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Are you at risk of “sick building syndrome”? Many of us are now suffering a variety of ailments that come from interior pollution. Read on to learn about common culprits that may be lurking in your home.

AIR QUALITY

If it’s in your airspace…it will get into your lungs. This is particularly the case since people may spend 90% or more of their time indoors. One of the most (if not, the most) important factors affecting our health is indoor air quality.

Australia has the highest prevalence of allergies in the developed world and the CSIRO estimates that the cost of poor internal air quality in Australia may be as high as $12 billion per year. The US EPA and its Science Advisory Board have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top 5 environmental risks to public health, with indoor air being up to 5 times more polluted than outside.

The increasing demand to make homes more ‘energy efficient’ has resulted in us sealing houses tight like plastic bags – with a reliance on air-conditioning and heating to regulate temperature. With not an open window in sight, this increase in exposure to indoor air pollutants is then amplified by chemical off-gassing from household cleaning and personal care products, synthetic building materials and furnishings, and air-conditioning and cooling (HVAC) systems that are commonly not serviced and maintained.

Other common air pollutants include dust and animal dander, dust mites, air fresheners, carpets, mould spores and un-flued gas heaters.

ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION

Electromagnetic fields exist everywhere in the environment including our home, school and work place. They are naturally occurring – the earth, sun and ionosphere are all natural sources of EMF. Every day, we are continually exposed to many sources of radiation including power lines, mobile and cordless phones, electrical appliances, and building wiring.

Electrical Hypersensitivity (EHS) has been a documented medical condition since the 1970’s and is characterised by adverse reaction to exposure to both electric and magnetic fields.

There is growing body of evidence linking the following symptoms to EMR’s and the use of wireless technology:

∙ headaches and migraines,

∙ learning and behavioural problems,

∙ memory loss and poor concentration,

∙ fatigue, sleep disturbances and insomnia,

∙ muscles and joint pains and spasm,

∙ numerous tumours and cancers.

Long-term exposure to magnetic fields has also been associated with childhood leukaemia, brain tumours, immune disorders and cancers.

Occasional exposure to high electromagnetic fields is not likely to pose a health risk to most people; however exposures over a long period of time (while sleeping or work) are when problems are likely to arise. Building Biologists use specialised testing equipment to measure certain frequency levels to determine sources of EMR in homes and offices. The ’precautionary principle’ is adhered to when advising clients on the best options to reduce hazards in our environment, as it is the belief that uncertainty about potentially serious hazards does not justify ignoring them.

MOULD AND MOISTURE

Moulds are common allergens, with an estimated 40 percent of people having some sensitivity to breathing in mould spores. Growing research into mould has found its impact on health is far more wide reaching than just triggering asthma attacks, respiratory irritation, and allergic reactions. Breathing in toxic mould spores can seriously compromise the body’s immune system. Symptoms can include:

♣ Fatigue not relieved by rest

♣ Recurrent colds, sinus or throat irritation and congestion

♣ Asthma related respiratory symptoms (wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing)

♣ Chronic lung infections, pneumonia

♣ Eye irritation (burning, watery or reddened eyes)

♣ Skin rashes or allergies

♣ Mood swings, apathy and depression

The elderly, infants, those with chronic illnesses and people with pre- existing respiratory conditions are most at risk. In documented cases, toxic mould exposure has been fatal to humans and animals.

Wet rooms, existing water damage to building materials, floor coverings or wall paper, causing peeling paint, staining of walls, ceiling, carpet or timber are likely areas for mould growth.

Not all mould is obvious; it can grow inside walls, under carpets or above ceiling tiles. If you suspect mould is an issue on your home, it is best to contact a professional Building Biologist, Mould Remediation Company to test for mould and assess the situation.

CHEMICALS EVERYWHERE

Reading ingredient labels on our food and personal care now requires a chemistry degree to understand!

Chemicals are found everywhere in our environment – in our air, water, soil, food, cleaning and skincare products and furnishings which ultimately end up in our body. The umbilical cord blood of newborn babies was found to contain over 200 toxic and cancer-causing chemicals, passed directly from the mother.

Currently more than 140,000 different chemicals have been manufactured and available for use. With regards to cosmetics and personal care products, almost 90% of all chemical ingredients have never been safety tested for human health effects.

Fragrances and perfumes, preservatives, plastics, washing detergents, artificial colours and dyes, makeup, skincare, hair care, kitchen, bathroom and laundry cleaning products, air fresheners, pesticides, food packaging, paints (the list is endless!), are all things we expose ourselves to on a daily basis, bombarding our bodies continually with chemicals to no avail.

The known health effects of many of the chemicals that have been tested include; endocrine disruption (influencing and affecting hormones), carcinogenic (cancer causing), infertility and reproductive issues, eczema and skin allergies, headaches and fatigue, lung irritation and breathing difficulties.

Thankfully, there are now many excellent alternative brands available that produce non-toxic, chemical free, natural and organic products.

These sick building risk factors are complex, but fortunately there are lots of things you can do to improve the situation and take control of your wellness.

Author: Bree Fisher

Author: Bree Fisher