Hey, Green Junkie!
You hear a lot of talk about chemicals that are lurking in almost everything we use on a daily basis. From the clothes we wear, to the dishes we eat off of – it’s a given that there is probably something somewhere that is harmful to our hormones, our mental health and our bodies.
But how do we know what to look for? How do we avoid these chemicals that seem to be in everything? What do we even look for and where do we even start?
To help curb the overwhelm, I am speaking to the PFAS expert, Leah Segedie and she is taking our hand and walking us through this confusing, chemically laden, world we find ourselves in.
This podcast episode was so good we had to break it up into two parts. So this week you’ll get introduced to PFAS and see some ways to avoid them and then we will take a deeper dive next week in part 2.
You won’t want to miss part 1 where we discuss,
- What are PFAS
- Where you find the highest amount of PFAS
- What you should avoid bringing into your home
- What investigations into hundreds of products found
You’ll discover that and so much more in this episode.
If you love this podcast be sure to leave a review and share a screenshot of this episode to your IG stories. Tag @thisisstephaniemoram so I can shout you out and publicly say thanks.
Thanks for listening and being here.
Your green bestie,
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Produced by: Alecia Harris
Music By: Liz Fohle
TRANSCRIPT FOR EPISODE 51
Stephanie Moram 0:07
Hi, Green Junkie, I'm your host Stephanie Moram and today I have the pleasure of speaking with Leah Segetie all about PFAS the forever chemical. She's gonna go into a way more details about these specific chemicals. So Leah helps women make safer consumer choices for their families. She's a consumer watchdog, author, activist, community organizer and strategist. We have founded the award winning consumer activist website, mamavation.com and the leading eco friendly influencer conference called Shift Con Social Media Conference. She also wrote a book called Green Enough, eat better, live cleaner, be happier, all without driving your family crazy.
Stephanie Moram 0:49
If you love learning new ways you can reduce your impact on the environment. Please subscribe to green junkie on whatever platform you get your podcasts. That way, you will never miss another green living episode. Hi, Leah, thank you so much for being here. I'm so excited to have this conversation with you because I know it is going to help so many people.
Leah Segedie 1:12
Thank you so much for having me, Stephanie. It's a pleasure to be here.
Stephanie Moram 1:15
Of course. So first things first, I'd love for you to just tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and kind of how you got started with all of this.
Leah Segedie 1:25
Oh, gosh. Okay, well, I guess what you could call me is, like you said before, I'm a consumer watchdog for families. And I'm obsessed with researching things. I'm obsessed with writing, organizing, and being an activist of green living principles, you know, clean, healthy, safe food and consumer products. That is totally my jam. But and when I was a little girl, I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles called Glendale. And with a large extended family, lot of close cousins, and I was kind of like Lisa Simpson meets Nancy Drew, but with red hair and freckles and really high intense ADHD. So if you can imagine that, so my mom's threw me in softball to get all my energy out. And so I was playing softball, but also playing the violin, which is totally like crazy. My mom was always worried about me breaking my fingers. So I couldn't finger the violin, you know. And so I went to college, I graduated summa cum laude from USC, spoke at graduation, got a master's degree also at USC. And so I'm trained to communicate really complicated issues effectively to a large audience is essentially what I can do, and organize people around really passionate topics and use technology in creative ways.
Leah Segedie 2:41
So you can see, you know, what I'm trying to do, I'm doing it today. I spent a few years in politics, worked for different elected officials, did political fundraising, hated all of that then went into corporate PR hated corporate PR. And then I got married and had my first child. But while all that was happening, my father was dying of mesothelioma cancer. So that really changed my life and the trajectory of what I thought my future was going to be. And, you know, after my dad died, it really synced into me about the importance of family and the importance of health. So instead of going back out to work, I decided to stay home and start up my own online business instead. And fast forward. 16 years later, here I am sitting doing mamavation. And mamavation is basically you know, I'm a consumer watchdog, I consumer, I do a lot of commission, a lot of Consumer Studies, looking into all kinds of products that you would buy and food that you would bring into your house, most of what we do consumer products on is PFAS. And that's lately, my obsession.
Leah Segedie 3:50
So I get obsessed over some things. And then I kind of like chew it up until it's done, and then walk on to the next thing. Well, I'm not done chewing up the PFAS yet. And let's hope I don't actually adjust it, you know. But you know, it's just the point is I really just want to make life easier for women with families. You know, let me stress out about these things. Take it to all my scientific advisors mull it around and come up with solutions for you. You don't have to worry about it, I want to worry about it for you. And in that time, we've tested over 350 products for indications of PFAS. And I found a lot of it unexpected places. And you know, right now I'm partnered with environmental health news and Carnegie Mellon University and their Institute for green science on a lot of our investigations that we do under PFAS. So that's kind of what I've been up to and I'm really short synapse. Okay. Was that was that was that concise enough for you? Perfect diarrhea of the mouth here, you know.
Stephanie Moram 4:46
And so I guess my first question is, you know, some people don't even know what PFAS are, right? So they're just like, Okay, how do you spell that? What are they? Why are they bad? Why are you even talking about it? First of all, it's spelled PFAS, for those wondering what it's like acronym is, but like, I'd love for you to just kind of talk about them like what they are, why are they bad.
Leah Segedie 5:09
So these are perfluorinated chemicals. And essentially, it's not just one chemical, there are over 12,000 chemicals in this chemical class that is referred to as PFAS. You know, it's everything from Teflon pans, so the Teflon to GoreTex, to what we remember as Stainmaster carpets, it is all of those chemicals that are water resistant, oil resistant and stain resistance. Now, you know, there are amazing pieces of chemistry that we've been using for decades. And they're really, really useful for what they do. However, the problem is, they're they're persistent, meaning they don't break down. And when I say that some of them we don't even know how long it's going to take for them to break down. And they're incredibly toxic. Linda Birnbaum, who was one of my advisors just gave me a quote that said, they impact almost every organ of your body. And they're ubiquitous, meaning like they're everywhere. And this is why they're dubbed forever chemicals.
Leah Segedie 6:10
And in terms of, you know, health problems, it runs the gamut with all kinds of things. But one of the biggest issues with PFAS t is the reduction in immunity. And so right now times, you know, we've got COVID, we've got all these things happening, you really need an immune system, and PFAS lowers and reduces your immune system. So much in fact that it has you actually have a reduced vaccination response. So they've done studies with children and their vaccination response versus the level of perfluorinated chemicals that they have in their body. The higher the level, the less your immune system can handle, the less your vaccine will work. Now, whether people are vaccinated or not, you still need an immune system. So PFAS is just really bad.
Leah Segedie 6:55
Other things it does is it you know, it brings out like it makes you fatter, it you know, it increases your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, it also impacts growth and development for children. So every marker that you have as a child, all of those developmental markers can be missed or adjusted later. It increased the risk of allergies and asthma and children, it lowers your chance of getting pregnant for both men and women. So women getting pregnant and men being able to father children, increases the chances of miscarriage, it lowers sperm count. It even is it's even linked to smaller penis size in baby boys that have been impacted by PFAS in the womb. It even goes down to that. And then we're talking about cancers like kidney cancer, testicular cancer, all kinds of different cancers, and cholesterol levels. So it's kind of like you know, and that's not even everything that it does. This is just kind of like the small list. So when Linda Birnbaum said, it impacts almost every organ of your body, that's what this is about. So it's not just a class of chemicals that we don't have to worry about. It's a class of chemicals that stays in your body. Now, some of these chemicals stay in for months, some of them stay in for decades. And so the point is, you don't want to put more in your body. So it's good to just avoid them in general, as much as you possibly can.
Stephanie Moram 8:21
And so when it comes to PFAS so you're talking about all the things that, you know, is basically detrimental to our health. Yeah, so where do we find them? You know, so how do I know if I buying a product that has PFAS on it?
Leah Segedie 8:39
Okay, so it's probably easier to figure out things that have a large amount of PFAS in it. But it's really difficult to figure out what has trace amounts, you know, and so it's the difference between something that has like 94 parts, 94 million part 1000 parts per million versus 10 parts per million, something that has a lot you can probably avoid. And like for instance, with cookware, cookware is one of those big categories where you can bring it into your home. Just avoid anything that says nonstick right? So the nonstick cookware is very likely to have a PFAS chemical coded over it, and over time they break down and crack and get into your food.
Leah Segedie 9:25
Another place is clothing. You've seen stain resistant clothing and you've seen like jackets and raincoats you know like how the water just kind of drips off of it. There is a lot of issues with our clothing. So avoid anything that's water resistant or stain resistant. Textiles and fabrics so when we're talking about furniture inside your home, again, you want to avoid stain resistant treatment, water resistant treatment type of fabrics, carpeting and flooring. Stainmaster carpet is a great example of something you want to avoid you know Um but not all carpets have this now some carpets do not add it so you can look into, you know, the marketing and seeing what they're saying about that flooring is the same idea.
Leah Segedie 10:11
Food packaging. Food packaging is another area where fast food wrappers a lot of different fast food and wrappers and processed food wrappers, takeout containers, those types of things. Parchment paper, you know, there's a lot of different types of food packaging. So in the sense of food, the what you make and process in your kitchen from whole ingredients, the safer you will be from this from this contaminant, the less you eat outside of the house, the safer you will be from this contaminants. So that's that's kind of how that works.
Leah Segedie 10:45
There's personal care products. We're finding it in makeup, tampons, feminine care pads to floss, toilet paper, all kinds of things. In terms of personal care products, it's very difficult. I'm doing a lot of investigations right now in that area where I'm testing tampons, you know, pads to floss toilet paper, you know, makeup, it's in places that you would never think of. So I would highly suggest your audience, if you're looking for green beauty makeup, go to my website, we we investigated and looked at over 100 different products and so found some really good brands and some brands that need a lot of work. So and you don't always know because the vast majority of these brands are not putting it on the ingredient list. So personal care is difficult. We're going to be coming out with a tampon and a feminine care pad and to floss and toilet paper investigation closer to the end of the summer in the fall. So if your audience watches my site, I will have a lot of information on that as we're testing. The other thing to think about is like things like wax like car wax and snowboard wax. If it doesn't say it doesn't have PFAS if it says nothing about it, assume it has it. Look for brands that actually say no PFAS.
Leah Segedie 11:58
Drinking water, it can show up in drinking water. How does it get in drinking water? It gets in drinking water because over decades, there's been use of this firefighting foam. That's a grease firefighting foam in military bases and airports. And they've been using it quite a bit. Well, it had PFAS in it, the use and millions and millions of pounds of that sprayed has seeped down into the groundwater. And depending on where you live, and especially if you're close to a military base, or an airport, you may have this in your groundwater. And printers or something similar with printers, printers also use a lot of it. So how do you find out about that, check your local drinking water agency, they've probably done some testing on some basic ones. And then if you don't know, go get a you know, you can go to our site. And there's been we've we covered a bunch of investigations that were done independently on all kinds of different water filters and what was able to take out PFAS and what was not. And then because there's 12,000, you know, different chemicals, some of them are good with a couple of them, but not the whole shebang. So those types of things are important.
Leah Segedie 13:04
I talked again about processed food. And when we're finding an unprocessed food, it's not there on purpose, it's there as a contaminant. So it's there at low levels. And in terms of food, what it's really happening is it's in the manufacturing. So when you're avoiding, you know, Teflon pans, that doesn't necessarily mean that the manufacturing plant is avoiding Teflon coated equipment. And so there's that that we have to contend with. There's lubricated are fluorinated lubricants that they apply to the machinery that is gets into the air and drops down into the food. So there's all kinds of ways that it can get into your food. And it's, it's considered an indirect additive by the FDA. So the FDA understands that these chemicals can be in your food and trace amounts. It's just that I don't believe they should be there.
Leah Segedie 13:53
So that's one of the reasons why I do so many food investigations so that I can show people which which brands are really looking out for you in terms of this chemical and which ones are just kind of like sailing past and hoping we don't look there's like metal plating semiconductors, lubrication, coating additives, like a lot of industrial you should uses a PFAS. Plumbing and electrical applications plumbers are actually one of the trades that is most impacted by PFAS on a daily basis based on what they're using every day on to fix the pipes and pull them up.
Leah Segedie 14:27
And then another place that we're finding them is farmland, and this is the really awful part. So remember how I said PFAS is persisted as in it doesn't go away? Well, they're now finding pee fast in the soil of organic farms. There was an organic farm it's called Songbird farm in Maine. And they tested their soil and found an incredible amount of PFAS in the soil and then they test their vegetables and they found it in there. And how did this happen? They didn't put it there. Well, the farmer that owned the land 20 years before they purchased it, use something called biosolids, and biosolids have a lot of nutrients in them. And they're sold by water treatment plants. And so when your water is treated and you know, it's filtered, all that gunk that comes out of our waters, like pharmaceutical drugs and all kinds of nasty stuff, and PFAS is included in that, they sell it back to farmers as quote, unquote biosolids, and these biosolids would have nutrients that the soil needs, but it also comes with a lot of contaminants, right. So these farmers have been spreading biosolids on land for decades. And we've only just recently realized that it doesn't go anywhere in the soil. And so if there's an organic farm that purchases land that was spread with biosolids, 20 years prior, if they didn't check the soil, they may be producing, you know, their organic fruits and vegetables in PFAS contaminated soil. So it stays there for decades. And in some cases, we don't know when it's going to disappear.
Leah Segedie 16:05
So that's kind of like it, there's a lot, you know, it's kind of like everything that is touching you everything around you. Which is again, why I do all these investigations. Because I want to say well, where don't tell me everywhere. It's not literally everywhere. Where is it? And so, you know, that's one of the reasons why, you know, I started testing things, you know, we started with parchment paper, and I just figured, oh, it's nonstick, I want to know. And so we tested like five, six different brands of parchment paper and found it in, I believe, three, three different brands out of those six brands. And so we looked into tomato and pasta sauces, and I tested 55 products, we ended up finding it in four of those 55 products. Ironically, all four of those products were organic brands. We did nut butters, I tested 33 different nut butters that recently was up on the site, we found it in four brands, and that would been 12% of those nut butters. ketchups was really bad. We ended up testing 12 ketchups. And we found it in 65% of store bought ketchups. And so it was eight out of the 12 I would say go for the organic Heinz all the way or the whole foods organic all the way when you go for ketchup, but it's really scary with the rest of them.
Leah Segedie 17:22
You know, we looked at we also looked at yoga pants that went viral. We found it in the crotch of we tested 31 Different yoga pants, we found it in eight of those yoga pants in the crotch. So it seemed to me like it was intentionally added since it wasn't anywhere but the crotch. We tested sports bras 23 different sports bras, and we found it and 65% of sports bras. And it was in that material that's right next to your nipple. So you know how like you wear it. And there's like the outer and the inner. It was in the inner sheath. And so that was a red flag for me for Nursing Mothers. We looked at green beauty makeup, we've tested over 100 different green beauty makeup products. Why did I test green beauty and not regular makeup. Because my audience doesn't buy regular makeup, they just wanted to know about green beauty makeup. So I make sure everything is relevant for us. And we found it in 65% of those green beauty products in trace amounts. And it went from a very small amount to what the heck is going on here amounts. And the brands it seems as if they're not adding it intentionally. They're just not looking out for this as much. But after my investigation hit, they started testing I'll tell you that that that started happening right away.
Leah Segedie 18:36
Bamboo flooring we've tested so if your audience is interested in bamboo flooring, we have the one brand that we didn't find any detectable PFAS and their their coating and period underwear. That was a big one as well. We tested 21 different period underwear brands, found it in 65% of those brands. And so I believe there's six or seven very clean brands that we highlighted on in our different investigations. And again, I'm doing right now I've got toilet paper tampons, I've got feminine pads behind me to floss and strollers are gonna go up today. So I'm really, really, really busy with these investigations. I've sent between 350 and 400 different products to the EPA certified lab over the last two years to to put these investigations together. And I'm obsessed, I'm never going to stop.
Stephanie Moram 19:25
Well, thank you for everything that you do. I think I can speak for everybody. Maybe not everybody but a large amount of people that are grateful that you're doing these studies because like, you know, my daughter is 11 and she doesn't have her period, but she will get her period. And I was like I remember having a conversation with you probably like a year or two ago and you're like, watch over the period underwear like and so I was so grateful when it came up. So I'm like now I know what to look for when he's going to probably wear a period underwear, you know, and it's just, there's just, it's, you know, for everyone that's listening now take a deep breath Take a deep breath. Listen to it over again, this part of the episode. And it's not all doom and gloom. It's not all doom and gloom.
Leah Segedie 20:09
Right! Cause we're fighting a lot of safe products through this, you know, but I really feel like, you know, my advisor said to me, oh my gosh, it's everywhere. And I said, it can't be literally everywhere, it's got to be a range. And so that's why I'm so like obsessed over, you know, testing all the different categories of things that you know, my audience, and I'm sure your audience eats a lot of like nut butters, or like cooking oils, or like, you know, what have you? Because the answer is it's not everywhere, but the answer is it is in certain places. But I feel like if if consumers know where it is, avoid those brands, let them know why they're avoiding them, I promise you, those brands will start to reformulate and fix their issues. And this is a lot of this is a manufacturing issue, like when we're talking about trace amounts and brands that don't realize that it's in their, their products, it's because it's increased amounts, it's because it's manufacturing, they can switch manufacturing plants, they can they can change things behind the scenes, but they're not going to have a reason to do it unless we start speaking up and telling them this is important to us. So that's why I'm so obsessed with this, I feel like I can clean this up, not like clean up the whole industry. But this is really something that I personally can make a big dent in and I'm just I'm happy to do that.
Stephanie Moram 21:31
So before besides mamavation, where they can like find all like the research, is there anywhere else you want to send them like I know, we'll put the Facebook group in the show notes, you know, motivation, where all the research is like, where can they find you on social media?
Leah Segedie 21:43
Well, I'm on Instagram, at mamvation on Instagram. I'm only there like a quarter of a time I spend three fourths of my time on Facebook, which Yes, I know, I'm still on Facebook. And because we have this really, really active group there. So I would just encourage people to you know, we've got 200,000 Facebook fans on Facebook, but the real special sauce is in the Facebook group. And that's a small group that we have, it's like under just under 10,000. And I spent a lot of time there. And that's where I really get my inspiration of women and you know, this tells me what your problem is and how I can solve it. And if we have enough women that are agreeing, I'm like I'm off to the races and so that's that's just what I live for I live to be useful I live to be helpful. I just love solving people's problems and you know, I'm just obsessed with different things like that. And so if I can combine my my skill sets all together, you know writing speaking, you know ideas, creative uses of technology, you know, organizing and solve these problems and make an impact I you know, I'm going to do it. So that's that's where I am. So Facebook, Instagram, I'm also on Twitter, but I'm not on Twitter very often you can find me at mamavation. I also have my private account is buki boo. So you can find me bukiboo on Twitter. But don't be mad at me. If you tweet at me and I don't get back to you for like six days or something. Although I used to be on Twitter quite a bit, I used to be considered a Twitter Liberty back in the day. I mean, they had that as a title. It was funny, but yeah, it totally was. Today, that's not so much the case. I'm spending more times on and I'm not on tik tok yet. I mean, everyone's kicking me because they're like, you have to be on tik tok, oh, my God, and I'm just let me take a breather. And when I get over there, I'll finally get over there. But I'm over there as like benchmark, but I'm not like doing anything yet. So Facebook and Instagram will be the places to find me. You can always find me on my website as well.
Stephanie Moram 23:40
Well, thank you so much for chatting with me for the last little bit like I really, really appreciate it packed with so much information that people are gonna have to like listen to this like five times. So thank you for being on with me.
Leah Segedie 23:54
Oh, it's my pleasure, Stephanie. Thank you so much for having me.
Stephanie Moram 23:57
So for more sustainable and non toxic living inspiration, I have a couple of other episodes you might want to listen to number 36 which is the truth behind your hair dye with Lindsaya. Number 31. What's really hiding in your home with Lonnie Brown, and number 24 which is a solo episode. What is greenwashing? Stay connected with me on Instagram and tick tock @thisisstephaniemoram. And don't forget to subscribe to the Green Junkie podcast on the platform you're listening on. Thank you for listening and I'll see you next Tuesday Green Junkie.