on shrimp? Because a lot of people like won’t eat the very strong tasting fish. The smash fish tend to have a more robust flavor profile, but a lot of people will eat shrimp.
Lara: Yeah. So shrimp, unfortunately, is a fish. Not fish, seafood that I don’t recommend people generally eat, unless it is domestic farmed shrimp or Oregon wild shrimp, which are like the little, teeny tiny shrimps that people use for like shrimp cocktails and stuff like that. And the reason why I don’t recommend shrimp is, shrimp is almost always farmed in Southeast Asia. So it is farmed in those situations where they are using human excrement as feeds, as fertilizers, they’re using banned pesticides. You know we have to recognize that at least here in the United States only about 1% of the seafood that’s imported, and imported seafood makes up the majority of the seafood that we have. Only about 1% is inspected. They just don’t. And now during COVID times, who knows if any of it is being inspected. Probably not because we already do know that at least for other- for chicken, the inspections have actually gone down. And meat, chicken meat, there would maybe otherwise not have been permitted into the food chain is now being permitted because we have relaxed some of the regulations.
Lara: So yeah, really gross. So I actually don’t recommend people consume imported shrimp. If you’re living in the United States, meaning don’t buy shrimp from any Southeast Asian country. You know there’s actually a tremendous, if you really look into the global seafood supply chain, you see a tremendous amount of corruption where the US at one point had actually risk banned shrimp imports from some of these Southeast Asian countries. And so what they did was they set up a shell company in a Latin American country and they basically were like, no, no, it’s coming from this Latin American country, but it really wasn’t. And they would do all these- get somebody in customs and pay off somebody in customs to rubber stamp this form. So like when you kind of look into the industry there’s so much corruption in the seafood industry in general, but particularly in the shrimp industry. So I just don’t recommend people eat shrimp regularly. Cause you just don’t know what you’re getting.
Dr. Carrasco: Yeah.
Dr. Maren: That reminds me of one more question.
Dr. Maren: As far as like avocados, because that’s another fat source, obviously not an omega-3 fat, but it’s a great fat source. So what are your thoughts on avocado consumption? And as far as pesticides go, organic versus non-organic.
Lara: Yeah, it’s really good question.
Dr. Maren: Because that’s also a kind of a, perhaps, corrupt industry as well.
Lara: I think all of these industries are frankly corrupt.
Dr. Carrasco: Yeah, right.
Lara: I don’t know. I’d be like, good luck finding one that isn’t.
Lara: But you know, I think if we go by that dirty dozen clean 15 framework.
Dr. Maren: Right.
Lara: Avocados are something that you can quote, buy conventional and be okay with. But I actually think that your avocados should be organic because you can help to minimize at least some of those pesticides that are going to be fat soluble, that are going to Biocare, accumulate in that fatty matrix of the avocado. In terms of the- This is where like, as consumers we’re so in the dark about what’s actually happening in these industries and behind the scenes. I have seen people who are like, yeah, yeah, yeah, these avocados are organic, but they’re just sticking organic stickers on a conventional avocado. But like that information isn’t helpful because I don’t know what the solution is.
Lara: And so let’s just keep supporting the organic. But yes, as it pertains to all high-fat foods, so this is your butter, your cheeses. They actually will accumulate a lot higher levels of those fat-soluble persistent chemicals, pesticides. Even ones that are organic are not going to be totally free of those chemicals. And so we have to remember that organic doesn’t mean completely safe and pesticide free. It’s a better-
Lara: Better choice.
Lara: And that’s really the goal.
Dr. Carrasco: Yeah. I have an interesting case study. I have a patient who grew up in a Latin American country kind of near an avocado orchard that was heavily pesticided. And like probably five people that he grew up with, including himself, all developed debilitating auto-immune diseases and illogical diseases. [crosstalk 00:56:17].
Lara: It’s probably because they’re in, not necessarily from eating the avocados.
Lara: It’s from the exposure, yeah.
Lara: Yeah, from that.
Lara: Water sources and all that stuff, but-
Dr. Carrasco: Correct. [crosstalk 00:56:27]
Lara: So, yeah. I mean, that’s something I, as I personally have been looking at. Moving from where I live, and looking at different properties in different states. One of the things that is a non-negotiable for me is not living in close proximity to a golf course, or an airport, or a military base. Because there’s a tremendous amount of pesticides and other persistent chemicals, like PFAS chemicals, solvents, like TCE, that contaminate groundwater that you’re just going to be exposed through wind drift. And it’s really, that’s a really hard thing for people who do already live in those places. That do live like next to a golf course where they’re spraying, it’s hard. Again, this is where it’s like, oh do you say okay well what you need to do is move. Well, no. I mean, in an ideal world, yes.
Lara: But not everybody’s going to up and move in those instances. And this goes back to let’s change the things that we can control, right? That’s my sort of whole approach is, do things we can control so we worry less about the ones that we can’t. And it’s the same thing for people that are occupationally exposed, whether they are working in a factory, or a warehouse, or a pesticide, in agriculture. They may not be in a position where you can leave your job. So that would be the, I can’t change this, but what can I do at home to minimize exposures? And then what can I do to help support my body in the best way possible?
Lara: And that’s, again, going back to really emphasizing, eating lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, making sure that we’re getting that diversity in, making sure that our gut is optimal, and that we’re taking the right types of probiotics that we need because our gut microbiome plays a big role in how our body handles these pesticides. Making sure that we’re providing our liver with the nutrients that it needs to break down these chemicals. Making sure that we’re pooping.
Lara: Like that’s as I like to say, number two is actually number one. [crosstalk 00:58:28].
Dr. Carrasco: Yeah, totally.
Lara: That’s the number one thing. It’s like, people got to be pooping. And if people are like, yes, I poop three times a week. That’s a problem. I know people that are like, yes, I poop once a week. And I’m just like, I can’t even know what that would feel like. Horrible, but that’s what the state of a lot of people is. You know, they don’t poop every day. They don’t poop multiple times a day. And that is our, literally our detox pathway where we are literally escorting waste, including toxins out of the body. And if we’re constipated, then those are just going to get recycled back into the system. And that’s a problem. So it’s this multi tiered approach of doing that.
Dr. Carrasco: It’s so interesting, like the patterns you see clinically in people who have methane predominant SIBO, which usually presents with a lot of constipation, often also have this hormone problems where they have a hard time getting rid of some estrogen, and they have really heavy periods. It’s like, it’s all goes together.
Dr. Carrasco: So, yeah. I digress, but thank you for mentioning like places to live. Also, one of my patients wrote recently and was like, hey, we’re looking at this house. It’s next to a golf course. And like, oh.
Dr. Carrasco: I would probably try to avoid that. And I think the next place she sent me was, what about this place? But there’s like a cell phone tower next door. And I’m like, oh.
Dr. Carrasco: I’d try to avoid that too. I mean, it’s hard. You just do what you can and control what you can and-
Lara: Yeah, and go to the super fund website and look up where there’s a Superfund site near your house too, or prospective house. That’s also another link. Let’s kind of add another dimension or layer to our-
Dr. Maren: Let’s stick with opening your windows and taking your shoes off. So let’s go back to that list.
Dr. Maren: I want to talk about water quality.
Lara: Yes, yeah.
Dr. Maren: What do you usually recommend for that?
Lara: I’d recommend people filter their water, like point blank. And the reason for that is because we just have hundreds of chemicals, mostly unregulated that are showing up in our drinking water. You know I think that in the United States and in any other sort of big developed country, we think, oh our water quality is good because we don’t have communicable diseases. We don’t have dysentery, we don’t have typhoid, we don’t have all of those waterborne diseases that were so problematic a couple hundred years ago. A hundred years ago or so, and that we’re so advanced because we chlorinate our water. And there’re pros and cons to that. Like, yeah, great. The upshot is we don’t have dysentery. We’re not going to get cholera or typhoid from our water. Like, that’s great, and there’s a downside, right?
Dr. Maren: Or you’re going to get hypothyroidism though.
Lara: Perhaps hypothyroidism, certainly. Right? And so we have these chlorine residues in our water, those chlorine residues react with organic matter that’s just in the water naturally. And it creates these byproducts called disinfection byproducts, called trihalomethanes. Those are carcinogens. It can be reproductive toxins, and those are regulated chemicals, right? Like there are limits, and we have millions of people in the United States that are drinking water that has violated the safe water drinking act. And the safe water drinking act only regulates about 90 chemicals, but there’s hundreds in our water that are unregulated, including PFAS chemicals, including lots of different types of pesticides, all kinds of industrial compounds that are present in the water. And sometimes at quite high levels. And they’re allowed to be there because there’s no regulations to say otherwise.
Lara: And again, just because of regulation that’s in place, A- doesn’t mean that your water utility is meeting it. And B- Those levels are not health and safety levels. They’re not. They’re not levels that like epidemiologists have gotten together and said like, yes, this is the level that is safe. Those levels are negotiations between epidemiology and what is financially feasible for the government to enforce and impose on these water systems that maybe have to spend a million or $5 million updating your water filtration plant, water treatment plant, in order to meet that federal regulation.
Lara: So it’s always in negotiation. And unfortunately we’re leaning more towards being over that, those health limits, and being exposed to chemicals in the water that that can be seriously problematic. You know if you live in a community that adds fluoride to your water, or there’s naturally occurring fluoride, that is a thyroid suppressant that goes back to. Like there’s so many thyroid suppressing chemicals. It is not a surprise to me to see that we have so much hyperthyroidism, that we have so many fertility issues, that we have so many developmental issues in our children, and IQ issues, and behavioral problems, because these can be a product of low thyroid, low maternal thyroid.
Lara: And you know, that’s- Yeah. So water filtration to me is key. It’s not one of the things that I mentioned first, because it’s more expensive to address, right? It might be a couple of hundred dollars, and I’d rather have people start with a frees, and the easys, and the low cost, and then work their way up and say, okay, we’ve done those things. You feel pretty good. Next thing is, I understand. And if people have the resources and they want to say, okay, I’m just going to jump and get a water filter. Great, please go do that. If people have to kind of budget their dollars, then you know that’s maybe not the first thing. I will say that anything is better than nothing. So if somebody is like, all I can afford as a Britta. Britta is not going to do very much other than remove chlorine and reduce lead, which is important. Absolutely. You obviously also have to regularly replace those filters, which people often forget to do, but it’s better than nothing.
Dr. Maren: How does a Britta filter compare to a filter in a refrigerator? You know when people like get their water out of the fridge?
Lara: Yeah, so it’s probably the same in terms of the filter media, meaning it’s an activated carbon, but the filter and a fridge is actually a lot larger. So fridge, I mean you can’t really see because this is not video, but the fridge filter is probably about 10 inches long. And maybe two or three inches in diameter, whereas a Brita filter is like maybe two or three inches in diameter, but like two inches long, three inches long. So there’s not a lot of media in there. So the smaller the amount of media, the more frequently you have to change the filters out, but a fridge filter can be pretty good. It could get, it depends on what’s in the water in the first place. Most fridge filters basically just have carbon and that’s it. So they’re better than nothing, but they’re depending on what’s in your water.
Lara: And that might actually be sufficient, right? For some people, their water might be clean enough that they can get away with just having a good robust carbon filter. For other people they need no multiple stages because they have to remove fluoride, or they have arsenic in the water, or they have these other compounds that might be harder to address. That’s why there are options. Some people might need to get a reverse osmosis system because while those systems are more expensive and they’re also wasteful. Because sometimes it takes two to three gallons, if not more to produce one gallon of potable drinkable water. So they can be, some places don’t even allow them like in California during periods of drought. Like you’re not allowed to have a reverse osmosis system, but for some chemicals, that’s really the only way that you can address them.
Lara: So, you have to know what you’re dealing with first and the easiest way where people can learn about what’s in their water, it’s not the most information, it’s just the most accessible information. Is to look up a local water quality report. Your water municipality is legally required to produce these once a year, usually come out in like July or August. And it’s the report card for your water. Now, the reason why I say it’s not the best is because that water utility is only legally required to report on, and measure the chemicals that are regulated by the safe drinking water act. They don’t have to look at PFS levels or any of these other compounds that are technically not yet regulated or not under the purview of that law. And so A- They’re only going to report what they have to, and we have to, depending on the relative affluence of where somebody lives, that’s also going to determine how much information is in that report and what they’re testing for, and how frequently they’re testing.
Lara: So some smaller communities that don’t have a lot of resources to allocate to a water treatment plant, that water treatment or water municipality might only do spot tasks for a couple of times a year, once a year. Or they might just rely on the test data from last year because they only tested every other year. Right? And so it’s not necessarily the best information, but it’s the best free information that we have. From there [crosstalk 01:08:00] Yeah, go ahead.
Dr. Maren: I was just going to say, what do you think about the EWG tap water database?
Lara: I was going to go there. [crosstalk 01:08:05].
Dr. Maren: Yeah, okay.
Lara: So that EWG is tap water database can be a simple way where people can pull that same information up. Now EWG isn’t going out and taking water samples in cities around the world. They’re just aggregating data that’s publicly available. So again, they’re still pulling from the same pool of information that your water quality report is pulling from. So they don’t have access to like other testing. Now they do track other chemicals like PFAS chemicals, which are not currently regulated under the safe water drinking act. And they have maps of where they have higher contamination levels. So they are participating in some research. I think with Northeastern University, who’s looking at a lot of the PFS exposures that are happening particularly in water. But, so yes, people can either go Google their water quality report, and then you just put the name of your city and state. They’re also referred to as consumers.
PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:09:04]
Lara: You just put the name of your city and state. They’re also referred to as Consumer Confidence Reports, so you can look under that term or you can go to the EWG site. My recommendation, if people really, really want to be sure that they know how to filter their water is to actually test their water. And the company that I recommend to do that is called Tap Score. People can go check them out. I have a 10% off dealio, I don’t know if you guys have something like that with them as well. Tap Score is great because you can order lots of different tests. The city test, a well water tests, you can just look for pesticides, you can just look for heavy metals.
Lara: They’ve got lots of different options on their website. But they will give you a report that’s like, “Hey, here’s the levels of these chemicals, and here’s where they fall on a spectrum of concerning or not.” And what I really like about their data is they’re not going against what the Safe Water Drinking Act sets as safe, they’re looking actually at the scientific literature and saying, “Where are these chemicals regulated around the world? And what is the lowest level that’s been deemed safe by other organizations, and what does the data say?” So they’re taking a lot more rigorous look at what are the potential health effects at these doses than what the EPA has for their negotiated standards, if that makes sense.
Dr. Maren: It is so important. I used National Testing Laboratories, they’re in Michigan.
Dr. Maren: That report was good too. Tell me what you think about them.
Lara: NTL is sort of the gold standard. [inaudible 01:10:48] They are very much the gold standard. And I don’t believe that they’re doing the kind of analysis that Top Score is doing from that health perspective, if that makes sense. So National Testing Laboratories is again, still using that EPA benchmark for the Clean Water Act, but they’ve been around for decades.
Dr. Maren: Some people will just get this free test from Home Depot and they’re like, “Oh, I’m good.” And we’re like, “No, it doesn’t test enough.”
Lara: No. And that is going to… You can certainly get things like your chlorine, is something that even with Tap Score, when they send you your testing kit, you get a chlorine strip because you don’t send your water in to be tested for chlorine. You test it on the spot with a pH strip because a chlorine is volatile and it will dissipate by the time it gets to the lab. So they want to test it on the spot. But yeah, those cheapo Home Depot, Amazon water tests, don’t waste your money.
Dr. Carrasco: [crosstalk 01:11:52] not worth it.
Dr. Maren: Lara, do you have a favorite water filter system, just for people that might to purchase one?
Lara: Yes, and I do have some favorite companies. And so for example, like Pure Effect Filters is a favorite company. They’re more expensive. If somebody doesn’t have a resource limitation, then I would say, fine, just go get a pure effects filter. There’s lots of different options. You can get one that does UV filtration if you have a bacteria problem, maybe if you’re on the well water. But they are one of the best companies that I’ve seen, but it also might be overkill. So I don’t want to tell everybody like, “Oh yeah, you have to go out and buy this like $450 filter.” They’re not cheap. They’re very good. But if you don’t need that, don’t spend that money. I don’t want to encourage people to… Or I don’t want to imply by making that recommendation that the only good filter is one that costs $450. And if you don’t have that kind of money too bad for you.
Lara: Because like I said earlier, for some people, they just might need a carbon filter. And if that’s what they need, then don’t spend $150. Don’t spend $450. I have a Pure Effects Filter. I do think that they’re worth it if you have the kind of contaminants that require that degree of filtration. Certainly [inaudible 01:13:24] systems, those gravity fed systems, they have their pros and cons. They can be really great. There’s some question about their efficacy in terms of actually removing or reducing fluoride. So, Berkey’s, to me, are the best emergency water filtration system. If you live in an area like Louisiana, in new Orleans, they get these water boil notices all the time because there’s bacteria in the water because they’re living on infill, basically. And in cases like that, yeah, sure, having a non-plumbed emergency water filter, like a Berkey’s is a great idea. But again, it depends on what’s in your water. Yeah, those companies would be good options.
Dr. Maren: Awesome. I really want to pick your brain on air filters, too.
Lara: We can go there. I mean, again, this is one of those things where a good air filter costs a lot of money. They’re not cheap. It depends. I’m actually just working now on a resource on my website for air filters, but I’ve had to kind of go into the technical specs on all of these filters to be able to compare because they all have different strong points, and a good air filter, and I can qualify this a little bit more, but a good air filter is going to be able to capture both particulate matter and VOC. So particulate matter is like physical particles, so forest fire smoke that is really concerning if you live in an area that has particulate. If you’re live in an area that has pollution. Those are physical particles, and you need a HEPA filter to be able to capture those particles.
Lara: Now, there’s different grades of HEPA filtration. To be considered a true HEPA… Don’t buy any filter that’s like, “HEPA-like,” that’s not real. It’s just marketing. You want the claim to be that it’s a true HEPA filter, which filters, I think, it’s 99.7% of particulate matter down to three microns. Sorry, 0.3 microns. And that’s going to capture a good amount of stuff, but there are also filters that will capture down to .007 microns, or 0.003 microns, which means they’re going to be way more effective at capturing far more of that particulate matter. So, if somebody’s dealing with respiratory issues that are triggered by particulate matter, you want a really good filter that’s going to do a good job at that. If somebody’s dealing with multiple chemical sensitivities, or they have a lot of off gassing materials in their house, they want to have a filter that has activated charcoal or carbon, because that’s going to capture gases, VOCs.
Lara: And so, if you want the best filter, it has to have both. And the amount of carbon needs to be substantial. So a lot of the filters on the market these days have this really thin layer of granular charcoal. That’s helpful, but it’s not really going to do a great job in the long-term when it comes to large amounts of VOCs. So this is where filters like Austin Air, and IQAir, and I think IntelePeer has, has an option as well. They have sometimes 12 to 15 pounds of activated charcoal in their filter. That’s what you’re really looking for if you have the OCs, despite what all the marketing will tell you.
Dr. Maren: So, what do you think about the whole thing about the UV light, or the PECO technology?
Lara: Oh, yeah. So, the PCO, or PCO, which stands for Photo Electric Oxidation… Something. Photocatalytic Oxidation, PCO, or PECO, that is a technology that produces hydroxyls, which it’s referred to as hydroxyl technology. And it’s super popular, it’s what the Molekule air filter uses. I actually bought a Molekule, and then promptly sold it because I’d actually found, and I learned this backwards, meaning I learned it experientially first. And then I looked at the research second. So, what happens is when these blue light, these UV lights are activated, the filter, that’s what quote kills the bacteria or the mold, or disassembles these chemicals into these inner parts, et cetera. But that technology actually releases compounds into the air. And in particular, like titanium dioxide.
Lara: And when I owned my Molekule, the blue light is intermittent, so it cycles on and cycles off throughout the day, unless you have it in the sleep mode, in which case it doesn’t turn on at all. But I would be able to walk into my bedroom where I had the filter, and know that the light was on before I could even see the unit, because my room smelled of this weird acid-y chemical smell that was really gross. I hated it. And I called the company and they were like, “Oh, that’s really weird. That shouldn’t happen. Let’s send you a new filter.” They sent me a new filter, and I had to let the filter off gas because the filter stank my whole office up. And I was like, “I don’t even want to put this in the machine because it’s smells so strong,” and when I told them that they were like, “Oh, that’s really weird.” Except, I went online and found this whole sub Reddit all about people’s experiences and people actually measuring. And I was like, “Oh, you do know about this. You’re just playing dumb.” And I was quite bothered by that. So it’s a $700 paperweight. If you have one, see if you can sell it. If you don’t have one, don’t buy one.
Dr. Maren: I have several thousand dollars tied up in my Molekules.
Lara: And I didn’t know that [crosstalk 01:19:41].
Dr. Maren: I knew the answer to your question before we went down that route, so don’t worry, I’ve already been thinking about that.
Lara: This is where it really does suck because we have these new technologies that come out, and then we were dazzled by the cool design and it’s really minimal. It’s like the Apple computer of air filters because it’s sexy looking, and their marketing is really beautiful, and their website is really beautiful. And we get dazzled by those things, and I certainly got dazzled by that. And I was like, “Oh yeah, I’m going to have an air filter? I want a cool air filter. I don’t want an ugly air filter. I want a cool one.”
Lara: And that’s where I got sucked in, and I read through their website, I read through their white papers, and I was like, “Oh, okay. This sounds legit.” And for some people, here’s the thing. For some people, I’ve heard lots of anecdotal reports of people who are like, “Yes, since I got this filter, I sleep better. I don’t have as many allergies.” I want to be like, “Look, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it’s working for you, and you feel better, and you don’t notice this chemical smell when the blue light is activated, you can also just not use the blue light.” The problem is by not using the blue light, you’re actually negating the purported benefit of the filter because they don’t have any carbon in that machine, and I think the filter inside is a HEPA. I’m not entirely sure if it actually is.
Dr. Maren: It’s not. I don’t think it is.
Lara: Yeah, but, there are lots of other PCO technology air filters out there. They’re certainly not the only one. And that’s the red flag that I look for on any machine is if they have that technology, it’s a no, unless you can turn that feature off, but typically you can’t, because it’s built into the whole purpose of the machine and that’s their main marketing angle is that they can destroy viruses and bacteria and… At a cost.
Dr. Maren: Yep. Totally. Yeah. Oh my gosh. So much stuff. Alex, can you think of any sort of last questions you want to ask?
Dr. Carrasco: No. I’m just so impressed and thankful with your encyclopedic knowledge. We’re going to have to have you on again.
Lara: Yeah. I mean, I’m happy to come back. You know, I jokingly sometimes say that I know too much to live in the world with ease, but there is also a balance, and I think this may be a good way to wrap things up for people. I think there is a balance with how we take this information, and how we respond to it, how we respond and react to it. And what I don’t want anybody to do is react with panic because, at the end of the day, one more day, or one more week of doing the thing that you’ve been doing is not going to make or break you. It’s not going to be the difference between one outcome, or another generally speaking. And so, it goes back to what we said earlier, that it’s what we do every day that matters, not what we do every once in awhile.
Lara: And so, if we can start gradually making changes that shift us into this space of reducing exposures, and we can say, “Okay, well, look, I changed the things that I can control. I’m not going to worry about the things that I can’t. I’m going to know that there’s exposures that I’m going to get, and I’m not going to worry about them. Not going to get anxious, or overwhelmed, or panicky about them, because we’re all doing the best that we can in a toxic world.” And that’s our goal, is to just do the best that we can, and also just remind people that stress is toxic and being so hyper stressed out, and anxious, and obsessive about everything being non-toxic is also a form of stress. And so, I want to encourage people to, and it’s hard in the beginning, and I understand that, but to take this information in and then go, “Okay, now that I know this, it sucks, and I’m going to have to change some things. Let me create a game plan for how I can start changing things.”
Lara: And then, the nice thing is about when, once you’ve adopted this way of living where you’re going, “Oh, okay, I’m going to prioritize buying my food in glass jars versus plastic. I’m not going to buy these personal care products.” And we didn’t even get into personal care products and household cleaners, that’s a whole nother space, but once you start shifting your buying habits, you don’t really have to think about it anymore. I literally never think about for me, personally, exposures to skincare products, or to makeup, or to household cleaners, it literally doesn’t occupy any brain space because I’ve made the change. I made the change years ago, and I just stay consistent. And what happens over time is your olfactory palette will change.
Lara: So in the same way that if you’re used to eating Fritos and soda, and of course, vegetables and healthy food is going to taste bland because you’re reading this hyper palatable food, but eventually your palette will shift, and you’ll start to appreciate the subtle flavors of a really ripe tomato, or whatever. The same thing happens with your olfactory senses, meaning your sense of smell is that if you’re used to having the scented candles and the air fresheners, and that’s just normal, it’s going to take a little while, but eventually you will respond really differently when you encounter those fragrances again and go, “Oh, my God. How did I ever use this stuff? This is so overwhelming.”
Dr. Maren: Yes, yeah, totally.
Lara: And I think that that’s a good thing because we’re tuning into the sensitive messages, the warning signs our body is giving us to say like, “Hey, maybe that headache that you just got from walking down the cleaning aisle is not a good thing. So maybe don’t go down that cleaning aisle, i.e., don’t buy the products that you can find there. So, it’s a process to shift towards what are the better choices? Once you make those choices, you don’t really have to think about them anymore. And it’s wonderful. Then you’re like, “Cool. I don’t have to think about that.” And then it’s just not a weight on your shoulders.
Dr. Maren: Yeah. Totally. Start with cheap and easy. And I love, I mean, your Instagram account is so great and so informative, but also, I just love the way that you approach it in a positive way. You’re not making people super anxious. It’s not super negative. It’s just like small changes in the right directions. Not going to be perfect, but we got to do something. So, bravo for that.
Lara: Well, thank you. I don’t think there’s any other way to do it, frankly, and I’ve seen people try and it’s never received well when people are, are just scaremongering, and I don’t think that’s helpful. We already live in an age when we’re so overwhelmed, and anxious, and fearful of lots of other things. Let’s not add this to the list, and let’s actually approach it with some level-headedness and, okay, of course, we’re always going to get a little bit like, “Ooh, I didn’t know that. Yikes.” Tomorrow’s a new day and we can change things starting tomorrow.
Dr. Maren: I want you to tell our listeners where they can find you, and in particular, if there are health professionals listening, what kind of offerings you have.
Lara: Yeah, absolutely. So, certainly anybody can come and follow me on Instagram @environmentaltoxinsnerd. Like Christine just said, I share a ton of info there regularly. People can also check out my website, which is LauraAdler.com, L-A-R-A-A-D-L-E-R.com for people that are just trying to make healthier choices, you can go to the shop section of my site about lots of product recommendations there. So people are like, “Ah, I don’t know what I should buy.” I got you.
Lara: If there are health professionals that are listening, they can definitely come and check out my courses. I’ve got a whole bunch of courses, all really designed for health professionals [crosstalk 01:27:54] licensed, unlicensed, all modalities, to really help them understand how these exposures are associated with, linked with, the kinds of chronic health issues that they’re going to be seeing in their clients and patients. And then how do we navigate this conversation with them? What are all of these avoidance behaviors that we can practice?
Lara: And then also, how do we talk about it in our businesses in a way that also doesn’t overwhelm and scare people, because as you can tell, it’s not just what we share, it’s how we share that makes such a big difference. And so, that is something that I do in my classes, and I’ve got my flagship talking toxins course, which is a five week professional training. That is where most of my students start that really covers all of this low hanging fruit. A lot of what we kind of skimmed over today really goes into depth in that, and fully cited research for all of the research junkies and nerds out there. That’s my style. So yeah, people can come check those out at LaraAdler.com. And if anybody ever has any questions on courses or anything like that, my inbox is always open.
Dr. Maren: Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for all of this information.
Lara: [crosstalk 01:29:09] You’re welcome.
Dr. Maren: It is pretty awesome.
Dr. Maren: And people, if you’re listening, share it with your friends, because everybody needs this.
Lara: That’s right. [crosstalk 01:29:18]
Lara: All right. Until next time. Thank you.
Dr. Carrasco: All right. Thank you.
PART 4 OF 4 ENDS [01:29:24]