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Episode 96
The Doctor's Farmacy

How We Are Poisoning Our Children

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

Tap the subscribe button and new shows will be added to your library.

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Racism is still rampant in our country, and it might exist in places you didn’t expect it. For example, Black and Brown populations are at a higher risk of exposure to environmental toxins and have less access to high-quality medical care or clinical medical studies on their specific populations.

This is a major problem that can’t be ignored. And it’s hugely impacting our economy and the success of future generations in multiple ways. Every year we spend 50 billion dollars and lose 23 million IQ points to lead toxicity alone, which affects people of color the most, regardless of social class and income level. Today on The Doctor’s Farmacy I sit down for an important conversation with Harriet Washington about these issues.

Throughout our talk, Harriet breaks down where some of the greatest sources of environmental racism stem from. There are so many government policies and even sanctioned decisions to dump toxins that end up poisoning communities of color and stealing children’s cognition and health.

Combined with a lack of precautionary testing we are ignoring a massive health crisis. And unfortunately, not everyone has access to a doctor like me that has the resources and knowledge to get to the root cause of mysterious symptoms. 

When it comes to toxins one plus one does not equal two. It might equal one hundred. There is a compounded effect. Plus, many of the “safe” exposure limits for individual toxins that we’ve been told in the past have now been proven much too high. 

Harriet and I also talk about the major connection between environmental racism and food injustice, along with so much more. 

I hope you’ll tune in to learn what you can do to improve these important issues of our time.

This episode is brought to you by Thrive Market. Thrive Market has made it so easy for me to stay healthy, even with my intense travel schedule. Not only does Thrive offer 25 to 50% off all of my favorite brands, but they also give back. For every membership purchased, they give a membership to a family in need, and they make it easy to find the right membership for you and your family. You can choose from 1-month, 3-month, or 12-month plans. And right now, Thrive is offering all Doctor’s Farmacy listeners a great deal, you’ll get up to $20 in shopping credit when you sign up, to spend on all your own favorite natural food, body, and household items. And any time you spend more than $49 you’ll get free carbon-neutral shipping. All you have to do is head over to thrivemarket.com/Hyman.

Harriet Washington’s most recent book is A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind.

I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

In this episode, you will learn (video / audio):

  1. How communities of color in America are being poisoned due to decisions and policies that expose them to dangerous levels of environmental toxins
    (4:05 / 5:29)
  2. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sanctioned case of toxic dumping in Afton, North Carolina
    (1:01 / 12:25)
  3. Lead poisoning, its effects on intelligence and cognition, and the populations it is most affecting
    (14:49 / 16:12)
  4. The lack of precautionary testing of chemicals in the United States
    (21:00 / 22:24)
  5. Unacknowledged fetal alcohol damage in Hispanic and African American communities
    (29:49 / 31:13)
  6. Environmental toxin rates among African American communities across all income levels
    (32:30 / 33:54)
  7. How to effectively test for and treat environmental toxin issues
    (38:14 / 39:38)
  8. What actions individuals and communities can take to protect themselves from environmental toxins
    (43:05 / 44:29)
  9. The connection between environmental racism and food injustice
    (47:15 / 48:39)
  10. The role that government, communities, and public health needs to play in protecting citizens from environmental toxins
    (1:05:33 / 1:06:57)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Harriet Washington

Harriet Washington has been the Shearing Fellow at the University of Nevada’s Black Mountain Institute, a Research Fellow in Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School, a senior research scholar at the National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University, and a visiting scholar at DePaul University College of Law. She has held fellowships at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Stanford University. She is the author of Deadly Monopolies, Infectious Madness, and Medical Apartheid, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Oakland Award, and the American Library Association Black Caucus Nonfiction Award. Her new book, A Terrible Thing to Waste,  is a “powerful and indispensable” look at the devastating consequences of environmental racism—and what we can do to remedy its toxic effects on marginalized communities.

Transcript

Harriet Washington::
If you don’t know that you’re being exposed to lead or PCB’s, then you can’t do anything about it.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Welcome to Doctor’s Farmacy, I’m
Dr. Mark Hyman:, and that’s farmacy with an F, a place for conversations that matter. And if you care about the world of environmental toxins in our health and you’re worried you might be affected, this is a conversation you need to pay close attention to because it’s with an extraordinary woman, a brilliant mind,
Harriet Washington:, who has written a book that was extraordinary disturbing, incredibly revealing, and powerful indictment of a different form of racism in this country, environmental racism.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
We’ll talk about that book in a minute, but she’s been the shearing fellow at The University of Nevada’s Black Mountain Institute, a research fellow in medical ethics at Harvard Medical School, a senior researcher at The National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University, and a visiting scholar at DePaul University College of Law. She has held fellowships at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Stanford University, and she’s the author of Deadly Monopolies, Infectious Madness, and Medical Apartheid. Well, that’s an interesting set of titles. She won… which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN Oakland Award, and the American Library Association of Black Caucus Nonfiction Award. She’s an incredible writer. I’ve read her stuff, it’s very good. So, welcome, Harriet.

Harriet Washington::
Thank you.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
We’re going to have a tough conversation today, because some people don’t like to talk about; which is one, environmental toxins, and two, racism, and three, the destruction of the American mind. Your title of your book is A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind. And you’ve been covering the intersection of race, medicine, health and ethics for years. This is one of your latest works and it’s an indictment of this whole idea that there’s hereditary intelligence, that certain races are inferior, which I think is still kind of a thing in peoples mind.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
But we do have a legitimate challenge with people of color in this country. And the challenge is that they’re not inferior, but they’ve been treated inferiorly, which has led to forms of racism that are insidious and are not just about police brutality or discrimination. They’re about the destruction of the intellectual capital of generations of poor and minorities that are targeted in ways that are a little bit invisible, both by the food industry which I talk a lot about, but also segregation and red lining in ways that actually make them much more likely to be exposed to environmental toxins.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So can you discuss, Harriet, how communities of color in America are being poisoned due to decisions and policies that expose them to these dangerous levels of toxins? And how this poisoning has horrifying cognitive symptoms that are evidenced by the effects on our IQ.

Harriet Washington::
It happens as an illustration that in 2019 we understand that race has no biological reality. In biological sense, race is not real, but racism is very real. And peoples health status tends to reflect the race that they are perceived as belonging to. Policies that are in political policies, academic policies… actually a confluence of many policies that do adopt race as a reality, that address race, that believe in race have conspired to force out… to actually trap African Americans, and Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans in environments that are wholly toxic. Whether you’re talking about nutrition or you’re talking about environmental exposures, it’s a confluence of policies.

Harriet Washington::
One can pick almost any of these. I mean, one, if you look at the political pressures what we have historically, segregation, which was physical force used to constrain African Americans, and Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans into living in certain areas. Those areas-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Reservations are the classic example, right?

Harriet Washington::
They are, except that most Native Americans don’t live on the reservation.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
What they live on are equally assailed communities that don’t have even the feeble, legal protection of being in a reservation covered by treaty.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yes, yes.

Harriet Washington::
And of course, African Americans have been… and Hispanics of course, have been constrained by actual laws in this country, which until the 1960s legally mandated segregation, [inaudible 00:04:38] segregation trapped people in unhealthy areas. When whites were able to engage in white flight, moving to the suburban areas that didn’t have any lead poisoning, that weren’t being poisoned by fuel exhaust, black people and Hispanics couldn’t follow them.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
No.

Harriet Washington::
Because even after the end of legal segregation we had defacto segregation.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Meaning?

Harriet Washington::
Meaning that, even though the law did not constrain them to live in these areas, many other policies did. Red lining, racially discriminate mortgage policies-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Wait, what’s red lining, for people who don’t know what red lining is.

Harriet Washington::
Red lining is something when you take an area that contains people of color, in this case, or other marginalized minorities, you take people of color and then you actually write your policies so as to minimize their access to the system. It’s like a form of gerrymandering.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yes.

Harriet Washington::
Only now we’re doing it in terms of things that people need to live, in terms of places to live.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So are these actual regulations, and legislation, or policy?

Harriet Washington::
These are actual policies. And some are more transparent than others. Some are easier to see than others. For example, it’s difficult to get private companies to open up their books and then see that the policies they’ve written for lending mortgages actually affect people of color. They’re not going to be so foolish, in the vast majority of cases, as to say, “We don’t want to lend to black people.” But they can do things like saying these are particular areas in which we don’t want to invest. Those areas happen to be where black people live.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Sure.

Harriet Washington::
So confluence of all these policies traps black people in the area. Now whites have fled to the suburbs, but black people can’t follow them there.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Because they don’t have the economic resources, because-

Harriet Washington::
No, it’s not economics. It’s actually race because-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
They can’t buy a house in a white neighborhood?

Harriet Washington::
They can’t buy a house in a white neighborhood because the whites don’t want them there. It’s not a matter of… You know, the red lining in mortgage systems is a good example. African American with sufficient income and sufficient credit still cannot get the same access to suburban housing, because of red lining, because banks have decided, “We are not going to invest in mortgages when people live in this area.”

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
Okay? So, that’s what’s happened. I remember my own father, when we had… my parents were in the Army. When we moved from Germany to Rochester, New York in the 1960s, my father left the Army, took the GI Bill and planned to buy his house in the suburbs. He couldn’t do it. Nobody would sell him a house. And to be perfectly honest with you, I knew he tried very hard, but I think always in the back of my mind there was something thinking maybe there are other things that could be done. You know, you never know.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
But then Walter Cooper, a chemist at Eastman Kodak with a doctorate, and later an executive of Eastman Kodak, documented for the local newspaper where I worked his long odyssey to buy his family house in the suburbs. It took him years.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
And he was an African American?

Harriet Washington::
He was African American, he was a Ph.D. chemist, he was an executive at Eastman Kodak, but nobody would sell him a house in suburb. It took him a very long time and multiple lawsuits [crosstalk 00:07:37] before he finally was able to buy [crosstalk 00:07:38]-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
And these properties that are in these underserved communities… I work in Cleveland and people talk about Flint, Michigan and the decisions by the governor there and the state to actually allow diversion of the water that created all those problems with the lead poisoning. The children in Cleveland have higher lead levels than those affected in Flint, Michigan because of the lead paint in the houses in these dilapidated houses that they live in in these horrible neighborhoods that they can’t get out of.

Harriet Washington::
I always say that Flint, and Newark, and Pittsburgh don’t have lead poisoning problems. American has a lead poisoning problem. You can go to any metropolitan area in this country and you will find the exact same thing. People of color are trapped in areas where they’re exposed to heavy doses of lead and other toxic metals like arsenic. And also, a bevy of other toxic chemicals. But this picture is an American picture. It’s something that you will find in any metropolitan area.

Harriet Washington::
The only exception is, interestingly, certain areas of Washington D.C., not all of Washington D.C. But I was a little mystified about why certain areas of Washington D.C. when poisonous metals and leftover pesticides were found to taint the [inaudible 00:08:58] water quickly were cleaned up. And I found out later it’s because legislators live there. Congress people live there, people whose lives that we value live there. So it’s a consistent pattern. As you say, it’s not Flint, it’s the entire nation.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So some of these are… they’re sort of like unspoken sort of policies. Some of these are more hard wired into the legal and legislative system, right?

Harriet Washington::
Well you know, the legal system reflects peoples attitudes. That’s the interesting thing. We don’t have a legal system that is going to enact the same policies for everybody, right? So it, like all our other policies, is subject to the whims, including the whim of racism. And then also, a lot of the poisoning is not strictly legal, but it happens anyway.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
What do you mean?

Harriet Washington::
Well, for example, if you looked at what happened in Afton, North Carolina, a very interesting inversion of criminality. You had in North Carolina, there were these two men in the 1980s who had poisonous oil from their transformer business in New York state, not New York City. And it was very expensive to expose of this oil legally. You had to pay a lot of money to properly neutralize it, and bury it, and do all these things to make sure it’s away from people. Instead, they put the oil on trucks and they drove to through the night to dump it along the roadways in North Carolina. And then they drove back to New York. They were eventually caught out, they found out it was them. One of them actually went to jail, very briefly unfortunately.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Wow.

Harriet Washington::
But, North Carolina then had a problem. They had all this roadway, long spans of roadway saturated with poisonous oil. They said, “We have to take this and take it away where it won’t harm people.” They decided to dump it all in Afton, North Carolina. They did this with the blessing of the EPA.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So in other words, they took the stuff that was on the roadways, they cleaned it up and they took it all and put it [crosstalk 00:11:00] Afton, North Carolina.

Harriet Washington::
Yeah, they took all the dirt saturated with oil and decided to dump it in Afton.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Wow.

Harriet Washington::
And asked why Afton, they said, “Well, our studies show it’s the best place to dispose of.” But it wasn’t like the place where the oil would be dissipated more quickly. It wasn’t farthest away from human habitation. It wasn’t where the poison would not affect wildlife and humans. It’s where black people lived.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
So the black people in the area did not take this sitting down. They said, “We don’t want PCB’s to inundate our communities.” So they began doing old fashioned civil rights protests. They took to the streets with placards and signs, marching, passive resistance. And there were a lot of white allies, people who didn’t live in the area but who were sympathetic to their plan.

Harriet Washington::
So they protested for six weeks and if you look at these old news reels, what you’ll find is, you have the sheriff’s department there and legal department arresting people. And through the bull horns they’re talking about law and order, they’re trying to [inaudible 00:12:03] law and order. These are criminals, we’re going to arrest them, treat them like criminals. But who are really the criminals here?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
It wasn’t the protestors.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
No.

Harriet Washington::
It was the people who dumped the oil illegally. Frankly, it was also the government that decided to dump it in a black community.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
So we see this often when you look at the history of these exposures, that there’s often criminal activity that is either hidden, or the people complaining… a lot of blame the victim going on. People who complain about being affected are often cast as criminals.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah. So let’s talk about our [inaudible 00:12:34] because I think this is something that people all can get behind. I think, I was telling you earlier, I remember this story of this kid who lived in a town near Albany, New York that had a giant cement plant. And cement plants are run through coal burning. And was right next to the school, and every day the school was coated in this dust of basically coal ash, which is lead and mercury. And the kid had behavioral issues, had academic issues, had struggles with his brain. And his mother brought him to see me and we treated him. We found that he had high levels of lead and mercury in his system. We got rid of it and he really dramatically improved.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
But not everybody has access to someone like me to diagnose and treat this. But this is a real wide spread problem. So lead poisoning has come way down, thank God, but we’re learning that even low levels of lead can have an impact. So we used to think the level was 40 was safe, then it was 20, then it was 10. And now studies show that even down to one or less, there’s impairment of IQ and cognitive function. So we’ve had this sort of staggering effects to our population.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
But it’s still happening in communities of color in disproportionate ways that harms millions of people, that affects their intellectual development, that provides these horrible deadly environments that are robbing communities of color of the ability to succeed in life, their full intellectual capacity, and really affecting America as a whole. So can you tell us the connection between these environmental toxins and our intelligence and IQ, and how that actually works?

Harriet Washington::
Well, of course, you’re right. The CDC has stipulated that there is no threshold for lead exposure, that any amount of lead exposure is dangerous.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah, people say, “What’s the normal blood level of lead or mercury?” I’m like, “Zero.”

Harriet Washington::
Yeah, well that’s what it should be. That should be the normal. However, to say that lead has gone down is not actually true. It’s gone down over the nation as a whole.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Right.

Harriet Washington::
But if you look at places where pockets of children of color, it has not gone down.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yes, that’s what I mean, yeah.

Harriet Washington::
That’s where people are… Yeah, I knew that’s exactly what you wanted to convey. So that’s the problem. We now have limited the pockets of children who live in these areas, once again as I said, people who are trapped in the area either by economics, or by race, or by both. Race actually tends to be the larger factor here, but economics is a factor as well. So you’re living in areas that our government has decided not to clean up. And that’s part of the problem. Could you repeat your question?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So really the question is how does lead and other environmental toxins rob us of our intelligence and our IQ?

Harriet Washington::
In a myriad of ways, and of course depends on the toxin. But one of the most profound things I think that is not really understood about these exposures is that although we can trace leads many, multifactorial effects on the body, including brain damage that is subtle enough not to be diagnosed very often. What happens is you have children who are exposed antenatally-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
What?

Harriet Washington::
… when the damage can be the worst.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah. Oh, prenatally.

Harriet Washington::
But what happens is that… antenatal, that’s what I meant.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
Yeah. But what happens is that it’s not diagnosed until problems appear, and then it’s not diagnosed as lead poisoning. Part of the problem is when you have an exposure that precedes the discovered symptoms by 13 or 14 years, or even by 20 years, it’s really hard to tie it to the initial exposure. So what’s happened to a lot of African American children is they’re being exposed by things like not only lead, and PCB’s, and even pesticides that have been long banned but still find their way into our food and water. But also… you know, exposed to a lot of these things. Even alcohol is a factor.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Sure.

Harriet Washington::
So what happens is when they exhibit behavioral problems at 15, they might get a diagnosis of conduct disorder. Some psychiatric diagnosis describes their behavior but doesn’t get to the heart of the problem.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Right.

Harriet Washington::
So it goes unrecognized. We don’t see the connection between behavior problems, between failing in school, between failing in employment, not being able to hold a job, to the initial exposure that happen when they’re very young. The developing brain of course is [inaudible 00:17:11] sensitive to certain things. And the thing that many people I think are not aware of, and I was insufficiently aware of, is that we know this… Paracelsus said the dose makes the poison, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Sure.

Harriet Washington::
We know that. So anything including water can kill you if you take too much of it.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Sure. Yeah, marathon runners die of actually drinking too much water and their blood gets diluted, and they get seizures from low sodium in their blood. Yeah, it’s true.

Harriet Washington::
Right. Infamous case of the radio station that had a competition who can drink the most water. A woman died because of that. She took in far too much water, sodium level went down and she was dead. But what we don’t pay attention to often enough is the fact that timing also makes the problem. Industry scientists- [crosstalk 00:17:58]

Dr. Mark Hyman::
When. The when you get exposed.

Harriet Washington::
Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Right.

Harriet Washington::
Exactly. Industry scientists will often say, “Oh, the amount you’re talking about is too small to cause a problem.” That might be true in a full grown healthy adult [crosstalk 00:18:08]. But if you’re talking about exposure of a child in utero, of a newborn child, whose brain is still developing and who is making these neuronal connections that happen with this exquisite choreography. Certain structures are developed on a certain day. Neurons migrate on a certain day, and exposure that day can be devastating to the brain. Maybe a week later it wouldn’t have harmed the child, maybe a week beforehand it would’ve had no effect. Certainly, an adult would’ve had no effect, but at that particular time the wrong exposure can cause a lifelong disability. Not enough attention paid to that, I think.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah, and I think what’s also true is that a lot of these chemicals are studied in isolation. So they go, “Well, a little bit of this not going to hurt.” But the truth is, we’re exposed to hundreds and thousands of these chemicals. They’re all synergistic, and they actually might not just be added, they might be multiplied. In other words, one plus one isn’t the effect of two, it might be the effect of 100 or 10.

Harriet Washington::
Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
And so when you look at the study done by the Environmental Working Group on 10 newborns, they looked at their umbilical cord blood. This is before they take their first breath. This isn’t necessarily poor African American community, this is just the average person. They had 287 known toxins in their umbilical cord blood before they took their first breath, including about 211 neuro toxins, things like mercury, lead, phthalates, pesticides, glyphosate, flame retardants, PCB’s, dye, even DDT even though it’s been banned for years. And what’s fascinating is, in this country we shoot first and ask questions later.

Harriet Washington::
Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
And I think in Europe they say, “Well, you have to prove that this chemical is safe before we include it in anything.” In this country it’s like, “Well, let’s use it and see what happens.”

Harriet Washington::
Exactly. I address that in my book early on, the precautionary principle. The idea that one should test chemicals, as they do in European Union, before human exposure. European Union does that. But we only test after someone’s been harmed, or reports of harm. Philippe Grandjean at Harvard has listed over 200 chemicals known to affect peoples neurological development. Most of them are not adequately tested before use in humans. So we need to-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
The main ones that are approved here are banned in Europe.

Harriet Washington::
Exactly. So in the European Union where they don’t even release a chemical if the prior testing shows it’s harmful. Here, we don’t test it until later. And then after people are harmed, or there are reports of harm, the most common refrain you hear from industry is, “It’ll be too expensive to remedy this. It’ll be too expensive to test our chemicals before we use them in humans.” But that’s not true. If you look at the expense of not only doing the test to certify their toxicity, but also compensating the victims, treating the victims, settling the lawsuits, it’s far more expensive to wait until after people have been harmed to test them. But it’s easier for industry because they’ve become so adept at deflecting management- [crosstalk 00:21:13]

Dr. Mark Hyman::
It’s true. It’s sort of nebulous because think about, okay well, people drink too much soda. You can measure their blood sugar and you see they got diabetes, and you can make a connection. With environmental toxins, there’s so many, they’re so diffused, they’re everywhere; in our skincare products, our household products, in our food, in our water, in our air.

Harriet Washington::
Baby food. I use the example of baby food heavily tainted.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Right, in our homes. It’s just… We’re surrounded in a sea of environmental toxins and it’s invisible. Right? And so the problem is how do you start to connect the dots, like you’ve done in your book, and tell the story in a different way that gets people activated about solving this.

Harriet Washington::
That is so true. Remember thalidomide?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
You know, which caused birth defects, profound birth defects. Phocomelia in young children after their moms took- [crosstalk 00:22:04]

Dr. Mark Hyman::
No arms, legs, nothing. Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
Yes, yes. Well, David [Rail 00:22:07] said that if thalidomide had caused a 10 drop decrease in IQ, rather than the dramatic birth defects, it’d still be on the market.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Of course. Yeah. I read, researching my book Food Fix coming out in February, that because of pesticide use… and by the way, most farm workers are brown and black in this country, and Hispanic particularly are infected. There’s a loss of 41 million IQ points just from these pesticides because the exposure of farm workers to these chemicals. And that’s just one chemical, our food chemicals. It’s to the total load of chemicals, which is a really [inaudible 00:22:53] risk. So how do we start to sort of think about this in a way that connects the dots better, scientifically? And also, how do we change the healthcare profession so that people start to think about toxins? Because the average doctor knows nothing about toxins to our food, which are the two primary drivers of most disease.

Harriet Washington::
And even worse, I write in my book about the fact that some doctors who are well aware that their patients have… their patients of color, have a strong exposure to toxic substances, don’t address that in prenatal visits.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
They don’t know how.

Harriet Washington::
And when they’ve been asked why one of the things they say is that, “Well, these are people who already are saddled with so many challenges, survival challenges, just putting food on the table. And it seems so burdensome to then also tell them, be careful about the fish that you eat, be careful about the air quality in your homes.” So they just don’t address it, you know?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
But that silence is deadly. People are unaware that these things are killing them as well. And so how can they be expected to take action against them? How to address is really difficult. I think one thing that we definitely need to stop doing… no, start doing is… I address the synergy you talk about in my book that is so important because-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
It’s not like one plus one equals two- [crosstalk 00:24:09]

Harriet Washington::
Exactly. Its so important the fact that a single exposure, and two exposures may add up to more than double the risk, right? So these exposures, that means that the picture is almost certainly worse than what we think it is. If we’re measuring the effects of one toxin, we’re only getting a woefully small part of the picture. And public health [inaudible 00:24:32] should take that in mind because very often industry’s mission is to mitigate the damage. Industry’s mission is to keep its product on the shelves, and to keep from being legislated, and to make sure people are continually exposed to it. That’s their profitable stance, and so they employ a lot of doubt. You can’t prove it’s really our product that’s causing the problem. You can’t prove… and they- [crosstalk 00:24:55]

Dr. Mark Hyman::
It’s too diffused, right? Smoking, is a cigarette, you get that. But this is so many things, how do you regulate 80,000 chemicals that are out there?

Harriet Washington::
In Anniston, Alabama that’s what happened. You had so many pollutants in the area that they actually for a while were engaged with pointing to each other. “Oh, it’s not our PCB’s, it’s the lead down the road. It’s the DDT that’s still in the water.” Unfortunately, another public health-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So the cement companies are fighting with the coal company, fighting with the pesticide company. Yeah, that sounds like a-

Harriet Washington::
And the answer was, you’re all responsible. You’re all guilty.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Right.

Harriet Washington::
But one public health development that can be problematic, in cases like this, is the focus on individual responsibility. That’s a good thing in general, right? It sounds good. And we should be responsible. We shouldn’t smoke, or drink- [crosstalk 00:25:47]

Dr. Mark Hyman::
When you turn on the tap and poison comes out, it’s hard to be responsible.

Harriet Washington::
Exactly. But now we’re talking about things that individuals have no control over, and you can’t evoke it. But that’s exactly what has happened in the past. If you look at Baltimore, in the not so distant past, they had the public health workers coming to Baltimore homes and showing mothers how to clean their floors with Spic and Span, implicating being that you’re not cleaning. Your homes are filthy and that’s why your kids are sick. No, their kids were sick because lead was everywhere. Industry had sold lead toys, lead paint, lead exhaust from the fuel, and mothers and fathers could do nothing to stem that tide. And yet, this blame the victim continues. So we have to be really careful with personal responsibility because it can easily end up being a blame the victim.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Oh, yeah. It’s also true with food, I think. When you talked a little earlier about food swamps, and food deserts, and food apartheid, and segregation around food. It’s hard to be personally responsible when you aren’t able to have access, when you aren’t taught what to do, when you don’t know how to cook the right things, when you’ve literally been disenfranchised from your traditional foods.

Harriet Washington::
Or healthy food is simply priced out of your market.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Right.

Harriet Washington::
You know, there are no supermarkets nearby. Going to the supermarket involves taking a taxi, or finding transportation, and it’s too far away. So you resort to what you can find nearby, which is going to be very poor choices.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
The bodega.

Harriet Washington::
Right. These [inaudible 00:27:19] choices that parents have to face like, “Do I go to McDonald’s and feed my whole family within my budget? Or do I spend a lot of money, go to the supermarket that I really can’t afford to do more than once every couple of months? Or do I buy some soggy vegetables and try to make a meal out of that?” I mean, that’s not a choice they should have to make.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah. There’s a friend of mine runs a company called Thrive Market and they lobbied a number of years ago to try to get SNAP to be able to be used online, food stamps, because it wasn’t. There was a recent study done looking at actually what would happen if that was implemented, and it hopefully will get passed in 2021 to allow SNAP to be used online. But then you can get cheaper access to food, home delivery of groceries.

Harriet Washington::
That would be great.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Basically, your food desert ends at the beginning of your internet connection, which most people do have. I think that the linkage between the environmental toxins and the loss of our intellectual capital is not something that most people are aware of.

Harriet Washington::
No, that’s why I wrote the book because I knew it was under the radar, wasn’t getting enough attention. And there’s alcohol, too. Alcohol is very important. I think that there’s a lot of talk, a lot of discussion in the 80s and 90s, about the hazards of high potency alcohol drinks that you can’t find everywhere. You can’t find MD 20/20 everywhere. You can’t find these alcoholic beverages that have… they’re fortified with more alcohol… I remember I was so naïve in the 80s, I thought, “Oh, that’s nice. They’re putting vitamins in the alcohol.” No, no, no, they’re putting more alcohol in the alcohol.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So what do you mean? It’s like 40 proof, 80 proof, what?

Harriet Washington::
I don’t know the exact proof, but it’s very high. They’re very high in alcohol. What’s interesting is, I’ve gone to the bodegas that sell them. First of all, it’s hard to find them outside of communities of color. I’ve gone to bodegas that sell them, You go to the case that has beer in it, there’ll be beer there and then they’ll also be fortified malt liquors, which look like beer, are bottled like beer, but carry the alcoholic wallop of a whole bottle of wine.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Wow.

Harriet Washington::
That’s how much alcohol’s in them. And they’re sold in the same case. So young people go there and buy this without realizing that what they’re buying, the malt liquor, is something that’s far more potent… Or actually, they do, because that’s what they want. They want a high potent drink that’s very cheap. And so drinking these things is very devastating, but especially do fetus’s because what happens very often in communities of color is that there is a lot of unacknowledged fetal alcohol damage.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Syndrome, yeah.

Harriet Washington::
So what you have is that mothers who tend to be a bit younger than more wealthy and white mothers. But they don’t tend to know that they’re pregnant for two months. During that time they’ve been socially drinking, not alcoholics, but drinking normally. But, that social drinking can affect their fetus.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Of course.

Harriet Washington::
And then the fetus is born with a problem, but very often the problem will be more subtle than fetal alcohol syndrome.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah, it’s just a little bit of… lack of…

Harriet Washington::
Less cognitive, but it won’t mean I have like the distinctive facial- [crosstalk 00:30:36]

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah, the facial- [crosstalk 00:30:37]

Harriet Washington::
So it’s not easily recognized, and we don’t screen routinely for fetal alcohol syndrome when kids are born. What happens is we have a lot of scrutiny on mothers that we know are alcoholics, a lot of scrutiny on Native American mothers, but not scrutiny on Hispanic and black mothers. So they have children with this problem, and again they’re diagnosed when they’re in their late teens or 20s as having something else, some other problem. And so this fetal alcohol damage is going unrecognized and a lot of it has to do with having targeted marketing of high potency alcoholic drinks in these communities.

Harriet Washington::
And I also want to point out, if I haven’t already, that we are talking about African American communities and I think there’s… I know, people tend to assume that it’s low income, socioeconomics, it’s a problem. But all the poisoning issues equally pertain to African American who are middle class, solidly middle class, and living in the suburbs.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Really?

Harriet Washington::
Yes. There are many communities that suburban communities, fully employed, that if they were not African American, there’d be no reason for them to be the foci of [inaudible 00:31:49] sites, or be exposed to toxic waste, but they are.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Why is that?

Harriet Washington::
Because it’s a matter of race, not of socioeconomics.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Because they’re segregated communities.

Harriet Washington::
No, no, no, no. We’re talking about communities that are African American and are solidly middle class. I think the 2017 study showed that African American with median incomes between 50 and $60,000 are exposed to far more toxicity than white communities with incomes of $10,000, profoundly poorer.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Because they live in neighborhoods more likely to be exposed to environmental toxins because of-

Harriet Washington::
Well, it’s actually the exact opposite. They are living in communities that should not be exposed to it, but they are because of race.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Why? Why is that happening?

Harriet Washington::
The NIMBY syndrome, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Not in my back yard.

Harriet Washington::
It’s kind of a zero sum game, right? Whites understand that… a lot of this is political clout, right? Whites understand that these toxins are going to be located somewhere. Nobody wants them in their neighborhood, right? So whites who have some little clout of power, or representatives with little clout of power, will fight, legally, to prevent the siting of them in their communities. And so it’s by default that they’re sited in African American and Hispanic communities. They don’t have as much clout. Political gerrymandering robs them of power.

Harriet Washington::
Also, home ownership. Remember the red lining we talked about earlier? People who don’t own their own homes are much more vulnerable to this kind of thing. You don’t have the clout to fight it. If the homeowner doesn’t really have a problem with it, then you’re stuck. So that happens often, but even homeowners in places like Anniston find that their communities are targeted. That’s where the dumping happens, that’s where the legal and illegal siting of toxic wastes happen because of racism, because whites don’t want it, neither do blacks. But blacks tend not to have the political powers.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Don’t have the political power, yeah.

Harriet Washington::
So being middle class-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Doesn’t protect you.

Harriet Washington::
… even owning your own home, doesn’t protect you. If you’re black, you’re still more likely to be a victim here. Robert Bullard has documented this very heavily in places like Houston, for example.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Robert Mueller, the Mueller report guy?

Harriet Washington::
What’s your point?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
You said, Mueller… Robert Mueller, is that who you said?

Harriet Washington::
No, no, no. Robert Bullard, sorry.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Oh, Bullard. I’m like, wow, okay.

Harriet Washington::
The father of environmental racism.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Got it. So this is clearly an issue there. Clearly people like you, talking and writing about it, and others. Has this achieved any awareness within local, state, federal legislatures or governments? Because it-

Harriet Washington::
It had until the current administration… actually the Environmental Protection Agency was not doing everything it should have done, but it was making progress, steady progress. Actually, over the last couple administrations, partly because of people like Mustafa Ali, who is a very powerful head of environmental racism programs there. But he resigned because the Trump administration has been consistently rolling back the progress that had been made over the last few administrations. For example, there were only four chlor alkali plants left operational in this country.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
And those produce a ton of mercury.

Harriet Washington::
Exactly. But we’d done a really good job, only four were open and they were scheduled to close last year. But the EPA under Trump decided to cancel the closing. They’re still operational, they’re going to continue to be operational.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Here’s a little known fact you may not know, but in the processing of corn to make high fructose corn syrup they often use chlor alkali, which means that there’s actually mercury in a lot of soda and other products that are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

Harriet Washington::
That’s charming. That’s good to know.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah. There’s actually a research paper on it that was written a number of years ago. It’s pretty frightening.

Harriet Washington::
Yeah. Even the surprise inspections that have been a constant under the EPA. Last year the EPA also decided to end all surprise inspections.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So we’re not going to come and check out your factory to make sure it’s kosher, we’re going-

Harriet Washington::
Oh, we’ll check it out. We’re going to tell you beforehand.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
So it’s going to be much less effective, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Right.

Harriet Washington::
You’re going to clean things up or hide anything you don’t want to be seen. So it’s going to invalidate the purpose of the inspection. So the EPA has been especially desultory under the Trump administration and we’ve been going backward steadily.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So let’s talk about lead poisoning a little bit more because it’s a big deal. I mean, even though we’ve got rid of leaded paint, leaded gas, it’s still in many homes and communities of color are more effected, and costs the United States 50 billion dollars a year. You said it costs 23 million IQ points in our children every year.

Harriet Washington::
Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
We’re basically destroying the future generations’ ability to be competitive.

Harriet Washington::
We spent 50 billion dollars, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
And nearly two out of every five African American homes in Baltimore have lead based paint. Almost all of the 37,500 Baltimore children who suffered from lead poisoning between 2003 and 2015 were African American.

Harriet Washington::
And that’s an underestimate.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So yeah, I’m sure it is.

Harriet Washington::
Because the testing that they’ve been using to establish whether the kids have lead poisoning is faulty.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
You mean the blood work?

Harriet Washington::
Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Tell us about that, and-

Harriet Washington::
Oh just the test was found to be faulty, it was found to consistently produce underestimates, but they continued to use it. In Baltimore-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Meaning just their whole blood lead level?

Harriet Washington::
Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Why does it underestimate the-

Harriet Washington::
Because the testing is faulty.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
What do you mean?

Harriet Washington::
The test is faulty. It’s been known to be faulty.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
You mean it’s not accurate?

Harriet Washington::
It doesn’t work well. It’s not accurate.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Uh-huh. Well what’s interesting, as a functional medicine doctor, I’ve been focused on environmental toxins for decades. And the way we test for them doesn’t make sense, right? Because particularly the heavy metals like mercury and lead, they only stay in your blood for a short period of time, maybe 90 days. They’re either excreted, a portion of them are excreted in your urine and stool. But a lot of them are then stored in your tissues and organs like your brain, and your muscles, and your bones. And so you can measure lead levels in bones. And so measuring someones lead level in their blood actually only reflects what their recent exposure was, but they could’ve been exposed heavily early on, and then not later, and it’ll look like normal but they still have high levels of lead.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
There was an article in the New York Times about special forces, which we’ve been treating at Cleveland Clinic, who had very high levels of mercury and lead because they were working in blast houses. We treated them with chelation, which is not a standard medical treatment. Although for acute lead poisoning, DMSA is an approved drug, but it’s not widely used. There’s “nothing that can be done about it,” they say. But in fact, that’s not true. One of the lead researchers at Mount Sinai in lead poisoning saw the before and after bone scans-

Harriet Washington::
Who was that?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
… I can’t remember his name, but-

Harriet Washington::
Landrigan?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
No, not Phil Landrigan. I know Phil very well. So the professor at Mount Sinai was like, “Well, we’ve never seen lead levels come down in blood before.” And I’m like, “Yes, because you don’t know how to treat the people with lead.” So I think for those listening, it can be fatalistic to say, “We’re all poisoned, we’re all toxic. We’ve already done the damage.” I can tell you clinically, from my point of view, I was mercury poisoned from living in China, and thousands of patients that I’ve treated with lead and mercury poisoning, they get better when you treat them. And there’s a science to how to detoxify from heavy metals and how to help regulate your body’s own systems for getting rid of pesticides, and chemicals, and so forth.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So there’s a way to do it, I’ve written a lot about it, but I think it’s important people listening understand that it’s not a done deal. If you’ve been affected, if you think your children have been affected, that there are ways of treating this, but they’re not within the traditional healthcare system.

Harriet Washington::
It’s important I think, because futility is one of the things we’re up against. Futility is a problem. If you assume that nothing can be done, nothing will be done.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Right.

Harriet Washington::
And I do make the point in my book that chelation and other methods can help people. I worked with some lawyers in Baltimore who have representing clients who’ve been lead poisoned. I find it really inspiring when they tell me about kids who had been written off, essentially as having been hopelessly injured by lead poisoning. But with the proper treatment, after they win a settlement, they’re able to go on. Some of them have gone on to college and performed quite well. I think that’s a really important point you’ve made.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
I think if you just look at traditional medicine, other than just stopping the exposure, there’s no treatment. And yet we know for example, high levels of zinc, and vitamin C, which often these kids are deficient in, help to remove mercury. There’s drugs like DMSA, there’s things like glutathione, there’s binders, all sorts of strategies we use in functional medicine to help mobilize and get rid of toxins. And I can tell you, I’ve seen kid after kid who’s had cognitive impairment, who’s had behavioral issues, who had aggression, who’s had dyslexia, learning difficulties, which are all related to these toxins, actually get better.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So we really haven’t one, named the problem very well. We’re not good at identifying the problem. And I think it’s a problem. Even things like glyphosate we think is… effects everybody in this country. But it’s one of the biggest… Actually, it’s the most abundant used industrial chemical, glyphosate, which is Roundup. It’s an herbicide. There’s more glyphosate than vitamin D or vitamin A in Cheerios, which is fortified with vitamin D and vitamin A. I think that affects kids microbiome, it affects their gene expression, it affects generations. But there are ways to help reduce and treat it.I think that’s important for people to be empowered about.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So from this whole idea of these communities who are marginalized with these toxic effects, these chemicals, what else can be done either locally, nationally, individually?

Harriet Washington::
I devoted two chapters of my book to that. In chapter six I talk about what individuals can do to exercise more control, not perfect control, but more control over their own environment, detoxify their own environment. And there are many things you can do in your home. It’s important to understand though that, as we said before, an individual can not alone eliminate this problem. It’s not an individual responsibility. But in your home you can do certain things.

Harriet Washington::
If you live too near a bus depot, or gas fumes from passing vehicles, because lead has been reduced greatly but not eliminated in fuels in this country, than there are things you can do like run the air conditioner, keep your doors shut, if you can afford to do that. And I point out that there’s funding available to help individuals to do that. I talk about the vermin in their homes, which have also been shown to cause disease that lowers cognition. And things you can do to help eliminate those vermin.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
You mean like cockroaches and dust mites?

Harriet Washington::
I mean like cockroaches, dust mites, and rodents. Rodents are a largely unrecognized source of hantavirus. Seoul virus, for example, has been tied to hypertension, which in turn has been tied to lowered cognition over time. So getting rid of these rodents is more than an aesthetic concern, it’s a very immediate health concern. And people who rent often feel powerless because it’s not their property. They have control maybe over their own apartment but not neighboring apartments. There’s limits on what they can do. But I point out the legal help that’s available to them because most laws, and most municipalities, say that the owner of the home is responsible for keeping the area vermin free. [crosstalk 00:43:32]

Dr. Mark Hyman::
And also lead remediation is legally mandated, but it’s not being done by landlords.

Harriet Washington::
Right. So I talk in detail about the type of-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Why is that? I mean, this one sort of shocked me in Cleveland. I was like, “Well, aren’t these homes in Cleveland required by law to actually be remediated from lead if people live in them?”

Harriet Washington::
You find the same thing in Baltimore. The laws exist, but it’s my opinion… I have to label it as opinion because I can’t actually document it in most cities. But in cities I’ve looked at, you have municipal concerns that the landlords who actually own the property will simply abandon properties if you force them to clean them up.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
It costs too much.

Harriet Washington::
Yeah, it costs too much to get rid of the lead. It costs too much to get rid of the rodents. I’m just going to leave this place. I’m just going to abandon it. And then the city loses tax revenue.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Then people squat.

Harriet Washington::
So they are, in my opinion, not always as assiduous as they should be in enforcing the law where it exists. But still, there things that people can do. There’s also OSHA, depending on the use of the building. I detail a lot of that for readers so they will know where to go.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So practical things about how to get help.

Harriet Washington::
Practical things they can do in their own environment. In the next chapter I talk about communities uniting to get help from the government and other agencies, and to try to clean up their own areas. And the thing is that these communities… I try to stress to people, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There already exists a lot of agencies that have been very successful in helping other communities. You can benefit from what other people have gone through to try to get your own area attention that it needs so that you will end up having… The EPA essentially is going to have to be forced to do what it should to by its own [inaudible 00:45:14]. And I talk about ways to do that.

Harriet Washington::
There is, I’m sure you’re familiar with it, Earthjustice. Wonderful organization. I love their motto, because the earth needs a good lawyer. And that’s what these people do. Need. When you organize to try to expel these sources of illness from your community, you’re going to need legal clout, and they can provide it.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
That’s amazing.

Harriet Washington::
I try to give this blueprint for people not only to clean up their own homes, but also to clean up their own communities, the places where they live and banish these sources of poison. Because unfortunately, the EPA is not going to do it for you, you’re going to have to do it for yourself.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah. Thank you, this is amazing. I want to just shift tracks a little bit because in your book you also talk about the issues around food, and food swamps, and food injustice, and how they’re connected, both environmental and food racism in a sense. I mean, you can Google food racism and you’ll see almost nothing. It just doesn’t come up, except a talk I gave at the Riverside Church in Harlem about food oppression.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
But other than that, there’s very few things written about the deliberate and often unrecognized food racism. And it’s often targeting the poor and minorities, it affects the same way their cognitive function. So we know just as environmental toxins cause loss of cognitive function, so does nutritional deficiencies, so does sugar in processed food. So how do you see these issues as linked? How would you describe the problem?

Harriet Washington::
Well, semantic point first. Although the food racism you describe is real, I tend not to use the world racism. I used it for environmental racism because that’s that specific variant. But racism is like a tricky word. Studies have shown that different people interpret it differently, which makes it pretty useless for communications- [crosstalk 00:47:13]

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Right, it’s not [crosstalk 00:47:13], people are allergic to it, right?

Harriet Washington::
Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
The reason I use it is because it’s meant to get people upset, it’s meant to get people to think.

Harriet Washington::
It’s accurate, but I find for communication it’s not always optimal.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah, I’m not always good at that. I get to call it like it is.

Harriet Washington::
But in terms of policies that drive this, one can go back as far as you like, it’s very nuanced, there are a lot of things that are going on that have had historical import. But if you top it what’s happening now, essentially it’s a factor of capitalism. People who supply foods are driven by the profit motive, they’re not driven necessarily by optimizing your health. And so when they’re in areas where people tend to have a low income, and tend to have higher rates of unemployment, they often find that it doesn’t suit their bottom line to locate there.

Harriet Washington::
So you’re not going to have supermarkets with an abundance of fresh, nutritious, safe food, organic food, etc., offered in these areas. Instead, you’re going to have bodegas, fast food places that are heavy on the cheap, but extremely non nutritious food filled with fat, sugar, etc., chemicals. So that’s what people are stuck with and increasingly. And so absent some kind of a control, a regulation by government, that’s what people are going to continue to be stuck with.

Harriet Washington::
There are some things that have worked in some communities, but the reality is it’s fine to say as people have said that these communities could get together and have community gardens and grow their own food. And that’s a beautiful thing, but you’re often having people who are engaged in survival and don’t have time to work in their garden. They’re too busy just trying to keep a roof over their heads. So it’s really important for the government to step in and do some regulation.

Harriet Washington::
And some people, of course I know that there are people who feel it’s not the government’s role. I disagree. I think that it’s really important, especially if you look at the long term effects. Who ends up paying the cost? The financial cost?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
That’s right.

Harriet Washington::
When people are sickened disproportionally because they have had a whole lifetime with eating poor food, we pay it, the tax payer. It’s Medicaid.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yes. Medicare, Medicaid, yeah.

Harriet Washington::
So that gives the government I think the right to step in and dictate to companies, “Okay, you want to remain profitable. We understand that, but you also are going to maintain food centers in these areas.”

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
And I think that’s what needs to be done. And we need to have a government that’s willing to do that [crosstalk 00:49:59].

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Well I mean, I think in this country, we’re really good at privatizing the profits and socializing the costs.

Harriet Washington::
Very well said.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Meaning, the true cost of the food isn’t paid for at the check out counter, or in a restaurant, or at the McDonald’s counter. It’s paid for by destruction of the environment, how we grow the food, and climate change. It’s paid for by the subsidization of that farming by the government, our tax payer. It’s paid for by the government, for example, for SNAP or food stamps, where 75% of the food is actually processed food and about 10% is soda. The biggest line item is soda. And then we pay for it by having to pay for the chronic disease that’s caused by that, which is diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and so forth, that really, literally, trillions of dollars every year that are paid for in our society by health insurance companies and the government.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So we pay for that as citizens through our tax dollars, and we’re not actually having the companies held accountable for the down stream consequences of their food and their products. Just like the same thing as the consequences of the pollution that you see in these communities. They’re not paying for the loss of cognitive… I mean, how much is a IQ point worth? How do you measure that in a kid? The quality of their life, their ability to succeed, their ability to go to school, their ability to actually function.

Harriet Washington::
Lead poisoning costs us 50 billion dollars, or 23 million IQ points per year. By either measure, it’s far too much, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah. So we really have to start thinking about how do we start to get real about this? And then change the food system in a way that one, not only provides access but also sort of changes the economic equation. Why is it so much cheaper to buy a can of soda, than a bottle of water? I mean, you go buy a bottle of water, it’s nine cents an ounce. Soda is two cents an ounce. If you go, for example, on Amazon you can buy a big bottle of smartwater for nine cents an ounce, or a bottle of Pepsi, for example, for two cents an ounce. So how is that right or fair, right?

Harriet Washington::
It’s absurd, completely crazy.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
It is absurd, considering Pepsi’s mostly water.

Harriet Washington::
Right. Exactly. So the companies are going to have to be forced to do what’s right and to make their products available to everyone who needs [crosstalk 00:52:39], not just people where they can be sure of making a lot of money.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So there’s tremendous health disparities in this country that are caused by the environmental impact you talked about, but also the food issues. I think we’re seeing this at huge scales. I mean, if you’re African American, you’re 80% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, almost twice as likely probably four times as likely to have kidney failure, three and a half times as likely to get amputations as whites.

Harriet Washington::
The kidney failure is really interesting, because I remember I was [inaudible 00:53:07] health when New England Journal of Medicine published an article essentially asked the question, why are African American diabetics four times as likely go into end stage renal failure as whites? And they began positing all these possible reasons. It could be genetics, it could be this, could be that, on and on, and on. I read the article, I said, “They don’t mention toxicity even though we know that African Americans are exposed more heavily toxicity not only in their homes, but in the work place.” And my professor said, “You’re right. That should be a key factor.” But they didn’t even bring it up. It wasn’t even on their radar.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
No, you’re right. I mean, in the Journal of the American Medical Association a number of years ago, there was an article where they looked at people with… all people with sort of early kidney failure who are going to progress to get dialysis, which is an enormous cost. It’s just an enormous cost. And what they found was that if they treated them for… and they all had a lot of lead toxicity. They treated them with EDTA intravenous chelation for lead that their progression to needing dialysis was halted, which you think would be now standard practice.

Harriet Washington::
Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
It wasn’t in some third rate journal from China, it was a peer review, top medical journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association publishing this paper that just completely went ignored. And yet I see this. I see patients with toxicity, and renal issues, and we treat them and they get better. I had a patient come the other day, he had a lot of reasons for his kidney issues, but he saw his nephrologist and the nephrologist was like, “I’ve never seen peoples kidney failure get better. It just is a one way street. I don’t know how you did this.” We changed his diet, we got him healthy, we fixed all those things. It’s a huge issue.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Can you talk a little bit about the… and this is a tough question. But, the African American community I think is disproportionately affected by the food system, and by environmental toxins. But often there’s not a sense of awareness, or empowerment, to fight these issues. We have Black Lives Matter, which is about the judicial system-

Harriet Washington::
You say awareness and empowerment, you mean on the part of African Americans?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah. I think people are-

Harriet Washington::
I’m not sure that’s true. In fact, I know differently.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Well, I’d like to hear that because I see the Black Lives Matter movement about the criminal justice system and-

Harriet Washington::
But you see Black Lives Matter because it’s publicized by the news media.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
Okay? So what happens is that the concern among African Americans about food issues is often not publicized by the news. It often remains under the radar. Or even worse, it’s mischaracterized. I lecture frequently, not only to medical schools, and medical ethics institutions, but also to communities. It is actually the most frequently sited issue when I speak.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So what are your conversations?

Harriet Washington::
I’m not even speaking about food issues for the most part, but it always comes up immediately.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So what are the conversations you’re having?

Harriet Washington::
Well, there’s a lot of understand… First of all, there’s a lot of concern about the importance of eating well and maintaining health on one’s own because many people have justified trust issues with the medical establishment, and frankly, want to avoid it as long as they can. I don’t think that’s the right approach, but I understand why they think that.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Just for people who don’t know why, the history of the Tuskegee experiment, which essentially-

Harriet Washington::
Not really Tuskegee, actually. It’s everything else.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Oh, really?

Harriet Washington::
That’s a whole other conversation.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
But just quickly for those who don’t know-

Harriet Washington::
My book, Medical Apartheid, actually focuses on that. Yeah. There’s a long history of abusive medical research with African Americans, and the focus on Tuskegee, but the other studies were actually much worse and were very dense. I have 15 whole chapters and only one of them mentions Tuskegee.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Wow.

Harriet Washington::
And not only in the past, but in the present. There are present day issues. There’s one going on right now that I’m involved in, in Baltimore of course… happening in Baltimore where we have young black men who are being actively recruited into studies, without their knowledge, where they’re going to be forced into hypothermia as treatment for gunshot wounds.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Wow.

Harriet Washington::
Yes, really chilling. Anyway, these concerns mean that many African Americans seek to avoid getting sick, avoid the healthcare system, and they focus very heavily on food as a way of doing that. They often come with very precise questions to me that I can’t answer. But they’re concerned about not only eating the right things, but even concerned about brands, the brand of the bottled water they drink.

Harriet Washington::
The last talk I gave, which didn’t deal with [inaudible 00:57:52], I was asked by a lot of people who were taking notes, which brand of bottled water should they [inaudible 00:58:00]. Or they’ll talk about the fact that they avoid meat, that they have a vegan diet, and they also avoid dairy. I mean, they’re very… It’s very meticulous. It’s very precise. And there’s a great deal of concern about this. But I’ve noticed that it typically doesn’t get addressed in the news media. And I’ll leave you to speculate why that would be, but it’s something that you don’t see addressed in other… you have to be in the community to see and hear this. [crosstalk 00:58:26]

Dr. Mark Hyman::
I would wonder, for example, the soda companies target the poor and minorities much further than every other community. And yet there’s not an outcry. For example, I talk to African American pastors and say, “Why don’t you get up on the podium and go, hey, look, this is a form of targeting, and targeted marketing that’s affecting us and our communities?” There’s a pastor in Baltimore, [Adel Marcos 00:58:55], who says, “We’re losing more people to the sweets than the streets.” And I think-

Harriet Washington::
But let’s look at the facts. Who drinks soda? You’re speaking as if this is a minority issue, as if African Americans are. But 85% of the people in this country are white [crosstalk 00:59:11], okay?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yes, they drink soda, too.

Harriet Washington::
Soda companies would go out of business if they targeted African Americans. Americans are drinking soda. And think about it, even if-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
That’s true, but the data are really clear. African Americans do drink more, and African American kids do drink more because they’re targeted.

Harriet Washington::
They’re not. But what does… when you say more, what do you mean? More by volume? Or more by rate? The rate may be higher, but the fact that these are so few people, even if you have-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Right, in a proportion of the population it’s less, but for-

Harriet Washington::
Even a much lower rate of soda consumption among whites would still mean that they would far outstrip African Americans in consumption.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Into the total amount of sold, of course.

Harriet Washington::
Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
But I’m talking about per capita consumption, it’s much higher.

Harriet Washington::
It’s important to specify that.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
We’re talking about per capita. But we’re talking about per capita, then the question is why are we talking about per capita? Because if we know the rate of consumption among whites, which I don’t know and I’m assuming you don’t have at your finger tip, but if we knew the rate, we’d have a better picture what’s going on.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
It’s about double for African Americans, in kids.

Harriet Washington::
Which would make the rate among whites, what?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
I don’t know the… I have it in one of my books, I read about it years ago. But basically, what I remember was that the amount of soda consumed by African American kids is twice that of white kids.

Harriet Washington::
Well, I think that it’s really important to understand we’re not talking about a racial issue there. We’re talking about an American issue, because if you’re talking about the rate of consumption that’s one thing. When talking about consumption, it’s largely driven by whites. Whites are an important factor here, too.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Sure, I think we’re just maybe sort of not quite talking about the same thing. What I’m suggesting is that these communities are far more affected by diabetes, and obesity, which are caused by sugar, and processed food, and soda in large part. And they’re consuming more of it because they’re targeted. For example, in SNAP, when you go to a suburban neighborhood, they’re not advertising on SNAP days when people get their SNAP card for more soda. But you go to the bodegas, they’re advertising heavily for the two dollar bottle of two liter soda. So they are-

Harriet Washington::
Targeted marketing is a constant in the African American community.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
My point is that, if one’s not careful about [inaudible 01:01:29] and things like consumption, then it can play into a subtle form of blaming the victim. Not by you, of course, but by other people who take it up. And I see this happen very frequently. The focus on African American behavior, like soda consumption, in a vacuum, gives the impression that it’s not a behavior that’s of consequence to other people. Which you know, your work-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Of course, it is. Of course, it is, yeah.

Harriet Washington::
Yeah. Your work is like… you focus on this. And it’s obviously that you don’t think that. But I’m thinking about all the people who read a newspaper article-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
For sure.

Harriet Washington::
… and come away with the wrong impression.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
But what I’m saying, it’s not personal choice, they have targeted marketing to them. They’re communities are full of this stuff at incredibly low prices. And my question to you is really, does the African American community get that they’re being victimized by the food industry? And that that’s a subtle form of racism?

Harriet Washington::
They absolutely do. But I think also there’s no monolithic African American community. As I’ve told you-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
That’s fair.

Harriet Washington::
… many African Americans are very concerned about nutrition. And many would as soon shoot themselves as drink a soda. I mean- [crosstalk 01:02:38]

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah, for sure.

Harriet Washington::
And then you have others, who again, with actually fewer choices. A parents head of a household with marginal jobs, they’re doing what they can do to put food on the table. And so they’re going to resort to buying that two liter bottle of soda for their kids because they don’t have many choices. So those are very different situations and very different people. So I think it’s really important to- [crosstalk 01:03:05]

Dr. Mark Hyman::
For sure. It’s a complex problem, no doubt.

Harriet Washington::
But I do know that the many, many African Americans who are very focused on nutrition and eating healthily, and eating the right things, don’t get the same media attention as those who are presented as having problematic choices.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
No, I agree. I think we just have to sort of name that there is sort of a system of food injustice, there’s a system of food apartheid, and that it’s real, and that it is targeting communities of color in ways that are really unfortunate and need to be fixed. And that’s really what I- [crosstalk 01:03:38]

Harriet Washington::
… need to be fixed, absolutely.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
I think the question I have for you is, you’ve thought a lot about this and you say that there is hope. We don’t have to be sort of discouraged completely, that if we work together we can fix these problems. So what are the most important changes you’d like to see in terms of public policy, and how do we think about solutions and strategies to maximize the intelligence of our nation as a whole, and in communities of color?

Harriet Washington::
There’s so many, but as I’ve said, in chapter six and seven of my book I lay them out in great detail. And also how to do them, not just this is what you ought to do, but here’s who can help you do it. But, the overview is that first of all, we need a functioning EPA, an EPA that will take its mission to protect our land, food, and water seriously. Right now we have an EPA that seems to be dedicated to doing nothing, and they’re rolling back the advances we’ve already made.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yes.

Harriet Washington::
We also need to have municipal governments that will not only correct issues, but stop lying to people. It’s a constant feature that in every city I write about, at one point the city government has lied to the sufferers about whether or not their being exposed to toxins. If you don’t know that you’re being exposed to lead, or PCB’s, then you can’t do anything about it if you’re being lied to.

Harriet Washington::
And also, I think it’s really important for people who live in communities that are being assailed by the toxins to organize, to realize that they’re going to have to save themselves until we clean up our act as a government, but they’re not alone in doing that. You know, that can be done.

Harriet Washington::
Public health has got to not only scrutinize very heavily any message about personal responsibility, public health has to do a better job of medical journalism. You talked about the journals that have very high prestige and are cited frequently, but I have written repeatedly about many of the deep flaws in medical reporting.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yes. In the media.

Harriet Washington::
No. New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah.

Harriet Washington::
JAMA. All these journals are being influenced by corporations.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Interesting.

Harriet Washington::
Which are successfully-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Not just pharmaceutical companies.

Harriet Washington::
Well, largely pharmaceutical but not completely. And they are influencing the messages and distorting the information available to doctors. So doctors are essentially being lied to by these journals very often. The journals will say, “We’re peer reviewed,” and “You can trust us,” but they can’t uphold this promise of purity because they often don’t see the original. In fact, they don’t see the original data.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Right.

Harriet Washington::
So they don’t know how the data have been processed before they get it.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yes.

Harriet Washington::
There’ve been many cases where companies who use medical writers to write the journals, not the doctors whose names actually are on the journal-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
That’s true.

Harriet Washington::
… these companies have withheld information.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yes.

Harriet Washington::
Like COX-2 inhibitors, they withheld information about heart attacks and deaths so doctors couldn’t know it and kept prescribing them. So anyway, when it comes to environmental problems, you see the same kind of things. Not only do they publish articles which are erroneous, but they ignore information that is of paramount importance, so we don’t know about a lot of exposures that we should know about.

Harriet Washington::
So public health and medical reporting have to do a much better job of not only reporting accurately, without corporate influence, but also reporting about things that are important. One of the things I had a problem with in writing the book was I wanted to write about subsistant fishing, where people fish in order to add to their diets, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yes. Oh yeah, I was going to bring that up.

Harriet Washington::
Yeah, I called a researcher at Johns Hopkins, by the way, a researcher who had been very sympathetic to environmental racism. And she told me, “Oh, forget it. There’s no data on African Americans in fishing. On Asians, but not African Americans. African Americans don’t do that.” I said, “Oh, yes they do.” I live in the African American community. I see it very often. My own father went fishing and hunting to support his family of seven. I said, “It happens frequently.” She said, “If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.”

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Oh, geez.

Harriet Washington::
And that is actually the mentality.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Well, yeah. The truth is that every single river and lake in this country is polluted, and if you’re subsistant fishing out of these, which are often around urban areas, the fish are highly polluted, toxic, and that’s getting into people.

Harriet Washington::
There are things still that people can do to protect themselves. Frankly, if you think that you have to do the fishing to support your family, you can choose certain fish that are less polluted. You can choose smaller fish. You can find waterways that are less polluted. I mean, there are things you can do. But these have not been-

Dr. Mark Hyman::
It’s tough.

Harriet Washington::
Yeah, but you know the data isn’t there. These are things that should be investigated, they’re very important.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Well, I mean the [crosstalk 01:08:25] data isn’t there for African American, maybe. But the data from the EPA is really clear, I looked at all the rivers and lakes in America and every single one… you wouldn’t want to eat the fish out of.

Harriet Washington::
Well, the data isn’t there for African Americans. I’m writing about African Americans, so that’s the data that I needed. And what happened was, fortunately for me, literally six weeks before I finished the book, finally a report was issued, [inaudible 01:08:45] report. And they not only documented African American fishing, but they also had this little note chiding from the researcher saying, “This has been ignored for too long, we should’ve done this study a very long time ago.”

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Yeah, yeah.

Harriet Washington::
So those are things that need to happen [crosstalk 01:09:02].

Dr. Mark Hyman::
So there’s a lot of things that can happen to fix this and I think that your book is really a great testament to one, exposing this issue and naming the issue, and then also helping solve the problem by laying out a whole series of strategies that could be implemented.

Harriet Washington::
Thank you, that’s what I’m trying to do.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Well, I hope everybody gets to read this book. It’s called A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind. I mean, when you think of the amount of intellectual and human capital that’s lost because of environmental toxins and also the food system, it’s staggering. And it’s fixable. So, thank you, Harriet, for the work you do, for being on the podcast.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
If you loved this podcast, I’d love you to share it with your friends and family on social media. Leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and we’ll see you next time on The Doctors Farmacy.

Harriet Washington::
Thanks, so much.

Dr. Mark Hyman::
Thank you.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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