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Interview with Debra on Healthy Home Show
Back in March, I was invited to participate in the Healthy Home Summit. We loved this interview so much that we had it transcribed (see below). When you click on the video, if it asks you to subscribe, go ahead. You can always cancel if you want to after you watch it.
This video very much shows the transition from my former work as Debra Lynn Dadd to my new work as Debra Redalia. If you missed it during the summit, I would love for you to watch it now, and/or read the transcript (I've made the most important parts bold).
Fernanda Firman: Welcome to the Healthy Home Show. I'm Fernanda Firman, a healthy home architect.
Eric Firman: I’m Eric Firman, healthy home contractor.
Fernanda: And today, we're here with Debra Lynn Dadd.
We have been so amazed by the work that Debra has been doing. We have been following her for a while now. And we're so pleased to have you here today, Debra. Thank you so much.
Debra Redalia: I'm very happy to be here with you.
Fernanda: So, we're going to get started by reading Debra’s biography. And then, we're going to jump right into the questions.
Debra worked tirelessly for 40 years finding consumer products that were free from toxic chemicals. While others have researched toxins and their health effects, Debra specialized in finding the safe alternatives. She became the most prolific writer on the subject with seven more published books and the largest website on toxic-free living on the internet with hundreds of links and thousands of safer products.
In June 2019, Debra retired from toxic work to explore a lifestyle that contributes to supporting life using her married name, Debra Redalla.
Yeah, you are a visionary of your time, right?
Debra: I actually am. I am…
When I was doing the DebraLynnDadd.com website, I called myself the world's leading expert on toxic-free products because I really am. There's a difference between researching toxics and researching nontoxics.
Fernanda: That's so true. I didn't even think about that. And I would love for you to explain to us why do you think that's important. And also, tell us what triggered you. Why did you start on this path?
Debra: Well, I started I guess it's 41 years ago now—last year, it was 40 years—because I became very sick. And at that time, nobody was talking about toxics. This was in 1978.
And I became very sick. Nobody knew what it was. It was just serendipity that my father walked into an office where they were testing people for reactions to chemicals. And he said, “This is what's wrong with my daughter” because I had all these symptoms that seemed to be totally unrelated. They didn't fit together to be an illness that was known.
And [the symptoms] would come and go! Just all of a sudden, I just start crying for no reason. I wasn't able to stop. And I get headaches, and I would faint in the shower, and I couldn't sleep... all these symptoms, didn't relate to each other.
So, when my father discovered this, I went down to the doctor's office. And I figured out, “Yes, this is what’s going on with me.” But at that time, all they could do for you was to give you what's called an antigen which neutralizes the—it’s like an allergy pill for chemicals. They knew it was chemicals that were making people sick, but they didn't know what to do.
And I was actually one of the first people who said, “Well, if a chemical is making me sick, we should eliminate the chemical.”
And I really took this to heart. In my suffering state, I dragged myself out of bed, put myself in the car and went down to libraries when there was no internet. I was going down to libraries while I'm reacting to chemicals and trying to find the chemical, connect the chemical with the product, and then I could say, “Well, if permanent press sheets,” for example, “have formaldehyde in the finish, then where do I go for a sheet that doesn't have a permanent press finish.”
It was extremely difficult in 1978 because nobody was thinking about this. And there were very few products available.
So, I was cleaning my house with baking soda and vinegar. I found one set of sheets, one, that had no chemical finish on it. I was wearing cotton t-shirts and jeans because there were no clothes that weren't polyester. And this is what it was like in 1978.
My father invented the first shower filter because I couldn't get into a shower without fainting because of the chlorine fumes, or I should say the chloroform fumes. The chlorine they put in the water, it mixes with the stuff in the water, and it comes out as chloroform in the shower. Nobody knew any of this until I researched it.
And so then it was just a matter of, as the years went by, I promoted it. I wrote the first book. I went on TV. There's a whole story about how Bon Ami hired me to be their spokesperson. And I went on TV and I started talking about all these things.
And slowly, the natural products industry developed in 1978. There were no natural products. There were tradeshows going on twice a year. There wasn't even natural food stores or health food stores. There were none of these non-toxic products that we have today. I just started talking about it, and the whole industry happened in the last 40 years.
Well, I continued to talk about it. And I continued to find every product I could and let people know about them.
Eric: Wow! Thank goodness you had your father.
As you know, we just got out of the same thing many years later. You're way ahead of your time. God bless your dad! My goodness…
Fernanda: Thank you.
Eric: So, we suffered through it. Fernanda’s an architect; me, a contractor. We had no idea that we made our selves sick basically with everything we did to our home.
So, can you name some of the chemicals that you found besides like the sheets? I mean, the biggest thing for us, we're finding out, is the water as you mentioned, the quality of the air (which could be in a myriad of different things, from toxins in products and sheets as you mentioned), mold—did you find anything with mold? And then, the newest one that's coming out now is the electrical sensitivity people are having. It’s just like this perfect storm.
Debra: Well, right now, they're finding out more and more as science studies this. I mean, there was no such thing as indoor air quality when I started… nothing, nothing!
And so, let me just talk about indoor air quality for a minute because people get confused about what I do or what I've done. They think that because I know something about toxic chemicals that I know about everything that's attached to that in this field. And so, since toxic chemicals are part of indoor air quality, they think I know about mold and EMF’s and everything else. But I don't! Each one of those is its own separate field. And as they came online, so to speak, I decided that what I needed to do was stay on the toxics path because I needed to know where every toxic chemical was in every product in the entire marketplace because what I wanted to do was help people with toxics.
To know about mold is a completely different subject. To know about EMFs is a completely different subject. Yet I sympathize because, while I'm not particularly mold sensitive, and I'm not EMF-sensitive yet, particularly with EMFs, I see the danger. I see that I should be protecting myself.
But I took it upon me to know as much as I possibly could about toxic chemicals. To name them, I could name a bunch of chemicals, but people wouldn't know what they are. But in the building industry, actually the building industry, in some ways, is kind of behind some of the other industries. I would go so far as to say there are very few houses—
Like one of the things that I do is that I work as a consultant to help people who want to build or remodel their houses find the non-toxic products to build or remodel with. So, I would work with their architect to help them find those materials.
And I know a lot of materials because my husband Larry and I—who we’re going to do an interview together tomorrow about this very subject—we’ve remodeled a lot of houses… I mean just our own houses. So, we know what it takes.
And I can't even count how many people have called me wanting me to help them remodel or build houses. I just consulted for a year on a 5000 sq. ft. house. And I specified every single product that went in the house.
So, you can’t just go out in the real estate market and buy a non-toxic house. That's where we are right now. They aren't there.
Fernanda: One of the difficulties that I have seen too when we start talking to the clients—and I work with a very high-end architect here—and I try bringing this subject to some of the contractors like, “What do you think about the building materials? Do you ever feel like being exposed to them would have caused you to feel anything different or any symptoms?” and you're like, “Are you talking about toxic chemicals? Seriously, we have been building it like this for a hundred years.”
Debra: I know! I hear that a lot. But one of the things that happened before I really became aware of how sick I was, was that I remodeled my kitchen. And that meant…
You know what a contact paper is?
Debra: It's vinyl, a hundred percent vinyl with toxic adhesive on the back. I fully 100% covered the inside of every one of my cabinets with contact paper like this far from my nose. And there was a wood paneling wall. And I used that toxic white stuff—I don’t know what it’s called—to put it on to make it white. And we painted. We used vinyl tiles with adhesive on the back for the floor. And we used every toxic product.
And also, I was living with my boyfriend while I was remodeling my father's kitchen. And at my boyfriend's house, it was one of those where they took a big house and made it into apartments. So the shower, it was like this little enclosure that was cement and it was painted. I needed to get the paint off because, every time I took a shower, it would chip all over my body.
So, I went into this little enclosure about like this, with like toxins paint stripper, no ventilation, and I'm taking the paint off with a razor blade… and I didn't know any different! And most people don't know any different either… and still don't feel any different. But there's so much more awareness now across all these different fields.
I know there's a lot to talk about building, but we're going to talk about building tomorrow. So maybe we should talk about other things today.
Eric: Yeah, we can focus on… it’s a big missing gap actually. And we can really focus on the chemicals if you want. Let’s stick with the…
Fernanda: One of the things that, for me, was very hard was reading labels, right?
Fernanda: We used to use certain brands. And then, they changed the ingredients, but they didn't say anything. You trust that brand. And then, the next thing you know—like carrageenan, for example, was added to my toothpaste. And I didn't know that!
So, you rely on sources like you that are always on top of the brands, that are always on top of what they're doing to give us the update.
Debra: I'm laughing… I'm laughing because… ask me your question, and then I'll tell you why I'm laughing.
Fernanda: Why are you laughing?
Debra: I'm laughing because I'm glad you have that trust in me, but one of the reasons why I'm no longer doing this work is because I can't actually do that.
And what really is needed is there needs to be an organization that does what I have been doing for 40 years. And I just couldn't keep up with it myself.
And so, I turned it over to somebody else who's doing what she does. But she's also not doing what I'm about to say is needed. And that is…
There needs to be an organization who has the manpower or woman power—person power—to collect all the data about all the materials and to be able to put things into databases like products so that you could look up XYZ toothpaste, and it would have an up-to-date list of what the ingredients are.
I just don't have time to be keeping that list up-to-date. And then, each one would be connected—you’re able to click on each one—and see what are the health effects, if any.
I started trying to put something together. The program was called Zero Toxics. But then I realized I just couldn't do it because what you need on the other side is you need the manufacturer to say, “I'm on board with this. And I'm going to contact you, and I'm going to be a partner with you, in disclosing my ingredients.” That was the hardest part.
That’s a whole different hat, to be in communication with them.
So, there actually needs to be a whole team. I know exactly what needs to be done. What I need is I need somebody who can run a business, have a pile of money, hire a staff, manage it… and I'll be the creative director because I have the vision. I know what needs to be done. And that would totally change the marketplace. [I said this spontaneously in the interview, but I don't plan to pursue this. I'm doing other things now. —Debra]
But what we have now is… like there are all these certifications. At one point, I’ve put them all together. And there was about 30 of them. But they didn't have the right qualifications. And so you had misleading things.
One of the biggest ones is putting their certification all over all kinds of products. And I'm looking at these products and saying, “How can they do that?” It's because they only test for a limited list of chemicals. And so they say, “This is certified to only have this level, this very low level or less, of this list of toxic chemicals.” And people think it's all toxic chemicals… but it's not. And some of the most dangerous chemicals like phthalates, they don’t even test for.
Fernanda: Wow! So, what I'm hearing from you is that it's still our responsibility.
Debra: It is!
Fernanda: And also… like I call manufacturers. I call them.
Debra: I do too!
Fernanda: I tell them what my concerns are. I ask them why this is in the products. Even though some people say they're never going to get back to you. Well, at least I'm voicing my concern, and I'm making them understand that my voice matters.
Fernanda: And so, I think at this point, from what you're saying is, there is some certifications, but we cannot trust 100% the certifications because they only attempt certain chemicals…
Debra: You can’t trust the certifications that are certifying that a product is a non-toxic...That’s a whole… I'm going to try to give you a one minute version about the problem of certifying non-toxics. There are certain things which are actually truly non-toxic and there's no question about it. And then, there are other chemicals where they're toxic to certain groups, but not to other groups, or in certain amounts, but not in other amounts. And so, when you're saying non-toxic, what does that actually mean?
And that was something that I was really struggling with. And so, that needs to be much better defined.
Now, what is a good certification? It would be something like an organic certification where they have actual guidelines. They’d send the inspectors. And they inspect that you are following the guidelines. GOTS, the Global Organic Textile Standard is an excellent certification. They are amazingly thorough. And they have good standards.
But then the ones that just say, “We’re certifying that it isn't toxic because we’ve put this list together of 5000 red list chemicals, and these chemicals are not in the product,” that kind of certification doesn't work in my opinion.
Eric: Since you're well aware nothing exists quite yet… what about EWG, for example, a privately held company? I don't even know how many. Like I said, maybe they don't have a huge staff. But they have a wealth of information that people are turning to. What’s your opinion on companies like the EWG?
Debra: I think that they basically are a lobbying organization. They're identifying toxic chemicals that they want to get off the market. And so, they write these reports, they do some lobbying. And it's only been recently that they've been making product recommendations and certifying. They have their own certification program. But they don't have the background that I have, for example.
And so, they certify a bunch of products that I would never recommend simply because it takes a long time to start collecting a perspective to have the background information to know what is a good water filter. And they haven't done their homework.
They're really, really good at doing things like they did a great study about how even some chemicals that are toxic that are not known to cause cancer [will] cause cancer if you combine them. And that's a really important thing to know because it's not just about saying, “We're going to avoid formaldehyde because it causes cancer.” Things, combinations of things, will create cancer. [After 40 years of avoiding chemical carcinogens, I was diagnosed with cancer and was told my cancer was not caused by carcinogenic chemicals. I am now cancer-free].
Toxics is an unknown soup. You put things together and you don't know what you're going to get.
Eric: Absolutely. So what would you say based on your experience and traveling through pain yourself, like for the listeners, to give some sort of hope? What’s the biggest thing somebody could do in their home today? Or maybe the simplest that they could start to remove toxins from their home?
I mean, there's so many questions. How do you check for them? How do you remove? Like where do you start?!
Debra: Where you start is with my book called Toxic-Free… which I should have one in my hand right here, and I don't. This is called Toxic-Free. And on the page where I have my free gift, I'll put information about that book too so that people can get that. You can go to my DebraLynnDadd.com website. There’s a section called Debra's List which has a lot of products that I've already checked out and know that they're non-toxic.
One thing that people can do just without even reading anything is you could buy a water filter—and I'll put my recommended water filter on that page too—because you get so much exposure to water, toxics from water. And it goes right into your skin. It’s immediate. It's faster into your body than drinking water than if you're taking a shower in water.
You could change your sheets. That’s a big one because formaldehyde, permanent press finish, will cause insomnia. And you can go to any place like Bed, Bath & Beyond, and everybody sells organic sheets. This is not difficult to find.
So, just get some organic sheets that don't have finish on them… and you've removed that exposure.
So, there are all these little things like eating organic food. There's little places to start step by step. And my book Toxic-Free gives you 50 steps that you can do. And it doesn't give a bunch of names of brands. But it shows you where the toxic chemicals are and give suggestions on what to do.
The other thing that you can do is—there’s two parts to it. One is that you stop putting chemicals into your body, but the other thing is you need to take toxic stuff out of your body. And one thing I do have with that regard sitting right here on my desk because I take this every day, this is liquid zeolite. And I'll put that on my page too. This is liquid zeolite. And what it does is that it actually attracts and collects heavy metals, and then you excrete them.
And the way you feel after you do this is amazing. Heavy metals just will harm your body in so many ways. And after 10 days of taking this, I woke up and I said, “I feel euphoric because I’ve never had a body that didn't have heavy metals in it.”
I've been recommending this to my readers for years, and people independently would write to me and say, “I feel euphoric.” It just is amazing because it's like this weight lifts off your body when you get the heavy metals out.
Your body will not process heavy metals. We’re being exposed to them all the time. And we're collecting them, collecting them, collecting them… you start taking this particular brand of liquid zeolite (it’s more effective than the others)—I mean, as you can tell, it's right here on my desk. I take it every day.
Fernanda: Yeah, one of the things that you mentioned that really goes into your heart is the water filtration system. I was not a believer. And about eight years ago, before my son was born, Eric installed one of the whole house water filtration system within our house. And my son was born. And then, we moved to the new house. And before we installed the filtration system again, my son developed eczema all over his body.
I took him to the pediatrician. Of course, she gave steroids. He was a year and a half old. And he told me to put it twice in his whole body. And we were like…
Eric: Twice a day…
Fernanda: Twice a day!
Debra: Yeah! No, I understand. When I first installed my water filter (or when my father installed the shower filter), I started telling everybody that I knew who was also dealing with chemical exposure, and people started putting them on because we were just buying the pieces at the hardware store. And this one woman said that she had a skin rash where she was taking steroids and nothing could stop the skin rash. As soon as she installed the water filter, like after two showers, it all went away.
Debra: We think that there's like the—I guess we could call it the “normal” world, the normal industrial world. And we think that that's the normal world. And then, all these people are getting sick in all these different ways, and we think that's normal because it's average. It's what happens to everyone as a result of living in a toxic industrial world. So then we go to the doctor, and they give us drugs, and we think that's normal.
But I was astonished when I started taking the toxic chemicals out of my life how my health changed! Suddenly, I wasn't depressed. I didn't have headaches. I could sleep at night. Everything that was wrong with my body and my mind went away!
And yet there are so many millions of people who are still living in the toxic world, who are still suffering, who are still taking drugs… and they don't yet know that this is what they should do!
I know you probably have more questions for me. But there's a couple things that I want to say, and I want to make sure I get them in before our time ends.
I want to say that, last June, I decided to not do my toxics work any longer after 40 years. And there was a reason why I made that decision. And that's because I had been studying other things in the background and not really talking about them. And something I really want people to understand is that people think that even those of us who are aware of toxic chemicals—and I made this big mistake for a long time—they think that if you remove the toxic chemicals, then the world is fine and that you'll be healthy just because you've eliminated the toxic chemicals… but that's not true.
I found that even though I have lived probably the least toxic life of anyone on the planet for the longest period of time, I'm not 100% healthy. And the reason I'm not 100% healthy is that I had a lot of endocrine problems. And this is before we knew about endocrine disruptors.
So, even though I started out—at the time, they called it environmental illness. Now it’s called multiple chemical sensitivities. That's an immune system disorder caused by toxic chemicals.
So, you could be somebody who has that disorder, and then heal from that and no longer react, no longer have your symptoms. But that doesn't mean that other body organs or systems are not being affected.
So, once I no longer was reacting to everything, I had endocrine system damage, and so I was infertile and I had thyroid problems, I had reproductive problems. You can look at everything that's ever been wrong with my body, and it's endocrine.
You’ve probably heard of endocrine disruptors. People are not even hardly associating endocrine disruptor chemicals with the endocrine system and saying, “Here, take this list of chemicals, get it out of your life and see how your endocrine system improves.” But I did that… and my endocrine system is improving.
I found that food was tremendous! When I first started out, there was no organic food. There was no organic certification, nothing. So the biggest step that I could make was “let's get rid of the petroleum-based additives.”
You can even go back to my very first book that was published in 1984. It listed Godiva chocolates as an acceptable chocolate because it didn't have artificial color or flavors or preservatives. And now, look, we have all these organic and all these different kinds of chocolate. But at the time, that was the whole thing that you could do! And as times progressed, as organic became available, I started eating organic and blah-blah-blah…
But it wasn't until just a couple in the last couple of years that I decided I had to not eat processed food, industrially processed food, because the natural food stores are filled with organic foods that are industrially processed. And when you eat processed food, it takes out most of the good stuff.
And so, I found a huge difference in my blood sugar—which is another problem that I've been struggling with. They say that toxic chemicals affect blood sugar, but there are other things that affect it more. And if all you're doing is saying, “I'm going to eliminate every toxic chemical and not pay attention to anything else,” like a lot of people do when they find out about toxic chemicals, you're not catching these other things.
And so, at this point in time, the biggest reason why I shifted away from toxic is that I needed to present the whole picture. I needed to say, “This is what health is about!” And actually, my free gift for this summit is a PDF that answers that whole question because we're not going to have time to cover everything. But I wanted to make sure that I had a document that shows my new viewpoint because toxic products are essentially a result of industrialization. If you shift over to the natural world and say, “I'm going to eat strawberries from the farmer’s market,” what you suddenly have now is something that was just harvested this morning. It has all the life in it. It's organic. It might be heirloom (which means it has all the original DNA in it).
And the best thing that somebody can do (and what I'm doing now) is that I'm refocusing every aspect of my life to be aligned to life instead of being aligned to industrialization. And it goes from the products all the way down to our viewpoints.
Like one of the things that I write about in my free gift is how we have this idea, because we're all raised industrially, that you can just do whatever you want to do to your body, it gets sick, it goes to the doctor, you go to the doctor, you get a pill or you get a surgery, you go back and you do your life just exactly the same way. It's set up that way so that you have to go pay the doctor, pay the drug, all these things. Our whole culture is about “how do you make the most money,” not “how do you have the greatest health and happiness” and be yourself and express yourself and create a wonderful world. It's all about money.
I love to watch Hallmark movies. My husband and I love to watch them. And we love some of their messages, and we don't love some of their messages. Last night, when we were watching, it was all about the two people falling in love, salespeople on a home shopping network. You saw the backside of it where it's all about the sale. It's all about the numbers. It's all about how can you make more money, more money, more money, more money.
And I don't live my life that way. I'm saying, “How can I create more health and happiness and have a better world?” And then, the money comes as a result of doing that. If you just put money first, you end up with the world that we have today where everybody's struggling to make money to pay for all these products and services that are the result of them not knowing how to create their own life.
I mean, you two are different than most people. You’re more like my husband and I. We know how to build things. We know how to make things. I can cook a meal myself. I mean, I'm not going down to the takeout place. I'm going down to the farmers market and coming home and preparing that food into delicious, delicious meals.
Fernanda: Wow! That was a bomb of information. And also, it’s so deep because, for us, it’s the same thing. We do believe that things naturally…
I'm from Brazil. And what I remember growing up is going to the farmers market every weekend. We knew all the people that were selling stuff.
Debra: I know my farmers too!
Fernanda: Right, yeah. Everything was organic. We didn't have to label it. Every single meal was cooked at home. I remember smelling, coming home with this smell of food that was cooked.
So now, both our parents have to work because we have to pay for all of those bills. And again, then you get to…
Eric: …and all that packaged food.
Fernanda: …packaged food. And there’s this misunderstanding or the misinformation that it’s organic, but it's packed. But then it's not packed with ingredients that you need or nutrients that you need, right?
Debra: Yes. People are malnourished. They're eating all this packaged food. I mean, even if it says organic, like an organic potato chip is not any better for you than a non-organic potato chip. And yet people think that's an organic vegetable. I’ll just admit that one of my favorite things is these beet chips. You know, they're organic beat chips. But I don't eat them—they’re from my old days—because an organic beet chip is not any less processed than an organic potato chip… which is not any less processed than a non-organic potato chip.
What you need are those whole life foods that... Since the beginning of eternity, your body has been eating and repairing itself on whole live foods.
I'm actually starting a food blog just as soon as I can get it up. It’s called Whole Food Cuisine because it's all about the wholeness of the food, not eating this processed stuff, but food that’s organic, that’s in its whole form, that has all its DNA because it's heirloom… things like that.
And we're not accustomed to that in this culture… which is why I stopped doing my money-making work, just took my savings and said, “I'm going to start this because this is the future of where we need to go.”
And in 1978, I struck out and said, “The future of where we need to go is to not be exposed to all these toxic chemicals.” And now look in 40 years where we've come. And I'll just take a bow. Thank you.
Debra: And so, I have an idea that I can change the world because I did. And now, I'm going to change the world again.
Eric: Absolutely! I totally agree with you. Everybody that we've interviewed, what we've come to the realization ourselves is removing the toxins is really the first step of many other steps. One of the doctors we had, he has a signature program, the 5R's. And the first one is to remove the toxins. So yes, beyond that, there's much more to go.
And it's kind of like, as an analogy, talking about money and things related to business, if all you focused on in business was money, money, money, money, but didn't have your health, you didn't exercise, you didn’t do whatever spirituality was for you, all these other assets and things that go into life, it creates toxins. So it's a balance, right?
Debra: It is a balance. But toxics are number one. I would say the number one positive thing that needs to be done is spirituality. I think everybody needs to understand that we're spiritual beings and that we have abilities and powers to make our lives better. And I address [spirituality] on my websites too.
But the number one negative thing that needs to be removed is toxic chemicals. So, it's this constant balance between putting in the positive and taking away the negative. And then, you move forward.
Eric: You probably had some of the same symptoms she did. I mean, she’s had brain fog, constant headaches, fatigue. How are you going to do those other things? So yes, absolutely… remove the toxins first.
Debra: Remove the toxins first. And also, I'll just say again, to take liquid zeolite because that will, within a matter of days, start clearing up all your symptoms and make it easier for you to remove the toxic chemicals.
At this point in time, it's just the first thing to do, is to start getting the stuff out of your body. And then, yes, you need to create a non-toxic environment to live in. And it just needs to be not what you do temporarily in order to heal; it’s what you do for the rest of your life.
And if you think that, “Oh, I need to get back to my toxic life. When can I get back to my toxic life?”, I want to say that I am so much happier having discovered that there isn't a non-toxic toxic-free life because it's so much more of a pleasure to wear soft cotton clothes instead of scratchy polyester clothes and things like that.
I used to sleep on polyester sheets, and my face would be red in the morning because it's so abrasive to sleep on polyester.
So, I just find the natural world, the world of life, to be so much more pleasure both in physical sensation and more delicious and more satisfying as a person, more spiritually satisfying.
Fernanda: And you said something that's very interesting. Some people… like you’re showing signs of reaction to toxins but not to EMF. Some people will show different reactions to different things. And a lot of times, just because you're not reacting, you’re not showing symptoms, doesn't mean that your body's not fighting inside.
Debra: That's exactly right. Everybody's body is fighting these unnatural things, whether you're seeing the symptoms or not. They may be there, but you're not seeing them yet. If you’re smoking cigarettes, it takes 30 years of smoking cigarettes, and then you have cancer. You can’t see it, but that doesn't mean that it's not growing, that you're not damaging your body in other ways all those years you’re smoking cigarettes. All these chemicals are…
I mean, I've read a lot of scientific information about these chemicals that are in all these products. And they're horrible. They're frightening! And yet they're being treated as if there's nothing wrong with this. And there needs to be a major, major, major shift. And anything that I can do to help show people that there's another world out there, and it's already out emerging—
I mean, in 1978, I couldn't tell people where to go buy clothing that wasn't a t-shirt or a pair of jeans. But now, in talking about this other new viewpoint that we're calling lifely, there’s a lot of people who are already doing it. They just don't know what they're doing or they don't have a set of criteria or whatever. But they're growing organic food, they're making clothing out of organic fibers, all these different things. It's just a matter of shifting the viewpoint and showing people where they can get these things.
And I do want to say that I do find spirituality to be a key component of this. When I was trying to let go of toxics, it was really hard because I felt like if I let go of this toxic product, I don't have anything anymore…
Fernanda: …like perfume.
Debra: Yeah. I was so “I am my things,” which is a very common viewpoint in consumer society, “I am my things.”
So, when you ask somebody to start letting go of something, if you don't have something else there, it's like, “I can't! I can't give up my things,” whatever they are. But having a sense of myself as a spiritual being, there's “I am I… and my things are my things.” And I can say, “Well, that's just the thing. I'm still here.” Can you see the difference?
And that's why I made a big deal to have a whole separate website. I have a group of websites about this and a whole separate one is about spirituality because we need to have that sense of ourselves. And then we can stand back and say, “What do we need to do for our bodies? What do we need to do for the world? I'm not a pile of money…”
It doesn't mean that we shouldn't have money to exchange with. But if your whole motivation is to have a bigger pile of money because that's what society tells you you have to have and you can't survive without it, I'm actually going the other direction. I'm saying, “Let's be more spiritual and less material. And I'm giving things away. And I'm putting less attention on making money because the survival factor is life. Life!”
I mean, people's bodies die from ill health, and they have piles of money left. But that doesn't help them live. That doesn't help them live.
Fernanda: Or they will spend all that money trying to get healthier later because they got so sick that they have to spend all this money, like going to doctors. And that's one of the conversations I had with my friend. She said, “Well, it's too expensive to go organic and to get rid of toxic stuff. Everything that's non-toxic is so expensive.” And I said, “How much is your son's life worth? How many nights do you have to stay awake when he has allergic reactions where he can’t go to school and you can't go to work because he's at home?”
Debra: No, totally! Economically, you have to do this because what's coming up if you don't is spending more money and being sicker and having less ability to make money. It’s like just disintegrates. And if you put health and life first, and then you say, “Okay, I'm going to make this work financially, either I'm not going to buy so many candy bars, or we're not going to go out to eat or whatever, because health is it…”
And then, you start looking and saying, “Well, how can I make more money? How can I make this happen?”, if you use the guiding principle of your life as being healthy in life, it happens! It starts happening. You start seeing how to do it.
And if you just keep on that track of “We’re going to live this toxic life, spend a lot of money doing it,” it’s going to…
I mean, we see the statistics. You see the statistics. I come from a family where my mother's died at age 51 of cancer. My little brother died at age 58 from multiple things wrong with him. He died sitting in a diner. He just was sitting there alone, and he just fell down into the center… all alone. And I’m 64. I'm going to be 65 in a couple of months. I'm 65, I'm not 100% healthy, but I'm healthy enough to be enjoying life and doing my work. And I'm getting healthier every day. And I expect to live for another 30 years and really keep making a difference in the world.
Fernanda: And it's amazing how that actually impacts other people without even saying anything, right? I see how my friends…
I asked one of my friends one day when I was searching for this spirituality that I had lost while trying to keep up with the bills and making more money. I stopped at a friend's house, and I said, “Who am I? You know, when you look at me, who am I?” She never said “architect.”
She said, “You’re a health conscious mom. You worry about what you put in your body. You're always reading labels.” She told me all this things that I was like, “Really? What about architect?” She’s like, “Yeah! And you are an architect.”
So that, people are watching us and they are seeing us as a certain way even though that was not my business. I was not doing that for a business. It's just helping people out of my heart… and so does my kids.
You should see my kids going shopping. My 4-year old doesn't read, but he knows what numbers are. He knows that when they have too many ingredients on the thing, on the box… not good.
Debra: Yeah, yeah!
Eric: We've been in a lot of these interviews now, and my brain just keeps spinning. And one of the things that comes to mind is, you said yourself, you got sick and then you did something about it. She got sick. All the doctors, a friend or a family member got sick or themselves.
Unfortunately, human nature, generally, we don't do anything until it's staring us right in the face or it's sometimes too late. But what Fernanda is talking about is really about educating the kids or educating people in general early in life I think, making these changes early. But then it becomes part of your life because really, as you go through your journey, what I'm hearing is it’s about changing habits. It’s about a paradigm shift, the way we think about stuff. And unfortunately, it takes us getting sick to do something. But if you instill that in children early on, then it's just part of their life.
Debra: It is part of their life. It's like we have our generation… well, I guess I would say I'm a different generation than you guys because I'm older. But especially my generation, we grew up—
I was born in 1955. At that time, there were all these new chemicals that came out of World War II. That's when plastics came out and all these things. And people hadn't started getting sick yet. So, we got a huge dose of it.
I didn't actually know this until a few years ago. But in 1944, the pesticide DDT was already ubiquitous and on the earth. It was ubiquitous already in 1944… which means that—
I don't know if you ever saw that the Environmental Working Group did a study where they took the blood out of the umbilical cord of babies and they found that they all had toxic chemicals in them. Well, when I saw that about DDT being ubiquitous in 1944, I was one of those babies. You are those babies. Almost everybody on the planet are those babies. And so, we're born with damaged DNA and all those things. We’ve turned into a damaged planet in a very short period of time.
But we act with what we were raised with. If we raise our children with a different paradigm, they will act that. I actually feel quite optimistic about the future because I see us moving in a direction of more awareness, more love, more spirituality and the wholeness of lifestyle that comes from that. And so, what's going to happen is that we're going to have a whole different way of viewing things. We're going to do our healthcare differently. We’re going to have different products available. We're going to have more organic farms. The whole landscape of how we live on the planet is going to change. And it's going to change in a really positive way because it's already happening.
So, the more we support those things, the more and faster it's going to happen.
And that's basically what I'm doing with my work now. I'm identifying those life-enhancing things that we can be doing rather than spending my days finding out the health effects of the latest toxic chemical—which needs to be done, but it's not what I need to do. It needs to be done only in the sense that we need to know what needs to be eliminated, so that we can put our attention on the good.
Fernanda: And I think there's a new wave of young people now that are already talking about it.
All of our kids, they already talk about, “Oh, this is organic. Oh, we should not be eating it. This has red-40 on it.” The young kids are already talking because the mothers are already talking about it. There's this new generation of mothers that are just very conscious, that are making the effort. And they are talking about it.
Debra: And it's on television. It's on the commercials. They’re advertising organic in cereal commercials. And they're having things about, “Oh no! Don’t eat that. It’s got the red in it.” It’s on commercials. And it's very heartening for me to see that change in awareness in only 40 years because I've been talking about it so much.
So, in a way, I've had to do a lot of education. But now, it's become so mainstream that there is awareness about it. The problem that we still have is we have more people who are aware now, but we don't have the background information collected like we were talking about at the beginning. So now we have people who want to buy non-toxic products. They're not well-labeled. They're not well-documented. I mean, there are federal laws that you can't make claims without documentation. And so, you have people making claims about non-toxic, but where's their documentation.
There’s still places that we need to go with non-toxic products. What I can say, without any doubt, is once you get over the line into—it’s like if there's zero point on one side, the things get more and more toxic. And so if you're way over here, that's like the most toxic product. And then, you get less, less, less toxic, less toxic, less toxic. And then, you get zero toxics. And that point is where it's not doing you harm, but it's not doing you good.
And then, if you come over on this side, which is where I am now, we're getting more and more life, more and more life, more and more life.
Over here, it’s not toxic. I mean, if you just jump over the line and come over here—
I'm not reading labels at the farmers market. They’ve got their little signs that “we’re certified, blah-blah-blah…” I'm just buying what I want.
Fernanda: I love that analogy. I’m very visual. And for me, that… it was fantastic. I will keep that in my mind.
Eric: Then all these things come to mind. If it comes in a box, don’t eat it. That's a good guide.
Debra: Yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I do want people to become more aware that there is a world, there is an earth… it’s alive. And we’re part of that. We’re a species among other species. We don’t think of ourselves that way in an industrial society. To the industrial society, where consumers who spend money,
I think of myself as being a human being who lives in an ecosystem who lives on a planet and that the same life flows through me and you and all of everybody that's watching this and all the trees and the butterflies and the water and everything. It's all one system. And it all supports us.
And once you can get across the line and see that, life changes because this is really the truth. The industrial world is just this temporary thing. But it's so ingrained in us from the moment that we're born, it’s hard to see anything else. But there's this beautiful, shining thing over here that’s alive. And that's what I want people to see.
Fernanda: And it's funny that you're talking about industrialization because, a lot of the times, they make things cheaper; and to make things cheaper, they have to make more, they have to put more toxins in it to make it less.
It also has a lot to do with our needs. That’s to fulfill our needs. If our needs change, then the industry will change. When you go to a restaurant and expect the plate to have 20 eggs, 20 bacons, 20 this… well, what do you do with that? Then you throw half of it away. The waste that we have because of all of our needs, I think what need to change now is how we communicate our needs to the industry by not buying, by expressing ourselves, even in social media. When I buy something, “Hey, guys, I found this. This is good” or contacting the manufacturers.
Debra: Well, I've found in my work now that the first thing that needs to be done is we need to find out what actually are our needs. And when I started looking at that, it was really amazing to see that—
And we’ll talk more about this in that other show that we're taping tomorrow about the houses. We're building a tiny house. And so, we came from a 1600 sq. ft. house right now, and we're living with Larry's parents. So our space is pretty small. But we're moving into I think it's 320 sq. ft. And we're just starting to move stuff in there to see how much can we actually get into 320 sq. ft. and what are the necessities.
We have this idea that we need to have this big house. I used to have a big kitchen when I lived in Florida and you can buy big houses for practically nothing. I had a big house. I had a big kitchen. I had everything from Williams-Sonoma. I had every kitchen tool. I hardly use any of them. But I love to cook, and I thought I had to have all that stuff.
And now, my kitchen is a little corner. I mean, it's really not any bigger than 6 x 8 ft. I cook with two pots, three knives, a few bowels. But that's what I need in order to cook my simple food. You don't need to have all these contraptions.
And so, when you start seeing that there's a simple life that can have everything that you need to maintain that life abundantly—and when I use the word abundance, it's really not about money anymore for me. It's about what I want is abundance of satisfaction. I want abundance of love. I want abundance of life. I want abundance of health.
And so, having those things, my physical needs—how many consumer products I need, the pile gets very small. I don't need to have 12 sets of sheets so that I can have a different sheet for every month in the year. I don't have to have any of these things that I used to have In my 1600 sq. ft. house. I left a lot of it in Florida. And the less stuff I have, the happier I am. And it makes it a lot easier to live in a non-toxic way if you only have a small pile of needs and know how and where you can get those that are made out of natural materials and organic things. It becomes very simple.
Eric: Absolutely! You know, funny story… when Fernanda and I first met years ago when I took my first trip to Brazil, I was pleasantly surprised by many things down there. And one of them was the lack of clutter and things. Here, in America, you see people with their garage full of things. The car is in there generally. And then, they need to go get a storage unit.
When you go to Brazil, you’ll see 3, 5, 10,000 sq. ft. homes, huge garage. And the garage doesn't even generally have doors on it because they're showing off their cars because cars are very difficult to get there.
Fernanda: Yeah, price-wise.
Eric: They’re like 10 times the price. For example, a Toyota RAV4 would be $120,000 of their dollars there.
Debra: Wow! Wow…
Eric: …just to give you an idea. So, there's nothing in the garage. They have very few items. They don't always have the latest cell phone. And they take care of their things. They have one pair of glasses generally.
I mean, it's changing. The American culture is kind of migrating there. You see it. But let's say go back 12 years ago when I first went there, it was a lot different. People lived a lot happier, more outgoing. They weren't in the house so much. They were doing things with people and enjoying life. And we've kind of lost that here.
Debra: Yeah, the consumer culture has taken over. And I see it even in my own lifetime. I see us having a consumer culture frenzy now. I think it's all going to collapse. There’s a process that happens with how things grow and die. And there's like the last gasp kind of thing where everything now is about the price. It has to be the cheapest price and things are really poor quality. They're really poor quality in comparison to things that I bought when I was younger.
And when I lived in Florida for 17 years, when I moved there, I didn't know how long we were going to stay. But when I left California, I said, “Well, I'm going to Florida where it's a different temperature and everything. And a lot of these things I need in California, I'm not going to keep them because I can buy them again when I come back.” They don't exist! It's like I came back from Florida with my tank tops and my little Capri pants. I didn't have clothes that first winter. And I couldn't buy them because they weren't in the stores like they were 20 years ago.
And so, I did end up buying some clothes. But I bought some clothes online. This shirt I’m wearing, I had to buy it online. I couldn't buy a shirt like this in a local store.
And now, we’re so frustrated. We go into stores, and because we're accustomed to a lifetime of “if you want to buy something, you go to a store and they have it,” now you can go online, and it'll say, “Oh, we have this,” and you go there… but no, you have to order it online. And so, you can't just go buy something. You have to wait a week for it to be delivered and pay twice the price and pay for the shipping.
This is not normal commerce. This is desperation for money. And then, if you go online, there are so many things where you can say with what they're selling, “You can make so much money by doing this and this and this and this.” It's not about giving quality service or selling a quality product. It's like how are you going to make the most amount of money. And that's taken over our ability to even think in terms of quality, or what's going to support our own health, or support our planet.
All these ethical things need to come to the fore. And then, it'll all sort out.
And I think that it will because industrialization is a finite activity. It just is. You can only take it so far. And then, the planet will be dead, and we'll all be dead.
Now, at some point, at some point, people will wake up—and people are already waking up and saying, “Wait a minute! If we’re going to have a planet, if we’re going to have a future, we need to do things differently.”
Eric: Yeah, humans…
Fernanda: Yeah, that’s why I think empowering kids at this age, that’s one of the missions I have—empowering moms to empower their kids. Otherwise, they're not going to have any planet left for them that are going to be sustainable.
Debra: No, there won’t be.
Debra: We have to sustain life.
One of the things that I've learned spiritually is that, inherently, there's a drive to sustain life. If you look at other species, it's like a tree wants to live. A bird wants to live. And that same “want to live” is in every single species, including ours. But it's been numbed. It's been forgotten. It’s dormant.
One of the things that I'm working on is how can I get everybody to get that “I want to live!” feeling so that we're using that spiritual power to get more life.
It’s an important thing. It's a number one thing. It's in there within each one of us. But we have our attention on how to make money and just having more products.
If we can get in touch with that, everything would change.
Fernanda: Wow! This was such an enlightenment for us. And I'm sure Eric feels the same because we share the same ideas. And I think the gift you have for the audience is fantastic. I think it will help everybody connect the dots in between spirituality, in between changing your needs.
And I think you touched on so many points here. It’s not just about saying, “I’m toxic-free.” It's about a mindset. It's about a life change. It comes from inside. It comes from your needs, changing your needs. The outcome, you will change from inside.
Debra: It really is changing the outcome by changing the inside and changing our views and understanding who we are, what we are, what we need, what the possibilities are. And we can create a different outcome.
Fernanda: Yeah! Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. This was such a great conversation.
Debra: Thank you!
Fernanda: I really appreciate it.
Debra: Thank you for asking me.
Fernanda: Yeah! So, Debra's gift, there's going to be a link down below this video. And you're going to be able to download her gift and also visit her website and see the other products that she mentioned in this interview.
Thank you so much, Debra.
Eric & Fernanda: Thank you!