environmental justice

LISTEN: Lariah Edwards on hormone-altering chemicals

"These levels that we craft policy on and then hold industry or a company accountable for … these levels we don't think are low enough. And that is a problem."

Dr. Lariah Edwards joins the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast to discuss how inadequate and outdated chemical regulation is leaving us all exposed to harmful compounds in our makeup, food wrappers, and other products.


Edwards, a current fellow and postdoctoral scientist working jointly at the George Washington School of Public Health and the Environmental Defense Fund, talks about growing up in a military family, what hormone altering chemicals are and why we should be concerned, and the moment she realized the importance of communicating her science to the general public.

The Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast is a biweekly podcast featuring the stories and big ideas from past and present fellows, as well as others in the field. You can see all of the past episodes here.

Listen below to our discussion with Edwards, and subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Transcript

Brian Bienkowski

Today's guest, hanging out with me is Dr. Lariah Edwards, a current fellow and postdoctoral scientist working jointly at the George Washington School of Public Health and the Environmental Defense Fund. Edwards talks about how growing up in a military family shaped her, what hormone altering chemicals are and why we should be concerned about them, and how chemical regulation in the US is inadequate and leaving us all exposed to harmful compounds in our makeup, food wrappers and other products. She also has an essay out today on EHN.org, “how environmental justice work takes a toll on people of color.” After you listen to this, I highly recommend you go check that out. Enjoy.

Alright, I am really excited to be joined by Lariah Edwards, Lariah, how are you doing this afternoon?

Lariah Edwards

Good. It's a nice sunny day here in Boston, so I'm getting fall vibes already, which I'm very excited about.

Brian Bienkowski

Awesome. Sounds great. And I want to start way at the beginning. So you grew up in a military family, which you may be the first fellow to have that background unless they didn't tell me. But tell me about this a little bit and how it influenced you as a young girl and kind of who you are today.

Lariah Edwards

Okay, yeah, great question. That's exciting, I might be the first, you know, military fellow. You know, it's funny, I had always grown up on bases or near bases, so I was always surrounded by other military folks. So my father's in the Air Force, he enlisted right out of high school. So he had been maybe 18 or something. I think he thought that was the best option in terms of where to go what to do next. And that was really exciting for him. And I think growing up in a military family and Air Force family that really instilled in me this get up and go mentality. I've traveled for school, I have no problems going new places where I don't know anybody, that was a lot of our moving around from different base to base, meeting new friends, starting new schools. So I think that made me fairly comfortable with the idea of being somewhere new, although it's never easy, but you do it. And I think my siblings, I have two, do it as well, because they're also spread out across the country as well. Some of the big things I think from being you know, an Air Force brat is that I'm really, really a stickler about being on time for things. I logged on to this podcast at like 12:50 just to make sure everything worked. And that is a consistent theme throughout my life, making sure I am five minutes early. My dad was like, if you're not five minutes early, you're not on time. And I kind of stuck to that even in my 30s. I also think a good strong worth ethic, my dad's always taught me that when things get hard, keep going, keep pushing through. He never let me quit, never let me you know, beat over myself too much. It was really this, you can do it, go getter mentality, which in grad school sometimes caused me to like, go a little bit crazy because I often felt like I wanted to quit. But he definitely pushed and was like, you can do it. You can do whatever you want. Just keep going through it. So I think that was really, really what the military taught him and he taught us kids.

Brian Bienkowski

I think it's worth pointing out that I was two minutes late for this. So I probably could have used a little military background. Apparently my football practices as a child didn't give me as the same, the same upbringing. I have one follow up question, when you say base to base, I know so little about this. Does that, are you living on a base or are you near it? What does that look like as a child?

Lariah Edwards

Yeah, so we sometimes lived on bases. We lived in these, called temporary housing facilities or temporary living facilities, TLF. So they're just houses that they, when you're, when you and your family are moved to a different base, you're set up there. And I think you can go find a house either off base or somewhere else on base. We've always lived either on a base or very close to it because my dad's job was always on the base. So even to this day, my, my father retired from the military when I was in the fourth grade. So, and he retired Master Sergeant. So our house is still located about five minutes away from the military base in Illinois, Scott Air Force Base. My mom go shopping at the commissary on the Scott Air Force Base, my dad gets his hair cut there, so they're still very much going to the base for their day to day stuff.

Brian Bienkowski

Wow, this whole world that I know so little about. So moving, moving a little bit forward. So you attended the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, which is a historically Black university, you are not the first fellow to, to attend an HBCU. And I have heard such wonderful things for people who, who felt a sense of inclusivity that they hadn't felt before. But I want to hear about your experience there and how its celebration and focus on Black culture contributed to you both personally and professionally.

Lariah Edwards

Yeah, absolutely. It also makes me very happy to hear I was not the first fellow with the HBCU background. And I think I've heard the other podcast fellows speaking to it, but yes, I have so much pride for A&T, which we commonly call it because no one wants to say that full name. It's a mouthful. But yes, absolutely. The, my time at A&T really made me who I am both professionally and personally. I think it's easier for me to speak to it professionally. At first, I joined A&T, it was my first time being in an environment where there's so many Black people from different backgrounds because the base I grew up near was fairly diverse, but there was, I still went to high school and I was largely the only Black person in my high school and surrounded by like a lot of white people in town. So that gave me a different perspective. And then going to A&T was completely something else. I was surrounded by mentors and people who were also Black, like myself, I saw the diversity of Black people, which is, which you don't really see in the media, maybe more so now, but certainly not when I was younger. I think that was very important to me, really shaped who I am. In terms of my professional life, the people there really invested in my future, they really stuck out for me. My sister and I were the first ones to go to college in my family. So, you know, I didn't know what college was about. I didn't, I didn't really know how to navigate my major which was chemistry. I didn't understand that I needed to do research and go on internships and all of these things that, you know, my parents wanted for me, I didn't really know how to do. And at A&T, my professors really poured into me in ways that I'm so grateful for now. I wouldn't even be a scientist had it not been for them pushing me into graduate school right after undergrad. So that was really, really important.

And personally, I think what other some of the others or fellows have mentioned that it really did instill this pride in me as a Black person. I, as I mentioned, my high school is dominantly white. And unfortunately, you know, looking back, I realized, I, you know, I had good grades in high school, and, you know, having good grades and being a Black student made me stand out. And sometimes the other students made me feel like I wasn't Black enough, quote, unquote, because I was intelligent and making good grades. And that was really damaging. I didn't realize that until I was much older. But being in A&T, you're surrounded by all types of folks who are smart, who were doing wonderful things, you have Black professors, you have Black students pursuing all types of different careers and avenues. So, it really taught me that, you know, Black people come in all shapes, sizes, you know, this standard. And I think that was really important, and that really shaped me both personally and professionally. And it set me up to a pretty good start for graduate school to come after that.

Brian Bienkowski

That's the first, you're the first to mention that diversity within Black culture and Black people at the university. And I think that's a really important point, that there's not this standard Black person, standard white person, standard Hispanic person. And to go there and see all shapes and sizes and different interests and skill levels and stuff is super important, so I'm really glad to hear that. And maybe this answers the next question, but um, or maybe it was a different moment. What is the defining moment or event that shaped your identity up to this point?

Lariah Edwards

Hmm, I wouldn't say I have that one particular, you know, storybook moment or lightbulb moment. But I think really attending A&T, and more specifically, that transition when I was a senior and I had already committed to going to BU for my doctorate in environmental health, I had a lot of professors and people who were cheering me on supporting me for that decision, and they would continue to support me throughout graduate school. I remember I had a professor, who was very, very close with me and my close group of friends who were all chemistry majors, because you spent a lot of time with the folks who are within your major. And this professor ended up writing us a letter before we left, and it was a letter wishing us well in our career, and our educational pursuits, and also our personal life endeavors. And that letter really solidified how much of an impact school had on me, these professors had on me, I apparently had a really great impact on them. It showed me that I have this core group of friends who were all you know, this letter was all written to, and I still have these friends to this day. I think that was a really big moment of, I know who I am, I know what is important to me, I know what I'm working towards. And that was really important when things got, things got tricky in grad school.

Brian Bienkowski

As they do, right. Those kinds of those kinds of stories are so foreign to me, because I think I've mentioned this before on the podcast that I went to a really large state school, here in Michigan. I went to Michigan State University, and it was a great, great place to go. But the idea of having a teacher right me a letter, when I was in these 500 person classrooms, is just it's just wild to me to think that there was that level of attention and detail and sounds like friendship, and along with mentorship. And I think that really speaks to not only HBCUs but just the more kind of personal, hands on experience that some of those smaller schools offer, which I think can be really important. So why chemistry? What, that was the first class I ever got lower than a B in, in my life. So I have this, I have this animosity towards chemistry, what drew you to chemistry?

Lariah Edwards

You know, it was a high school teacher, actually. Her name is Mrs. Johnson. I remember her being so enthusiastic, in my honors chemistry classes. I remember this one time, I think she used a Bunsen burner and made like a flame thrower using chemicals. And you just saw this like shot of flame shoot across the classroom. She's like, don't tell anyone, don't tell anybody this happened. It was just, it was so fascinating and so exciting. And I, I thought that if I could master chemistry, which I'm, sounds like it was pretty hard, and it was, I could probably do a lot of different things. And I could figure out what I wanted to do with that from there. And it turned out to be the right spot, because I'm pleased with where my career is at right now.

Brian Bienkowski

The Bunsen burner. That's how they hook the young kids on chemistry, is they get out the Bunsen burner. And so you use, you use that chemistry and pursued a field that is actually near and dear to my heart. I have been covering endocrine disrupting chemicals for a long time as a reporter and you studied these chemicals as a doctoral student at Boston University, and specifically their impact looking at metabolic and bone health. So I was wonder if you could just kind of give us an overview. Tell us about these, these chemicals, how they're insidious and kind of pervasive? And what your research found on their impacts to our health.

Lariah Edwards

Yeah, absolutely. Definitely not an easy topic to talk about, because these chemicals are so, they work in ways that, you know, if you're not really in the science field, it's hard to understand. So you know, I'll do my best. So these EDCs are chemicals that mimic or block or interfere with the actions of hormones. And hormones regulate your body, they help you function normally. So before I joined grad school, I really only thought of hormones in the context of puberty. You know, these release of hormones during a certain time in your life, and you see all these really, really big changes. This is true, but this is not the only time when you, hormones are doing things in your body. That's not the only the only example of hormones keeping your body functioning properly. So a little bit of background on my work to kind of set up what these results mean. I focused on how environmental EDCs, so chemicals you find, you know, in your personal care products, you know, in the air and your food, how these can lead to metabolic diseases such as obesity and type two diabetes. And so when you're thinking about metabolic health, there are a lot of organs that work together to keep you metabolically balanced, per se. And so there's the muscles, there's the liver, there's the brain, there's the pancreas. And if you were to look up all the organs and how they, how they connect, is this just giant web of you know, organs talking back and forth. And they do that by, you know, circulating hormones and proteins and other compounds, but we're going to focus on the hormones for now. And these hormones often interact with nuclear receptors, which are sites within the cells that regulate metabolic function. So once a hormone binds these nuclear receptors, it sets off a series of events. And so going back to that puberty examples, because I think that's probably the most folks can understand. The hormone estrogen is very important to development and production of, you know, females. So the estrogen binds estrogen receptor, and that causes a lot of the development during puberty for females. So that's a good way to understand how hormones work. So in my research, I focus on a different nuclear receptor called the peroxisome proliferator activated receptor, gamma, or PPR gamma. And I'm not going to say that receptor name again. And it regulates the balance between fat cells and bone cells, among other things, but that fat and bone cell thing is key. So when I say fat cell formation, think weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, which is when insulin no longer works properly in your body, so you can't really control your blood sugar. So, back to EDCs, there are several chemicals in your hamburgers or in your shampoo or your lotion that can activate PPR gamma and do things it's not supposed to do. Because it's they shouldn't be doing these things, your body isn't expecting these chemicals to interfere in these ways. So these are phthalates, these are flame retardants, or BPA, which is often found in canned foods. So my research project, I found that people who are exposed to a flame retardant called triphenyl phosphate, they actually had higher measures of body fat, so, measured in different ways. So body mass index, or BMI, and also waist circumference. So maybe there's a link between people being exposed to this chemical triphenyl phosphate and you know, increased body fat. I also did bench work science during grad school. So part of my bench work science work was showing that in a series of experiments, I was able to see that when cells interacted with this chemical triphenyl phosphate, they would actually create these fat droplets, which they shouldn't be doing sometimes. And so that is that potential connection between exposure to some of these chemicals like triphenyl phosphate, or phthalates, or BPA, and how that may affect your metabolic health. Now, I didn't really touch on the bone part, I didn't really do the bone part in my work. But that was a very important part of like the background literature of my research. But in the lab that I worked in, during grad school at BU, some of my colleagues, so the students I was working with at the time, they were doing experiments where they saw that cells that are when exposed to these chemicals, like phthalates, or flame retardants, when they should have been making bone cells, instead, they were making like fat droplets. So you could actually look into a cell that shouldn't be, you know, seeing deposits of bone, you also, you saw instead deposits of fat, and that's not what should be happening. So that was a bit of my research on what I did in grad school about EDCs and metabolic health.

Brian Bienkowski

One of the things that surprised me when I first started doing this work from a journalism standpoint is, I just figured if something was on the shelf, it was safe, right? Largely, you know, other than bleach and things like that, that have big skull and crossbones. But the notion that makeup and food packaging that you mentioned, and canned goods, could be having these impacts at such a broad scale like this was really shocking to me, and I think it's shocking to most consumers. I was wondering if there's anything when you learned about EDCs, these chemicals, what's something that you think would surprise most people that maybe folks don't know about?

Lariah Edwards

I think a bit about what you said, the fact that they're in so many of our different products. You just listed so many things that you're, sometimes you're thinking of, you know, like what you put on your face, and then sometimes you're not. You’re not always thinking about what wrapping your food comes in. So the fact that these chemicals are in a lot of different products, and also the idea that they can cause this disruption to your health, your metabolic health, other endpoints at such small quantities. It's not like, you know, there's this giant release at this phthalate factory and you're exposed to whopping amounts, it's the tiny amounts that may be, you know, in the lining of the food wrapper, that of the food you're about to eat, or maybe it's in your makeup products or something, or your hair products, like it's very, very small amounts, and that's concerning. And also the idea that our chemical policy in the US doesn't do an amazing job at regulating them and keeping us safe. And that should be the case.

Brian Bienkowski

And part of that reason and correct me if I'm wrong here, feel free to jump in, is that historically we think of things like lead, where it's the scale of the more lead in your body the more toxic it is. There's a, there's a threshold, and maybe lead’s a bad example because they basically say there's no, there's no safe amount. But for a lot of these toxics, the traditional way it's been tested is up to a threshold and beyond that threshold, we'd regulate it, it's stupid. It's too much, it's too bad for health. Whereas with these chemicals, as you mentioned, the idea is that it could be a very tiny amount of BPA turns on the receptors or changes things in our hormone system that could cause these problems. Is that kind of where some of the regulatory failure, I'll use the word failure, is that where some of that comes into play?

Lariah Edwards

I like the word failure. I think that's fairly appropriate. Yes, I think so. The fact that these, these levels that we regulate and then crack policy on and then hold industry or a company accountable for, these levels, we don't think are low enough. And that is, that is a problem. If we're saying that a company only has to be mindful of this level in terms of, you know, releases or emissions, you know, nearby a community or things of that nature. If those levels aren't protective, then that's a problem. And then we still have people who have these health effects later on, down the line. And that is not the case. And that should not be how that happens.

Brian Bienkowski

And what we've seen is a lot of regrettable substitutions, as well, where your Nalgene that says BPA free now maybe has BPS in it. A very similar, similar molecular compound that may have similar problems. And same thing with the PFAS chemicals that everybody's worried about. We have other chlorinated compounds, so it's kind of a game of Whack a Mole out there.

Lariah Edwards

It's so unfortunate. Yeah, regrettable substitution was basically my whole, my whole thesis. Like what I'm going to say this is bad, and next day a company is going to say, well, we're using this instead. One of the major chemicals that was a feature of my thesis was a substitution, it was replacing another flame retardant class that was found out to be really, really bad. So like, oh, this triphenyl phosphate, it's better. Maybe not better, or we don't know enough to say one way or the other before it's put into our couch or clothing or things of that nature.

Brian Bienkowski

It's so hard when we have readers write us and say we want more good news, we want more solutions. And when you cover chemical policy and endocrine disrupting compounds as a journalist, it's like, well, I don't know where the good news is like. We can't just cover the BPA free and say, “Hooray, we did it.” Because we have a history of putting something else, possibly bad in there. But now you're working with George Washington University, as you said, as a postdoc, and with the Environmental Defense Fund. And part of your work now, I know it sounded like you were doing a lot of lab work, but you're now also extending into communication and policy. And I'm wondering what prompted this pivot to not just studying the chemical exposure, but communicating about it? And what are some tools and ways you hope to broaden people's knowledge about this?

Lariah Edwards

Absolutely. I know, I always had an interest in writing. I once thought I may get into writing as a career but I'm, I'm sure someone along the way gave me the sad narrative of “I won't have a stable paycheck,” “or I'll be starving.” So that kind of pushed me away from…

Brian Bienkowski

They were right, they were right.

Lariah Edwards

Away from writing as a career. But I think the, the urge and the interest to communicate my findings really came from me in grad school in these seminar talks, where we have speakers come in and talk about their new research and what's going on and just realizing over and over again, that I'm like, “Oh my gosh, that's, that's in there?” I should be careful about not using this product or that product. And I felt, I would tell this stuff to my family, to my friends and I just like, more people should really really know about this. One of the really big turning points was when I was in a seminar and a woman, Robin Dodson from Silent Spring, Dr. Robin Dodson from Silent Spring came to talk about a paper she had worked on about chemical products and Black haircare products. And just the amount of chemicals and products that Black women use to keep their hair straight was just enlightening and concerning. And at that time, I had stopped using some of these products, I started wearing my hair curly and wearing it less straight, which kind of reduced the amount of chemicals I may have been exposed to but it was just really enlightening to hear something that directly affected me and the decisions that I make on a day to day basis. And I felt like everybody should hear about this. And an unfortunate part, I feel like, of you know being a scientist is you…you are pushed to put your research in papers and in journals that are often not really accessible to people like my parents or my sister who's in finance and is not necessarily reading, you know, their journal of exposure science on a daily basis. And I wanted those folks to hear this information because maybe they could make different decisions. So I want to take my research out of journals and put it into places where folks can access it and do something about it. Because I think that's why we do the research in the first place. That's at least why I do the research in the first place.

Brian Bienkowski

So the founder of Environmental Health News, Pete Myers, I saw him give a talk once and he talked about his granddaughter being born, and she was born premature. And it was during the California wildfires, and he was talking about some chemicals that were burning in the air that were linked to preterm birth. And then he switched and talked about how a lot of plastic products in the hospital also saved her life. And it was this juxtaposition of this, this plastic isn't necessarily bad. But it can be, right. And it was one of the one of those kind of science communication moments where I thought he had people hooked right there, where, if I tried to write a story about phthalates in the headline, I lose people right away. So I'm curious, as you're kind of dipping your toe into communication, and somebody who knows EDCs really well. This is a tricky thing for journalists to cover. And the science is complex, as we laid out, and the impacts to health can kind of be more insidious than say, lead poisoning or very overt toxics. So I'm wondering if you have any tips for journalists covering this topic on how to connect something kind of esoteric, to people's lives and to humans?

Lariah Edwards

Oh, wow. Yeah, that, that's a great question, and one I've never really thought about before. I certainly don't envy your job having to do this. I think, trying to use examples, to the extent that there are examples that people understand. Maybe relating it back to type two diabetes and insulin, even if that's not necessarily the health outcome, or the disease we're interested in, I think most people understand that insulin is a hormone, and it helps you regulate your blood sugar and type two diabetes is, you know, is a, is a problem that relates to that. I think, try and use examples. Trying to help people put it in context of things they already understand is a really great way to frame it. And I think it's also important how you convey your results. If you can say that, you know, double the exposure to this chemical may reduce your IQ by so many points, helps people contextualize it and make it make sense. But it's certainly not easy. And I know not every topic or every, you know, chemical and outcome pair is as easy to explain and convey to the public. And some folks aren't even interested in some of those chemical outcome pairs. They're things they've never even heard of. So it's quite complex. I give you guys that.

Brian Bienkowski

And since this is a podcast and fellowship about environmental justice, I feel like we would be remiss in not talking about the intersection of these endocrine disrupting chemicals, and people of color. And the differences in not only exposure, but messaging and you mentioned haircare products for Black women. I'm wondering if there's any other examples? Or if you can, kind of, you know, build off that example a little bit?

Lariah Edwards

Yes, definitely. I think personal care products are a very big source of exposures for a lot of people, because these are stuff you put on your face, your skin, you know, hair every single day, and you don't really think about it. But I know there's a lot unfortunate, there's a lot of research that shows that people of color are disproportionately exposed to higher levels of these EDCs. And there could be a lot of reasons for that. You've heard, I'm sure folks have heard that where you live, your zip code plays a very big factor into a lot of things in terms of maybe what you're exposed to. It’s what I think about a lot, but in my own research, I think a lot about personal care products, I think about food. And in these instances, you see a lot of people of color exposed to higher levels of EDC use through foods, through personal care products. And for the personal care products aim, I'm doing work right now with Dr. Ami Zota. And with a collaboration with WE ACT, and a couple of other groups looking at how women of color use these personal care products, particularly skin lightening creams, which are, can be very, very dangerous because they contain all types of toxic chemicals. And also chemical straightening products which also contain a lot of nasty chemicals as well. And these are two groups of products that women of color often use. And the reasons for it can kind of be tied back to trying to, trying to appeal and meet this American white standard of beauty unfortunately. So they use these products and are exposed to these chemicals. And I don't think they always know what's in them, unfortunately, and there are some instances where what's on the label doesn't actually match it with what's in the products. And that is an issue of contamination where not even the company knows that there is an issue and that there are these toxic chemicals at higher levels in the products. And I think that is really unfortunate. So I would usually tell folks to read your labels carefully. And I still do but, you know, unfortunately, the labels don't always say what is actually in the products. And that's, that's really sad. So I now tell folks, if you can, use one less item, do you have to use a fragrance perfume and soap? Can you cut back? I know I've tried to cut back, it's not only good for yourself, but from like an environmental sustainability perspective. But it's, it's difficult.

Brian Bienkowski

I'm glad you brought up those examples. Because even though these are pervasive chemicals, meaning it's probably in my house right now, probably in yours, probably my neighbor's. Kind of systemic racism, in the form of this, this idea of Western beauty standards still kind of rears its ugly head and forces disproportionate exposure. And I would like to add too that, I think there's probably an income, disproportionate exposure too. When we think about who's able to phase out their old couch, right? Who's more likely to have an old couch with flame retardants, maybe the PBDEs, or the really nasty flame retardants from years ago? Or who, who can't get rid of certain products that maybe they've created safer products… who’s using those older products? I think there's an, you know, there's an income disparity to that I think is worth mentioning.

Lariah Edwards

Oh, absolutely. I mean, that, even myself. I think about you know, I try to buy organic, I try to buy the more expensive products that I think have been tested better, have fewer chemicals. But they are in fact more expensive. And, you know, I'm fortunate that I'm able to afford these things with my partner, but I recognize that's not, that's not the solution for everybody. And it shouldn't be the solution public health folks are giving people because that's just not realistic. And nor is it considerate whatsoever.

Brian Bienkowski

Right. We got to stop shifting the blame to consumers and individuals, right? It’s…

Lariah Edwards

Right. Let's go back to that, you know, those those really poor chemical policy and let's, let's have them try and do a better job there.

Brian Bienkowski

Totally. Well, Lariah, I have a couple more questions, and I've enjoyed this so much. And one of them is just thinking about your, getting more into communication and thinking about getting out of the journals, as you mentioned, I'm wondering what role social media has played in this for you. And if you're, if you're active on there, and if you're engaged, and if so if you have any tips for young scientists and researchers who want to use that, to get the word out about their work.

Lariah Edwards

You know, I am definitely not the most engaged social media person, unfortunately. That is, but that is definitely something I've heard and had been recommended to do to, you know, use my platforms to really do a good job of conveying the science so that it's really accessible to a lot of people. I know a lot of scientists use Twitter, and that is their way of like tweeting out journals and headlines and like key and important facts or talks. And I think, from what I've heard, it's created a really great community of scientists online who want to talk about their work and get it out for everybody to understand it and hear about it. And a chance for folks actually interact with the person who's done the science per se, which I think is really, really cool. I don't do an amazing job with social media in my personal life or my professional life. So that is a definitely a goal of mine to kind of beef up my Twitter and put my results out there. Because that is important to me, I think I do a good job of talking to my close network about studies and things they should be doing or not doing. So it makes sense that I try and do that on social media to a wider audience.

Brian Bienkowski

Yeah, for sure. And I think that the tricky part there is to try to get out of the echo chamber, on on Twitter and other social media platforms. Because we see with Agents of Change, for example, we see a really great community of young, diverse scientists who are very interested in what we're doing. But we want to reach more people, right? We want to reach outside of that kind of core group that's already interested in this and let people know the issues that are important and things like that. So I think that's a real challenge on social media. And if you can figure that out, you should let me know and, and everybody else, but Lariah the last question I have for you is, what is the last book that you read for fun?

Lariah Edwards

Oh, that is a good one. I started several. I haven't, you know what, the last book I did finish, it was actually a children's book. It was a picture book for my five month old nephew, his name is Felix. His father, my brother in law, is an engineer, so I bought him a picture book about a young Black boy trying to make a flying machine and that was a really quick and cute read.

Brian Bienkowski

Excellent. Do you remember? Do you remember the name of this book?

Lariah Edwards

Yes, it was called “Jabari Tries” and he's trying to make a flying machine with his little sister and his dad in the backyard. So I'm, I'm inspiring my young nephew to become an engineer like his father.

Brian Bienkowski

That is, that is excellent. Well, Lariah, this has been so much fun. I really appreciate you taking time today.

Lariah Edwards

Great. It was great talking with you Brian. Thanks.

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Old school greenwashers and deniers with staying power.

PFAS: The latest toxic concern for those near fracking

The “forever chemicals” are used by the oil and gas industry, but a lack of transparency and accountability makes it impossible to know how widespread contamination could be.

How Colorado is preventing PFAS contamination from the oil and gas industry

And how other states, including Pennsylvania, could do the same.

Evidence of PFAS in toilet paper (Yes, toilet paper!)

Testing finds fluorine — an indicator of PFAS — in four brands of toilet paper. However, the levels indicate the chemicals are unlikely added on purpose.