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Q&A: Using a "sailor's mouth" to help moms avoid toxics

Q&A: Using a "sailor's mouth" to help moms avoid toxics

Mamavation founder Leah Segedie pulls no punches as she dishes out advice aimed at helping parents keep their kids safe from harmful chemical exposures.

When Leah Segedie, one of the most influential "mommy bloggers" on the Internet, was approached about writing a book on dangerous chemicals, her publisher told her to be herself.

"Does that mean I can use the F-word?" she asked.

"I didn't want to write a book that would make my eyes bleed," she said. "And you can quote that."

Segedie received the go ahead and did write the book, F-words and all. Released today from Rodale Books, "Green Enough: Eat Better, Live Cleaner, Be Happier (All Without Driving Your Family Crazy!)" is a salty, no-holds-barred manual for mothers too busy to wade into the science on which chemicals in the home could be harming their children.

"My goal was to democratize the info for women who are really busy," she said. "It's written like you're having a glass of wine with your girlfriend."

The self described "influencer" and mom blogger (she's a mother of three) runs a healthy living website called Mamavation. The web research company Cision ranks Segedie in the top 10 of the most-influential mom bloggers in the United States, and she's been compared to Lady Gaga by Huffington Post. Segedie isn't a scientist herself, but she consulted experts in the field—including EHN founder and chief scientist Pete Myers—to accurately distill the science in an accessible way.

EHN senior editor Brian Bienkowski reached Segedie last week. They discussed the book, talked about how to make toxics talk entertaining, and underscored the need to chill out.

(Interview has been lightly edited for brevity).

Why write this book?

I sift through information all the time to keep readers updated, so that they can make really good decisions when they go to grocery stores. I noticed a lack of colloquial language when discussing things that are really difficult. The language of science isn't available to everyday people, especially moms bringing up their families, and women who have so many things going on. The modern woman can barely breathe from all the things being thrown at her.

Women are becoming more and more aware of endocrine disrupting chemicals and the hormonal impacts on our health, but [they] don't always know what that means. If you want to impact lives you have to bring it down to them in a way they understand. If there's something complicated you want to get out to the masses and you're not using entertainment or something eye-catching, you're going to lose them, because people are so overwhelmed by information nowadays.

Take bisphenols, like BPA and BPS. Consumers see these letters and they shut down. I've personalized these chemicals. I call bisphenols, "BPA and her bitch sisters." The "mean girls" in the chemical world.

What was the most interesting thing you learned?

How degraded male sperm have become. I have three young boys—12, 9 and 5—adorable little red heads. Ginger babies. When I learned about how degraded sperm quality has become from the 1970s to today it really hit me – this is now whether or not I'll have grandchildren. I want that future.

Sperm quality is something that women and men care about, even if men don't care about health, they want to be virile. And for women—women see their children and can imagine them 10, 20 years from now.

(See Segedie's "Save the Swimmers" campaign video below)

As the book mentions, we're bombarded with information about new toxics and hazards daily. What would be your elevator speech for worried moms or dads?

There's an assumption that everything's tested, and if it's on the shelf it should be OK, but that assumption is absolutely not true.

We want to go about our lives and not be stressed out, but we need to pair that with an education that there are things in your life that you do need to be aware of. We throw these chemicals into commerce without knowing what they'll do to our bodies. One of the most important parts of of parenting is learning the basics.

You mention it's important for people to chill out. What are some tips for people who want to be diligent about health and safety, but also don't want to feel guilty or worried all the time?

Every single person doesn't have to be 'deep green,' and we need to be educated and also concerned about emotional health. I do as much as I can in my home, but once my family leaves the home I have zero control of what's happening. I would say to be concerned about bigger things—pesticides, flame retardants, heavy metals, phthalates, and try to get those out of your home.

Here's an example: out of all the meals in a week I try to cook 80 percent—I know the ingredients, cook it, create it. And the other percent is in the 'chill out' category. I live in a house full of boys – if you make one change at a time, it's not as hard a sell, but if you try to make 100 changes, it's going to overwhelm them.

I have a saying: "This house is green enough to be healthy and chill enough to be happy."

"Green Enough: Eat Better, Live Cleaner, Be Happier (All Without Driving Your Family Crazy!)", published by Rodale Books, is out today and can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound and Books-a-million, among other outles.

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