Consider natural deodorants – some of my clients have used bicarbonate of soda, other swear by cider vinegar, personally, I prefer to mix up essential oils in a bottle of rose water and spray that on every few hours (essential oils evaporate quickly)
Reduced Indoor Air Quality
Closing the windows to keep the heat out and the cool in can cause indoor air pollutants to build up, which is never ideal.
This is made worse when bringing new items into the home – which are often still off-gassing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and potentially also formaldehyde.
Adding another layer to this is the increased temperatures speeding up the release of VOCs, which can readily form by-products in the air.
The great thing about this problem is that the solutions are simple!
Ventilate your home. Open doors and windows at least 3 times a day (the ideal would be every hour) to exchange the air in your home.
When you’ve got the windows closed, ensure your airpurifier is going.
Avoid using “air fresheners” and other scented products.
Moisture in the Interstitial Spaces
Condensation forms where there are variations in temperatures. What we see with the use of air conditioning, is condensation forming on the other side of plasterboards, outside of windows and also on the other side of the ceiling.
These areas are referred to as “interstitial spaces” and can be the site of many cases of “hidden mould.”
In 2018, I was in far north Queensland to present training on mould and was amazed to see the windows literally streaming with condensation – to the point that it looked like it was raining heavily.
This is a complex problem, but ultimately it rests heavily on the use of air conditioning – as this is what causes massive temperature variations.
Explore alternative ways to cool – installing plants along the paths and in front of your windows to naturally cool the air, hanging a wet sheet across the open window or door, wetting your hair, clothes or skin.
Aim to keep the inside temperature closer to the outside temperature – don’t set the cooling for 15oC, instead, set it for 25-30oC.
If you can, keep the windows open a little to help even out the temperature a bit.
Higher levels of relative humidity in tropical and subtropical regions is the number one problem here.
It’s important to remember that there are mould spores everywhere, waiting for the right conditions.
Often all they are waiting for is enough moisture.
And high levels of relative humidity can provide this.
(This is why “mould is a moisture issue” – as I’m sure you’ve heard me say time and again).
Keep an eye on the levels of relative humidity with a hygrometer, remembering the ideal range is 40-60% RH, with 50% RH being the magic number.
If the relative humidity levels go above this, use a dehumidifier to bring them down to below 60% RH.
Pull furniture from against the walls, so that air can circulate around it, as well as giving you the opportunity to check the walls for mould.
The combination of higher temperatures and higher levels of rainfall (as we’ve been seeing in Australia) results in more active breeding of mosquitoes, termites, cockroaches and rodents.
Each of them bring their own risks to either human health and/or the health of our homes.
While we consider them pests, we need to be considered in how we deal with them.
My preference is always to deter them, rather than kill them.
If you prefer to kill them, then take great care with poisons – especially rodenticides (poison for rodents – rats and mice). Poison can be slow acting, and other animals further up the food chain can also be killed as a result. I’ll be putting a post together on this soon. In the meantime please read more here – as they also include a post about safer poisons.
Install fly screens over doors and windows; and repair any old ones that are damaged.
There is a lot of information and misinformation about mould as science is working to understand it and its effects on health and wellbeing. Here are my Mould Dos and Don’ts to help clear things up. Before we dive in, let’s acknowledge some facts about mould.
Mould is Majestic
If you haven’t seen this video, please take a moment to watch fungi (mould is fungi) before continuing… It’ll make it clear why I say mould is majestic.
Mould plays an important role within our planet. However, we don’t want it in our homes.
Just like a caterpillar is amazing, but not in our salad!
Mould is Mighty
Mould is mighty in that it has well-developed strategies to survive multiple forms of attack and to keep its species going.
The main strategy is to release spores any time it feels threatened.
You could say that it’s a bit highly strung, because it feels threatened any time any of the following are changed.
If you’re a note-taker – then jot that down. 😉
Mould is Monstrous
Mould can cause incredible damage to our buildings – as by nature, its role is to break down materials.
Mould needs something to grow on, food (simplest for them are cellulose-based materials such as wood, paper, fabrics) and moisture.
Moisture can come in the form of rain, a burst pipe, condensation, increased humidity levels, a spill, and so on.
Mould Dos and Don’ts #1 – Don’t fall for the quick-fix of just cleaning mould off a surface
I get it – cleaning mould off a surface is much easier (emotionally and financially) than replacing plasterboard and more.
However, unless it’s only superficial mould, this isn’t going to address the problem.
What do I mean by “superficial mould”?
What I mean here is that the mould is literally only on the surface – it hasn’t gone deep and is not growing IN a substrate or material.
An example of this would be mould on a window pane, having formed because of condensation. Or mould on the ceiling of the bathroom that’s caused by poor ventilation – this would be in the early stages only.
In these cases, cleaning mould off a surface is acceptable.
And from there, you need to prevent the area being wet – so drying off the windows each day, or installing an extractor fan that dumps the hot moist air from your shower outside your building.
Yet in many cases, mould isn’t superficial.
And therefore, the cause needs to be addressed, and the mouldy material needs to be properly cleaned or replaced.
Mould Dos and Don’ts #2 – Don’t Use Vinegar OR Bleach to “Clean” Mould
I’m often asked, especially by journalists, to comment on vinegar (or bleach) as the go to clean mould off a surface…
And as I tell them, it’s not about the product, it’s the technique.
“However, it is the use of microfibre cloths and vacuum cleaners with true HEPA filters that can remove the mould.”
~ Lucinda Curran, quoted by Livia Gamble in Better Homes and Gardens
What’s wrong with vinegar?
The vinegar we can buy is very dilute, and then people often suggest a further 70:30 dilution. Basically, you end up adding more moisture to the mouldy area – which makes no sense when you know that mould is a moisture issue.
What’s wrong with bleach?
Bleach is to be avoided at all times.
All bleach does is whitens mould – so you can’t see it for a while, usually a few weeks.
It also is carbohydrate-based, so provides a food source for mould.
So what do you do?
Mould Dos and Don’ts #3 – Do Use a Detergent Solution to Clean Mould
Dip into the soapy solution using microfibre cloths square* and wipe down the surface. After you have used each square on both sides to remove mould, Lucinda says to throw it out. This is to avoid cross-contamination and causing the mould to spread.
*To clarify –
I recommend buying some cheap microfibre cloths from the hardware store – as they are going to be treated as “single use items.”
Cut each one up into smaller piece to minimise waste.
Use both sides of one smaller piece (or square) – without double-dipping, and then discard it.
A key point is not to cross contaminate.
“Always keep cross-contamination in mind – as it is easy to spread mould from one area to another, and cause it to release spores which will help it to spread.” (Gotta love it when the really important messages make it into an article!)
This is also why we’re not double-dipping and we’re disposing of each square of cloth that is used.
Mould Dos and Don’ts #4 – Don’t Put Additive in Your Paint
I’ve seen fungicides and “mildewcides” recommended to deal with mouldy ceilings.
This is a massive no-no.
Please don’t do it.
Anything that ends with “-cide” means it is designed to kill.
Fungicides are designed to kill fungi – mould is a fungi.
“Mildewcide” would be designed to kill mildew – which is mould, which is fungi. So another word for the same thing.
What’s wrong with these?
Simply put, these are like antibiotics… and can result in the mould equivalent of “superbugs.”
Mould is tough enough on our health, our buildings and to get rid of without having it mutate further into resistant strains…
So, address the issue, don't just paint over it.
Where’s the moisture coming from?
What’s been wet?
Is everything dry?
This is a complex area, and that’s why there are IICRC-trained mould remediation professionals.
Mould Dos and Don’ts #5 – Do Ventilate Your Home, Daily!
Ventilation dilutes indoor air contaminants, exchanging the air, and bringing fresh clean air into your home.
You may have seen statistics saying that indoor air can be 5-10 times more polluted than outdoor air. This is often due to a lack of ventilation.
(On that note, having an air purifier running 24/7 is NOT a substitute for ventilation.)
While it is an amazing thing to do, it won’t solve mould issues, instead it will help you to manage them.
What’s the best way to ventilate your home?
Go around your home opening every single door and window (internal and external). Wait 2 minutes, then close them again (if you choose).
Do this as often as possible.
Mould – Just the Facts
So there you have 5 Mould Dos and Don’ts.
Whilst I know there’s a lot to digest here, there’s so much more to it…
And if you’re keen to go deeper and learn about how to clean up your belongings (YES you can clean many things, not everything has to be turfed out), then enrol in my Dealing With Mould course for just $147 AUD – this is a game-changer, and is full of practical tips for you based on my training and experience in the field.
Smart meters have been rolled out in many parts of the country, have you got one?
Given I am so immersed in this kind of technology, I am always surprised when someone hasn’t even heard of them. 🙂
So, let's start with what they are.
What are Smart Meters?
A smart meter is a relatively new type of electricity meter.
We all had analog ones. These new ones are digital, and the majority of them transmit information back to the power companies.
Please note, that not all of them do.
The move to smart meters in Australia has at least several reasons that I can figure out:
They don't need to be manually read, as the data can be transmitted – saving the power companies money;
It was decided that they would be rolled out in Victoria after the terrible fires we had some years back that were caused by power lines coming down. If smart meters were installed, they could shut down the power and it is hoped that this would then prevent this from happening again; and
As part of the bigger picture of the Internet of Things (#IoT) and #5G, they can talk to devices and turn them on and off…
What is So Different About a Smart Meter?
In a nutshell, smart meters transmit information wireless (thus utilising radiofrequency EMF).
This is both the benefit AND the issue.
What is Wrong with Smart Meters? Aren't they Smarter?
No, they are not. When they first came out and sensitive people began experiencing symptoms, many of us were calling them “Dumb Meters!”
Smart Meters emit four different types of electromagnetic fields (EMF).
Radiofrequency EMF – as already mentioned, this is the wireless technology. This can pass through walls and travels quite long distances.
“Dirty Electricity” (High Frequency Transient Spikes) – due to the fact they contain an inverter. This type of EMF is on the wiring, but can emanate into a room through the walls.
Magnetic Fields – from the wiring. This also passes through walls, but levels drop off very quickly with distance.
Electric Fields – from the wiring. Although this type of EMF can pass through walls, it is seeking the fastest route to earth. So, it may easily bend to reach earth if a good conductor is nearby. (Think of lightning hitting the tallest tree.)
Any issue with that?
All of these types of EMF are at far higher levels than what we are looking for from a health perspective.
When ours was first installed, the power company offered to send me their literature to allay my concerns. Having waded through the 100-ish pages, I found that smart meters emit magnetic fields at 17 mG. From a health-perspective, we are looking at 2 mG for daytime exposure and 0.2 mG for bedrooms.
The power companies claim that they only transmit wirelessly up to six times a day. Whilst it may be true that the information is only received up to six times a day, they are emitting 24/7 and spike (rapidly reach a much higher level) frequently.
Instead of helping, my concerns were heightened!
Early in my career as an Indoor Environmental Health Consultant it became very clear that the levels emitted, and the fact that EMF is being emitted 24/7 (and we can't turn it off), many people I encountered had reached their tipping point. This has resulted in* these people to develop a heightened sensitivity to EMF, with symptoms varying from insomnia, muscle tension, vivid dreaming, grinding their teeth (bruxism), ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and so on.
*These symptoms are anecdotal – I have accumulated this list from what has been reported to my by clients.
My stance is that it is never one thing that causes heightened sensitivities, but it can easily be one thing that “breaks the camels back.” That said, it is vital that we reduce all environmental stressors, particularly for when we are asleep.
What Can Be Done?
Not get one – if you have the chance to not have one installed, please avoid doing so.
Have it removed – in some areas, people have been able to have them removed. Occasionally, they have to pay more per year someone manually needs to read them. (Worth it, I think!)
Have the chip removed so it can't emit wirelessly – this will solve the issues of one of the four types of EMF.
Move the aerial – if you contact your energy provider, they may be able to put the aerial on the roof.
Have your power company “power it down” – smart meters can function quite well at around 5% (or less in some cases) capacity… and they are installed and set at 100%. Note, that not all smart meters can be turned down.
Shielding – done with care can be a simple and effective solution. In most cases, it should be able to be done for less than $300.
What If I Am Renting?
No problem, shielding can be effectively installed in such a way that you can take it with you.
Can't We Just Buy a Cage or Wrap Smart Meters in Aluminium?
Both of these options can result in the meter working harder to get the signal out. This results in much more “force” being required to get the signal out, causing it to emit at higher levels.
So How Can I Shield it Properly?
I get asked that a LOT… so I have made this easy-to-follow guide packed with expert tips for homeowners AND renters.
Moving (and house hunting) is a highly stressful time…
Add to the mix the need to avoid environmental stressors, keep to a tight budget and manage with low tolerance – house hunting becomes almost impossible.
I get it – not only have I been there myself, but I've also guided many clients through this process.
I have also seen things go pear-shaped. Very pear-shaped… Like one of my earliest pre-purchase inspections.
You would not believe what happened…
My client arranged for me to do the inspection… So I arrived on this sunny afternoon, excited to determine if this house was suitable for him.
“Let's go in!” I said.
“Uh-uh! Not me. Every time I go in there, I get sick. You go in and assess it.”
I did a double-take.
Why would he want me to assess the place if he can't be in while I inspect it????
I explained the scenario to him – all set to head back to the office. But he wanted to go ahead. So, I did. And my report recommended that he keep looking. My professional advice was disregarded. He bought the place…
And moved out almost as fast as he had moved in.
There is no need to make the same mistakes.
If you have been looking for a new place no doubt money is tight. You may not have enough time to organise a professional indoor environmental health assessment done. Stress levels are through the roof.
You've moved before, and it is essential that you don't have to move again because you can't end up in another place that is unsafe, nay, uninhabitable.
The track running in your mind goes something like this:
What do I do?
How can I avoid the things that make me sick?
How can I protect your health and that of my loved ones?
Am I right?
So here's what you can do:
Learn my “Crystal Ball” method;
Draw on my training, experience and insight so that you can keep a property on or your list or cross it off with confidence; and
Become EMPOWERED to make sound decisions for your health and that of your loved ones.
You don't need to invest tens of thousands of dollars or years of time training and equipment…
You just need someone to show you #PROtips and tricks so that you can shortlist properties for yourself with confidence…
Be able to confidently cross places off your list, keeping only the good ones;
Avoid having to gather the energy to look at places, only to be sick for weeks after;
Save time, money and energy.
All of my years of training, experience, up skilling and knowledge have been consolidated into 13 online lessons, complete with worksheets, my black book of online resources and the essential 122-point checklist so you know you've covered all bases.
Just what the doctor ordered, hey?
Do you suffer from environmental sensitivities?
Desperately trying to find a home that isn’t going to make you sick, or sicker?
Feel forced to settle on a less-than-ideal home because funds are tight?
Multiple home assessments haven’t helped you find the perfect place, but you can’t afford to keep coughing up cash?
A LIFE-CHANGING ONLINE COURSE THAT’S ONE-OF-A-KIND
In Looking for a New Place? How to Avoid the Pitfalls, indoor environmental health expert Lucinda Curran reveals how to streamline the house-hunting process, eliminate uninhabitable homes with confidence, and make a promising shortlist of homes for professional assessments.
Time wasted on pointless inspections
Money spent on unnecessary assessments
Needless exposure to toxins at inspections
Settling for uninhabitable properties
Heartache on learning that the ‘perfect’ home wasn’t right after all
“THIS COURSE IS A MUST”
“I am now better able to rule out unsuitable properties from the comfort of my home which saves me time, energy and cuts down on exposures. The checklist of what to look for in and around the property is very comprehensive and makes it so easy to look for the potential dangers that may be lurking. This course is a must have for anyone wanting to know what to look for and avoid when searching for a healthy home.”
Lead exposure and poisoning can occur in three different ways – primary, secondary and tertiary.
The primary way, is through direct exposure – eating paint chips, accidentally swallowing a lead sinker, consuming water or food that has been contaminated.
The secondary way includes exposure to dust from leaded petrol, consume plants that are grown in contaminated soil, and similar.
These first two methods of exposure can result in lead being stored in the bones, and potentially also the brain.
The tertiary way occurs when lead is released from its storage sites within the body and re-poisons you.
This can happen when you are pregnant, lactate and go through menopause.
This is because as people age, generally their bones leach lead back into the body.
It is interesting when you look at the list of health issues that can be related to lead poisoning and you see that many of them are generally considered to be “diseases of ageing” – dementia, cataracts, hypertension (high blood pressure) and more.
You’re not quite on your game. Your health has declined – your energy is low, you feel “off”, when you wake up you definitely don’t feel vibrant and refreshed any more. Each day has become a struggle and even a morning coffee doesn’t get you through the day.
The doctor says everything is fine, but your gut tells you it isn’t.
You’ve been to numerous health professionals, medical doctors, complementary medicine practitioners, and jeepers, with the amount you have forked out on testing, you are wishing you had bought shares in the pathology labs!
Something isn’t quite right, and you know it.
You’ve started to notice that when you are away from your home that you feel better, and not just because you are on holidays! When you return, so do your symptoms. You being to wonder…
“Could my house be making me sick?”
I’m talking the absolute foundations… and that is why I call it “Detoxification 101.”
Our bodies are truly amazing – we are like finely-tuned machines. We like to keep everything at “normal” – so we remove, address and deal with whatever throws our “normal” out (medically speaking, this is homeostasis).
If we follow the rhythms of nature, we rise to greet the sun, and we sleep while the sun does. The days are shorter in winter, so ours are too.
Because we are designed to sleep at night time, this is the time our body is programmed to clean everything up and actively work to return us to “normal” so that we are completely ready to “do it all again” the next day.
At a minute level, our cells are cleaning everything up, we detoxify, we heal.
However, in the presence of stress, these functions don’t happen.
It is a little like a see-saw. Stress goes up, so detoxification goes down.
And when we are talking stress, we are talking any and every kind of stress.
The air inside our homes is unique and the quality of it is affected by anything and everything that comes into our homes. Research has shown that the indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than the outdoor air! Alarming, right?
Add to that the fact that the majority of people spend around 90-95% of their day indoors, and it starts to become clear why all of this is so important.
When we keep our doors and windows closed, the levels of indoor air contaminants build up and conversely, oxygen levels are reduced.
This can make us feel groggy, confused, itchy, sick… all depending on what is in our homes.
When we open our windows and doors and let the fresh air in, we end up exchanging the air and diluting these levels.
As a result, we often feel fresher, brighter and clear-headed.
Did You Know?
Did you know it is possible to exchange the air in your home in as little as 2 minutes?
By opening all external and internal doors and windows, it can take as few as 2 minutes to change all the air in your home over to fresh air!
“What Can I Do?”
At the very least, exchange the air inside your home each morning, each afternoon and each evening.
Start at your front door and do a lap of your home opening every door and window. Wait two minutes, and the do a lap and close the doors and windows you want closed.
Our shoes get to walk in all sorts of unpleasant things (I’ll leave it with you to think of some. My mind always goes back to the train I used to have to catch that was so foul, I would have a good shower when I got home, too!).
Apart from that, there are also pesticides, pollutants from traffic and roads, heavy metals, dust and so on.
When we wear our shoes inside, we can easily traipse all of this through our homes. From here it either moves about the place as dust, or if you have carpets or rugs, it becomes embedded deep within the pile.
Even a good clean may not remove all of these contaminants.
It is wiser, in my opinion, not to bring them into our homes to start with.
Did You Know?
Carpets act as a “sink” they collect all sorts of contaminants, including skin cells, mould spores and all the things you traipse in on your shoes.
I often think about a carpet as being like an archaeological site – revealing information about the lives of the people living there!
An outdoor workplace may sound odd – perhaps you imagine a landscaper, gardener or builder being people who have outdoor workplaces. But most of us can move our workplaces to the outdoors. It’s easier than you think, and well worth the benefits to health and wellbeing.
Here’s Why Outdoor Workplaces Are So Important
If you’re like a large population of Australians, you likely spend most of your day working in an indoor office setting. According to research from the Australian State of the Environment, the average Australian spends about 90% of their day indoors. For many, this often involves sitting at their desks and staring at computer screens for up to nine hours in a day.
Human beings are biologically built to live in changing scenery conditions, which aren’t offered inside buildings. More and more our modern environments are controlled by HVAC systems, artificial lighting and air fresheners.
While adjustments like addressing humidity levels and reducing EMF and following best practices can help, working outdoors is the most effective solution.
Benefits of Outdoor Workplaces
Research shows that exposure to natural sunlight, trees, and outdoor fresh air can positively impact our wellbeing, creativity and performance.
While not all jobs can be conducted outside, a workplace that has things such as outdoor lunches, walking meetings, indoor plants, and allowing remote work can all make a difference in our health. The best workplace will combine both a well-maintained indoor building and the setting of nature.
For those of you who work from home, make sure you take your meal breaks outside, introduce plants into your home office, and open the windows!
To learn more about the benefits of an outdoor workplace, check out this new infographic from BigRentz. From improving your memory to honing your focus, the benefits show the value of taking your work from your desk into the outdoors.