How A Building Biologist Changed My Life

  • Pregnancy
    All Ages

By Hayley Dean, ellaslist

Before being asked to interview Joanne Lia from NoToxRox, I had absolutely no idea what a Building Biologist was, in fact I had never even heard of the term before. Turns out though, it was something that I, and those around me, absolutely needed in our lives.

A Building Biologist is essentially a professional who specialises in ensuring the health of buildings for the occupants within them. They look at various elements such as air quality, chemicals, building materials, mould, moisture, electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) aka energy fields and various other irritants with the goal of making sure your home is a healthy environment. Building Biologists work with both residential and commercial properties.

Now, don’t switch off or let your eyes start to glaze over because this is really fascinating and important stuff, especially for we care-givers who spend so much time ensuring our family stay fit and healthy. Sometimes, while we feed our kids all the right foods and encourage exercise, there are forces that can have a huge effect on our lives. Beyond just the dusty shelves and unswept floors, our homes can literally be making us sick.

Joanne arrived at my home with a sunny disposition and a suitcase full of gadgets that could have easily come straight out of a Ghostbuster movie. I liked her immediately, and after chatting with her a while, I realised that it would be impossible for anyone not too. She is clearly a very smart lady who knows her craft well.  The passion for her work oozed out of every word. Any trepidation I felt about having her in my home disappeared quickly.

The first tests conducted were for traces of mould and moisture. As my partner has recently been diagnosed with mild asthma, Joanne explained to me what the health implications of mould and damp are inflammation, allergy, toxicity and occasionally infection. Allergic reactions are most common following exposure. Typical symptoms reported include:

  • Respiratory problems, such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath
  • Eye irritation (burning, watery, or reddened eyes)
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Nose or throat irritation
  • Skin rashes or irritation
  • Headaches, memory problems, mood swings, depression
  • Nosebleeds, body aches and pains, and fever

Mould exposure is not healthy for anybody and high moisture conditions should be addressed immediately to prevent excessive mould growth and health problems developing.

Thankfully, my home was found to be free of any issues (PHEW) but it seems to me that this is something very much worth checking out in every home, especially with young kids. Areas close to the sea water, perhaps in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs may be at a higher risk. You never know, you could be blaming day care for no reason!

The next important area to look at was Electromagnetic fields (EMFs and Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR). This seems to be an area that has many people are unsure about. It’s generally common knowledge now that you shouldn’t go to sleep with your (mobile) phone next to you but it’s important to look at other electrical appliances in your home too. Baby monitors are one of the worst offenders in terms of the number of EMFs generated. Joanne writes “AC magnetic fields have been associated with elevated risk for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and heart attacks, as well as with increased rate of miscarriage and birth defects, among many other biological effects (Havas 2004). Exposure to elevated AC electric fields (voltage) at the bed has been linked with sleep difficulties, restless sleep, bed-wetting, and (in one Canadian hydroelectric company study) with increased risk of cancer.”

It really works

Interesting side note here: I went through the results of the NoToxRox report with my parents. My mum, who has, of recent years, experienced a great deal of trouble with insomnia, decided to try the same recommendations in their home. Being as money conscious as they are at their age, Mum was already in the habit of switching off appliances not in use but didn’t realise my father never turned the modem off which sits approx. 3 metres from their bed. Well, without a word of a lie, that night and the nights following, Mum fell straight into a deep sleep through the whole night! This is the first time in years that she has been able to do this. The only change to diet or environment has been turning off the modem. Mum is now a believer.

In my own home, my little family and I have also experienced some fantastic changes after making two minor changes. Firstly, we removed the baby monitor from the kid’s room (my two boys share) and secondly, I stopped doing loads of washing at night. The second is significant as our laundry shares a common wall with the boy’s room. Although no one has a bed up against this wall, Joanne noted how high the magnetic fields were when the machines were running. Over the past few weeks, my eldest has stopped wetting the bed so frequently at night and my youngest is sleeping through. Unbelievable.

It seems to me that Building Biology is something we should all take a bigger interest in. Minimal adjustments lead to major changes, who isn’t excited about that! To inspire you all to get on-board, I asked Joanne to provide you with her top 5 tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and home. Here’s what she had to say.

  1. Without a doubt, the most important thing you can do for your health, is filter your water. Tap water can be contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, parasites, microbes, hormones, antibiotics and a plethora of chemicals. Chlorine is a necessary disinfectant, but its job is to kill bacteria. Our gut is full of bacteria, good and bad. So, we don't want to upset that balance. Discourage kids from using the bubbler at school. Send them to school with a stainless-steel water bottle.
  2. Avoid plastic near food. Don't store your food in plastic containers. Never heat your food in plastic containers or with cling wrap on it. Most plastics leach hormone disrupting chemicals which can get into the food and water. Store food in glass and use stainless steel lunchboxes and drink bottles. Beeswax food wraps are good for sandwiches.
  3. Make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter. Up to 80% of the particulate matter (tiny dust) gets recirculated into the air using a regular vacuum cleaner. This is particularly bad for kids with asthma, eczema and allergies. Be sure to vacuum couches and mattresses regularly.
  4. Turn the Wi-Fi off when you go to bed. This costs nothing. Our bodies are designed to detox all the time but when we are constantly bombarded with electromagnetic fields and toxic chemicals we need time to handle these stresses. Making sure we sleep in an electrically quiet room with clean air is a must, especially for kids. (My mum can support this!)
  5. Eat organic when you can. Organic food does cost more but studies show that eating organic food can reduce your pesticide load by 90%. Most pesticides are endocrine disruptors which means they mimic or block our natural hormones.This can wreak havoc on a child's development. Start with just buying organic root vegetables, apples and green leafy vegetables. Organic apples and potatoes do not cost much more than conventional. (Ref)

About NoToxRox

Joanne Lia is a qualified Building Biologist and certified Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) consultant. She specialises in creating healthy indoor environments where children can thrive.

NoToxRox is dedicated to helping mums create healthy homes so their kids can thrive. They provide chemical free education through: Personal Consultations, Healthy Home Audits, Baby Safe Audits, Electromagnetic Radiation Audits, Pre-Purchase/lease inspections and community awareness programs - Seminars/Events and regular blogs. Their goal is to teach you how to minimize your exposure to toxins. The best defence you can have is knowledge. Making a few simple changes to how you live, can have a remarkable effect on your health and well being.

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