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Detoxify Your Community

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The Urban Monk – Stop The Poison with Guests from Non-Toxic Irvine

You can make change happen in your community

You don’t have to be famous or an expert about something to rock the boat in your community if you know something is wrong. You can be a concerned citizen/parent like my guests were today to make people take notice. When parents in my local community found out that glyphosate was being sprayed all over town and putting our kids in danger, they did something about it.  It all started with one mom who got it banned in her neighborhood with the HOA, then word of mouth spread to another parent who went to the PTA…and the ball got rolling.

When the research showed half of the active ingredients in Agent Orange is what was being sprayed at the local baseball parks and schools to get rid of weeds…major panic kicked in. What loving parent wants their kid playing in dirt like that? The chemicals are really toxic and bad bad news.

So this group of concerned parents got really lucky when they reached out to an Advisor who was a Professor at UC Irvine, Dr. Bruce Blumberg who was willing to help. He’s an expert in this field and knows that these chemicals disrupt the natural function of the endocrine system and how devastating the harm can be to our health. It’s not about what this is exposure is going to do in 3 days…but what about 10, 20, 30 years down the line? That is the focus and why it’s so important to do something to change it now.

There are some really fascinating steps in the process of how this tireless group of parents made real change and got the crap banned from our city! Big kudos to them. Take some time and watch the video because it’s a really testament that we can all do something to make the world a better place.

To Learn More, Visit The Non-Toxic Irvine Website

Do You Know What Chemicals Your Children Are Exposed To? - @NontoxicI via @PedramShojai

Notes for the Show:

Pedram:
Hey, welcome back to the Urban Monk. I’m here with three individuals today. I read an article about this a while back and then I emailed our show producer and said, “Please, get me these people. This is fascinating stuff.” Why? Because there’s a group of concerned parents in the town that I live in that said, “Hey, wait a minute. There’s glyphosate. There’s all sorts of crazy things that are being sprayed on public lands and they’re putting our kids in danger,” and so they went after it. They went after the city council. They went after the mayor, and they got the stuff banned.

They partnered up with Dr. Bruce Blumberg, who is a local university professor. They armed themselves with data. They went in there and they got it done. I want you to watch this. I want you to pay close attention. I want you to then think about what you can do in your community to make the same change happen. These people are going to help you. Enjoy the show.

We’re going to be talking about parents and what parents can do. For me, there’s also this mama bear energy which is one of the most powerful things out there on the planet.

Bruce:
It is the most powerful.

Ayn:
90% of people who responded to our survey were women who clicked through on our links and on all our campaigns. It’s definitely women who participate in this kind of thing.

Pedram:
Guys just don’t give a shit. It’s really hard. It’s the same thing in the doctor’s office right. It’s like, “My wife made me come,” right?

Bruce:
I think it’s the mom’s care more.

Ayn:
We’re invested.

Pedram:
Well, when we talked about this earlier, it was my wife was going to go onto the board, right? I’m over here. I love this stuff. I kind of put my wife forward to go do that stuff. Maybe it’s just old division of labor stuff that’s hanging around. I care a lot about this, but my wife will draw a knife over this. Like, “Don’t mess with my cubs.”

Bruce:
Exactly.

Pedram:
I’m just so enthused about what you all have done. This isn’t some sort of huge lobby that you put together. This isn’t some mass organization thing. Got a couple of concerned moms who then went and found a local university professor and said, “Hey, this looks kind of scary. We don’t want this around our kids.” Can you give me just a little bit of the background on how this came together?

Ayn:
Chronologically speaking, that’s not exactly how it happened. You got the gist of it right. Basically, we have five board members and we all came together mostly last September is when we really started working together hard on this issue. We’d each been thinking about it and working on it in our own ways. I, within my HOA, had seen the use of these chemical pesticides in my neighborhood and was really concerned about it. I had made enough noise about it and helped them to stop using them in my neighborhood and then, because of that noise that I had made, someone that I knew from my daughter’s school connected me with another woman who had been working in the Irvine PTA on the issue. That woman’s name is Kathleen Hallal and she brought a lot of us together. Kim connected with her also and then a dad who was important also. That’s how we found each other. After we connected, then we sat down and looked at what was happening in the school district in particular. That’s where we started initially as our goal was to stop the use of these chemicals at the schools where it’s obviously very concerning to have your kids exposed.

As we started to think about it, we said, well, why not the city too? Then down the list. Why not round up the whole … Pardon the expression.

Bruce:
Collect. Organize.

Pedram:
In schools they’re, obviously, kept in captivity so you’ve got these chemicals. Your kids are exposed to them and you don’t really have a choice. They’re just going to take the burden. Let’s draw a circle around these chemicals. What is it that you’ve identified are the really big bad guys that most of these schools or municipalities are spraying?

Kim:
Glyphosate and my sons, I have two boys at Canyon View, and they were marking the track for them to run. We’re encouraging them to be in this 100 mile club program to go out and get exercise. They were literally just spraying a track with Roundup, glyphosate. It was just…

Pedram:
Come on.

Bruce:
To kill the grass, seriously.

Kim:
Just so they knew where to run.

Pedram:
If the kids running on the grass won’t do it.

Kim:
I started doing my research on it and that’s when I got upset. The president of the PTA at Canyon View put me in touch with Kathleen, but I think the biggest thing for me is when I found out they were using 2,4D on Harvard Baseball Park. I have a six year old and a nine year old that slide in the dirt, playing in the dirt, they inhale the dirt and I left that meeting crying.

Pedram:
2,4D for our audience.

Kim:
Agent Orange.

Ayn:
Well, 2,4D is half of the active ingredients in Agent Orange. It’s in a product called Speedzone and that also contains a number of other really toxic ingredients. Dicamba, mecoprop and a few others too.

Kim:
Some they don’t list.

2,4D Is A Common Pesticide, Which Is Present In Agent Orange - @NontoxicI via @PedramShojai

Ayn:
Yeah. Inert ingredients also, which they say are inert, which is part of the problem. That any, and Dr. Blumberg can talk about this, but any pesticide that is registered they evaluate the single ingredient, but then not the other ingredients that are in the formulation and the interactions between them. While 2,4D is toxic on it’s own, how toxic is it when used in combination with Roundup and dicamba and these other things. The answer is, we don’t know.

Kim:
It was purely for weed abatement. It was purely for cosmetic reasons.

Pedram:
Aesthetics, yeah.

Bruce:
To get rid of dandelions because they don’t look pretty in the field.

Pedram:
Dandelions are not part of our urban planning here so let’s just be clear. Nature’s ugly. Right? It’s this weird thing about stewardship over nature. This is how I want this park to look.

So, what are we talking about? I’m Kim and the group come to you and you’re a professor at UC Irvine.

Bruce:
UC Irvine, yeah.

Pedram:
You have looked at all this and you’re on the front lines of it. What is this stuff?

Kim:
Real quick, to back up. We were lucky enough to find Bruce, but we originally, when we formed as a team, we knew we wanted to have a brand. We wanted everybody, if they saw a Facebook post or if they saw a flyer from us, we wanted them to be able to find us, know that we’re the same group and they can reach out to us. We actually found Little Things Matter, a video that Dr. Bruce Lanphear did and I contacted him just asking if we could possibly use his logo, which is the child which shows the body burden. Each dot represents the chemicals and everything they were mentioning and how they, from conception until death, how they’re in our system. We just thought that would be great for our logo. He said, “Not only can you use it, I’ll have my brother, who’s a graphic designer, do the logo for you and I’d be happy to be your advisor.” That’s what started it all. His really close friend, Dr. Dean Baker, who’s at UCI, he said, “He’s local. Reach out to him.” We talked to Dr. Baker and he’s like, “I’ll be your advisor too. Let’s have a meeting.” Then…

Bruce:
You found me.

Kim:
…we contacted Bruce. We were lucky. We’re batting a thousand. We had these dream experts on our panel.

Pedram:
I don’t know how lucky you are. Listen, there’s this team good and everyone’s trying to be like, “Hey, how about we stop poisoning and how about we have a better world and how about we don’t build a Death Star,” and all the things that are out there in the meme. We all feel that way. It’s like, yeah, I’m in. They come to you. You bring the hard science to this. What is it? How bad is this stuff?

Bruce:
Difficult to say just how bad it is. We know that many of these pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, are toxic in a variety of ways. Some of them are what we call endocrine disrupters, which is my area of expertise. Chemicals disrupt the natural function of the endocrine system. Huge number of adverse health outcomes associated with that. When they reached out to me, I said, “Of course I’m going to help you.” I believe passionately that the only way this will ever change is by moms standing up and shouting. How could I not support a group of moms who were doing just that? The EPA’s not going to protect us. The FDA’s not going to protect us. The Department of Agriculture’s not going to protect us. They have a different world view. Their world view is to prevent poisoning, right? To prevent these chemicals from causing people to die.

Kim:
Immediately.

Bruce:
They do a pretty good job of that. The chemicals that we’re using do not cause people to die for the most part within a few days. What they totally don’t consider are the long term affects. What happens over 20 years of exposure? What happens if you expose a child now? What happens 20 years from now? Or 30? Or 40? That’s totally off of their radar. They ignore that. Right now there’s a battle being waged between the endocrinology community and the toxicology community. The toxicologists mostly represent the industry and government regulators.

Pedram:
The lethal dose.

Bruce:
Yeah. They’re just worried about poisoning and then they say, “This doesn’t poison them. Therefore, all the other effects are trivial.” We would say, “No, that’s not true. You don’t ever even examine the low dose effects. You don’t watch over the lifetime. You’re only looking at short term acute effects and by the way, the companies that are making this stuff are the ones that are supporting the work or who are doing the studies that government relies on. We know the ugly history of industry with respect to being honest about safety.

Pedram:
Yeah. Yeah.

Bruce:
We have only to look at the recent examples of Volkswagen Takata with their exploding airbags, GM with their ignitions, the tobacco industry. It goes on and on and on. We cannot trust industry to test the safety of the products they produce.

Pedram:
Industry is never going to police itself correctly. That’s just not in their self interest. We have the EPA, we have the FDA, we have all these different agencies that we’ve propped up there. Let’s talk about the revolving door a little bit. I want to make it abundantly clear that the organizations and the agencies that we have out there that are supposed to be protecting us are really falling short and therefore it’s why mama bear revolutions are happening, right?

Bruce:
Right. Part of that’s because of world view. The government regulators, the people that are making the decisions about which chemicals are allowed and at what doses, have this dose makes the poison world view. We start with a huge amount of chemical and we kill all the test subjects, not people, but animals, plants, things like that, and you drop down and you find a dose that only kills half of them. Okay, that’s the lethal dose 50. The LD-50. Then you find a dose that has hardly an effect. That’s the lowest observed effect level. Then you go a little bit below that and say, “Oh, there’s no effect. We didn’t poison anyone, therefore … ” Then they apply a safety factor that usually 100. Divide that number by 100 and that’s the human exposure. Boom. Ready to go. It’s all based on tests that are done by the companies. They don’t have to disclose. They don’t publish those results. Those are trade secrets. All of human health levels of a variety of chemicals are based on unpublished, top secret data by the companies that make the stuff.

Kim:
And the EPA then approves it and I think it’s just education …

Bruce:
The EPA looks at that and they say, “Yeah, sounds good to us.”

Kim:
As a parent, you look at the signs that schools put up and they have warnings and an EPA registered number and they just assume that if the school is putting it out, if the EPA has approved this product that it’s safe for the children. Again, I think it’s very powerful when you look at how a child interacts with their environment and how they just play harder, they’re in the grass and all these things aren’t factored in. As a parent, you walk by, you look at the sign, you think, “Okay. EPA approved this product.”

Pedram:
Someone’s got my back. It must be fine. Someone’s looking out for me.

Kim:
Yeah. The school signed off on this. They’re okay.

Bruce:
The medical community also thinks that if the EPA has said it’s safe at this level, that it’s safe at that level.

Pedram:
The medical community’s also being educated by the pharmaceutical community.

Bruce:
At least in the pharmaceutical area, there’s real testing done. You can argue with how perfectly it works, but it’s testing done by independent people. Clinical trials. Obviously, can’t do clinical trials on exposing people to pesticides and seeing what level’s safe and what level’s not. That’s just not doable.

Pedram:
We did in Vietnam.

Kim:
That’s just happening in real time.

Bruce:
Yeah, we did that. Well, we didn’t test the dose. We just gave it to everyone.

Pedram:
Yeah, I know. It’s so scary to me that this is even a conversation we need to have in the time that we live. What do we see? I’ve had a lot of endocrinology conversations on the show and especially on the health bridge over time about what these endocrine disrupters do. They become obesogens, they become carcinogens. There’s a lot of things that are …

The Agencies Are Falling Short - @NontoxicI via @PedramShojai

Bruce:
They disrupt.

Pedram:
They disrupt the flow of this thing called life inside of our cellular mechanism. Have you guys had anything personally touch your lives? Do you have any kids with allergies, asthma? Anyone on the board? Let’s bring this close to home here.

Kim:
We lived in Bermuda and we moved to Irvine because it was the safest.

Pedram:
Crime safest?

Kim:
Right. Best schools and safest, so you’re safe …

Bruce:
But it implies totally safe.

Kim:
Right. You’re safe from a drive-by, but you’re not safe from your kids inhaling 2,4D every baseball game, every practice. It was heartbreaking. I remember after our first meeting we found out about 2,4D. I just felt like a bad mom. How did I not know that? How did I let my kids play that many hours and I felt like I failed them. I remember calling my husband crying saying, “We’re pulling them from baseball.” I love you, we’ll look into soccer or something. Somewhere where it’s-

Ayn:
Swimming.

Kim:
Basketball, indoors. Away from this. My dad played for the New York Yankees and even he got it. He’s like, “Okay. We take one season off. You have to move.” I knew that we had to have this change or we were leaving Irvine.

Pedram:
Frankly, there’s really nowhere to hide if this is in all these municipalities. We get to the point where we have to make decisions based on taking a stand. I want to get into this. I’m going to have you walk us through this. You decide this thing and then you start going to the city council. I really want to unpack how you were able to succeed in this. I want everyone who’s watching this to say, “Hey, wait a minute. I want this for my town. Enough is enough.” It might be played out very differently in a town down the road, but the methodology and the intent behind what you’ve done should drive a revolution. We’re going to help you guys get other parents to do this.

Ayn:
Awesome. We’re ready. We’re ready to help. We’re working on that.

Kim:
We have Non Toxic Camden and the UK already.

Ayn:
After the city council made it’s decision with regard to Irvine, there was this outpouring of people making those requests to us. “Help me. I want this where I am.” We’ve been creating logos for them. We wrote up a playbook which is a step by step guide to doing what we did which we’d be happy to share with your listeners and viewers.

Pedram:
Oh, please.

Kim:
So they’re ready to go.

Ayn:
We can talk through the step by step. How we started.

Pedra:
Yeah.

Ayn:
Okay, okay, so we started really it was years ago. I was looking back at some notes and 2012 is when I first contacted my HOA about it. I had had some miscarriages and was really looking for answers like anyone who’s been through an experience like that. Unexplained miscarriages and just devastating. 2012, then I did have a healthy child and so was sidetracked and busy and didn’t get to it, but then got back on track. Connected with this group. Kathleen Hallal had been working on the PTA and that was our focus initially. We were meeting with them, but at some point we felt like we were getting stonewalled. Kim had contacted them, Kathleen had contacted them separately and we were getting this answer from them like, “Don’t worry. Irvine is the safest place to live.”

Kim:
The same blanket response.

Ayn:
“Of course your children are safe here. We are doing everything we can do.” We felt like we just weren’t getting any further so we said, “Okay, we need to up the game.” What we decided to do was start a petition on www.change.org. I’d seen a lot of them like that, similar petitions, pointing out the reality of what was happening and asking the question, “Did you know that Irvine routinely uses chemicals that have been shown to lower IQ, cause cancer, cause reproductive effects?” We launched this petition and the idea with that was to give people who didn’t have time to be on our board or participate so fully with us to voice their views to all the decision makers. The school board members, the city council members. The nice thing about the www.change.org petition is that it automatically sends an email to each of those decision makers if you load in their email address each time someone signs the petition.

Pedram:
Boom.

Ayn:
Yeah.

Pedram:
Love it.

Ayn:
Yeah, so it was pretty powerful. Between our first meeting in September and November 19th when I finally pushed the button to launch the petition, we were going back and forth on the draft and what are we going to say here and do we have all of our data, yes? Are we certain that all of this science is credible, which was a big part of our focus was making sure we don’t want to say anything that we don’t feel is 100% scientifically sound. We launched our petition November 19th and then we came to find much later that it only took about a couple hundred signatures only, but somewhere in November after we’d reached around 300 signatures, the mayor had enough emails that he reached around to the landscape supervisor for the city and said, “What’s going on here? Can you look into this?” Then, I think just out of a sense of his own career preservation, the superintendent said, “Okay, let’s just stop. Let’s not do anything else.” We didn’t find out about that for like two months later.

Pedram:
Wait, wait, pull the plug on all the chemicals?

Ayn:
All the pesticides, yes. On all the chemical pesticides.

Pedram:
Usually, in other industries, there’s a relationship between the guy at the chemical shop and the person. There’s a buyer and there’s, “Let’s take you out to dinner,” and all that. This was just pull the plug because it was a small enough deal.

Ayn:
I think this is how it works in a lot of municipalities. Well, I don’t know in a lot of municipalities, but the city does not buy the product directly from the chemical manufacturer. They’re not buying directly from, say, Monsanto or from PBI Gordon, which is what makes Speedzone. They are using a landscape company and so that’s the go between. What we were just doing is giving voice to the consumers. We were looking at the demand side. Let’s create demand. Let’s make visible the invisible because in a lot of senses all the stuff that’s happening is literally invisible unless you’re seeing the guy spraying it, then it’s invisible. You are just not aware that it’s ever happening. Then, on the city council side, there are people there, they’re buying organic food and they’re trying to do all these things to detoxify their children but those actions and their desires are invisible to the city council. Our goal was to connect them. Let’s show you that this is something that people care about. You might think that a couple hundred people … Irvine has 250 thousand people.

Pedram:
Okay, so you’re talking 200 people out of 250 thousand people and then the mayor was like, “Holy crap, we got to do something about this.”

Ayn:
Yeah, because it’s quiet at city hall. They don’t hear from people. There’s a sense that, “I’m just one person.” And it’s true. It is a lot of work. It definitely helped that we were a team and we have some of the skill set that lends itself to this kind of a project from our career backgrounds, but I really think that if someone were committed enough and went about it in a way that we did that they could achieve the same results.

Pedram:
Could you teach that skill set? Is there a methodology for that skill set? If I’m listening to this and I’m sitting in Wichita and I’m like, “Hell, I want to do that, but it was like ugh. She said she has a skill set that I don’t so I’m just going to … ”

Kim:
It’s all in the play book. Just like the petition.

Bruce:
Tell them about the skill set that you have.

Pedram:
Yeah. What is it? Exactly?

Kim:
With the petition, www.imove.org instead of a non politically neutral petition site. It’s little things like that that can help you keep the doors open instead of closed if you’re approaching the entire city council.

Ayn:
I worked in PR and corporate communications my whole career. I’m a stay at home mom now. I stepped out of the workforce seven years ago. I have done a little consulting, but I have been mostly been out of it. I decided to check back in and I read this book that I really liked. I used a lot of this guy’s approaches for this work. The book’s called How Ideas Spread and it’s by a guy named Jonah Berger. He’s at the Wharton School of Business. He had a lot of really good insights about things like making the invisible visible and creating safety for people to feel like they can conform. How important conformity is. Making it clear that, city council, we’re not asking you to do something that no ones ever done before. This is something that they’ve done in all these other cities. Harvard University did it in 2008. San Diego has made these parks organic. These other areas are doing this. It’s safe for you to do. I would recommend that as a resource.

We are happy to make our petition available and the playbook and the link. A lot of the work that we did on the research side has been done. We can share that with folks who …

Pedram:
Great. Let’s not reinvent the wheel. You guys did this. It’s been successful in a city of 250 thousand. We’re not talking about Manhattan, but that’s also a midsize city. It’s a lot of people.

We Expect The Environments Our Children Interact With To Be Safe - @NontoxicI via @PedramShojai

Ayn:
It’s a large city. Irvine is the safest, large city.

Pedram:
It’s a lot of people. Yeah.

Kim:
We’re not done yet, though, because of all of HOAs, just like your HOA and Irvine company is willing. We had a very positive meeting with them. Dr. Bloomberg came with us.

Pedram:
Irvine company which is a developer in the city of …

Ayn:
Real estate developer.

Bruce:
Biggest landlord in Irvine.

Ayn:
There are a lot of moving parts. There’s a lot of work that remains to be done. What we did was we started with a school district. We had our little victory with them. They agreed last May, May of 2015, to stop using glyphosate and then we had that to work with. They only agreed on glyphosate initially. I don’t think they agreed on 2,4D until later.

Kim:
2,4D only for fire prevention.

Ayn:
The other thing that we did was we leveraged these victories against each other. We could say, you agreed to stop using glyphosate and then we shared with them how Quell Hill, which is a smaller community of 1700 homes in Irvine, had stopped using all of the synthetic chemicals and pesticides and herbicides a year before. They did that so you can go one more. They agreed to a pilot program at one elementary school, then we could go to the city and we created this awareness among people, making the invisible visible, showing people what was really happening and then showing the city council that these people were willing to voice their opinions on it and potentially vote based on those views. When we got to the point of actually being able to meet with the city, then we could say, “Well, the school district has taken these steps. Can’t you?” We were building from one success to the other. Friendly competition.

Pedram:
Building on your successes.

Ayn:
Exactly.

Pedram:
You got this city wide, but there’s private communities and private community parks within a given city that have their own autonomy.

Kim:
Over 500 …

Ayn:
230 HOAs in Irvine. Homeowners Associates for folks who don’t know.

Bruce:
Wow, I had no idea there was so many.

Ayn:
Each one with its own fiefdom with its own little board and its own little president and it’s own landscaping company. Of course, there’s some overlap. There’s a group of I don’t know how many landscaping companies that serve, but overlap between those communities. That’s why I focused on my HOA initially because that’s literally the space up to your front door and the sidewalk outside your house and where I would see these masked workers spraying these chemicals all over the sidewalk even up into the trees is what got my awareness.

Kim:
And the cancer cluster.

Ayn:

Oh yeah and in my neighborhood, in particular, I know three children in my neighborhood who have been diagnosed with brain cancers and tumors of various varieties in the last eight years. A community of 1700.

Kim:
Rare brain cancer.

Bruce:
Let me comment on that for a moment. The incidents of pediatric brain cancers nationwide is about one in 250 thousand. Irvine has 250 thousand citizens and I think I calculated once there might be about 70 thousand kids. Here we have three just in Quail Hill but there’s 15 throughout Irvine. That is extraordinarily high compared to the national average. Could be a statistical fluke or it could mean that there’s a connection. Since there’s a possible connection, why wouldn’t you take the very simple step of eliminating a chemical that’s known to cause cancer from the environment. That’s just essentially a no brainer.

Pedram:
Frankly, Irvine, how dare you call yourself the safest city in America.

Kim:
They’re working on it, is our point.

Pedram:
You don’t get that, right, because we’re not … I think the base crime is cellular crime. Taking away your energy. Taking away your health. We are in a place right now where you’ve actually moved this ahead. The city government has decided, “Okay, fine.” There’s a couple of these things pulled off the shelf. What are they using instead? What are we going to use? There’s weeds.

Ayn:
Exactly. We’re not advocating a product for product replacement. This whole time we have been very specific with the alternative that we want, which I think was one of the keys to our success. We weren’t just saying, “Stop that.” We said, “Stop that and do this instead, which will be successful.” That is a set of practices that includes things that are pretty low tech. The use of appropriate turf height maintenance, over seeding, compost top dressing when you’re looking at turf. When you’re looking at plant wells and areas like that it’s like mulching so that the weeds can’t pop up. Use of compost tees and things like that. It is a shift from doing ABC to XYZ and it does require some training and that’s something that’s on the calendar coming up soon in Irvine.

Kim:
It’s also a shift in thinking. The IUSD maintenance staff, they’re great guys, and when they’re out spraying they would be used to me coming up and taking pictures and asking what they’re using and things like that. To them, they’re held up to, “This is my job. I want to do my job well.” They have pride in their work. If I need to mark a track, I know that this works. I know Roundup will mark the track for 12 months and that’s it, we’re done. I talk to them personally and say, “Well, it’s not good for you. You’re not wearing the right protection. It’s not good for the kids.” The problem is they’re trained regularly by Monsanto and they say, “If you come to one meeting with me, you’ll understand. It’s safe.” They’re constantly told that it’s safe.

Make Visible The Invisible Desires Of The People - @NontoxicI via @PedramShojai

Ayn:
Just talk to Monsanto. They’ll tell you.

Pedram:
Just talk to Monsanto.

Ayn:
Yeah.

Kim:
Exactly.

Ayn:
She heard those words.

Kim:
They got our back. We just agree to disagree and it’s just a shift in thinking and reeducating a new approach to how to do it and what their success is. They now know it’s safer for the kids. They now know that they weren’t wearing a lot of the proper gear and things to protect themselves.

Ayn:
And that it’s lower cost over time. The break even in terms of an organic and a conventional turf maintenance program, there’s a really good study that we have a link to on our  page and we’ll have on our website. The break even mark is at two and a half years if you look at a five year span where organic and conventional landscaping practices break even.

Pedram:
Financially break even?

Ayn:
Financially.

Bruce:
Then it’s cheaper afterwards.

Pedram:
It’s cheaper afterwards?

Ayn:
Cheaper, yes.

Kim:
And it uses 30% less water. We’re in a drought.

Ayn:
Largely because of the irrigation savings.

Pedram:
Sorry, so 30% less water, costs less money after two and a half years, and hopefully kids aren’t getting cancer.

Ayn:
Right. That’s not even factoring in the cost of chemotherapy which is …

Pedram:
That’s my next piece and maybe doc you have a say in this. Can you go to local allergists, can you go to local immunologists and look at the incidents of certain types of cases and syndromes coming up? The cancer’s tough because it’s already there.

Bruce:
Presumably that could be done, but I don’t know anyone who’s doing that.

Pedram:
Okay. That’s something that could be deployed into the community.

Bruce:
Exactly.

Pedram:
To me, that’s very interesting. You start looking at incidents of asthmatic attacks and I would presumably … you’d look at that and say, “That’s probably going to down.” That would probably go down pretty quickly within three to six months and then stay that way. These are things that the docs in town should start looking at. If you’re a doctor who’s local who’s listening to this and you give a damn, maybe that’s something you want to jump in on.

Bruce:
I think educating the medical community is a very big hurdle that we have to face. I can tell you we recently wrote an article for the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology about the fact that there are such things as obesogens and that they’re an emerging threat to public health and OB-GYNs ought to be counseling their patients. We got serious push back from the reviewers of that. “Why should I counsel my patients to go organic. It’s expensive. What’s the evidence that it’s helpful?”

Pedram:
I thought cancer was more expensive.

Bruce:
Yeah.

Kim:
They want a smoking gun and that’s the difficulty. Again, it’s showing what’s invisible visible. We are discussing taking the map of Irvine and we contacted these families with these children with cancer and just visual, the impact of seeing the dots and the amount and then put it against the national average.

Pedram:
Pins are who?

Bruce:
Pins are cancer cases.

Pedram:
Cancer cases? So you get the cancer cases.

Kim:
Yeah.

Bruce:
Have you done that?

Kim:
We started putting the map together.

Ayn:
We haven’t done that.

Kim:
Laurie has been contacting families.

Ayn:
The three pins in my neighborhood, we found out after the fact that two of them were in this condo community of 150 homes where the practice was to spray Roundup on all the paved surfaces for weed abatement and the surfaces were right next to the air conditioning units, right next to the open windows and so you have the children walking in and out. The homes are arranged around a central fountain and then they’re going to the park where 2,4D and all these other things are being applied and then they are coming home being exposed constantly. We also shared in our work some research that revealed that 2,4D has been shown to persist in indoor carpet fibers for up to a year after it’s used outside. There’s this myth that the stuff evaporates. Okay, it was applied over here. It’ll stay over there. It’s definitely not going to come into your house and you’re not going to be exposed to it. That’s not the truth. You’re going to be exposed to it long term. It’s going to come inside your house in dust and in carpet fibers. Live with it.

Pedram:
This makes my stomach turn a little bit, I got to say.

Bruce:
It should.

Pedram:
How far gone have we become to not look at chemicals being sprayed right where our children play? I’m really sorry for the parents of those children.

Ayn:
They’ve all survived but they continue to live with the after effects. Continued MRIs, behavioral, growth issues. An eight year old came and spoke with the Irvine city council meeting where we made our case. It was striking how short in stature he is. That’s just the fact. These kids, they’ll lose their hearing eventually. Some of them depending on-

Bruce:
They will have other cancers in the future, sadly. The cancer therapies, one of the consequences is different cancer down the road.

Children Are Particularly Vulnerable To Pesticides - @NontoxicI via @PedramShojai

Pedram:
Because your immune system’s shot and-

Bruce:
No, because the chemotherapeutic agents are damaging.

Pedram:
To your entire system?

Bruce:
To cells, yeah.

Pedram:
We’re talking, right now, about abatement. We’ve had a lot of people on the show talk about … eat broccoli sprouts and all these types of things to help your immune system to stand a chance. If your kids are playing on a sidewalk that’s been sprayed with Roundup you barely have a fighting chance. You’re in big trouble and so now the question is, who much more work needs to be done here in this town to actually call this a slam dunk. It sounds like there’s still some city council activity. We’re still waiting on some votes. There’s some petitions going on.

Ayn:
The votes are pretty much in, but now what we need is these 230 HOAs, which accounts for the territory immediately around these homes. The city is responsible for sports parks and medians and parkways and a lot of areas. 800 acres worth of parkways and medians and such and then 570 acres worth of parks. That’s a lot, but still this area right outside the homes is of chief concern for us. Each one of those has to be won over on its own. We’re working in that direction by working with landscaping companies and trying to retrain them, but it is an enormous task.

Kim:
And people that aren’t familiar with Irvine, it’s very small lots. If your neighbor is using Roundup and with drift you might as well … It’s like having it on your lawn.

Pedram:
This is really close to home. I’m in a community here and it’s green. I’m not going to mention it because I’m going to go after them and make sure they change. We have maybe five to ten dead bees in my yard every day. I don’t buy plants with neonicotinoids. I’m very careful about where we get our stuff. Our nurseries. But the bees that are flying through my lot are landing on the neonics plants right down the block and so they’re dying. They’re dying. The way this city has been designed there was the original Disney architects that came in and said, “We want to have smaller lots and have public areas for people to play.” It’s like, “Okay, I don’t have room … I don’t have a huge yard for my kids to play in, so let’s take them to the park,” and you’re telling me that that park is unsafe. That’s a really challenging proposition.

Ayn:
It’s the design. Irvine was designed that way so that your house doesn’t need to be as big, but you can go outside and use the shared spaces. You’re going to be more exposed to it there. There’s also this fact of where we live … there’s year round … our climate is such that things grow year round and so things are green and so the exposure from someone using a pesticide like that is more constant than if you were on the east coast and there’s snow half the year and you don’t have to worry about it.

Kim:
So they’re dormant. Again, the fact that the east coast … I grew up in Connecticut and the east coast is so much further ahead and it could be partially because they’ve a longer dormant period, but I guess I was ignorant because when we moved to California I thought it was a lot more forward thinking as far as organic and natural.

Bruce:
It is in some ways.

Pedram:
It’s a blind spot. Yeah, it is in some ways. There’s a farmer’s market in every direction you look, but I don’t care how much organic apples you’re going to eat if you’re huffing paint. It doesn’t pencil out. What was the community’s reaction? Was there some sort of blow back at all? Were there people that were like, “What the hell are you talking about?” Or was it just open arms like, “Hey, thanks.”

Ayn:
We’ve been overwhelmed by people’s gratitude and reaching out to us. We haven’t had anyone telling us this is a bad thing, certainly. One thing that was really instrumental at our city council meeting was that the pediatric cancer community and their families showed up in force. It was upwards of 30 people signed in to speak and shared their stories and how they’d been impacted. That was really powerful and something that anyone who’s looking to do this in their town should

Kim:
Reach out to their local cancer charity.

Ayn:
Being very sensitive, of course, but because this is a group that’s really affected and feels it so acutely. Sharing their stories is very powerful and people have to share their stories. That’s why each of our meetings that we had with our city council people, the mayor, before we got to the point of the city council meeting with the school district and everyone we all share our stories for the most part because if someone doesn’t understand your story they don’t understand where you’re coming from and they can’t really care about what you have to say. Being able to articulate your story is very important. Someone who wants to do this work should clarify for themselves what it is they want and why. What it is that scares them about this and how they’ve been personally affected.

Pedram:
You guys didn’t come out to city council with pitchforks and carrying the rallying cry of angry hippies and say, “Down with you.” You came up with your science. You came up with your support networks. You came up with your groups. It was a really sane, methodical, logical play. Look at the scoreboard. You’re winning, right? What would you say to people who … I listen to this and I’m just actually infuriated. This pisses me off. I know that that’s not the way you go marching into your mayor’s office.

Kim:
Bruce, do you want to explain that? We’ve had to actually separate ourselves as away from that approach with other people. We’re all working towards the same thing.

Bruce:
My perspective is that if you want to have credibility with elected officials that you should stick to what we actually know. There are quite a number of strong links between agrichemicals and adverse health consequences including cancer. There are some people who would blame RoundUp for all the ills of humanity. Personally I call them the tin foil hat crowd. They’re not doing anyone any benefit, although they’re crusaders. They believe they’re doing something good, but they’re not.

Pedram:
Well, they need an enemy.

Bruce:
They’re harming the credibility of the movement. The movement is to get dangerous toxic chemicals out of our environment. You don’t need to invent a hundred different links when there are five or six or seven strong ones.

Pedram:
That we already have scientifically …

Bruce:
Exactly.

Pedram:
In literature …

Bruce:
Strong science. The other thing that I tried to point out at the city council meeting was, you are misinformed about what the EPA does. I think the majority of public opinion is that the EPA tests chemicals, determines that they’re safe and then sets levels at which they’re safe. In fact, the EPA doesn’t test anything. The testing is all done by the manufacturer of the chemicals who provides data to the EPA’s … to one part or another. There’s one called the FIFRA. The Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act panel and they decide based on the company’s data, whether a chemical is safe or not. Not surprisingly, they’re all safe.

Pedram:
Totally.

Bruce:
At the end of the day. That’s hard to swallow.

Pedram:
So the EPA … it just lands on some bureaucrat’s table, they haven’t done the study. They just basically look it over.

Bruce:
They look at the data and say, “Oh, looks good to us.”

Pedram:
Boom. Have your kids play in this.

Bruce:
Exactly.

Ayn:
But to get back to your point about being neutral in tone, because it is easy to be angry when you hear what’s going on. What happens when you approach someone in an angry tone and sort of accusatory and assign them blame for doing something like this, is naturally they get defensive. Just in terms of how someone’s brain works, once you’re defensive you’re not in a problem solving mode. You’re not in a let’s solve this together mode anymore. You’re in a, well this is industry standard, but that’s not where we want to go. We really do want to solve a problem. If you want to do that then you need to point out the realities. What happened was all the city council folks that we met with and the mayor were all grateful to us after our meetings. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I really didn’t even know.” I think a lot of it is happening out of inertia and ignorance and it’s not like anyone wants to poison any children. It’s just something that they’re not even looking at.

Pedram:
Totally.

Bruce:
Exactly.

Pedram:
Everyone wants some big, evil bad guy to go after. I’m not saying Monsanto’s practices are benevolent in all ways, but they’re a profit driven company. At the end of the day if this chemical harms my child, I am very interested in knowing what that is, right? If we have that data, it’s great. There’s actually a great book called The Emperor of All Maladies, which is this meta analysis of our understanding of cancer from beginning. There was this part in there, and it’s a great read if you’ve got time to do it, there’s a part in there where the people that were saying, “Hey, we think cancer might be caused by cigarette smoke,” and all the top down thinking was, “That’s nonsense. There’s been just as much proliferation of nylon stockings.” There wasn’t any direct causality yet. They were like, obviously cigarettes don’t and we’re at this point where we have this data and it’s growing and we have this accumulating body of stuff saying, what if it’s all of it. What if it’s all these chemicals. We might not have a smoking gun on this particular chemical or this, but if you look at it in aggregate, there’s something wrong.

Bruce:
Right. One of the things that … the battles that we fight is if you talk to the industry guys and we presented it, they’ll say, “Well, Professor Blumberg, your data are in animals and it doesn’t apply to humans.” Which is the silliest thing you can possibly say because their safety data are in animals. Pick a position. You believe that animals are applicable to humans or you don’t and be consistent. If they’re applicable than the safety studies and our adverse consequences studies are both valid. If animals are not predictive of human effects, then their safety studies are not valid either. It’s a very silly argument.

The second thing is that it’s almost impossible to prove causality in humans because you cannot do the kind of studies necessary to prove causality.

Pedram:
Autopsy?

Bruce:
Yeah, well, but that doesn’t prove causality right?

Pedram:
Sure.

Bruce:
You can say that this person has a certain amount of chemical X and that might have killed them. You can prove that by acute poisoning, but not for these chronic long term affects. We have to look at animals. If we see that RoundUp at a certain dose causes lymphoma in animals, you might reasonably infer that a comparable dose could cause lymphoma in humans or at least have a risk. That’s the kind of studies that we have to do. Then you can look and say, in human populations, let’s measure some chemical. Let’s say Roundup for example, and look at the lowest exposed group and the highest exposed group and see is there a difference. That doesn’t prove causality, but that suggests that the animal studies have relevance to humans.

Host:
Again, if they’re playing both sides of that, then they can’t do their tests on the animals.

Bruce:
Exactly.

Pedram:
There is so much here. We’re running out of time and I really, really, really … my success metric for this show is how you, as a group, have done this. Great. I love the fact that you guys have a feather in your cap. It’s great for me because I live here. That’s wonderful. But I want everyone watching this to be able to say, “Wait a minute. What’s going on in my town?” What are the resources that you’ve put together that are available. How can people start doing this in their own towns right now. If this starts igniting like wildfire, I am personally of the opinion that we’re going to start seeing a dramatic decrease in a lot of these conditions that are out there.

You Can Make Change Happen In Your Community - @NontoxicI via @PedramShojai

Kim:
If they email us, we’re happy. We have the playbook ready to share.

Ayn:
They should email us at info@nontoxicirvine.org. We can share our playbook. Another thing that we’ve been doing is people reach out to us is matching them up because this is a lot of work.

Kim:
Match.com for non toxic groups.

Ayn:
Right. We have a spreadsheet. When we hear from somebody from Modesto, we can match them up with somebody else from Modesto so that they go in and they’re not just one person talking about this alone. It, again, creates that feeling of conformity. “Oh, there are a lot of people who care about this,” and then a lot more people to undertake the work. That would be a good first step.

Kim:
We’ve had, for the local groups, we’ve at least had kickoff meetings and we take them through the playbook and we build their logo. They’re able to have questions … we answer them in real time and then we also have conference calls for groups that are on the other side of the country. The fact that London, there’s a non toxic Camden was just exciting. I thought it was Camden, New Jersey. And they’re like, “No, no. Actually we’re across the pond.” It’s just finding out what your city’s using and what your school district’s using.

Ayn:
Yeah, which is an important step. In most cases, it’s not too hard. All you have to do is ask. That’s all we had to do. Just email public works department in Irvine. I am concerned about these pesticides. Please send me what you’re using. Then someone on the other end whose job is just a clerk is like, “Okay, we keep track of that. Let me pull the file. Okay,” and then they’ll just send it to you. This information is available.

Kim:
But the problem is they, and we went through this battle with the city of Irvine, is they will list but they won’t list frequencies and amounts. They’ll put it in …

Ayn:
It’s a big spreadsheet and they show when and where and how much they used it. It does take some work if you really want to go through it, but at least you’ll have after a cursory read you’ll know if they’re using 2,4D, at which park and when. You’ll know what exactly … you’ll get a clear picture of what’s going on.

Pedram:
Your playbook will then help them untangle the knotted twine of what it takes to actually make that change in their community.

Ayn:
Yes. By sharing things like, children are particularly vulnerable to pesticides. Pesticides are designed to kill things.

Pedram:
So you have studies and you have examples?

Ayn:
Yeah.

Kim:
And Dr. Blumberg has approved all of our research that we share. It is legit. It’s not …

Ayn:
Questionable.

Kim:
Right.

Bruce:
Actually, because of the work that Non Toxic Irvine has done, of all the people that I know in the scientific community, I’m the only one that lives in a community that’s pledged to go organic.

Host:
Great.

Ayn:
You’re welcome.

Bruce:
Because of the work you’ve done.

Ayn:
Thank you, Bruce.

Pedram:
Yeah, thank you all. This is really inspiring for me. This is the good stuff. When we talk about grassroots, the funny thing is no one’s actually looked at what’s being sprayed on the grass.

Bruce:
They have.

Ayn:
Oh my gosh, that’s funny.

Kim:
Were you keeping that?

Pedram:
That just came to me.

Kim:
I like it.

Pedram:
It’s just like, holy crap. Grassroots has been compromised so let’s take the grass back so that we can get healthy roots and go from there. I want to thank you again. Email info@nontoxicirvine.org.

Ayn:
And www.nontoxicirvine.org is our website. We also have a Facebook page. People should follow us on Facebook. There’s a great resource on Facebook also called How To Create A Toxic Free Community. If they follow us on Facebook…

Pedram:
Great and we’ll put links if you’re listening to this just go punch it in. If you’re watching this, we’ll put links to drive them to where they need to go.

Kim:
We found out recently that Jane Goodall put out a quote in support of our group and to challenge other towns to do the same. We’ll put that on the website as well.

Pedram:
Great. My commitment is to make sure a lot more people put out quotes in support of your work. Thank you. Very much.

Kim:
Thank you for having us.

Pedram:
Okay, so they did it. You can do it too. That’s the moral of this story is so what, Irvine, what is that to you? To me it means a lot because it’s close. It’s local. It’s where my kids are. It’s where my family is. Where are your loved ones? What do you need to do to mitigate this exposure and get this crap out of the ecosystem that we are basically living in. They are going to help you with this. Www.nontoxicirvine.org. You can email them info@nontoxicirvine.org. They’re going to hook you up with the science. They’re going to hook you up with their playbook. Let’s do this. Let’s make this happen. It’s our world. It’s our communities. It’s our children. Go get them and then email me back. Let me know what you’ve done. How you’ve been successful. Let’s share information and let’s get this in every city, every town, every state, every country around the world. Let’s stop poisoning ourselves. Let’s do this.

 

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