Home Page Products Reference About Us Contact Us Articles

Press Kit


 My Home or Office Unhealthy?
  We tend to think of our homes as safe havens, places that protect and nurture us. And while we may not like going to the office, we typically do not think of them as toxic. Unfortunately, the great indoors may be slowing killing us. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that pollution indoors can be six to ten times higher than outside and is responsible for serious health effects. It is widely recognized as the most serious potential environmental risk to human health.  A Scientific American article stated that nearly all cancers appear to be caused by exposures to factors in the environment”.2 because we spend 90% of our time indoors, we are potentially exposed to 90% of the factors that cause cancer and illness while we are indoors. 

Just because there is not an immediate and observable heath effect below a certain concentration of a chemical or hazard does not mean you are not being affected.  Consider carbon monoxide. It is a colorless, odorless gas caused by leaky gas appliances. You may not know you’re being poisoned until it’s too late. Many people die in their sleep each year from carbon monoxide poisoning. There are other environmental pollutants that may be affecting your health without you being aware of them.

How Bad is It?

How many friends and co-workers do you know that start to sneezing, have their eyes water and allergies take over after they get to work? According to a United States Senator and author of the Indoor Air Quality Act, “we now have evidence that the health effects of indoor air pollutants result in reduced productivity, sick time and heath costs estimated to be in the tens-of-billions of dollars3” Eight-million school and work days are lost annually to allergies. We spend $600 million every year to get relief4.
  • Millions of people are undergoing needless drugging, hospitalization or even surgery because the environmental cause of their problem is not understood5
  • One in four has allergies today6.
  • A legislative report in Massachusetts stated that indoor air pollution accounts for 50% of all illness8
  • 70% of cancers are caused by environmental factors8
  • Pesticides are a major risk factor for breast cancer9
  • Pets that lived to an average age of 15 or 16 in the 1960s now die at seven or eight10

The following are just a few of the health symptoms that have been attributed to the indoor environmental factors:

  • Allergies
  • Headaches 
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramping
  • Frequent colds or flu 
  • Poor concentration
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Insomnia

What Level is Safe? - The Rain Barrel EffectStudies that indicate environmental pollutants play a role in the creation of allergies and illness show that no single factor causes a disease11. Rather, the cumulative load of multiple poisons creates allergies and illness. People don’t get most diseases – they develop them.12

Picture an empty barrel outdoors. A few rain drops in the barrel hardly make a difference. But left out long enough the barrel overflows. There is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s the same thing with the body’s immune system. It can only handle so much. Toxic mold may cause the body to have an allergic reaction, but it may be the dust, chemicals, pesticides, cleaning products, fragrance, pesticides, new carpet, and new paint and sleeping next to the TV that made the body vulnerable to mold.

It takes 2

More than one substance might be necessary to cause a reaction: the primary allergy and a trigger. For example, researchers have found there may be a synergistic effect between the presence of tobacco smoke and mold and between tobacco smoke and allergens in house dust13. One may be mildly allergic to mold and to dog dander but it takes both to trigger a reaction.14

The One-percent Rule

According to product safety labeling and material safety data sheets, if a product contains greater than 1% of a hazardous ingredient, the ingredient must be on the label. If it’s less than 1% it may not be required to be on the label even if it’s a hazardous substance.  Consider the following case as an example of how a low level exposure, lower than what is thought to be harmful, may be dangerous.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers something to contain asbestos only if it contains greater than 1% asbestos fibers. If it contains less than 1% then the material it is not considered asbestos. This is the criteria used to assess if something contains asbestos when performing renovations that disturb asbestos in buildings including schools. How was the 1% chosen as a cut-off value? They had to draw the line somewhere. So many things contain asbestos they wanted to be realistic about the hazard and not to cause a panic. But the 1% rule may be seriously flawed. problems. You could just drive down the street and notice people sitting on their front poach next the supplemental oxygen tank they needed to breathe. Not just the workers, and not just the families of the workers– the whole town was affected. One in six in Libby is currently diagnosed with a lung disease due to asbestos. The company that made the product claims they did nothing wrong – the vermiculite contained less than 1% asbestos.

In Libby, Montana, a company now out of business made insulation by mining a natural mineral called vermiculite. The mining, processing and packaging took place in Libby. The finished product came in bags under the brand name Zonolite which was shipped out by rail and installed in approximately 30 million homes across America.

Libby is a small town. Over the years, the town doctor noticed more and more residents having respiratory problems. You could just drive down the street and notice people sitting on their front poach next the supplemental oxygen tank they needed to breathe. Not just the workers, and not just the families of the workers– the whole town was affected. One in six in Libby is currently diagnosed with a lung disease due to asbestos. The company that made the product claims they did nothing wrong – the vermiculite contained less than 1% asbestos.

Government Permissible Exposure Levels

In the work place, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have established maximum levels of chemicals and other hazards that workers are allowed to be exposed to. These levels are often cited as thresholds below which exposure is not hazardous. These levels are based on economics - not health. The government does an analysis of how much it will cost to enforce the standards they set. If it’s going to cost business too much to reduce worker exposure to below the permissible levels companies will sue them. Therefore the government, OSHA, works with companies to set the limits based on what will cause an immediate and obvious reaction in otherwise healthy, male adult workers.

Permissible exposure limits (PELs) are often established without any long-term studies. Often there are no health studies at all. Studies that are done do not take into consideration the potential effects that may result from multiple chemicals or hazards being present that react with each other to create a complex soup of new and potentially more toxic ones. PELs are not based on how the hazards affect children, pregnant women or immune compromised people. There is evidence to suggest that 15% - 20% of the population will react negatively to exposures below OSHA’s established values15. Yet these exposure limits are often applied to non-industrial places such as schools, hospitals, homes and offices. Don’t assume that the office, school or environment you work in is safe because levels are below OSHA guidelines.

Acceptable Indoor Environments

So what are acceptable standards for a healthy building? Use nature and the outdoors as a yardstick. When ever there is question as to if the indoor air quality is acceptable compare it to the outdoors. What are the levels of chemicals and mold found outside?

For example, there are currently no government regulations regarding what level of mold indoors determines there is a mold problem. Instead, comparisons are made of the level of mold indoors to outdoors. This is a good thing. Although states such as California have passed a law requiring mold exposure limits to be established, this has not been done. It wasn’t done because the law wasn’t funded. It may not be able to be done because there are variances in personal sensitivities and a vast array of molds that make it extremely difficult to establish acceptable levels of exposure. If there was a certain level of mold deemed acceptable we would be in big trouble. That would mean there could be a mold problem in a building and people getting sick from it, but the exposure limits would say it’s ok.

I think similar comparisons are the best way to assess other hazards. If you live in Los Angels or New York City, the outdoor concentration of dust and chemical smog is going to be higher than Aspen, Colorado. But the levels inside your home or office should still be less than or equal to outdoors. If the indoor level of pollution is higher than outdoors there are sources indoors that should be identified and reduced or eliminated.

This is what the standards issued by the International Institute for Bau-Biologie and Ecology (building biology) state. The institute was started in Germany about twenty years ago. After World War II when Europe was being rebuilt, people noticed that they felt worse in buildings built using modern building materials than they did in those constructed out of traditional materials. Scientists tested the air and compared levels of pollutants such as chemicals, mold and electromagnetic fields from those in older and newer homes to what was found outdoors. They produced a set of standards that relates levels of indoor pollution to relative health risks using the outdoors and nature as the ultimate benchmark.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

There is a saying about worrying too much: “I’m going to die of something some day.” The author chooses not to worry about all the little things either. But it would nice to avoid illness until death and have a highest quality of life in the meantime. That’s why the list of the Top 10 was developed.  Small changes can make a difference. A 2000 study conducted at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, estimated that improved indoor environments could save $6 billion to $14 billion from reduced respiratory disease and $1 billion to $4 billion from reduced allergies and asthma16."

Back to top 
  Copyright © 2014-2017 Healthy Living Spaces LLC.  All rights reserved.   877-992-9904
Revised: July 05, 2017.

Information in this document is subject to change without notice.
Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered tra
demarks of their respective companies or trademark holders
Home Page Products Reference About Us Contact Us Articles

Media Center