Autumn Healthy Home Threats

Autumn Healthy Home Threats… What’s happening in your home?

Autumn is a beautifully colourful time of the year. Greens become yellowed with red and fade to orange and brown. Once fallen, there’s that lovely crunch to them as you walk. 

I remember when my first dog was a puppy and he walked on the dry autumn leaves for the first time. He was startled, then curious, and finally amused… it was then fun for him to walk through the crunchy crackly leaves… I digress.

In terms of our homes, there are healthy home threats that are closely matched with this one.

What is meant by a “healthy home threat”?

A healthy home threat is anything that hinders our efforts to establish a healthy home. These threats come in various forms, ranging from allergens and increased humidity to leaks, fresh paint, and modern technology. 

It’s important to understand these threats, and be vigilant in keeping our homes healthy, and today, we’ll explore the healthy home threats associated with autumn.

What is Unique about Autumn?

Autumn days are varied, and tend to be crisp and often clear, the days shorter and we tend to start wearing layers to accommodate the changes through the day.

As Autumn gains momentum, we tend to:

  • Start spending more time indoors
  • Squeeze in any final “hurrahs” from summer – like trips to the beach on the last of the hot days
  • Alternate between using cooling and heating as we transition between the seasons
  • Use artificial lights earlier in the evenings as it gets dark earlier
  • Prepare for winter – as do other critters
  • Let’s find out how these changes can become Autumn healthy home threats.

HVACs and Indoor Air Quality

“HVAC” stands for “heating, ventilation and air conditioning”.

It is absolutely essential that they are serviced regularly by professionals (check the manual as to the manufacturer’s recommendations). 

And equally important is the regular cleaning that you do.

Every week (all year), you should be vacuuming the filters for any HVAC units that you use – heating, cooling, air purifiers, dehumidifiers. The fins and all accessible areas should also be cleaned weekly with a moist microfibre cloth.

Too often, I’ve seen them absolutely caked with dust – and dust can harbour dust mites, allergens, mould spores and more.

Infrequent cleaning and servicing can mean that your HVACs could be spreading these contaminants around. 


Here are some steps you can take to protect the indoor air quality of your home.

  • Have all of your HVACs serviced in autumn
  • Make sure you’re regularly cleaning the filters, fins and accessible parts – including ducts
  • Replace pre-filters on return air grilles
gas appliances HVAC autumn healthy home threats - Eco Health Solutions

Gas Appliances

Gas appliances are often not used throughout the summer months. Conversely, in winter, they tend to be heavily used.

Devastatingly, gas appliances can result in deadly gases being released into our homes if they leak, are improperly flued or the gases aren’t combusting properly.

I’ve had quite a few reports from people about intense fatigue and grogginess when using their gas heaters wanting me to come out to assess their homes. This is not something I need to assess – this is when you call in a licensed gas plumber as it is a potentially deadly situation. In every case, I’ve had the person contact me afterwards thanking me for identifying the problem.

Gas appliances include the oven, hot water system as well as heating units.


  • Have all gas appliances serviced by a licensed gas plumber
  • Attend to any leaks
  • Maintain ventilation of your home, by opening windows and doors to exchange the air

    Artificial Lighting

    As the days become shorter, we use artificial lights earlier and earlier. 

    Natural lighting fluctuates throughout the day, with varying levels of blue and red light.

    Artificial lighting often doesn’t. 

    The result of this can be that it can cause problems with sleep.

    Now is a great time to invest in some lighting that will work for you – lighting your home and supporting your sleep (which is essential to health and wellbeing).

    Of the many products available on the market, the brand I like best is BlueLightBlockers.* Use coupon code bb88 to save 10% off their range.


        * These are affiliate links – if you don’t want to use them, just click here instead. I recommend them because they are excellent products and really are blue-light-free, and have therefore negotiated a discount for my community. (Not the other way around!)


        As the temperatures shift, the location of where condensation can form will also alter… 

        Where there’s condensation, there’s moisture. And, I’m sure you’ve heard me say: mould is a moisture issue.

        There are some simple steps that you can take to reduce the condensation risks. 


        • When heating or cooling your home be sure to do this for your entire home – keeping internal doors open will help to even out the temperature throughout your home.
        • To allow the air to circulate to maintain more even temperatures, keep furniture at least 10cm away from exterior walls.
        • Be on the ready for condensation and have a dry microfibre cloth ready to wipe it off. A flat microfibre mop is ideal if you notice it high up (like on the ceiling or high windows).
        rodents uninvited guests autumn healthy home threats - Eco Health Solutions

        Rodents and Other Uninvited Guests

        This is the time of year when critters prepare for winter – when traditionally food was not so readily available. 

        For this reason, you may notice an increase in activity as evidenced by droppings, holes in food packets and other strange occurrences.

        Not only are they looking for food, they are also looking for nesting materials (and even locations) – and we don’t want them setting up in our homes!

        Rodents are pretty clever and extremely nimble. Mice can fit through tiny holes (even as small as 1 cm) and they are also able to scale vertical surfaces up to about 90 cm!

        While it’s tempting to put poison out to kill them – especially when they “go away to die,” I strongly discourage you from doing this. These poisons are “second generation anticoagulant rodenticides” (SGARs) and cause whatever eats them to slowly die by bleeding to death. Decades ago, one of my dogs got into some and we very nearly lost him (he wasn’t even 2 years old)… SGARs are slow acting, so the poisoned animals go about normal activities – and if caught and eaten by a pet or wildlife, that animal will be poisoned, too.


        • Ensure that all of your food items are stored in glass or metal containers – this includes pet foods. What can’t be stored in these containers needs to go in the fridge or a well sealed cupboard.
        • Make sure you fill in any holes so that there are no easy entry points – in cupboards as well as around your home.
        • Avoid poisons – opt for traps instead. If you must use poison, BirdLife Australia have a list of safer options here.

            Autumn Healthy Home Threats… now under control!

            Now that we’ve addressed our HVACs, gas appliances, artificial lighting, condensation risks, and uninvited guests, we’ve got Autumn Healthy Home Threats sorted!

            If you’d like any help with this – then you can book a call with me, I’d be more than happy to help solve your healthy home issues.

            Winter Healthy Home Threats

            Winter Healthy Home Threats Occur in Every Home

            Winter with its cold and often wetter weather presents unique healthy home threats that differ from other seasons throughout the year.

            What is a healthy home threat?

            A healthy home threat is something that challenges our efforts in creating a healthy home. It might be something that undermines what we’ve done, or perhaps something that needs to be considered to prevent issues.

            Which Challenges Does Winter Bring?

            I like to start with looking at the way that our behaviours change with the seasons, as well as the climatic conditions. 

            The drop in temperatures, the increase in rain in many parts of the country, the advent of snow in the ranges, and the shorter daylight hours tend to see us:

            • Be indoors more of the time
            • Use heating
            • Perhaps light the fire, especially for date night 
            • Close windows and doors to keep the cold out and heat in
            • Draw curtains and blinds for more hours due to the earlier sunset
            • We wear more layers of clothing
            • Our clothes are thicker 
            • We may need to dry our clothes inside due to inclement weather
            • We often eat soups, stews and roasts – making the most of our ovens
            • Some people bathe more often or take longer and hotter showers to warm up

             You may be surprised to discover that all of these behaviours can create healthy home threats.

             Let’s take a look at the threats and what can be done to reduce any issues.

            frost on green leaves - winter healthy home threats

            Reduced Indoor Air Quality

            When we “close up” our homes (closing windows and keeping doors shut) to keep the heat in, we’re reducing the number of times that the air is exchanged. This means that the air doesn’t get diluted often, if at all, which can result in reduced indoor air quality.

            What happens is that VOCs, gases and other contaminants build up in the air. Oxygen levels often are reduced and carbon dioxide can increase – leading to feelings of sleepiness.

            Ventilation is key.


            1. The simplest thing to do is to leave windows open just a tiny bit, as long as it is safe to do so, can dilute the air well.
            2. Regularly opening windows and doors several times throughout the day will exchange the air, and I recommend that this is done at least 3 times a day, and preferably every hour or two.
            3. If it isn’t possible to do this 2-3 times a day, then an air purifier would also assist.

            Carbon Monoxide Build-Up

            There’s a big difference between carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. 

            Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the gases that we exhale. 

            Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas that comes from combustion – gas appliances are one of the biggest contributors to CO levels within our homes. Cars are another big source, which is why I don’t like people idling their cars in their garages or driveways.

            Since we’re using gas appliances more during winter – heating, cooking, hot showers – there’s an increased risk.


            1. Have your gas appliances checked by a licensed gas fitter every autumn so that they are ready for use in winter.
            2. Ventilate your home often – as discussed above.
            3. Avoid idling your car in the garage or driveway.

            Poor Outdoor Air

            The levels of outdoor air pollution can become very high in areas where people rely on wood fires for heating.

            The smoke produced by wood fires can contain formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, chemicals (some of which are known carcinogens) and fine particulate matter. 

            According to the Environment & Human Health Inc. (n.d.) wood smoke “interferes with normal lung development in infants and children… can depress the immune system… [and, according to the WHO] can cause coughs, headaches, eye and throat irritation in otherwise healthy people.” 

            Whilst enclosed wood fires, such as Coonaras, don’t release the pollutants indoors, they are still released outdoors, and can readily affect your neighbours, particularly who are sensitive and/or have asthma or other respiratory complaints.


            1. Avoid using wood fires.
            2. Rug up and/or be physically active – this is a great time of year to get big gardening jobs done.
            3. Invest in an air purifier to help clean your indoor air.

            Increased Moisture Levels

            Did you know that “occupant activity” is one a big factor in indoor moisture levels?

            The obvious ones are bathing, drying clothes, and stovetop cooking. However, occupant activities that increase moisture also include using gas appliances, breathing and sweating (or perspiring).

            Given we tend to not only wear more layers in winter, but also the layers are thicker, they take longer to dry. As a result, many people dry them inside near a source of heat, or pop them in the clothes dryer.

            Combine our tendency to be indoors in winter with these activities, then add to it the closed windows and doors, you can see how quickly moisture levels can increase.


            1. Monitor the levels of relative humidity with a hygrometer – we’re aiming for 45-55% RH; 50% RH is ideal.
            2. Use extractor fans when cooking, bathing or laundering. 
            3. If your extractor fans don’t vent to the outside, or you don’t have efficient ones, then a dehumidifier can be useful.
              clothes dryer and shelves - winter healthy home threats

              Mould on Windows & Curtains

              In the cooler months, many people report condensation on windows and glass doors especially in the mornings.

              This happens because glass changes temperature quickly, and moisture in the air condenses out of it, forming condensation on this, and other, cold surfaces.

              It is due to the presence of this moisture that mould can readily form on blinds or curtains that touch the glass, and even on the glass itself.


              1. Dry your windows daily with a dry bamboo microfibre cloth.
              2. Dry glass that is high up using a flat mop.
              3. Leave your windows open a little to equalise the temperature.

              Increased Exposure to EMF/EME

              Spending more time indoors can also increase your exposure to EMF/EME if you have wi-fi or use wireless devices.

              Wireless technology is used in smart meters, Bluetooth equipment, smartphones and tablets, 3G, 4G & 5G, phone towers, home stereo systems, and more.


              1. Head outdoors to “discharge” and “ground.”
              2. Do without wi-fi and other wireless devices.
              3. Turn the wi-fi and wireless devices on only when you need them, ensuring they are off while you sleep.


              home office - winter healthy home threats

              As you can see, 

              Winter Healthy Home Threats Occur in Every Home – to Varying Degrees

              I trust that you are feeling empowered to take the relevant action in your home.


              If you’d like to get some advice on this, then please book a call.

              Time for New Habits

              The end of the year is a time when we look to create new habits.

              We reflect back on the year that we have had.

              And decide what we would like to do differently.

              Do you do that?

              I do.

              I love this practice and tend to do it way more often.

              Here’s are 5 new habits that support health!

              New Habit 1: Turn Off the Tech

              Research shows that evening use of devices containing LED lights in their screens can have a large effect on our wellbeing.

              Research out of Israel by Green, et al., discovered that 2-hours of evening exposure to these screens resulted in:

              • Increased waking through the night,
              • Poorer quality sleep, and
              • Suppressed melatonin production.

              The effects were also seen the following day, with:

              • Increased sleepiness,
              • A decrease in the ability to concentrate, and
              • Reduced accuracy

              Sleep in incredibly important not only for your mood and ability to concentrate, but also for your health and ability to tolerate environmental stressors.

              So, when can you turn off the tech?

              Habit #2: Easy & Breezy

              Did you know that the air inside our homes can be 5-10 times more polluted than outdoors?

              This is due to all sorts of reasons, from what we bring into our homes, to what our homes are made of, how we cook and what our pots and pans are made of…

              And that is just for starters.

              When we add pesticides, cleaning products and scented reeds into the mix, we are really cooking up a storm!

              Then we’re there.

              Breathing, eating, using the bathroom…

              Sweating (or “perspiring” 😉 for those who don’t sweat), cooking, sleeping…

              Everything we bring into our homes can affect the quality of the indoor air.

              If our home is nicely energy efficient, it is very likely that it is well-sealed, keeping the indoor air in, and the outdoor air out.

              This can lead to a build-up of volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, house dust mites, mould spores, combustion gases and more.

              To make matters worse, if you never exchange the air in your home…

              It never gets diluted.

              And –

              That is how the indoor air can be so much worse than the outdoor air.

              Where in your day can you open your windows and doors?


              Habit #3: Healing Naturally

              I always see nature as our baseline…

              The ideal to which we strive…

              The harmony and balance of nature is so supportive and healing.

              The Japanese embrace this through their practise of Shinrin Yoku – or “forest bathing.”

              The idea is that you wander out into nature, ideally under a canopy of trees, and sit or lay there for at least an hour.

              I see so many benefits of this…

              1. You get to breathe fresh natural air, instead of indoor air
              2. Being in nature in this way can allow you to discharge accumulated EMF – it is a form of grounding
              3. I suspect that the air you breathe is full of natural antimicrobials – let’s face it, trees survive in a forest because of their natural antimicrobials
              4. If you do this free from devices, it can be deeply relaxing, which can be incredibly healing
              5. It can help us to reconnect with nature – which traditionally we have always been well aware of

              I have seen research some years ago now, that found that the benefits of one-hour of forest bathing last for 7 days.

              So even if you live in the city, you should be able to carve out an hour a week to do this.

              Where can you create some time to be in nature?

              Habit #4: Be a Labels Sleuth

              Whilst there is a lot to learn about reading labels, there is a lot you can learn by doing this.

              If you took a moment to review the labels of products as you pick them off the shelf, you might be surprised at what you see.

              If I could encourage you to eliminate one ingredient…

              It would be fragrance (also listed as perfume or parfum).

              By cutting out fragrances, you could reduce your daily chemical exposure dramatically because…

              Fragrances require so many chemicals to make them!

              There are loads of other ingredients you can omit, too…

              But fragrances are the best place to start.

              Also, some products don’t necessarily have an ingredients list…

              So, this is where you can put your nose to use and have a sniff of it.

              Tip: toilet paper and sanitary products are often fragranced…

              Instead, you may choose to focus on an ingredient in food.

              Which ingredient are you going to target?

              eco-health-solutions natural

              Habit #5: Need or Want?

              When you are about to make a purchase, stop and think:

              Do I actually need it?

              If not, then consider why you want it.

              The goal here is not to accumulate too much “stuff.”

              Accumulating can lead to issues in terms of safety (trip-hazards), pests, dust (and house dust mites) and may even become a hygiene issue if cleaning becomes difficult.

              We created a rule many years ago that you might like to adapt or adopt…

              For every item that we buy, we need to pass on three to charity.

              When I do this, I tend to really get into it, and often can fill a large garbage bag with goodies that would benefit from a new home.

              It is surprisingly liberating to pass things on to charity…

              What can you put in place, so you remember to ask, “Do I really need it?” when making a purchase?

              5 New Habits

              There you go – there are five new habits to propel you towards a home or workplace that supports your health.

              Let me know how you go with them!


              Would You Like More Help? Book a Hidden Hazards Hotline Call here >>



              A. Green, M. Cohen-Zion, A. Haim & Y. Dagan (2017): Evening light exposure to computer screens disrupts human sleep, biological rhythms, and attention abilities, Chronobiology International, DOI: 10.1080/07420528.2017.1324878

              Air Quality – Understanding the Information

              With the bushfires that destroyed so much of Australia in the summer of 2020, air quality became a bit of an obsession – and rightly so with all the smoke that our fires have produced spreading globally.

              There are apps and websites and indexes…

              There is PM2.5, PM10, TVOC, CO, AQI and on it goes.

              But do you understand what it is all about?

              For some, just getting the colour indication that it is unhealthy, hazardous or not is enough.

              For others, it is important to wrap your head around this. I have put this together for you. 🙂

              Air Quality: Making Sense of the Abbreviations

              PM2.5 and PM10

              These refer to particulate matter of different sizes. “Particulate matter” is particles in the air.

              The numbers, eg 2.5 and 10, refer to the size of the particles; so 2.5 microns or 10 microns.

              This is important because there are different health implications based on the sizes.

              The larger particles are “inhalable” – as in, you can breathe them in, and they are likely to get stuck in your upper respiratory tract. This is certainly the case for PM10.

              The smaller particles, eg PM2.5 are “respirable.” This means that they can get into the lungs.

              The US EPA have put together a brochure on “Particle Pollution and Your Health” which you can download here. In this they


              This stands for Total Volatile Organic Compounds.

              Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) come from a variety of sources and can be assessed individually. However, for this topic, they are lumped together to get an overall total.

              VOCs can best be understood by way of the supermarket cleaning aisle. You know when you are approaching the cleaning section because of the smell… that is the off-gassing of the VOCs from those products.

              Ozone, CO (Carbon Monoxide), Sulphur Dioxide

              These are all gases which can be problematic to health.


              This is the Air Quality Index which takes into consideration a number of air quality issues and rates the air.

              It is an index that is used throughout the US to predict/forecast as well as record air pollutants – ozone, PM, CO, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

              The scale has been developed based on health effects of having breathed in the air for a few hours.

              Therefore, in a nutshell, if you are a sensitive person, or someone with lung or heart issues, elderly or pregnant, levels over 100 may be an issue, and you need to protect yourself.

              If none of those apply, levels over 200 are considered unhealthy, and the hazardous.

              Image source: US EPA

              Another resource that the US EPA have put together is this article, How Smoke from Fires Can Affect Your Health.

              Want to Know More about Air Quality?

              The US EPA have a brochure on the AQI which you can download here.

              While all of this is important to know and understand, please note that the apps and sites mentioned initially are measuring and assessing ambient air (outdoor air), and not indoor air. There are many instances where indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air. This can be due to many internal sources, such as new furnishings, paint, floor finishes, and so on.

              It is my professional opinion that many buildings should have air purifiers.

              My personal preference is that I would rather a machine with a filter captures all of these pollutants, and not my nose and lungs.

              Want to understand more about what you can do to create a healthy home or workplace?

              #airquality #smoke #health #airpurifier #airqualityindex #PM2.5 #PM10 #particulatematter

              Carbon Monoxide – Beware This Silent Killer

              As winter approaches, it is a great time to be having appliances serviced and checked for problems; as well, ensuring that flues are vented to the exterior and that there are no blockages.

              There are many things to be thinking about, and today, I wanted to share this with you to prevent issues, and potentially deaths.

              Carbon Monoxide – A Silent Killer

              Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless gas. It is deadly.

              It is a combustion gas and can easily build up in the home.

              Another common contributor is car exhaust.

              CO Poisoning: Health Effects and Symptoms

              CO has an affinity for haemoglobin and thus it easily disrupts oxygen transportation within the body.

              • flu-like symptoms
              • fatigue
              • headaches
              • dizziness
              • nausea and vomiting
              • confusion and impaired cognitive functioning
              • tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)

              Heath practitioners need to be alert to CO poisoning mimicking influenza – and include this in their differential diagnosis when the whole household is exhibiting these symptoms.

              Steps to Prevent CO Poisoning

              1. Have all gas appliances serviced annually and checked for faults and defects
              2. Check the flames – are they blue? Great. Are they yellow/orange? Call your gas company as this is a sign that the gas is nor burning properly.
              3. Only use gas heaters that are flued and vented to the exterior
              4. Use the extractor fan when cooking on a gas stove top
              5. Keep your windows ajar to dilute the indoor air
              6. Avoid idling the car in the garage or near windows
              7. If you have a garage attached to your house, be sure to close the door and seal it well, and never idle the car in the garage
              8. Also, ensure that windows are closed when the car is idled in the driveway
              9. Avoid opening your windows during peak hour traffic (or school pick up and drop off), especially if you live near a busy road

              Prevention is Better Than Cure

              #carbonmonoxide #gases #environmentalhealth #buildingbiology #gasappliances