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Getting Beyond Illness by Creating a Healthy Home

Lessons of a Personal Journey

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Nearly three years ago, I signed a three-year lease for a small home in a lovely area west of Minneapolis where I planned to stay while looking for the perfect property to build my “dream home”. Within only a month of living in the house, I found myself becoming increasingly sick. I couldn’t shake the extreme fatigue I felt which at times resulted in the need to sleep all day. My digestive system shut down, limiting my diet to almost only organic vegetables, and my brain was clear and active for only few hours a day. I had suffered from mold poisoning many years before and suspected early on that the cause of my drastic and rapid health deterioration was due to mold in the house.

I began in earnest to find the source of my illness. My search revealed that the house did indeed have a moisture-intrusion problem resulting in mold, which had not been obvious when I viewed the home in February (mold is generally dormant in the winter). I soon learned that the moisture problems were due to shoddy workmanship on a remodel the landlord had done some 10 years earlier and the lack of consistent maintenance since then, which had created the mold growth within the walls and around improperly installed plumbing lines.

Now, after nearly three years of pushing a very reluctant landlord to repair the problems, I am finally in good, albeit precarious, health. When it dawned on me that my lease was up in only a matter of months, I actually felt paralyzed instead of being overjoyed that I would finally be leaving the source of such a long and debilitating illness. Fear of the buildings we live in is a common result for people who suffer from environmental illnesses such as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), electro-hypersensitivity (EHS) or have suffered from mold-induced illnesses similar to what I experienced over the last few years. The battle for my health had made me battle weary and the thought of facing the possibility of issues with a new home was frightening.

All adversity leads to light if we allow it. During this dark period of time while I was ill, I found The International Institute for Building Biology and Ecology. This long-standing institute has taught me how to find my way out of the environmental nightmare I faced and get past the fear. Building Biology teaches by empowering us to assure our own health in the homes in which we live.

If you are in the market for a new home to heal in, or if you have a mysterious illness and suspect that your environment might be playing a part in your ill health, take your first step towards better health by looking at the environment around your house.

  1. Electromagnetic radiation is on the raise and can cause EHS among other major health issues, according to the 2012 BioInitiative Report. If you are looking for a new home, make sure you are at least a mile away from the nearest cell phone tower. Look for a home that does not have a radio frequency enabled smart electrical meter or look into opting out of the meter and have it replaced with an analog electrical meter. If neither of these are options, have a Building Biology Electromagnetic Radiation Specialist (EMRS) inspect your home for ways to make the environment less electromagnetically toxic for you.
  1. Living near conventional farmland can contribute to an unusually high level of pesticides in our blood which greatly increases health disorders, according to the American Journal of Public Health. Pesticides and herbicides used on crops can contribute to MCS illness. Even if you are over a mile away from farmland, the pesticides and herbicides can stay in the air for extended periods of time and  react with sunlight to form new, even more toxic chemicals. It’s best to be at least a couple of miles away from conventional farmland and have a high-quality water-filtration system installed.
  1. Marshland and lakes are beautiful, but can increase the amount of moisture in your environment. When moisture is combined with warmth and certain building materials, mold is inevitable. Long-term exposure to mold hidden in walls can cause numerous health concerns. Ensuring all exterior gutters are in working order, caulking around windows and doors and proper soil levels to direct water away from the house can all go a long way in making sure the outside of the house is water tight. When moisture levels are high in the surrounding environment due to lakes or marshland, air filtration and air exchange systems are vital to keeping the interior of the building dry.

Once you have dealt with your home’s outside environmental issues by shielding EMRs, making sure your home is pesticide and herbicide free, and dealing with any moisture intrusion issues, then you can start looking at how to create a healthy home on the interior. Here are some items to consider:

  1. The first priority for a healthy indoor environment is a bedroom sanctuary where you can rest and allow your body to heal and repair each night. To shield your body from EMRs that might be unavoidable and out of your control, you can sleep under a shielded canopy from Safe Living Technologies. A canopy can reduce radio frequencies from cell towers and smart meters to very low levels as long as the electrical circuits have been shut off in the bedroom while using the canopy.
  1. Cleaning products, laundry detergent and personal hygiene products generally contain an overabundance of chemicals, all of which can impair your immune system’s ability to properly deal with “intruders”. Make sure you check labels and throw away any suspect products. There are great substitutions available these days with natural and organic ingredients at your local co-op.
  1. Your garage can be a constant source of pollutants. Most of us store a plethora of chemicals in it and running the car engine produces combustion byproducts that linger for up to eight hours after the car has been driven out. Seal the door between the garage and the house so the carbon monoxide and other toxins don’t flood into your house every time you open the service door. Exit the garage from the overhead or side door and enter the main house from the outside instead.
  1. Mold is an immune suppressant, and long-term exposure to mold allows viruses and bacteria to take hold in your body and make you ill. Take a look under your sinks and in your basement. If the areas smell at all musty, then there is probably a mold and moisture problem. Testing for mold can sometimes help locate the source of the issue, but generally if you see any sign of long-term water intrusion, you should seek out professional help to locate the source and remove all drywall, wood or carpet that has been in contact with moisture.

Our homes should be our sanctuaries from the hectic pace of the world. Fear that a “sanctuary” will never be realized is a very real issue when we lack the knowledge to repair our health and our homes. We all deserve good health, and by learning the importance of maintaining, repairing and protecting our home environments, we can find ourselves living in the healthy home of which we have always dreamed.

Carrigan Curtis is a residential designer and a licensed general contractor in the Twin Cities area. She owns Carrigan Curtis Design Build, LLC and has an educational background in green building and BioGeometry and is a certified Building Biology Advocate. For more information, call 612-282-3470 or visit CarriganCurtis.com. 

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