There is a large body of scientific knowledge correlating allergens like house dust mites, pollens, pet dander and mould with asthma and allergies; toxicants in air and water like pesticides to solvents, flame retardants, fragrances and glues to learning and behavioural problems in children, neuro-degenerative disorders and a growing number of environmental sensitivities; in addition to electromagnetic fields used in wireless technologies to insomnia and other adverse health effects. In light of the amount of time spent indoors, and the push to create tight, energy efficient homes with compromised ventilation, the number of new builds in temperate climates experiencing condensation and mould-related problems appears to be rising. In addition, homes built in warm, humid climates where the relative humidity exceeds 70% are also at risk for condensation and mould-related issues.
Australia has one of the highest rates of allergies in the world, affecting one in four people and most of the allergens can be found in the home.
All around us we have:
- Volatile organic compound emissions from fabrics and the varnishes we use
- Lack of ventilation that results in mould and ongoing respiratory problems
- Electric blankets, mobile phones, fridges, can all cause long term exposure to electromagnetic fields and wireless radiation. Toxicity: from chemical compounds in toothpastes, shampoo, soaps etc.
Toxicity builds up in the body – signs include headaches, skin rashes, sleeplessness, sore eyes, runny nose, sore throat, stomach aches etc. Unchecked or misdiagnosed, these ailments can progress into more serious problems like liver damage, kidney damage and cancer.
Ten Steps to a Healthy Home:
1.Takes shoes off before entering the home. Much of the dust and chemicals like pesticides found in a home is tracked in from your shoes. Have a thick piled door mat at the entrance which is regularly beaten and a place that occupants and guests can place their shoes before entering the home. If you stop wearing your shoes inside your home, you can reduce the amount of dust by 50%.
2. Get a water filter to remove contaminants. Chlorine and fluoride in drinking water are associated with health risks.
3. Reduce the chemical load in the home. Air fresheners, perfume, pesticides, solvents, paints, cleaning and personal care products contribute to poor indoor air quality.
4. Healthy cleaning
– Use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter. Most conventional vacuum cleaners will exacerbate indoor dust levels by recirculating back into the air up to 80% of the particles they draw in. A vacuum cleaner with a built-in HEPA filter will prevent dust particles from becoming airborne. A motorised head and electrostatic disposable bag is also recommended. Wipe settled dust with a damp microfibre cloth followed by a clean, dry tea towel. This will trap most allergens and keep them from becoming airborne. Use the sun to air pillows and mattresses, pet bedding, chopping boards and soft toys.
Ventilate – enabling fresh air and negative ions to come into the room, reducing the chemical load in the home and improving indoor air quality. Many chemicals found in the home that can trigger asthma and allergies can be reduced by opening windows on a regular basis (providing it does not bring in traffic fumes).
5. Create a sleeping sanctuary to give your body a chance to rest and recuperate. Buy Australian made as imported mattresses may contain formaldehyde and flame retardants. Mattresses and their casings should be made from natural fibres such as cotton, hemp, wool or latex. Ensure electrical appliances are at least 1 metre away from your bed, couch or any areas you spend time to reduce your exposure to electromagnetic fields. The AC magnetic field and/or radio frequency radiation they emit, has been shown to suppress melatonin in the brain which impacts sleep/wake cycles and reduces your ability to rest.
6. Turn Wi-Fi off when not in use, use corded connections and a corded home phone (avoid cordless phones). Turn mobile phone off at night and use hands-free when talking.
7. Avoid clutter as it harbours dust, and house dust mites and attracts pests. Reduce the dust load as dust encompasses a wide range of potentially allergenic agents.
8. Mould is caused by dampness and moisture from roof leaks, condensation etc. Find the moisture first and remove the source. Remove mould with a damp microfibre cloth.
9. Avoid plastics, highly coloured ceramics, leaded crystal etc, by storing food and beverages in glass, stainless steel and lead-free ceramics.
10. Plants – Plants reduce airborne moulds and bacteria and plant-filled rooms generally contain 50-60% less airborne moulds and bacteria than rooms without plants, as long as they are not over-watered. Plants also connect you to the beauty of nature.