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Curious which toxins should be most avoided for people of reproductive age and their children? In this episode, Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo, LM, CPM, MPH, PhD unravels the intricate connection between environmental exposures and their profound impact on pregnancy and birth outcomes. We will explore the hidden risks associated with heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, and arsenic.

You’ll learn about the research on how environmental exposures contribute to issues like reduced birth weight, miscarriage, stillbirth, congenital anomalies, and neurodevelopmental delays. Plus, Dr. Taiwo teaches about the unequal distribution of these exposures across populations, what parents can do to test their environments for unwanted elements, and how midwives can be part of the solution for environmental justice.

Content Note: Listener discretion is advised. This episode includes a stark discussion of common environmental exposures, social factors, and their impact on pregnancy and infant health outcomes. Toward the end of the episode [from 37:12 to 41:08], there is a brief discussion of traumatic historical events (including the Holocaust and chattel slavery) and their subsequent impact on environmental toxins.

Resources

EBB Resources:

For more information about Evidence Based Birth® and a crash course on evidence based care, visit www.ebbirth.com. Follow us on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok! Ready to learn more? Grab an EBB Podcast Listening Guide or read Dr. Dekker’s book, “Babies Are Not Pizzas: They’re Born, Not Delivered!” If you want to get involved at EBB, join our Professional membership (scholarship options available) and get on the wait list for our EBB Instructor program. Find an EBB Instructor here, and click here to learn more about the EBB Childbirth Class.

Transcript

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:00:00:

Hi everyone, on today’s podcast, we’re going to talk with Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo about the intersection of environmental exposures and their impact on birth outcomes. Welcome to the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast. My name is Rebecca Dekker, and I’m a nurse with my PhD and the founder of Evidence Based Birth®. Join me each week as we work together to get evidence based information into the hands of families and professionals around the world. As a reminder, this information is not medical advice. See ebbirth.com/disclaimer for more details. Hi everyone, and welcome to today’s episode of the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast. I am Dr. Rebecca Dekker, pronouns she/her, and I’ll be your host for today’s episode. Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo, a certified professional midwife with her master’s in public health and her PhD, lives in Sacramento, California, where she has practiced in community clinic settings for over 20 years and counts herself blessed as the mother of three beautiful girls who are all born at home into the hands of midwives. Tanya comes from a family tradition of midwifery stretching back at least two generations, was trained at Seattle Midwifery School, and apprenticed with midwives in Seattle, Senegal, and Jamaica. An associate professor in the Department of Midwifery at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington, Dr. Taiwo is an epidemiologist whose dissertation research examined the role of maternal prenatal stress on child neurodevelopment and how these stressors interact with environmental exposures. Dr. Taiwo serves as co-lead of Project TENDER, which stands for Targeting Environmental Neurodevelopment Risks, a unique collaboration of leading scientists, health professionals, and children’s and environmental advocates. Dr. Taiwo currently works in a federally qualified health center, caring for low-income families in a multidisciplinary setting where reproductive health care is enhanced with health education, nutrition, and social services. Dr. Taiwo, welcome to the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:02:14:

Oh, Dr. Dekker, it is such a pleasure to be here. I have utilized the Evidence Based Birth® website and podcast for years, and it’s really quite an honor to be able to contribute to some of the rich resources that you have provided.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:02:37:

We’re so excited for our listeners to learn from you with, you know, all of the experience you have in the subject area that we’re going to be talking about in your career in midwifery. And so you’ve been on our wishlist for a while. So we’re like thrilled to have you on today. Can you first share with us what led you down the path of becoming a midwife? And then, you know, after you share with that, could you talk about like how you kind of got interested in environmental issues and how that relates to pregnancy?

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:03:06:

Oh, absolutely. But if I could just for a moment, just… Take a second and acknowledge and thank the people of African ancestry who were stolen from their homelands and brought to this country whose free labor and lives paid a major role in the formation and economic wealth and the midwifery tradition in this country. And also I would like to honor African, the contributions of African scholarship and African-American ancestral scientists and inventors, and again, midwives whose contributions were stolen and never acknowledged due to white supremacy, because my journey starts from standing on their shoulders. I was an activist working in South Central Los Angeles during the early days of the crack epidemic. We were working for basic services in the community that were missing, including school-age childcare for kids who were at risk because parents didn’t have children six to seven to twelve who didn’t have a place to be while their parents were at work after school. And it was in that environment that I… began to think about how… as an activist, how… broken we were in so many ways. And at the same time where I was having that, that thinking about our brokenness, I got pregnant. And then went to a bookstore and started reading about pregnancy. And then realize, oh my gosh, I have options. I didn’t even think about that before. I didn’t know that there were midwives in the generations that preceded me in Jamaica because that story wasn’t told to me. Both my grandmother and her grandmother were midwives. But yeah, it was in a bookstore. It hit me like, oh, I could have a baby with a midwife? Oh, and I could have a baby in a birth center or at home, you know, just like, wow. And then I felt like there was a light bulb over my head that said, you could be a midwife. I immediately, while I was pregnant, actually started taking the prerequisite classes for, I already had a bachelor’s degree, but I didn’t have any of the life sciences. So. I actually went back to community college to… You know, take the courses I needed to take. And I thought I was going into nurse midwifery because at the time California didn’t have a pathway for direct entry midwifery. And so I took all the prerequisites for nursing school, but then realized that wasn’t the kind of midwife that I wanted to be. And so our little family moved to Seattle so that I could study to be what at that time had been a very new credential, the CPM credential.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:06:25:

Wow. So your story really strikes me of like your light bulb moment of standing in that bookstore and realizing not only can I have a midwife, but I can be a midwife, like all in the same moment. That’s incredible. And then was there a lot of discussion in your family growing up about your ancestors who were midwives?

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:06:46:

You know, in Jamaica, the midwives are called nurse.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:06:51:

Okay.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:06:52:

Well, the midwives in the country are called nurse. And then in the hospital, you have nurses. And then, then the next level, when you study your midwifery training and get your business training, then you’re called midwife in the hospital. But a lot of the people who are catching babies are called nurses. So, yeah, there was a lot. I knew my grandmother was catching babies. But I only, I knew her as that, that she was nurse. And so it wasn’t until after I started on this midwifery journey that then my family started to tell the stories about her going out late at night, you know, the owls hooting, you know, like my uncle said, he always associated owls with a baby being born. Because, of course, that’s when he was woken up by his mother leaving, you know, to go and do a delivery. It’s a story often repeated about the erasure of midwifery as part of the ongoing story of the erasure of women’s work in the world. Just lack of recognition.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:08:09:

Yeah. And then what happened next in Seattle?

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:08:14:

So I, again, another twist and turn, I trained as a home birth midwife and thinking that that was, that would be what I was going to do. I was going to be one of the very few at the time, Black licensed midwives, which is what we were called in Seattle. I mean, in Washington State. I was pulled by a friend in California who recognized, I had told her about how midwifery, a large part of the way that learning happens in midwifery is through storytelling, which is so much related to the African traditions or indigenous traditions of learning. And she said to me, we need to do a conference around Black infant mortality, where we gather Black women to talk about their birth stories. And so we put together a conference, and this was in, I think, 1997. And we also included the stories of Black women suffering with infertility, as well as Black infant mortality. And it was there that I learned about a project called The Birthing Project that had started in Sacramento as a… project that linked sister friends who are volunteers in the community with little sisters. Who stayed, made a commitment to, the sister friends made a commitment to their little sisters to stay with them throughout the pregnancy, provide support, and make a commitment to stay one year after the baby was born. Those sister friends in Sacramento realized that they didn’t want to continue to take their little sisters to obstetricians’ offices where the wait times were over three hours and they couldn’t bring their kids or they were disrespected. And so they actually built a clinic. And then it was the sister friends who built the clinic, a community clinic, said, we want midwives and nurse practitioners. They pulled me from Seattle, where I was beginning what I thought was going to be my home birth practice to come down to work in this community clinic and also be the clinic administrator. And so that is where I have done my work. As a midwife is in the community clinic working with higher risk pregnant people in a Medicaid environment with the combination of community health workers and social workers. Like I don’t even know how to practice midwifery without a social worker, having access to a social worker. But there, you know seeing, I saw a lot of, particularly among our Hispanic clients, a lot of really devastating genetic diseases and particularly folks who were very new to the US, and I kept thinking..this is environmental. This has to be environmental, you know, that we’re, you know, that we would see these multiple anomalies. And having always been an environmentalist, it just has been, it’s part of my DNA. I really wanted to begin to understand and pay attention to the impact of environmental exposures on pregnancy. That pushed me into seeking an MPH and, and then that wasn’t enough. And I also kind of fell into a PhD program and it was an obstetrician that I worked with who kept saying, you need to get your PhD. You have too many questions that are important.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:12:25:

Yeah.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:12:25:

And so, yeah. And so she was really just, I mean, she just kept pushing. And actually, I did the application, not expecting that I would get in, only to shut her up. But then once I got in, it was like. Okay, you know, the universe has said yes. So let’s step into this door.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:12:51:

It’s so interesting how some people with more life experience or maybe in a mentorship role can see things in you that you don’t necessarily see in yourself at the time. Because I have a similar memory of a nursing professor telling me, you should get your PhD. You’re going to do that. And it’s interesting they recognize that curiosity and desire for answers and questions. And challenging the status quo, I think. As a researcher, you really want to be like, we can do things differently. Let’s figure out how.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:13:27:

And we can ask the questions differently.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:13:30:

Can you talk to us then about environmental exposures that impact pregnancy and birth and postpartum and infant health outcomes? Just give us a broad overview of some of the major environmental exposures that you’re concerned about right now.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:13:46:

There are many that we don’t essentially think about. We have the heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. And so we have polluted both our oceans with mercury. And I want to talk a little bit more about mercury in a bit. And cadmium comes from industrial sources and industrial uses. And that’s led to a lot of contaminated soils and arsenic. And so these have a lot of impact on reduced birth weight, in miscarriage, stillbirth, congenital anomalies, and neurodevelopmental delay. So that’s just one group. And we know that the exposures are not distributed equally throughout the population. So if I could just focus on mercury for a moment. Mercury is a neurotoxicant. And we’ve known that for a very long time. Back in 1840…so what is that? Almost 200 years ago, the American Society of Dental Surgeons denounced the use of mercury amalgams due to their fears about poisoning. And at that time, members were required to pledge to avoid the mercury amalgam filling. But many dentists have continued to use these amalgams because they’re cheaper, they’re faster, and they’re easier to replace than… the gold, which was used originally, or these new composites that are, you know, white colored. Then in 1859, the pro-mercury… amalgam factor in America formed its own dental society. The American Dental Association. So that is how we move from the American Society of Dental Surgeons to the American Dental Association. And although the FDA has asked that dentists stop using amalgam in children and other high-risk groups like pregnant persons, we know that many government programs, including Medicaid, and the Indian Health Service continue to place mercury fillings in children’s mouths, right? In defiance of the FDA, we know that there are safer alternatives that are available actually at a reasonable cost. But it is really time that the US Secretary of Health, right, actually halt the use of amalgam in dental care that is provided or subsidized by the federal government. Because that is the, the group that is most likely to be exposed to mercury from dental care, then of course the rest of us are impacted by the mercury that is in our oceans and continues to be released in our oceans. I have a particular focus on neurodevelopment. The human brain is in a constant state of development and it starts very early in the first few days after conception, continues throughout the entire pregnancy. There’s massive brain development in the early days of infancy, continuing through childhood into adolescence. That is, there’s actual architecture being built. And so we need to keep in mind that, that we have multiple chemicals in our environment that are actual neurotoxins. And so that is a particular focus of mine and a particular passion. It’s the work I do through Project Tender, to work to prevent all children, including those that are in utero. So that means protecting those people who are capable of having babies from neurotoxins. These neurotoxins also have other impacts on reproductive outcomes. Then I’d like to talk about lead. This is another place where we have, where we really could stop this. And recently the Biden administration announced the plan to remove all lead pipes in the country, which is a long awaited and needs to happen. Like I know that it’s going to take years and a lot of money, but it’s actually such an important place that we can start. So lead contamination, pregnant people are exposed through lead-based paint. Also, it is in some of our beauty products. There are foods that have lead. Now there’s a big recognition that I hear on TikTok that the Stanley cups that people are so excited about for whatever reason that actually have lead in them. Lead is rapidly transported across the placenta and it actually causes epigenetic changes in the fetus. The endocrine profile of pregnancy and lactation can actually lead to a release of lead. And so higher blood lead levels and excretion into breast milk. So the risks of elevated blood lead levels includes, the miscarriage, preterm birth, small for gestational age, and preeclampsia. The hypertensive disorders that are a leading cause of maternal mortality, morbidity, and traumatic birth experiences actually are associated with lead exposures. It is… teratogenic. Causing these epigenetic changes, and it is toxic postnatally. There’s a link between high blood Lead levels and devastating IQ losses, as well as neurodevelopmental delay. So if you can avoid it in utero, and then you move into a home or community with high lead exposures, your brain can be affected postnatally as well. We have a situation in our prisons right now where when they’ve done lead levels on children in juvenile hall, they see a huge epidemic of elevated blood lead levels in our juvenile halls. There’s a pretty solid body of literature, you know, showing the risk of IQ loss, the risk of neurodevelopment, but also that, that that risk is higher in low-income populations. And the impact of that risk is greater when social adversity is also present. So what that means is if you are in a highly advantaged home, as a child and you have a child who is in a home that has experienced social adversity, and you have the exact same blood lead levels. The impact on IQ loss is going to be greater in the family with, with those higher social factors. Lead is a place where we have well-documented the link between social factors and the biological environmental exposure, you know, impacting our brains.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:21:47:

If I was pregnant and listening to this, I would be really concerned. You know, I know they talk about avoiding certain fish from the ocean.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:21:55:

For mercury, yeah.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:21:56:

But in terms of like, how do you know if you have high blood lead levels? You know, what are some practical things you can do during pregnancy?

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:22:07:

Yeah, you know, thank you for asking that question. Well, first and foremost. It should not be imperative on the individual to protect themselves, right? We need to push the agencies that we pay as taxpayers to protect us, the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FDA, Food and Drug Administration, as well as the Department of Health and Human Sciences, right? So that’s services.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:22:35:

It’s a systemic problem.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:22:37:

It’s a systemic problem. And then we need to address the systemic racism that has caused higher levels in certain communities and the placement of pollution and polluters in low-income communities and communities of color. Now, if you want to know yourself, lead testing is actually very cheap. You can ask your provider for it. It requires just a finger stick, not even, you know, a venous blood draw.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:23:07:

Wow.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:23:08:

There are lead test kits that are available for you. And then also paying attention to where you purchase the things you buy for your household as much as possible using glass and stainless steel and simple, you know, staying away from the plastics and those kinds of things. But yes, you can easily ask your provider to test you. You can also test your home and products in your home. There are some universities that will even take a soil sample and test it for free or for a nominal fee. I think I paid like the University of Michigan or somewhere. I sent some dirt from my house and they, you know, let me know the lead levels.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:23:57:

Is this like dust from inside your house or dirt from the ground outside?

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:24:01:

Dust from inside your house as well as, as well as, so you can test your home with the, the home kits that are available and also send your, your soil to be tested.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:24:12:

What about your water? Is that something you can test?

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:24:15:

Yeah, you know, that, I don’t know. That is a really good question. And it is important that our water get tested. I think the thing to do is look online. We have, at least in California, we have really excellent regulation that where our water districts are required to post on their test results. Yeah, to provide test results. But then there’s also once the water leaves the facility in one condition, and then, you know, it’s good to know what are the pipes that you have in your home. And maybe you need an actual point of, a point of use filter to remove any contaminants that got into your water.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:25:02:

Are there any other exposures that you want to talk about?

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:25:06:

I would love to talk about the phthalates. And this is the word that I barely know how to spell. P-H-T-H-A-L-A-T-E-S. The phthalates. They are one of a class of endocrine disrupting chemicals. I just want to talk about endocrine disruptors for a moment. We know we have our endocrine system that is, you know, this beautiful interplay of minute amounts of hormones that regulate every part of our body systems and functioning. And we have chemicals that are very similar to, or, you know, similar to our normal hormones that actually disrupt these processes. We have effects, reproductive effects from these endocrine disruptors, infertility. Aneuploidy, pregnancy loss, again, preterm birth, reduced birth weight, and also neurodevelopmental delay. These are extensively used in industrial and computer applications and most often as the plasticizers. A lot of the lovely plastic packaging that we get takeout food in has phthalates in it. Many of our beauty products in this country have phthalates as well as many other chemicals that aren’t allowed in the chemicals in beauty products in European countries. So the endocrine disruptors block or mimic or disrupt the normal hormonal signals, and they interact with our complex endocrine system that orchestrates all our vital functions, including metabolism, immune function, reproduction, and intelligence and behavior, so neurodevelopment as a whole. So moving towards the phthalates, Revlon, for example, will… utilize different formulations for the exact same fire engine red lipstick in the U.S. than they do in the EU. And so the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, the Safer Cosmetics Coalition, and multiple partners were working to, to get a bill that says we just, people in the US, need the same protections as people in the EU. And we were not successful in that bill. The industry lobby convinced many legislators to pull back. So we need to pay attention when our legislators are not doing their jobs to protect us.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:28:05:

In addition to advocating for change at the legislative level, it seems like, using things like glass and stainless steel for our food are important. Is that one takeaway?

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:28:20:

Yeah. Yeah. I, I, I think about it every time I do take takeout food, you know, and I’m like, wow, I wish I could bring my own containers. You know, I mean, not only is it just. You know, environmentally wasteful, but also I would prefer not to have my hot food put in a container that might be lined with phthalates.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:28:46:

I was also thinking the endocrine disruption and things that mimic different hormones and things. And one thing I’ve been reading a lot on the last 10 or 20 years is just the epidemic of early menstruation in our country. And I’ve always wondered, I was like, it has to be something, quote unquote, in the water because it’s so widespread and it’s such a change from human history to have menstruation starting at 10 years of age, nine in some children. And I know there’s also disparities in terms of marginalized populations with that as well, but it’s happening in every ethnic group. And so it just makes me think that there is something going on. And as far as I know, there are researchers are still trying to tease that out. It would not surprise me that if someday we find some of these things that we just take for granted as being part of industry in our country and part of products are not healthy.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:29:46:

Yes, yes. Yeah, thanks for that. I’m so glad you brought that up. So N-HANES, which is the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study, is a national study that collects multiple samples, biosamples, from people around the US. They actually did a sub-analysis of the chemical exposure disparities by race, ethnicity, and life stage in the US. And they used 38,000 women. So using this biomarker data for 143 chemicals. What they found is that when compared to white women, and I’m using women here because that is the language of the author of the study, the highest disparities were observed for Black women, Mexican-American women, other Hispanic groups, and then other race or multi-ethnic groups. And what they found is that this exposure disparity exists across age groups. A lot of this has to do with both… the impact of systemic racism, redlining on communities and housing policy and where industrial sites are placed.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:31:12:

Located.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:31:13:

And located, but it also has to do with the wider use of chemical products that women of color use to under pressure from the ideal of, you know, of white womanhood, right? And trying to achieve those beauty standards. And it’s so exciting to see all these women of color, you know, who are just rejecting, you know, rejecting those standards. And that is, that is so, so to be celebrated. However, we still have, you know, a lot of women that are using these products. So we’re seeing not only these higher reproductive effects, but we’re also seeing it. And as you mentioned, the, you know, changes in the menstrual cycle, right? Higher rates of endometriosis. Fibroids in communities of color. Just really an awful, awful menstrual journey throughout the lifespan. People can use the Environmental Working Group. They have an app that you can scan in the store.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:32:24:

Really?

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:32:25:

Yeah, you can scan products and get the profile of what chemicals and what chemical effects there are. The California Breast Cancer Prevention Partners has an amazing resource of safer cosmetics. Political action. Getting our legislators, getting our regulators to do their jobs, but also really rethinking all of the things we put on our body and in our bodies. There is so little regulation and protection that we have. But also recognizing that even the Environmental Working Group, their app is amazing. You can go to the website or you download the app and you scan the item in the grocery store. A lot of advocates of color had to really push them because they initially, when they launched the app and for several years, they only included the beauty products that white people use. And so the racism within the environmental community had to be addressed. And then finally, they’ve widened the database. I just used it the other day myself because one of my kids brought home, you know, a cleaning product. And I’m like, this thing, look, you know, and I was able to say, oh, it got a D in reproductive effects or a C and, you know, in environmental exposures. Yeah.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:33:51:

Yeah, it looks like you can just go to ewg.org to see all of their resources. This is a 501c3. I hadn’t heard of them before you introduced me to this. Fantastic. And they recommend different water filters and they have shopping guides and all kinds of resources. So that’s… Thank you for sharing that resource with us, Dr. Taiwo. Are there any other resources or solutions you want to talk about to our listeners, a lot of whom are midwives or nurses or doulas or expecting parents?

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:34:23:

We, as midwives, we should be thinking about incorporating this information into the health education that we do. Educating ourselves about wildfire smoke, for example. Now we realize last summer that none of us are not going to be impacted by wildfire smoke events because I know a lot of the country was like, oh yeah, it’s California. It’s the West Coast that’s burning.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:34:48:

Or it’s Canada.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:34:50:

Or it’s Canada. And now we realize that wildfire smoke travels and it impacts all of us. One thing that we really don’t think about is carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide binds more tightly to hemoglobin than oxygen. And is bound even more tightly to fetal hemoglobin. It crosses the placenta and can accumulate in the fetus and take longer to clear than the adult. If someone is using a gas furnace, an older gas furnace with inadequate ventilation, then they are at risk. So asking questions about, do you have a CO monitor in your home? Those are the kinds of questions we should be incorporating. Are there polluters? Do you live near polluters? And maybe that’s a family that you need to recommend a, an indoor air quality monitor. There is an organization called Nurses for a Healthy Environment. They are particularly focused on doing advocacy in the hospitals because hospitals are huge polluters, which is like, yay, midwives, yay, home birth.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:36:03:

If you go to envirn.org, it’s the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. And yeah, interesting. That’s so cool.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:36:16:

Pesticides are, you know, ubiquitously used in this country. The risks, again, I seem to say the same risk factors. Miscarriage, preterm birth, low birth weight, congenital anomalies, and neurodevelopmental delays. And that is because those are the things that we can see and measure in terms of outcomes.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:36:37:

They’re very visible.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:36:38:

They’re very visual. Yeah. So of course, we are exposed to pesticides both through ingestion of our foods, residential proximity to applications. When we think about pesticides, we think about the agricultural fields and folks say, well, I don’t live near an agricultural field, but actually our parks, a fair amount of pesticides are used in our parks and in our golf courses. And also we use them in our homes for mosquito.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:37:09:

For insect control or?

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:37:12:

Yeah, or our pets. Is organic food available to you based on your circumstances? And if so. Use the organic food if you can. Washing your produce carefully. So fully immersing them in water with a tiny bit of soap or a tiny bit of vinegar to begin to remove some of those pesticides. If you need to spray and you are pregnant, having everybody leave the house, dusting, wiping down surfaces, mopping regularly, all of those things. You mentioned household dust when I was talking about lead. So actually dusting and vacuuming on a regular basis is important. Changing the filters in your vacuum. All of those are ways that you can use to prevent pesticide exposures. And if I could just tell a little story. It was after the Allied forces entered the laboratories of German scientists who were working on the nerve gases that were used so horrifically for the genocide, genocidal activities. The Allied forces said, hmm, these neurotoxicants work on people? I bet they also work on insects. And so it is the science of Nazi Germany that was taken to develop the pesticides that we now utilize on our fields and parks and sometimes. You know, your neighbors. And so, you know, really thinking about this through line of history, you know, so similarly with arsenic, which I mentioned when I talked about the heavy metals, arsenic was widely used on the fields that were manned by slaves, African slaves, the sugar cane and the rice crops. Arsenic occurs naturally in soil already. The accumulation of arsenic that we are seeing in some of our soils actually came about during those times and of wide use for those crops that were farmed by the African slaves. The through line of history that needs to be corrected.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:39:44:

Well, Tanya, this is a heavy subject. Do you have any final thoughts for our listeners?

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:39:51:

I do have a final thought, and it is a quote from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. And said through remaining awake through a great awakening, which is a speech he gave at the National Cathedral in March of 1968. And one of the things he said is, we shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. I just think that midwives are… The perfect people. To begin to pay attention to the environmental exposures that have impacted pregnant people. And because we have always been activists, always throughout history. And I know that we have a lot of work to do as midwives, just to be able to be midwives and be able to be paid to be midwives. But also this is important, an important area that we need to add onto the work that we, the important work that we’re doing in our communities. And because nobody else is really doing it for pregnant people.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:41:08:

Well, thank you, Tanya, for sharing your time and your wisdom with us and helping sound the alarm and also kind of like rally the midwives to care about environmental justice and to also include it in their prenatal education. I think is like for me, the takeaway is education. And how empowering that can be to, you know, it can be scary, but can also be empowering to know that there are simple things you can do to protect yourself while we’re still working towards the longer term fight for justice. So thank you, Tanya, for coming on the podcast and sharing everything with us today.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:41:49:

Yeah. Thank you, Rebecca, for all the work that you have done and continue to do. Our students depend on, on your website and your podcasts. And yeah, I just want to thank you as a midwifery educator for, for making such a rich, important evidence based archive of information available.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:42:15:

You’ve taught us all today, Dr. Taiwo, and hopefully your words will go on to reach, you know, many thousands of people through this. And we will link to all of the resources you mentioned in the show notes that people can check out all of the resources for themselves. Thanks again, everyone. We’ll see you next week. Bye.

Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo – 00:42:33:

Bye.

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:42:34:

This podcast episode was brought to you by the book, Babies Are Not Pizzas: They’re Born, Not Delivered. Babies Are Not Pizzas is a memoir that tells the story of how I navigated a broken healthcare system and uncovered how I could still receive Evidence Based care. In this book, you’ll learn about the history of childbirth and midwifery, the evidence on a variety of birth topics, and how we can prevent preventable trauma in childbirth. Babies Are Not Pizzas is available on Amazon as a Kindle, paperback, hardcover, and Audible book. Get your copy today and make sure to email me after you read it to let me know your thoughts.

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