Creating a Healing Environment in Your Home
As our environment has grown increasingly polluted, the field of environmental medicine has grown. We now know that toxicity from environmental toxins including heavy metals, chemicals and pesticides, electrosmog and mold can have a profound impact on health. Today 95% of homes and 60% of offices have some type of environmental problem. If you are dealing with a suspected issue in your home or office, don’t despair! There are many things you can do that are fairly easy and inexpensive to correct problems and create a healthy space.
Many people with Lyme become sensitive to chemicals and electromagnetic radiation as a result of their illness, and have found that addressing healthy home issues is an important part of their recovery. Lyme Nation will be building this resource section on Healthy Homes as we grow.
Percent of homes with some environmental problem
“Sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation is the emerging health problem of the 21st century. It is imperative health practitioners, governments, schools and parents learn more about it. The human health stakes are significant.”
– William Rea, MD, President, American Academy of Environmental Medicine
Electrosmog is a term used to describe various types of electrical and radio frequencies that have been shown to be damaging to our health. These include:
Radio frequency (RF) and microwave radiation (MW) caused by: cell and cordless phones, smart meters, wireless baby monitors, wireless computer games, microwave oven, Wi-Fi router, some wireless keyboards and wireless mouses, wireless security systems, cell phone antennas, radar, TV and radio broadcast antennas.
Poor power quality (also called dirty electricity) occurs when the wrong frequency of electricity flows through power lines in your home. Sometimes these can enter from a neighbor’s home, through your electric panel. Sources for dirty electricity can include: computers, televisions, tube fluorescent lights, compact fluorescent light bulbs, dimmer switches, variable speed motors/tools, treadmills, vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, solar photovoltaic cells, and smart meters. Dirty electricity can be found in the outlets in your home using a simple measuring device.
Low frequency electric and magnetic fields (EMF’s) are caused by: power transmission lines, distribution lines (above and below ground), substations, transformers, electric breaker panels, faulty wiring, knob and tube wiring in older homes, power supply cables, electric appliances especially those that generate heat (i.e. electric stove, toaster, hair dryer), computers, and grounded metal pipes (in some areas).
Ground current, also called “stray voltage” is often a problem for your utility company to solve, and can be caused by: distribution and transmission lines (power lines), transformers, substations, faulty wiring problems, insufficient capacity of neutral to return unbalanced loads, equipment in the home or on a farm.
Why pay attention to RF, MW, EMF and dirty electricity issues? In simple terms, RF and MW heat cells, and EMF puts electric frequencies into them that are different from the normal human electrical rate. This turns out not to be good for the body. International research has shown that electrosmog is responsible for a number of serious health issues, including: cancer, hormone disruption, and immune system dysregulation. In the United States, 3-8% of the population is so EMF sensitive that they can’t have a functional life, are in extreme pain and are seeing a variety of medical doctors seeking answers. Another 35% have enough pain and symptoms to seek medical attention, but they can still get through the day and function at a reduced level.
What to do if you suspect that you are being exposed to a high level of electrosmog in your home or office?
1. Get a professional assessment. The International Institute for Building- Biology & Ecology certifies Building Biologists across the country and can refer you to someone in your area. Their work is based on the principles of Bau-Biology, a German method for building a healthy home. The reason we recommend hiring someone is that it can be tricky using the instruments that are needed to measure the various levels, so a professional can really help you to understand your risk level, and develop a plan to remediate it. Also, sometimes the problem is not in your home but is coming from a neighbor’s home. There are varying ideas about what are best realistic standards for levels of electrosmog exposure in your home, ranging from governmental standards which typically are the loosest, to Building Biology and Ecology standards which are most stringent. Eric Windheim, a Building Biologist and founder of Windheim EMF Solutions recommends the Building Biology and Ecology standards be followed wherever possible because he sees people getting sick from EMF exposure above those levels.
2. For do it yourselfers out there, Safe Living Technologies, a Canadian firm, is an excellent resource for various types of EMF/RF measuring equipment and mitigation supplies. Rob Metzinger, the founder, is expert and helpful at talking you through how to work with the equipment. They can also recommend professionals in your area who can help.
3. You can begin reducing your electrosmog exposure by making some simple changes around your home or office:
- Get rid of your computer wifi, and plug your computer directly into your router with an Ethernet cable. Make sure the wireless option on your router is turned off. Turn off the wifi on your computer. Use a wired mouse and keyboard.
- Turn your cell phone off when not in use. If you must use a cell phone, try texting instead of talking, use an air tube headset with it, or use the speaker phone option. Do not keep your phone in your pocket, on your belt, or in your bra. When your phone is searching for a signal or has a poor signal, that is when the radiation it is emitting is highest. You should not use it at that time. Keep your phone in airplane mode when not using it, to prevent radiation.
- Replace your cordless phone with a corded landline. Cordless phones whether old or new are constantly emitting microwave radiation.
- Use full spectrum incandescent light bulbs. LED lights that don’t use transformers are also okay. Turn lights off when you don’t really need to be using them. Avoid fluorescent lighting.
- Put as much distance as you can between yourself and electrical equipment such as televisions and computers. Stay away from power strips (recommended distance is at least 1 yard away).
- Know the cell towers and antennae that are in your neighborhood. Www.antennasearch.com allows you to plug in your address and find out how many cell towers and antennae are within a 3 mile radius of your home. If you live in a rural area, near a park or body of water, that will help reduce your exposure. The building materials of your home will also determine your exposure as stone, brick and plaster provide better shielding methods than some more “modern” construction materials. Unfortunately www.antennasearch.com only updates their information periodically, not in real time, so the actual number of cell towers and antenna may be higher than what is listed on their site. It is very helpful to have professional help in calculating the impact of nearby cell towers and antennae on your particular home, because sometimes the radiation “bounces” off of nearby buildings in ways that can be hard for an amateur to calculate.
- Reduce dirty electricity in your sockets by installing Stetzer filters
. The company sells a simple meter that you plug into your electric sockets to measure the rate of electrical current. Although Stetzer states that the ideal level in your sockets should be 35, Building Biologist Martine Davis says that may not be realistic with homes in the United States. She advises aiming for a level of 50. If your sockets are frying at a much higher rate, Stetzer sells a simple plug in filter that reduces the current down to a healthy level, for $35 per filter. The current that runs through your home is in circuits – with one or more rooms per circuit. To bring the dirty electricity level down throughout the circuit, you want to reduce it at a number of different points. You don’t have to put a filter in each socket, it’s a matter of placing filters in a few sockets in a room, or on a power strip all together and then retesting the sockets in the room to see what the power level has come down to. Some people with a high level of EMF sensitivity can even be sensitive to Stetzer filters, so they should not be placed in locations close to people, such as behind beds or near chairs where you spend a great deal of time sitting.
- Turn your fuses off in your bedroom at night. If you live in a home where you can turn your fuses off, that means that you are eliminate dirty electricity from your sleeping environment, which is particularly important because the body is doing all of its detoxifying while we sleep.
- Avoid using a microwave whenever possible.
- Avoid living near power lines, power substations or transformers, or cell towers if possible.
- Create a “Sleep Sanctuary” in your bedroom. This is essentially a fabric tent that hangs around your bed, and touches a sheet of the same fabric you have placed beneath the bed (think Out of Africa, and mosquito netting). However, this tent traps EMF and RF instead of bugs. There is metallic thread interwoven into the tent fabric, so it acts as a Faraday cage. A Faraday cage is essentially a box made of metal grid; when EMF or RF hit it, the metal absorbs the electricity so the space within the cage is signal free. This allows your body to night of sleep without interference from electromagnetic pollution. In order for the sleep sanctuary to be effective, you need to sleep on a metal free mattress such as natural latex or a futon, and have a metal free bed frame. Also, you need to be able to turn off your bedroom fuses, and some sleep sanctuary tents need to be grounded – so be sure to ask about that from whichever vendor you are dealing with.
Sleep sanctuary tents are made out of various fabrics, some cotton, some synthetic, and prices vary accordingly. Tents
can be hung directly from the ceiling via a simple screw eye and dowel system. If the ceiling in your home is fragile, there are frames available to hang the tents on. These vendors offer different sleep sanctuaries:
greenandhealthyhomes.net sells sleep sanctuaries made of cotton and synthetic fabric, as well as an chemical free poplar frame that is easy to assemble and metal free. If you cannot hand your Sleep Sanctuary from the ceiling, we recommend purchasing both sanctuary tent and frame from Green and Healthy Homes, as they design the tent to work with the frame. Contact Diana Schultz at Green and Health Homes for more information.
- Little Tree Group, based in Seattle, WA, makes cotton and synthetic Sleep Sanctuaries that can be hung from the ceiling. Contact Lynn at (425) 743-4571.
- Smart Living Technologies, a Canadian company, sells both cotton and synthetic sleep sanctuaries.
A few more EMF reduction tips:
- If you have a SmartMeter on your home, shield it with a smart meter guard, which operates on the same principles as a Farraday cage.
- Although there’s been a lot of press and hype about Earthing pads, and they do help some people, Lyme Nation does not recommend them unless you are sure that the Earthing pad is plugged into a grounded socket. Why?
- Electric wiring in apartments and homes can have frequencies that are not healthy, even if the socket is grounded.
Even if a socket is grounded, sometimes there can be electrical harmonics in the ground that are not conducive to health.
If you feel strongly that you want to use an earthing pad, we suggest hiring Rob Metzinger at Safe Living Technologies or another expert who has the necessary equipment to measure whether it’s safe to use an earthing pad in your particular situation.
A good way to Earth is to put your bare feet on the Earth, for between 15-30 minutes.
For people who own their own homes and plan to stay there for some time, there is a special carbon based paint available that blocks EMF, RF and MW signals. The paint must be grounded – a device with a wire on one end and a plug on the other is used to ground the paint, by taping the wire onto the paint and inserting the plug into a grounded socket. Safe Living Technologies and Lessemf.com sell the paint and can talk you through correct application. If you do choose to shield your home with paint, it’s important to understand that any appliance used within your home will have an amplified electromagnetic output because the signal will bounce around within the walls of your home – so you should never use a cell phone inside your home. Also, should you sell your home, it is advisable to warn prospective home buyers that your home has shielding paint.
Some additional resources for electrosmog information include:
- Magda Havas, PhD is one of the foremost international experts on the effects of EMF radiation on human health, wildlife and nature.
- Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt’s video about the health dangers of Smart Meters and other EMF exposure
- Lessemf.com sells a wide variety of EMF meters and shielding products, including shielding paint.
- Oram Miller, is a Certified Building Biology Environmental Consultant and Electromagnetic Radiation Specialist. He founded Creating Healthy Homes, a consulting firm in Los Angeles, CA. Their website provides many tips for reducing EMF exposure in your home, and they offer national and international EMF mitigation consulting via phone and Skype.
- Safe Living Technologies, where Rob Metzinger and his team providesEMF and RF detection and mitigation services and equipment for the US and Canada. They also offer referrals to local service providers.
- Windheim EMF Solutions, offers educational information, a free 15 minute consultation, and in depth assessment and EMF mitigation plan. Eric Windheim, a certified Building Biologist and Electromagnetic Radiation Specialist, is based in California but consults to clients nationwide on EMF assessment and mitigation.
Mold is a type of fungus that grows in filaments which are called hyphae. It typically takes 48 hours of continuous moisture for mold to grow on a surface. As the hyphae spread, the mold takes on the fuzzy shape and color which allow us to see it. At the end of the hyphae are spores which can give mold the dusty texture we have all seen when we left a piece of fruit in the refrigerator a tad too long. The spores are used to identify the species of mold. How do molds make us sick?
- Some people are allergic to mold spores.
- Other people have pathogenic mold infections within their bodies.
- And still others suffer from inhaling or swallowing mycotoxins produced by mold.
Mycotoxins are potent chemicals that molds produce to defend their turf from other mold species. So, if you have more than one species of mold in your home, chances are you are being exposed to mycotoxins. How powerful are they? The biowarfare agent “Yellow Rain,” used during the Vietnam war was created from mycotoxins.
Mycotoxins have both short and long-term effects; they are neurotoxic and carcinogenic, can cause immune suppression and many other problems. Interestingly, when people are exposed to mold, the gut, not the lungs take the hardest hit. Most inhaled mold lands in the upper throat, where it gets swallowed and goes into the digestive tract. Mycotoxins get absorbed there, and circulate throughout the bloodstream. Mycotoxins kill healthy gut bacteria, leading to gut dysbiosis, and the vicious circle continues. “People get really sick from mycotoxins,” says Martine Davis, Certified Building Biologist and Mold Specialist. “You see people who have weird internal bleeding – their ears are bleeding, for example, that’s mycotoxins.”
For people with Lyme and other chronic inflammatory conditions, mold exposure causes and contributes to a chronic inflammation that the body cannot clear. This is in part due to the fact that many Lyme patients have genetic glitches in their ability to detoxify. When the body is fighting infections on multiple fronts (bacteria, viruses, parasites, mold) and has genetically impaired detox pathways, people cannot clear biotoxins created by these infections and are literally being poisoned inside their own skins.
What do we mean by “detox pathways?” In our livers there are intricate processes that break down any toxic substance that comes into the body including drugs, alcohol, pesticides and hormones. Many of these toxins are fat soluble, but in order to excrete them, the liver must convert them from fat soluble to water soluble substances. Some people have genetic variations that prevent their ability to make this fat to water soluble conversions. They literally cannot clear toxins from their bodies. So, the toxins remain stored in fatty areas, including the brain and endocrine system, causing a range of health problems including cancer, hormonal imbalances, infertility, adrenal exhaustion and more.
To find out what your specific genetic profile is, 23andMe offers a genetic testing kit for $99. 23andMe used to offer health information as part of their test, but due to current restrictions from the FDA, they are no longer permitted to do that.
Once you have received your test results, you can get a listing of your genes with your specific genetic impairments for $30, by uploading your 23andMe data onto the website MTHFRsupport.com.
Click on the link that says “Sterling’s App” and follow the directions from there. MTHFRsupport.com was founded by Sterling Hill, who nearly died from a clotting disorder caused by genetic detox issues. Sterling and her colleagues are well familiar with Lyme disease and counsel many Lyme patients. MTHFRsupport.com educate patients and doctors about the emerging fields of epigenetics and nutrigenomics – how our genes and nutrition impact health. Due to huge demand for this information, Sterling will be creating a series of videos and webinars that explain various genetic defects and their implications for health. She is also compiling a “Bible” providing information on over 800 of these defects (which are called SNP’s).
Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker is an internationally known expert on mold. His website is an excellent resource, explaining symptoms, a treatment protocol, remediation and more. He has written several books on the subject including Surviving Mold and Mold Warriors, about his experiences with water-damaged moldy buildings and their impact on human health.
What types of symptoms can mold cause? Penicillium and Aspergillus-type molds are usually associated with respiratory issues, such as chest tightness, breathing difficulty or worsening of asthma symptoms, irritation of the nose and eyes, sneezing and sinus infections. Stachybotrys (the famous “Black Mold” and Chaetomium have been implicated in episodes of mental fog, nose bleeds, ear bleeding, headaches, depression, memory loss, dizziness, extreme fatigue, liver and kidney damage and skin rashes. Burning eyes, nasal symptoms, and headaches have been reported with any species. These are general statements, and anyone with these types of symptoms should consult with their healthcare practitioner.
New research is adding to the long list of symptoms suspected to be caused by mold mycotoxins. They have been associated with a wide range of illnesses and symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, asthma, sneezing, burning in the throat, burning lungs and chronic sinus infections as well as confusion, cognitive impairment, vision problems, swollen glands, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, dizziness, muscle weakness, joint pain and muscle pain, irregular heartbeat, seizures, depression, anxiety, irritability, psoriasis, skin disorders, sleep disorders, coagulation abnormalities and more.
Certain types of buildings are more prone to mold than others. Ironically, modern construction materials such as sheetrock actually provide good food for mold. Older buildings, made from stone, plaster, and brick may in fact have less mold than newer buildings. But each building and situation is different, depending on how much water entered and leaked, and for what period of time. Typically it takes 48 hours of continuous water damage for mold to form, where the substance that is wet does not have a chance to dry out.
What should you do if you think there may be a mold problem in your apartment?
There are many different types of mold testing available. For individuals dealing with illness, Lyme Nation recommends the ERMI test, offered by Mycometrics, a lab in New Jersey. The principle of the test is simple – whatever mold is in your environment will show up in dust in your living space. The test consists of swabbing dust samples from your home, placing in a ziploc bag, and mailing to the lab along with chain of custody form
Your test results will consist of a list of molds that are commonly found in homes, with numbers rating the level of those molds in your space. Those numbers are compared to homes across the country, and at the bottom of the column will be a number that is your ERMI number (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index). Dr. Lin, Mycometrics Lab Director, can provide individualized information on where your mold problem is likely to be in your home, from the types of molds you have. Some molds grow more in air conditioning/heating units, others more in bathrooms, and so forth. The cost for the ERMI is $290, and it typically takes a week to get results. For a higher cost you can get rush testing.
For $150, Mycometrics also offers a less expensive test called the HERTSMI, which only looks at a handful of molds that are most commonly known to cause health problems.
For individuals who are already sick it is important to know that traditional mold testing may show the presence of mold but indicate it is in the “safe range,” while the ERMI may show a high mold count. Mold levels that are considered safe for healthy people may in fact be way too high for people with Lyme and other infections that leave them immune compromised.
For individuals who live in the New York, New Jersey or Connecticut areas, in particular those who may have to sue landlords or building owners due to mold problems in their homes, Lyme Nation recommends Leighton Associates. Owner Robert Leighton is known as the top mold testing and remediation expert in that area. He will do a variety of tests including swabbing surfaces of moldy areas and conducting air tests, with samples sent to an independent lab for testing. Leighton’s work is known to stand up well in court cases, so if you are in the unfortunate situation of having to litigate, he is a good resource.
For referrals to mold experts around the United States, contact the American Indoor Air Quality Association or the Institute for Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification.
For referrals to mold experts internationally, contact the American Counsel for Accredited Certifcation. International standards vary widely, but they can point you toward qualified practitioners in different parts of the globe.
When dealing with mold, it’s crucial to get the right help to remediate. Martine Davis says, “80% of mold remediation companies actually make things worse because they don’t really understand mold and remediate incorrectly. They spread mycotoxins around as they use the air scrubber, and by having the wrong filter on their vacuum cleaner. They leave the house in worse shape than they found it, and people can’t live there when they are done.” Especially for people who are ill, she does not advise trying to clean up a mold problem on your own. You can make the problem worse, and being exposed to the mold can make your health worse.
Some safe and practical steps to reduce mold in your home:
- Use a true HEPA vacuum as it traps mold spores. Miele is an excellent brand.
- Get rid of any carpeting that cannot be washed in water. Carpet is a haven for mold, bacteria and dust mites, none of which are good for people with Lyme.
- Keep your home clean – leave your shoes outside your front door, vacuum and mop often.
- Use leather furniture rather than fabric upholstery. Leather can be wiped, whereas fabric covered furniture can harbor dust mite and mold spores, without any effective way to clean the furniture.
- Use a propolis vaporizer. Propolis is a pleasant smelling protective substance secreted by trees after it rains. It is anti-inflammatory and has been shown to dramatically reduce many forms of environmental pollution including pollen, smoke, chemicals, mold, viruses and bacteria. BeeHealthyFarms makes a range of propolis vaporizers, ranging from roughly $69 to $240 in price. We recommend the model with the fan as it disperses the propolis more effectively. They also make a propolis vaporizer for your car. Studies have shown that propolis vaporizers reduce airborne bacteria by 72% in just 3 days, and cured 70% of childhood asthma cases in 6 weeks. It’s also very helpful for people who suffer from allergies. Bee Healthy farms offers two options of propolis cartridges for the vaporizers. One called “P & B” combines propolis and boswellia (frankincense), an anti-inflammatory resin. They also sell organic propolis capsules called “Bio,” whose only ingredient is propolis. Each capsule lasts 122 hours.
- Purchase a good air filter. This is critical because once the source of your mold problem has been identified and effectively dealt with, you can remove any lingering mold spores and mycotoxins in your home with filtering. Lyme Nation recommends IQ Air, either the Health Pro or GC Multigas series. If you are concerned about airborne chemicals or have multiple chemical sensitivities, the Multigas is the model to go with. These filters take out particles down to the .001 microns. Most mycotoxins clock in at around .1 microns, which means these filters will trap mycotoxins.
- If you own your own home, make sure your heating and air conditioning systems are cleaned regularly. A great and inexpensive way to keep your indoor air clean is to install a good pleated filter on your furnace, and keep the fan running year round – whether the furnace is on or not.
- For a more in-depth discussion of mold, see the “Mold: Fact or Fiction” section of Martine Davis’s website, Topics covered include:
- What kind of testing is available to find hidden mold?
We had a professional company come to our house, but we are still having problems/a musty smell.
What if the mold is found, then what?
Can I clean the mold myself?
What should I expect from a professional mold remediator?
How do I determine that the mold has been successfully removed?