Is your home toxic?
Your home is your haven – or is it? Building biologist Nicole Biljsma offers expert advice on simple changes to detox your surroundings.
In the kitchen
* Microwave ovens emit electromagnetic fields (EMF) and microwave frequencies. Keep at least one metre away from the door when in use. Inspect the rubber seals regularly for damage.
* Avoid unearthed appliances with only two prongs in the plug as they emit high level EMFs.
* If there are multiple electrical cords in any room, bundling them together will significantly reduce EMF exposure.
* People often think they have allergies when, in fact, they are sensitive to indoor pollution and household chemicals. Avoid fragrances, air fresheners and deodorisers, bleach, ammonia, and solvents. Try this all-purpose cream cleansing paste: combine 4 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda with 2 teaspoons of liquid detergent or castile soap – we like Dr Bronner’s.
Let there be light
* Energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, halogen desk lamps, and free-standing lamps all emit high EMFs. Non-halogen spotlights, low voltage downlights and full spectrum bulbs (as used for people with seasonal affective disorder) are healthier options.
* Dimmer switches may transmit high frequency disturbances into the mains, known as ‘dirty electricity’. If you have a dimmer switch in your bedroom, keep your bed, particularly bunk beds, at least one metre away.
* Avoid nightlights. A Science Daily study has shown that artificial light at night inhibits production of the hormone melatonin, which is secreted to regulate sleep and is also the body’s natural anticancer hormone. Studies also show an inverse correlation between melatonin levels and breast and prostate cancer risk. If your child is scared of the dark, use an orange or red glow plug.
And so to bed ...
* Don’t keep TVs, VCRs, computers, or digital radios in the bedroom. If you must have an electric clock radio, keep it at least two metres away from the bed.
* To reduce possible health risks from a baby monitor, keep it at least one metre away from the cot; set it to voice activation mode to stop it transmitting continuously; choose a cordless analogue model with only two to four channels, as they use a lower frequency than digital models; avoid talk-back models, as both units constantly emit pulsing radiation even when there is no noise; and avoid camera- and video-based monitors as they require a higher power output.
* Electric blankets emit an electric field even when they are not turned on, if they’re still switched on at the wall. Pregnant women and children should not use them as the increase in body voltage may harm a developing foetus and a growing body.
* Metal spring mattresses and bed frames can generate an electric field if they are located in the vicinity of an electromagnetic field. Elevate the bed so that it’s at least 40 cm from the ground, to allow the mattress to breathe and reduce microbial growth.
* Use a wool rug or carpet. Plastic and synthetic furnishings and floor coverings all increase static electricity and may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
* Choose bedlinen made from natural fibres – organic cotton, bamboo, silk, or hemp/cotton blends – as they breathe better and have not been treated with chemicals.
* Keep it cool – the ideal temperature in a bedroom is 13-15°C.
* Make the bedroom a pet-free zone, especially if you suffer from allergies, because animals bring in dust and dander.
* Don’t have plants in the bedroom, as the soil is a source of bacteria and fungi. Plus, plants respire at night, releasing carbon dioxide, which may cause a headache.
* Invest in real wood furniture. Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical compound found in furniture, carpeting, foam insulation, and particleboard.
Appliances and phones
* Computers and monitors both emit low EMFs, but monitors emit higher EMFs from their sides and back. Don’t place monitors next to one another or back to back.
* Don’t work with your laptop on your thighs: this is too close to the reproductive organs for comfort. Place a cushion under the computer, or sit at a table.
* Arrange living room furniture so that you sit at least 1.5 metres away from the TV.
* According to Swedish professor Lennart Hardell, children have a five-fold increase in brain tumours if they use a mobile phone, and a four-fold increase if they use cordless phones. Digital technology now used by the telecommunications industry uses a pulsed radio frequency which many scientists believe is responsible for a wide range of health problems, such as headaches, behavioural problems, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and joint pain.
To reduce your exposure: use cable instead of wireless technology where possible (if you must use wireless, do not put the router in a bedroom); turn off all wireless devices, including the router for your computer and laptop when not in use, especially at night; replace cordless phones with a landline or an analogue cordless model, as this only emits frequencies when in use; do not keep a cordless phone in the bedroom; do not use your mobile in a car, as the nature of microwave frequencies is to bounce in a metal carriage; if you must use your mobile when driving, buy a hands-free kit; don’t carry your mobile around your waist or chest; use a mobile only when you have a strong signal – fewer receptor bars means the phone has to work harder, which means greater exposure to microwave radiation; and do not charge your phone at night in the bedroom.
Dirty electricity is a term used to describe high frequency spikes in radio frequency signals in electrical wiring. In the home, this may arise from computers, printers, fax machines, dimmer switches, compact fluorescent light bulbs, energy-saving lights and TVs emitting high frequencies back into the mains. Other sources include baby monitors, cable TV, cordless phones, lighting, microwave ovens, and mobile phones. These transient spikes rise from zero to thousands of volts and back to zero again in fractions of a second. For more info, visit www.Electriclean.com.au
Clear the air
Try these feng shui tips to get rid of stagnant, negative energy, or chi:
Make a clean sweep A cluttered home can reflect an inability to let go of the past. Systematically go through each room and throw out anything you haven’t used in the last 12 months. Never store boxes or clutter under the bed, as the body absorbs the energy.
Move mirrors Keep them in the bathroom only; mirrors in the bedroom are said to interfere with sleep because the soul is scared by its own reflection when it travels to the astral plane.
Beware water If you have fish, the tank should be in the living room. Water features and fish tanks compromise sleep, plus evaporating water from the tank increases humidity in a bedroom, encouraging fungi and mould.
Bijlsma says, “Mounting evidence suggests that the introduction of hormone-disrupting chemicals in the past 60 years is responsible for breast cancer. These endocrine disrupters mimic, block or alter the way in which a hormone in the body is expressed.” Chemicals found in plastic drinking water bottles, metal food cans, cookware or food packaging made from PVC, polycarbonate or polystyrene, PVC clothing, shower curtains and toys, perfume and artificial fragrances have all been implicated – avoid them.
Test your home
1. If your home was built pre-1970s, check for lead paint and flashing. Houses built from 1945-1985 should be checked for asbestos. If new, ensure ventilation is efficient to allow volatile chemicals from paint, glue, carpeting, and cabinets to off-gas.
2. How healthy were the previous occupants? Did they smoke, or allow pets in the house? If they suffered from asthma, allergies, insomnia, fatigue or hayfever, find out if their symptoms got worse.
3. Ward off allergies by checking for problems with mould or rising damp – is there any peeling paint, visible staining on walls, ceiling or timber frames, or cracks or rust stains on concrete surfaces? How old are the carpets? If you have subfloor heating, is it working optimally?
Naturopath, acupuncturist, and building biologist Nicole Bijlsma became fascinated by the effect of our immediate environment on health when she noticed how environmental toxins were causing illness in many of her patients, particularly children. A memorable personal event in her life underpins her passion for creating healthy buildings. After moving into a new home, Nicole and her husband began having problems sleeping, and sadly, over the course of seven years experienced 10 miscarriages. She moved the meter box which had been located on the other side of their bedhead, and subsequently moved to the back bedroom. Shortly after, she fell pregnant with twins and is now the mother of three children, and the author of Healthy Home, Healthy Family (Joshua Books); www.buildingbiology.com.au