ecofitter; outfitting for healthy ecological living - Healthy Living Tips
ecofitter; outfitting for healthy ecological living - assessments, workshops, resources for cottage, home, work...
Here are tips to help you improve your health. 

A. Environmental cause? 
If you wonder about your health symptoms and the possible environmental cause the best resource is the huge data-base compelled by the Canadian Environmental Health Atlas. I urge you to have a look but don't be scared. Environmental health is all related to how much and for how long you have been exposed to something. An expert in this field can help with the multitude of exposures we have all had, compare the relative risks and guide you to focus on the things you can change to improve your health.That's why we start with cleaning; it's something most of us have been exposed to, the risk is high and it's easy to change.

B. Cleaning 
Toxic chemicals, cleaners, hormone mimicker, endocrine disruptor, ingredientsMany commonly used products have ingredients that are harmful to the ecosystem and to human health. Reducing the amount of nutrients that end up in our septic systems and leach pits is key to protecting our waters. Eventually these nutrients drain into our creeks, streams, Inlets and lakes and can cause algae blooms. Even when these products go into a municipal waste system they put undue stress on those systems.

We are often hear: "the choices are so confusing", "Which product should I buy?" As a results, here is our advice. 
 
Tips to selecting products (for health & our ecological footprint):
  • Use the least-toxic product available
  • Avoid single purpose cleaners (for carpets, drains, ovens, metal and toilets) as they are among the most hazardous household chemicals
  • Reduce the amount of each product used (using more soap will not get it more clean)
  • Use unscented products. “Parfum” means scent - usually petrochemical, in a formaldehyde carrier.
  • Be wary of "Green” products as there is no legal definition of “Green”
  • "Biodegradable" is only relevant if a time-frame is stated, say within 30 days.
  • Read at theSafety Data Sheets (SDS) for information about ingredients, cautions and hazards
  • Look for a third-party certification (Eco-Logo, etc.)
  • Do not use products with phosphate (automatic dishwasher liquids/powders, TSP (tri-sodium-phosphate, etc.).
  • Waste water from hand laundry, bathing and showering must be connected to a septic or leach system
 
Cleaning supplies (to clean almost everything):
healthy alternatives, least toxic, safety, clean, baking soda
1.    Pure Soap (an oil or fat reacted with a strong alkali - can be   vegetable oil or animal fat)
2.     Dishwashing liquids (look for detergents made from plant sources rather than petrochemical)
3.     Baking soda (use as an mild abrasive scrub, mix with soap to make a cleaning paste, add vegetable glycerine for smoother cleaning paste – good for all hard surfaces)
4.     Borax (use as an abrasive scrub, pest-control, and de-odorizer)
5.     Vinegar (mix with water and a drop of dishwashing liquid (to cut grease) for an all-purpose spray cleaner
6.     Laundry soap or detergent (use pure soap or look for unscented, plants source, or make your own with soap, borax and washing soda)

Other Optional supplies:
7.     Salt (use dry with a damp cloth as a pot and pan scourer)
8.     Lemon juice (use instead of vinegar for cleaning – but then keep it in the fridge)
9.     Washing soda (reduces the amount of soap needed); caution: Arm and Hammer brand washing soda in Canada has added perfume, whilst the American version does not
10.  Pure turpentine and a pure wood oil (add 1/3 of each and 1/3 vinegar for restoring or polishing wood); caution commercially sold Tung oil is mostly petrochemical
 
Brands
  • Canadian brands that you might find suitable are: Greener Choice, Nellie’s (Vancouver), Nature Clean, EcoMax, Greener Choice, Nature Clean, Eco-pioneer (pure vegetable soap flakes and borax), Earth Berries or Eco Nuts (soap nuts), Bunch of Farmers, Soap Works, or Bio-Vert.
  • American companies include: Dr. Bronner’s, 7th Generation, Mrs. Meyer’s, and Ecos.
  • International companies include: Ecover (Belgium), and Miessence (Australia).

More tips about cleaning
Carpets can be cleaned by sprinkling with baking soda or borax, then vacuuming. Stains might be removed with soap and water, or hydrogen peroxide and water (test first), or steam cleaning with water only. Ovens do not need to sparkle, but to avoid burning odours, scrape out spills and wipe off grease, then soak overnight with a paste of baking soda and washing soda and water, wipe out in the morning.Drains should not have food or hair put down them; use strainers, and compost food. Sanitize dish cloths by boiling them in water (or water and borax to whiten). Clean toilets with a toilet brush and baking soda or borax. 
 
Why Clean?
One of the most important reasons is to keep dust from lead and other things (other metals, mould spores, plastic fibres...). If you have children in your household, here is a good video about lead (and if you don't have children to share this with you might like it anyway ;)). This Sesame Street original Lead Poisoning Prevention Project is from 1996 is part way down the page.

C. Pest control
One of the earliest know causes of environmental disease was pesticides yet it continues to be an exposure today. Here are a couple of really good resources on safe pest control. They explain the importance of pest prevention, and safe methods. This first one has some great pictures:http://dawsonspest.com.au/complete-guide-protecting-your-home-pests, and this site has some good solid advice: http://eartheasy.com/live_natpest_control.htm 

For mosquitos we have been using Lemon Eucalyptus with great success. The US Centre for Disease Control stated that it was equally effective as DEET but you have to apply it more often.

Air Quality, air pollution, fine particulate, metals, toxicD. Air Quality
Air Quality is one of the commonly accepted contaminants. Others that we know plenty about are: asbestos, lead, radon, pesticides and some chemicals. Evidence is clearly showing that if you live close to a highway you are more risk for many health issues. For example this recent study, published in Environmental health perspectives, shows that the increased noise increases the likelihood of elevated body fat.

Lesser known contaminants include: wireless communication, hormone mimicking or disrupting materials and chemicals, plastics and nano particles, etc.  Prudent avoidance of many materials is just plain sensible

Improving air flow (we check this using CO2 as a surrogate measure) and using plants are 2 helpful ways to improve air quality. See this helpful list of plants that clean the air and are less likely to cause allergic response.


E. Being "sensitive"
Many people, including myself, are just more “sensitive” to their environment. Coping includes reducing exposure to the many contaminants that may affect health including exhaust, pesticides, chemicals in food, scents (microbial and/or chemical VOCs), reduced air quality, electrically-created fields, etc. Knowing what conditions there are in space, by having a wholistic assessment, is the first step to improving surroundings.



 ecofitter’s 11 best Healthy Home Tips

Here are the 11 most likely items to improve the your home. They also contribute to better health for the planet. 

Everyone’s exposure is different,every home is unique, and every person’s level of awareness is unique. If you have already improved these aspects in your home, GREAT, you are on the right track. Book your assessment to find out what else you can do in your home. 

1. Air fresheners
Connection with nature, healthy, happy, play, treesMost air fresheners mask odours. Our sense of smell is a valuable tool, often overlooked, that we should protect. Colognes,perfumes, and fragrances should be avoided. Anything labelled “parfum” is synthetic fragrance in a petroleum-based carrier oil which is an irritant and can be hormone mimicker. They often contain the preservative formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. 

Aerosols are more hazardous as they are more easily inhaled.Instead, ventilate well by opening your windows every day. Use plants in your home as the soil and the microbes contained in the soil clean your air. Choose natural deodorizers, such as zeolite activated carbon or baking soda, which contain minerals that absorb odours.  
 
2. Drier sheets
Chemical exposure due to drier sheets and a baby's exposureDryer sheets are designed to prevent clothes from being static and to make them smell “nice”. The heat of the dryer promotes the off-gassing of the fragrance in the dryer sheet (a designed semi-VOC). This odour masking creates more problems, especially for lungs. Instead, hang up your clothes to dry (especially for synthetic fibre clothes as they are the ones that create a static cling), add vinegar in the rinse cycle, or use a wool dryer ball!

It's also really important to clean the lint from your drier as 2,900 deaths are reported each year (in the USA) caused by drier fires. And, that lint contains pesticides, fabric conditioners, parfum and flame retardants. Dispose of it carefully! 
 


3. Pesticides
Synthetic chemicals used since the 1950s (before that all food was "organic") are thought to have some of the most far-reaching consequences than any other invention (chemical sensitivities, cognitive impairment, and chronic diseases,endocrine disruption, to name a few). Any “-cide” is designed to kill things. They contaminate air and waterways, get carried by air into homes, and tracked into our homes on shoes, brought into our homes in clothing, bedding,and food, and linger as dust on surfaces. Use alternatives such as removing your shoes, using matts at doors, screening windows, damp or mist wiping surfaces to keep pests and dust out. Deterring pests or trapping them is far less harmful than killing them. See the Environmental Defence's Toxics Pocket Card.


4. Dry-cleaning
The group of chemicals used to clean clothes (per- orteta-chloroethylene, PCE or PERC) have been linked to cancer as well as nervous system, kidney, liver and reproductive disorders. Dry-cleaned clothes should be left outside to off-gas for a few days before bringing inside a home and wearing. Instead, use wet-cleaning technology, or Carbon Dioxide, or hand wash.

5. Plastic products
Poly-vinyl-chloride (PVC), or vinyl, should be eradicated from your home. PVC is environmental hazard from “cradle to cradle”,releasing lead, dioxins and phthalates. Plumbing code now forbids the use of PVC in Canada and the USA. Use a fabric shower curtain, try fabric or wooden blinds, and stainless steel or glass food storage containers. Some plastics are reputed to be better than other plastics (# 1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE), and # 2 High density polyethylene (HDPE)) but better to do with out them! Unleaded glass, ceramic and stainless steel are safer alternatives. Likewise, plastics in our fabrics (fleece, microfiber cloths, etc.) have been shown to bio-accumulate in fish. Research associating petroleum-derived products (found in food, water, and dust) to obesity suggests we should be prudent with all plastics.  
Healthy bakeware: cast-iron, no non-stick (flourocarbons) or plastic components 
6. Non-stick coatings, stain-resistant, and wrinkle free. 
Non-stick bake-ware and cooking utensils (Teflon, and others) are harmful to human health and the environment. Use stainless steel, enamel, glass, or cast iron (my favourite) but have ceramics, and crystal tested for lead. Use(tropical) wood cutting boards and natural fibre dish cloths. Do without conventional upholstery, wrinkle-free clothing and linens as they contain stain protectors (Scotch guard, and the like).    

7. Bottled water
Bottled water may have more contaminants than tap water, and often bottled water is just tap water. As well, water bottled in plastic leaches chemicals into the drinking water and the landfills, and poses hazards to the workers who manufacture them). Advocate for investment in infrastructure to provide better tap water for everyone. 
 
8. Foam-filled furniture and mattresses
healthy furniture with minimal foam, VOCs and flame retardantsFoam off-gasses the chemicals they are made with and also disperse fire retardants (Poly- and Deca-brominated diphenyl ether, or PBDEs) into household dust. These are associated with cancer, birth defects, thyroid disruption, reproductive and neurological disorders. Fire retardants are also in electronics, appliances,cars, and other manufactured goods with plastic components. Keep your old car,or check its toxic level. Use natural structural materials (wood frames), and natural materials for mattresses and soft furniture (including natural latex,wool, hemp, or cotton).Interested in flame retardants, listen to this great interview:
PBDEs (flame retardants)
Interview with Heather Stapleton form the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
You need Flash Player in order to view this.


Also, if you are the kind of person who loves to recycle (I do!) then check that paints do not contain lead.

Cellular or mobile towers with many antennae with high frequency harmful frequencies

9. Wireless
Install wired connections, or turn off wireless(cellphones, routers, and laptops) when not in use. Minimize cell phone use,and use an alarm clock (instead of sleeping with a mobile phone). Replace your cordless (DECT) phone with a wired model. Install power off switch(es), or turnoff the electrical circuit(s) to the bedroom(s), or reduce the amount or number of electrical appliances in your sleeping or resting areas, so that the body can properly manufacture melatonin while sleeping.   

10. Use the least-toxic cleaners possible
See the article at the top of the page "Cleaning".  


DIY, how to make a non-conductive electrical break for my incoming water line to reduce stray current11. How do I stop having stray current (on my water lines, duct work)? Firstly it's important to determine whether you actually have current where it shouldn't be. If you have plastic water lines (PEX) you won't have significant current on your water lines. Determine stray current by testing (we can do this). To remedy you need to break in the conductive path. Sometimes installing a length of PEX line, removing the grounding attachment, or adding a water filter is a simple fix.
            

A healthier home is an ecologically sound home.
Book an assessment to ensure the healthiest home for you and your family.

To book your assessment, workshop or consulting 
                     telephone 705-366-2148, 416-836-5509 or e-mail anne@annestewart.net