I decided to reverse the order here for a very important reason, in that I am announcing a new column on this site, which will be directed toward educating you about the dangers of the building that you live in, and what you can do to correct it.
Many of you may know that I started my medical practice just outside of Chicago in 1985. After 23 years in the same location, we will be moving to a new, state of the art office building.
Since environmental health is a concern of mine, the building will not only be LEED certified1 but it will likely have platinum certification, which is rarely awarded. We will even have an official plaque from the government in our office acknowledging this achievement.
In the process of seeking to create the healthiest office possible, my consultations led me to seriously consider Bau Biology (German for "Building Biology") as a tool to improve the health of the environment. While LEED is great, it tends to focus on the environment. Whereas Bau Biology, like its name suggests, focuses more on human health.
Germans are famous for their precision and attention to detail and they did not fail us here. They have developed an incredible accumulation of knowledge that I can assure you, only a VERY small fraction of those in the building industry are even remotely aware of. There is a group in North America that has translated and expanded the German research to implement these techniques in other countries. The Institute for Bau-Biologie & Ecology (IBE) is dedicated to educating folks on how to create healthy indoor environments.
This includes the LEED community. Fortunately, my involvement will likely catalyze a communication between these two important bodies so we can take building health in the United States to the next level. After all, if you spend so much of your time indoors, how can you possibly be healthy if you are living in a toxic environment?
I hope to have at least one article a week devoted to this CRUCIAL health topic, because if you don’t understand these principles, you could be living in a time bomb.
Cleaning Your Home Naturally
The cleaner your home is, the unhealthier it may be, because of toxic cleaning products made from petroleum-based chemicals.
Many of these commercial cleaning products contain dangerous chemicals that are not listed on the label. A manufacturer can omit any ingredient that is considered a secret formula from its label, and many of these secret ingredients are toxic and carcinogenic.
Beware that many cleaning products are now saying they are “Green” or “Eco Friendly,” and are now on the Green bandwagon. This is called Green Wash, but make sure you read labels and research all product claims.
You can reduce your chemical exposure by eliminating chemicals in your home, and using only natural cleaning products that are plant based. There are many safe cleaning products like Ecover, Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation, Sun & Earth, and Orange Plus. Even though they are more expensive, they are more concentrated, and worth it because they are safe.
Another alternative is to make your own natural cleaning products. Using homemade natural cleaning products makes “cents,” because it is cheaper, healthier and non-toxic, and it is fun.
The 2008 Building Biology Conference: Building the Way Nature Intended
Join the international movement of individuals who are rebuilding the built environment into one that nurtures and restores human life.
To clean with natural products all you need is:
- Baking soda
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Liquid castile soap
- Organic essential oils (optional)
- Mixing bowls
- Spray bottles
- Micro fiber cloths
- Vodka (optional)
Baking soda is great to scrub your bath and kitchen. Put it in a glass grated cheese container with a stainless steel top that has holes in it, and just sprinkle the baking soda on the surfaces and scrub. You may add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to this. Lavender and tea tree oil have anti-bacterial qualities.
Baking soda mixed with apple cider vinegar is a bubbly combination that has many uses. As a drain cleaner, sprinkle baking soda down the drain then add apple cider vinegar and let it bubble for 15 minutes, then rinse with hot water. This is a safer alternative to dangerous drain cleaners. Baking soda and apple cider make a wonderful spa-like bath for soaking away aches and pains and detoxifying. It also cleans the tub and the drain.
Baking soda can also be used as a fabric softener in your laundry.
To polish silver, instead of using toxic silver polish, fill your kitchen sink with hot water, add a sheet of aluminum foil and baking soda, and let the silver pieces soak until clean. It is an easy and fun way to clean silver.
Vinegar can clean almost anything in your house; you can add liquid castile soap, essential oil (optional), and filtered water, then clean floors, windows, bath, kitchen, etc. Vinegar can also be used as a fabric softener. Never use dryer sheets -- they are toxic too. In the laundry, use vinegar in the wash cycle to prevent fabrics from fading.
Commercial window cleaners contain butyl cellosolve -- a toxic ingredient that is not listed on the labels, so vinegar and water is much safer. Use a micro fabric cloth, not newspaper, which contains toxic dyes.
Borax is a good laundry booster and cleaner (it can even remove mold) -- and is safe and non-toxic.
Hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant, and is safer to use than chlorine bleach for disinfecting and whitening. Lemon juice is also a natural whitener.
Liquid Castile Soaps can be found in health food stores and are safer than commercial liquid cleaning products.
Organic essential oils may be used in homemade cleaning products depending on your personal preference and tolerance to these scents. Never use synthetic fragrances or air cleaners.
Commercial fabric refreshers also contain dangerous chemicals, therefore, use vodka in a spray bottle to freshen up chairs and upholstery. The vodka is cheaper, non-toxic and the alcohol evaporates, and is not harmful. The alcohol in hand sanitizers is harmful, however, and should not be used on children since the alcohol absorbs into your body via your skin. Therefore, use only hand sanitizers that are plant based from the health food store, or just good old soap and water.
Making your own natural cleaning products is rewarding and fun, and you can use the natural scents that you prefer while ensuring that your home is safe from dangerous chemicals that are harmful to your, and your family’s, health.