Rodney Dietert, Ph.D. is an internationally known author, lecturer, scientist, media personality, and educator with peer-reviewed papers published in more than seventy scientific journals ranging from environmental health and pediatric medicine publications to nutrition, metabolism, immune, neurological, and reproductive journals. Currently a professor and professor emeritus at Cornell University in Microbiology and Immunology, Rodney has more than three-hundred publications including two-hundred papers and book chapters, with most addressing environmental risk factors, developmental immunotoxicity, and programming of later-life non-communicable diseases.
With a specifically focused career in the microbial sciences, Dietert is perhaps one of the foremost experts in the world on the microscopic world around—and inside—us, and the myriad ways that we can adjust our lives to let it serve us better.
In fact, we’ve heard time and again that whether we live in an urban or rural area, spending time “in nature” is beneficial to our health. However, not all green spaces are created equal. When it comes to parks and green spaces in cities, it pays to know about the dirt beneath your feet. “You may not be aware,” informs Dietert, “but to meet EPA standards on heavy metals like lead, [builders] will mix very, very low heavy-metal contaminated soil with highly contaminated soil.” In doing so, planners and builders offload their contaminated fill and will test just below the acceptable threshold for heavy metal safety. In turn, this soil is spread on athletic fields and in community parks. And so, while you think you may be having a healthy outing with your family, you’ve been exposed to significant levels of waste management heavy metals. So, does this mean we avoid all parks and athletic fields? Of course not. “You really need to pick and choose what you consider [to be] nature,” Dietert explains. “Be a little bit more particular about it because simply [strolling] in your local urban area park may not [offer] the benefits you think it [does].”