09 Consumer Goods, Toxic Load and the Environmental Health Effects of How We Shop with Emma Rohmann

Jul 6, 2021 | Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Environmental Health, Episodes, Sustainability

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In today’s episode, we chat with Emma Rohmann from Green at Home. We learn how Emma went from environmental engineering to studying our toxic load from the products we use in our everyday lives, we learn why ultimately, regulations don’t work as they should and the onus is on us as consumers to protect ourselves, what you should be mindful of when buying products for your home OR your business, and what steps we can take immediately to influence manufacturers to reduce toxic chemicals and create a healthier future for all.

If you want to Learn more about Emma, or learn more about how to reduce toxins in your home & body visit https://greenathome.ca. Interested in these topics? Emma’s podcast, the Missing Pillar of Health explores the impact our environment has on our health, our happiness, wealth, families, communities, and the planet. And it’s available everywhere you get your podcasts. You can follow along with Emma on her mission on Facebook or Instagram.

About the Host


I'm Jennifer Myers Chua. The Host and Producer of the Cost Of Goods Sold podcast. I'm an entrepreneur, a creative, a cookbook fanatic, mother.  I have always been interested in hearing people's stories and I've been determined to change the world for as long as I can remember.

You'll find me at home in Toronto deconstructing recipes, listening to podcasts, enjoying time with friends or wandering alone through a big city.  I'm excited to have you here. Let's do better, together.


Episode Transcript

Jennifer Chua: Hello, everyone. And welcome. You’re listening to Cost of Goods Sold with Jennifer Myers Chua episode 09.

In today’s episode, we chat with Emma Rohmann from Green at Home.  We learn how Emma went from environmental engineering to studying our toxic load from the products we use in our everyday lives,  we learn why ultimately regulations don’t work as they should. And that the onus is on us as consumers to protect ourselves,  what you should be mindful of when buying products for your home or your business.  And what steps we can take immediately to influence manufacturers to reduce toxic chemicals and create a healthier future for all.

Looking back at the last year, chances are that you’ll remember things like the hoarding of antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer.  And likely spending more time at home.  I’ve been looking back at all of the things that have changed in my life, and what’s changed in the world around us.  And what the impact of all of this is.  Mostly I’m feeling hopeful.  Yes, Amazon sales are through the roof. Plastic use is up dramatically and counterfeits and unsafe goods are headed into more homes because of the increase of online shopping.  But more and more consumers, and our customers for sure, are asking the important questions.  Where is something made? What is it made of? And how can we prove as a seller that it’s safe? And personally, I’ve been leaning more and more on Emma for advice.

Emma first became interested in chemicals in university. She’s quick to point out the chemicals are everywhere and that they’re not all harmful, but while learning to design waste and drinking water treatment plants, she learned what chemicals were in our water and how difficult it is to remove them.  She immediately stopped using things like conventional cleaners and began to research the source of the contaminants in our water systems. Over the years, Emma developed a career as an environmental engineer in the green building world. She became more aware of the importance of our decisions beyond cleaners and personal care products and how we are not being properly educated and not told about all of the impacts that these products have  on our health and the world around us.

In order to be conscious consumers and make more informed choices,  we need access to balanced, researched information that isn’t just one sided. And so Emma’s business Green at Home was born to help untangle all of the conflicting information and find that practical middle ground that she found was lacking.  Emma now works with primarily parents and those who are expecting, helping them to lower their toxic load by addressing toxic chemicals in our homes and daily lives.

Toxins are everywhere. Yes. And our systems are able to filter out some of them. But with the dramatic rise in cancers and allergies, hormone imbalances, chronic disease, obesity, and other environmental illnesses,  it’s worth learning a little bit more about how we can make more mindful purchasing choices because the environment has a huge impact on us and our health.

Emma Rohmann: essentially environmental health or environmental medicine looks at the impact external factors have on our health. When it comes to consumer goods, we can think of them impacting our space. Everything that we are putting on our skin  has the potential to be absorbed. What we put in our air we breathe in and what’s in our food and our drink we ingest. So There’s three pathways and a lot of the kind of conversation around toxics got pushed to the side because most conventional practitioners would say, oh, well, the dose makes the poison. We don’t . Need to be concerned because there’s such small amounts and our bodies have detoxification systems. They’re not going to cause a health impact. Where environmental health comes into play, environmental medicine. we’re not just looking at isolated exposures to things. There are toxins, literally everywhere. At this point. It’s not about going toxin-free, we can’t, but it’s lowering the exposure as much as possible and supporting our body systems so that they can better handle what they can’t control. So when we think of the way that our environment affects our health, it is varied. And that’s what makes it such a challenging field of study because every body handles things differently, but essentially you can consider your body’s systems like a barrel. It’s a contained volume. And when we are exposed to certain toxins or stressors, this adds to our toxic load.  If your body systems cannot process these toxins and stressors fast enough at the rate that they’re coming in, they end up overflowing into our bloodstream into our bodies. Some of them get reabsorbed into our fat and it can cause cellular damage. It can cause hormone, disruption hormone disruption is one of the main things that I talk about because it is so widespread. We know that some toxins are contributing to cancer, asthma, and allergies. It’s vast.But that’s the crux of how the environment affects us.

Jennifer Chua: In the past couple of years with my own business, I’ve been discovering how many known carcinogens are in the products we buy. Most of those purchased online that haven’t passed safety testing. Even if the manufacturer claims they have. And I’ve been having this conversation with like-minded people like Emma. Who is responsible? Is the onus on us as a consumer? Is it on the seller or the manufacturer? And what is the government doing to protect us?  And why, when I tell people that the children’s products that they’ve bought at the dollar store on Amazon might contain lead in dangerous amounts, why is everyone not more aware?

In my work, legally importing goods, we have a number of checks and balances to make sure a product is safe to sell.  This includes third party safety testing.  And getting insight and information on certifications and on factories. It also includes having huge insurance policies in place in case anything ever is to happen.  But anyone with an e-commerce store can buy a case of goods from a factory overseas without any of this in place. And it’s a huge, huge risk. For themselves, for the factory workers, the planet, and ultimately their customers and families.  Safety testing, safer materials its all expensive. So as something seems too good to be true. It probably is. And regulations, they help, but they’re not enough on their own.

Emma Rohmann: A lot of people will say the government regulates everything in North America. We’ve got stringent requirements that products need to meet to be put on store shelves. And so it’s fine. The other side is some people saying nothing’s regulated, everything’s harmful. And so it’s actually somewhere in the middle.

In north America, we do have. Certain regulations that look at known harmful ingredients. A lot of the times it say, especially in personal care products, it’s a dosing requirement. So it’ll look at okay, you’re allowed to have X ingredient up to a certain percent of the product, because this has been shown to be the threshold where it is safe. In other instances, there are flat- out bans but the problem with both of these is that it’s not like we have thousands of enforcement officers who are testing every product ever made to make sure that it’s within the regulated limits. And so even though we do have some regulations, they often don’t go far enough when looking at again, back to the environmental health picture and understanding the impact that cumulative exposures have on our bodies.

Often the regulations are looking at substances in isolation, so it doesn’t . Necessarily take into account our full, toxic load. And. They are relying on manufacturers to demonstrate that they’re meeting and not obviously violating regulations. There are checks, sometimes products will be spot checked.In North America, we operate in what’s called a post regulatory or post-market regulatory system. And so often when ingredients or products end up being deemed to be harmful, it’s because either consumers or environmental or health advocacy groups have raised the alarm bell, and this happens years, sometimes decades after a product has been on store shelves.

Jennifer Chua: As a distributor.  It is part of our duty really, part of our responsibility to view these third-party safety testing reports. And in our case, hold our manufacturing partners accountable for safety. But I know a lot of people don’t necessarily do that, they just import on their own or they import without seeing these reports or paying for these reports, if they’re importing direct from a factory. And when I’ve spoken to primarily parents about the dangers of these unregulated products, I do hear those comments. People saying, well, if it’s on the shelf in this big box store, it has to be safe. And it concerns me that these regulations in north America are allowing toxic goods to get onto our shelves, but I understand how difficult that is.

What are we missing as consumers, or as people looking to stock our shelves, which potential toxins should we be looking for that we’re not thinking about?

Emma Rohmann: That list is long because it depends on the product itself.  I think the most important thing to recognize is that, lead, BPA phthalates, parabens. These got a lot of public attention. So most of us have at least a general awareness that these things may not be so great. And so when you see packaging that says, BPA free,  free PFOA is another  big one PFOA free. You’re like, great. It doesn’t have this big chemical of concern that I’m aware of. It must be fine. And so the biggest thing that I think we are missing is that industry is very good , the chemical industry in particular is very good at monitoring, which chemicals are likely to be banned or restricted. And when that happens, they have a replacement ready to go. And what we’re finding is that these some people call them regrettable, substitutions have the same, or sometimes worse safety profile than the chemical that they’re replacing. So instead of looking for BPA free you want to be looking forBisphenol free because BPA has been replaced with other bisphenols that’s what the B stands for, but you can put BPA free on the label, but you don’t know what it’s being replaced with. And so as soon as we see those something free, I think it’s our responsibility, whether you are sourcing a product or component, or whether you are buying one is to ask what is being used instead, because that regrettable substitution process has us in this regulatory whack-a-mole with chemicals constantly being introduced to market before they’ve been fully tested. So I would say that is what. Is most concerning right now.

When I speak about conscious consumerism, this is one of the things that we talk about most often, which is feel free to reach out to the manufacturer of a product to get some more information. And if they don’t have that information for you, then that’s okay. Likely very likely a red flag that you should be purchasing something else. Earlier, you mentioned BPA free is on a lot of packaging. And we’ve noticed this too with like counterfeits and goods that are just not so thoughtfully created is that a lot of the time, this verbiage will just be copied as well and placed on the packaging, regardless of what the product contains. Why is it important that we’re mindful about where we shop as well?

When BPA became banned from baby bottles and phthalates became restricted from baby products. Testing was done to see if this had impacted how products were being made. And it was shown that products with that BPA free label and phthalate free labels still contained these chemicals. And so I think it is really important to understand who is selling the products that we are buying and what their track record is. And so a lot of the tests that have been done, showing that products have excess levels of toxins, like lead in particular are coming from overseas. Often they’re made in China where the regulations are not as strict and they are making products as cheaply as possible because that’s what the manufacturer is wanting to do.

A lot of companies are just, they want to maximize profits at all costs. And I think we need to change the way that we are defining business. And look, I get I’m a business owner too. I get it that we need to reduce expenses. So that we can make money doing the things that we’re doing. However, when looking at the other costs, if you’re buying from a manufacturer who is using unregulated labor, who is operating in a country that has notoriously poor environmental and labor standards, and you are not checking  that factory is operating within the standards that maybe would exist in North America, if you’re going to take labor elsewhere. It’s like the wild, wild west, and we’ve seen it. We’ve seen what happens with the factory in Bangladesh, the clothing factory, and that had a big uproar for what I would consider a way to short period of time, because everyone who was bent out of shape about that sort of thing happening are still buying clothes from companies who are using offshore markets without checking their practices. And so I think both on the business side and the consumer side, we need to be asking these questions. And if you’re using offshore labor and factories to make your products, there are a lot of brands that are doing this, but they have full oversight into the labor being used, the materials, they do their own testing. It’s possible. I like to support locally made products as much as possible. I get that it’s not possible for all brands to do it, but there are ways to work in other countries, but still adopt better standards. But if you don’t ask, then I think, unfortunately we’re at the point where we need to assume that companies are operating at the lowest common denominator.

Jennifer Chua: the Rana factory collapse is a very good example of this really, because when I do mention that to just friends or whatnot? A lot of people don’t know that happened.  And a lot of people don’t know that the brands that were paying these employees to work in this factory are paying these contractors to work in this factory in these deplorable conditions, really,  are brands that all of us have in our homes, especially in Canada, like some of the very large Canadian brands, we’re part of the factory collapse. And that just makes me think, If we’re concerned about removing this product from our home, because potentially it’s toxic just with toxic load in small amounts. What about the people that are manufacturing? What are the people in there who are actually stirring these chemicals all day long?  What kind of impact does that have on their health overseas?

Emma Rohmann: That is one of my biggest pet peeves when people say, oh, come on, don’t worry about it. It’s just a small amount, like frying pants, for example. Not an overseas example, but yes, the impact of using a Teflon frying pan is likely minimal as a user in the kitchen. There will be some migration, but the impact to you compared to the impact of the communities in the United States who have been poisoned by the manufacturing facilities, making this. The impact can’t even be compared because people are literally dying from the manufacturing plants that are dumping the hazardous waste. And people who have been working in the facilities have Cancer birth defects for pregnant women. And so these, those impacts are often not considered in the argument that it’s safe to the end user, same with overseas, clothing, a lot of these products that are using chemicals in their raw form. We don’t take into account that somebody somewhere is exposed to incredibly high amounts and it’s the workers. And it’s also the communities surrounding these factories, which are often more marginalized communities to start with. And so sure us sitting in our homes in Canada may have very little risk for the clothing that we’re wearing, the dyes that are used in clothing may not harm us in any meaningful way, but the waterways in India are polluted beyond recognition because clothing dyes or some of the most toxic chemicals and are just being released into the environment. It’s opened up a lot of doors to be in this global economy, but it’s also opened up a lot of problems. If we are going to be taking advantage of having access to global markets, then we also need to be taking responsibility to protect the people that we are relying on to be giving us our goods.

Jennifer Chua: in a recent episode of your podcast, which I’m a huge fan of, by the way. You spoke about a Toronto newspaper, which had purchased, and in this case, it was toys from 18 random retailers who had sourced goods from China. Can you give us some insight into what they found and what you find surprising about that information?

Emma Rohmann: They purchased toys and had them tested for lead. Which is probably the most regulated chemical on the market because we know the damaging, the effect that it can have, particularly on children. It’s a neurotoxin, it’s a hormone disruptor and there is no known safe level of lead for children. And they found that the majority of the products that they tested, tested for lead and often substantially higher than the legal limit. I think it just brings to light the reminder that like lead is something that is not up for debate. There are still hormone disrupting chemicals and other things that have a lot of debate around them as to how harmful they are. I don’t see much debate around lead being toxic. And yet it’s found in dozens of products still when it is regulated and should not be there. This is where I think it can get confusing and overwhelming because,  if this is something that’s regulated, we need to be able to put some level of trust in the marketplace and our regulations. Right. Otherwise we will drive ourselves crazy. And so it goes back to again, Understanding who is making the product and what kinds of checks and balances that they have in place.  Most of the products are the very low cost kind of dollar store trinkets. These are the ones that have repeatedly been found to contain higher levels of things like lead and cadmium, which is another heavy metal.

There was one major recall of products by an incredibly large toy company. That was also surprising. But the difference with them is that they caught it. And so they recalled, I think it was millions of toys, but something like 85% of them hadn’t yet made it onto store shelves. And so I think that’s a good thing. They’ve got the ability to do that. And they’re checking a lot of these dollar store type markets, Amazon type markets. They’re not doing this. And so that’s why they ended up being on store shelves and why our kids end up being exposed. Unfortunately.

Jennifer Chua: Why are they manufacturers using lead light? Do they not have an alternative? If we all know collectively  that lead is so damaging.

Emma Rohmann: it’s cheap.  It’s often found in paints. In one article I was reading, they interviewed some workers at a factory in China, and . They do have alternatives. They make that alternative available. But if the company is saying. We don’t want to spend more than X amount. And the only way to do that is to use lead then that’s what they will make. And they’ll kind of turn a blind eye to the regulations. And so at the end of the day, it comes down to money.

Jennifer Chua: So if I’m sitting here in Canada and I’ve decided that I want to set up an online store, or I want to sell something on Amazon, or I want to sell something on Facebook marketplace or at a pop-up. And I’ve gone to legitimate importers, distribution companies and, or manufacturing partners of . People whose brands I admire. And then I’ve gone on to Alibaba or AliExpress. And I see that I can buy a case of something that looks essentially the same for much, much cheaper. And I get a much bigger margin. I mean, these margins are substantial when compared to buying a product from a legitimate manufacturer. Often times these e-commerce shops are ordering goods without seeing the products without visiting the factory, running safety tests on their own, based on your research?What do you think they’re actually buying.

Emma Rohmann: I’ve learned a lot about counterfeiting from you. And the reality is you don’t know what you’re getting. It could be perfectly fine. Chances are, if the price is too good to be true, there’s a reason. And. This is where I think you have to be very mindful before just popping up links. It is so easy to set up an online shop now and have, even if it’s just affiliate links through Amazon or other third party platforms. And it’s why the shop page on my website, I actually went to great lengths to use. Non-Amazon links. It would have been way easier and I probably would be making more money if I had just done that, but it, it goes against my mission. And so I think you need to really think carefully about what the mark is that you want to make in the world. And before selling products, I think you need to do your due diligence and ask the questions. And don’t just assume that because something is cheap it’s because somebody else got a good deal. I don’t think that you can assume that something is cheap without somebody else paying the cost.

Jennifer Chua: But what if a product is labeled FDA approved, this is something I hear all the time, but it says FDA approved.  As a consumer or as someone who’s talking my shelves, what should I look for in terms of labeling?

Emma Rohmann: FDA approved. I mean, it’s, if it’s actually FDA approved and not a counterfeit, that’s just slapping the stamp on the label. It’s. Fine. It usually means that the product is tested more for physical safety than toxic ingredients. They do have some requirements like lead and whatnot, but I would say  that is a bare minimum. And I don’t even know if you can legally sell something that is not FDA approved if it is within that FDA jurisdiction. So it’s kind of an obvious, no-brainer and so whatever the product is, if it is a consumable, like a personal care product, if it is a baby toy or a teether, I think we need to have a better collective understanding of the types of ingredients that are used to make these things.

And so if it’s something like, let’s say a teething toy. Often they’re made with plastics that are soft and flexible. And so we know that plasticizers and phthalates can be a risk. And so it’s asking, okay, what is being used to give this product? The properties that it has and are these ingredients potentially harmful. And that’s a big ask. It’s a lot for people to  try to take on. And it’s why I spend so much of my time in my programs, educating how to ask these questions and what to do with the information as well as providing the solutions, because we need to be more educated, aware, and conscious both as consumers like from the family side, as well as consumers on a business side, getting materials for our products, because there are thousands of chemicals on the market right now. And as we’ve talked about, they aren’t necessarily safe. And so unfortunately until we get to a place where regulations and industry catch up, It’s on the consumer way more than it should be. But if we don’t start asking the questions, I don’t think any of the other mechanisms are going to change. And so I really do think that it’s up to us to start driving this conversation so that companies know that it’s important.

Jennifer Chua: As consumers, we have the opportunity to buy anything in one click online, which is convenient. and oftentimes these massive online marketplaces or these dollar stores have goods that are much more affordable. Like there a lot more inexpensive, but what’s the cost?

Emma Rohmann: I think we have to look at this from. The cost to ourselves, as well as the cost to the environment and the people who are making them.  Look at the cost to ourselves. A lot of these cheap products are not made to last. They are cheap because well,  they use cheap materials, but also they want you to keep buying more of them. That’s the business model. It’s volume, right? Low cost, high volume. That’s the model. And so if you think about buying something for a really low price, how long is it going to last? How many are you going to have to buy over how long in order for it to do whatever you want it to do? Andthink about that and say, okay, is this cost really worth it over the long-term. The other issue is health both. And I don’t think we put enough of a dollar value on our health that we should, I think a lot of us are forced to invest in our health when something bad happens. But the idea of investing in prevention or risk reduction is a tough concept to grasp for a lot of us because we don’t need it right now. Right. We’re fine. And so I think it’s just starting to think about our health differently and understanding, look, not everything that you buy is going to be a hundred percent non-toxic that is okay. But if you’re evaluating something that your baby is going to be sucking on day in and day out, this is something that really matters, especially for children because they’re developing. They’re growing, their systems are maturing in ways that we know chemical introduction at certain windows in a child’s development can have lifelong impact, particularly with hormone disruptors. And so this is something that we need to know and we need to be considering because our children’s health is not getting better.

Looking at the big picture and understanding that a little bit more of a cost for a product, like let’s say a teether or a mattress for a baby that you’re going to be using for a long time, knowing that it’s not going to be adding to your child’s risk of developing issues down the line is something that we need to be factoring into our decision-making. And then thinking about who is making these products and who is exposing themselves to working conditions that are potentially unsafe to chemicals that are potentially, or like lead obviously harmful. And if the company has a track record of poor enforcement or dumping chemicalsif we are buying products from those companies, then we are at fault as well. We can’t just keep putting the blame on companies and absolving ourselves of any responsibility because we’re the one supporting them. And I think we need to really be looking at that big picture.

Jennifer Chua: at Hip Mommies. We vet very carefully for that. For cost of use. It is something that we’re mindful of. And we’ve had this criticism because we sell some silicone baby plates, for example, that are much more expensivethan buying a plastic plate from a dollar store.  But if you use this three meals a day and you know, it’s safe and there’s a lot of contaminant issues in silicone, for example, that’s a really big one. You can get some unsafe silicone,  then you’re eating off it. So like you mentioned before, it makes me really uncomfortable. So health and safety are definitely one thing to be mindful of, but are there any other environmental impacts associated with these toxic goods on top of the impact, our health or the health of our families?

Emma Rohmann: yes. And I think it depends on the chemical. So in some instances there are chemicals used that we now know do not degrade. Once they hit the environment, these are called forever chemicals and they are found in flame retardants. They are found in stain repellents. They are found in waterproofing materials and they have been found in polar bears in the far reaches of the globe where they should not really be exposed to any human made ingredients. And so the problem with these is they’re forever chemicals because they. They do their job very well. Like Teflon, it’s the slippery substance on earth. It is effective at what it does, but when it enters the environment, it doesn’t go away. And it is hormone disrupting carcinogenic, and it is building up because as we use and dispose of products, It’s not like our trash just disappears. It ends up somewhere. And yes, when it goes to a landfill, there are some systems in place to contain what it goes in that landfill.

But there is still leachate, which is the stuff that ends up settling out at the bottom of the giant garbage pile is things start to degrade. That needs to be disposed of there’s always a waste product. And with things like forever chemicals, we’re finding them all over the place. When we look at ocean pollution, microplastics are now known to be a huge problem and we’re now facing the fact that we’re looking at having more plastic in our ocean than fish. And the wildlife eat it. We eat the fish and the chain just continues. The harm on the environment is sometimes one of the things that make. So  clue in that maybe there’s going to be a health impact for us as well.

But I think when we are making decisions, we easily forget that there’s also the environmental impact of things. And my career started as being a burgeoning environmentalist. I wasn’t thinking about things from a health perspective.  I came at this from a backwards way from a lot of people, but the environment isn’t some other extra thing that we can use as a dumping ground. Like the environment is literally our home. If you think of the work that we’re doing too, or the work that I’m doing to help reduce toxins within our actual houses, the same goes for our planet. We rely on a healthy environment for our food, our air, our water, and when we constantly use it as a dumping ground, our soils, our water quality, our air can’t recover. And so being mindful of the manufacturing processes that we’re supporting, the chemicals that we’re introducing without fully looking at their impact. I am worried for our kids to be honest. I mean, it’s kind of a downer of an answer, but the environment has a carrying capacity too, and we are not respecting that.

Jennifer Chua: I was doing some research for a previous episode, and they were talking about these forever chemicals, which are often found in packaging , and they did a random blood testing of. Like a random selection of a population and they found five or more of these chemicals in 70% of our bloodstream. And they also found these chemicals. And I think it was in California, in the waterway.  In their drinking water source. So I know that those are a really big problem and this all sounds very overwhelming. And I know that. You take the position that this should not be overwhelming. Anyone that’s made it this far into the episode, that’s feeling a little bit scared right now. Do you have any words of hope  or words of how they could approach this more mindfully without that overwhelm?

Emma Rohmann: There’s a fine line between. Educating, and  I’m not about fear-mongering at all, but I think we need to understand how important this issue is. Right. And I’m kind of past the point of sugarcoating it or making it seem like, oh, everything’s fine. But it would be really nice if we, because we’ve gone too far for that to be the case. And so I do hope that you are hearing this with a sense of curiosity and open mindedness. Because I think without being aware, we can’t drive change. And one of the quotes that I use in all of my web classes and seminars and presentations is from Dr. Maya Angelou, the quote, where . She says do the best you can until you know, better. And when you know, better do better and we can’t do better if we don’t learn. I hope that you’re hearing this with a sense of, okay, this is bad, but what can we do? I want to make a difference. Knowing that we as individuals have the power to create positive change is super empowering. And I think recognizing that we can be part of the solution faster than government regulations will change is the first step. And step number two is recognizing that every dollar you spend is a vote and if you want to create a better world for your family, for your kids. You’re not going to be voting every single dollar on something that is 100% non-toxic you’re not going to be doing all of this research into every single manufacturer. However, the more that you can, the more that you can ask companies, the questions, hopefully I’ve given you some information in this episode to arm you with some of the things to think about. Even if you can’t necessarily afford something that is kind of the ultimate goal. The fact that you’re asking the questions makes a difference.

I started my career as a co-op student phoning manufacturers and asking them for the MSDS and the VOC content of the materials that were going into the buildings that the projects that I was working on and. This was back in 2004, I think. And the people on the other end of the phone would respond. Like I was asking them the most obscure question. They had no idea what I was talking about. Just three, four or five years later, every major company that supplies products for building projects posted on their website. Or you call them up and ask for it and it’s like, yep, no problem. Here it is. And it’s in your inbox three seconds later. So having these conversations works, I have seen it time and time again. I think that is huge. You may not know all of the questions to ask. You might not know how to take in their answers, but the more that we can have this conversation, the more that we will drive change.

Taking a step back and looking at our consuming habits over all. We’re buying too much. And so if you want to just do one thing, it’s being more conscious and aware of what you’re buying and starting with the mindset that less is more. And then it won’t be such a hurdle to maybe invest in a few of the bigger ticket items that you might have your eye on. That’s a gross simplification. There are a lot of people with different economic situations. I totally get that, but I think we just need to start thinking about our kind of budget process and our lifestyle on the whole differently.

Jennifer Chua: Some of our partners for example. Small, independent retailers that we work with. They are often putting these questions to us and having us ask the manufacturer, or often being very mindful of what they’re selling or what they’re stocking their shelves with for their consumers. Like They’re being really great about it. Oftentimes these stores are now also accepting used goods and then reselling them. So repurposing. So if money is an issue,  a lot of these things you can find used too. Particularly in children’s products, if they have a shorter lifespan, in terms of use in your home, you can find these reused.

So Ultimately for our safety of our homes and our environments and our health who is really responsible here, is it on the consumer? Is it on the importer? Is it on the store that’s selling it to you? The manufacturer, the government? Like ultimately, should be responsible for you and your family’s health?

Emma Rohmann: I think we are responsible for our family’s health. That onus is on us. I think the onus on making goods that don’t harm our health should be 100% on the manufacturer. That reality is far from being realized. We all play a role and I think the more that we start shifting blame to other people, the more that we prolong this process of constantly playing catch up and arguing over whose responsibility it is. Companies are people. We often forget this companies aren’t this like machine, some of them act like it, but we’re all people. And I think the more that we can look at how the decisions we are making are impacting the bigger picture, the better off we will all be. And I really hope that companies, especially the big ones, step up, because if they were to change the way that they were operating tomorrow, the world would be a very different place.

This is the thing with a lot of certifications. Like you’d never know which ones are legit or which one is not. And B Corp is stringent. And that’s the other thing too, that stuff is expensive. And so getting that demonstration, it  takes some of the requirement off of the consumer too. Double-check and look into things because you know that there’s a third party who has already done that. And so that is something that you’re paying for as well, right? Like you’re going to pay something anyways, whether it’s money or time, you just have to trade off which one you’re willing to do. And sometimes you’re more able or willing to throw one thing at a problem than another, but don’t forget that. If you’re going to be spending less money, you’re likely going to be spending more time on something down the road. And B Corp or better made products are more expensive, usually for a very good reason. And it’s probably going to be saving you headache.

Jennifer Chua: I know earlier you said that you’re a little worried as a mother,  but seeing the response of your podcast and you have a Facebook group,this messaging is resonating with a lot of people. So are you hopeful for the future?

Emma Rohmann: I definitely am. And I think kids are getting it. Like we’ve seen kids striking for the climate. We’ve seen kids suing the government over environmental policies. So yeah. I am hopeful. I, we have some damage to undo and so we can’t just leave it up to our kids. So I am incredibly hopeful for the bright children that we are seeing and are going to be leaders in companies and governments. I think they are going to do amazing things in the world. I think our generation and our parents’ generation who has unfortunately been responsible for a lot of what we’re dealing with now. There’s still time for us to act and the conversations that I’m seeing in my communities give me so much hope and honestly keep me going, because I can see how much people care and how much people want to change. And I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people messaged me saying, Hey, I messaged this company and this is what they said, and this is what I said back. And it’s amazing. It’s how change is going to happen.  There’s the Margaret Mead quote, a small group of thoughtful people can change the world indeed is the only thing that ever has. And I see it every day. And so we can change the trajectory that we are on. We just need more people to be joining the conversation.

Jennifer Chua: If you want to learn more about Emma or learn more about how to reduce toxins in your home and body, visit greenathome.ca Interested in these topics? Emma’s podcast,The Missing Pillar of Health explores the impact our environment has on our health, our happiness, wealth, family, communities, and the planet.And it’s available everywhere you get your podcasts.  You can follow along with Emma on her mission on Facebook at greenathome or Instagram @emma_greenathome.


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