Lucinda Curran is an experienced Indoor Environmental Health Consultant with a background in building biology, health science and education. She specialises in the ways that buildings can adversely affect health and vitality; and has lectured and presented keynotes within Australia and New Zealand. She has created practical empowering online courses that tackle the nexus where built environments and health merge.
Having assessed hundreds of properties and assisted thousands of people over the past nine years, I wanted to share some of my insights with you into hidden health hazards within our homes.
You might be wondering how, even doubting that your home could have any impact on your health. I understand! This can be an alarming realisation. But I’m here to let you know that there are ways to solve all issues – and many are free and easy to implement. And I want to reassure you that every single step (even baby steps) in the right direction is powerful.
How Do I Know If My Home is Affecting My Health?
There are lots of symptoms that can indicate your home may be the issue – and of course, there are also medical causes for many of these, too!
The key point is, do you feel better when away from your home?
Many of my clients find that spending time away from home sees their symptoms reduce.
Some common symptoms are headaches, poor sleep, aching eyes, muscle tension, feeling off (malaise), ringing in your ears (tinnitus), grinding your teeth (bruxism), runny nose, cough, low energy, foggy head, and poor concentration. Mental health can also be affected, and I’ve seen clients with depression, anger/rage and more. Of course, because we are all different, we will have our own unique set of symptoms.
Clients of mine, I’ll call them Jack and Emma, moved into a rental property, and soon began feeling off. They were so sick that they had to have time off work. Emma sat outside in the wintry cold as she didn’t feel so bad there. Jack ended up going back to work as he felt less sick there than he did at home. For them, there were some major issues with water ingress and mould. Long story short, they broke their lease and got out of there pronto!
Not everyone will have such clearly defined changes… Some will notice a very gradual change to their health, making it harder to pick up.
My vision is that one day all medical and health practitioners will look at the environment when gathering information. So, my tip is: If you notice a change to your health, look to your environment, too.
Let’s look at some specific areas and what you can do to create a healthy home, and a healthy body…
Slash Screen Time
Research has found numerous flow-on effects from screen time – not only aching, dry or sore eyes, but many more aspects of wellbeing are affected.
Researchers from Israel (Green, et al, 2017) examined the effects of short-wave light (SWL) emitted by the LED lights in screens. They found that 2-hours of evening device use resulted in increased waking through the night, poor quality sleep and suppressed melatonin production. The following day, their research saw an increased level of sleepiness, a decrease in the ability to concentrate, poor mood and reduced levels of accuracy when performing tasks.
What their research also revealed was that dimming the lights on these screens made little difference to the after-effects they observed.
I recommend cutting out screen time in the evening. Personally, I found the best way to get started with this was to choose a time to turn off phones, computers, and devices. For us, it’s 7pm. Find a time that works for you and stick to it.
Free Fresh Air
Did you know that Australians spend around 90-95% of their time indoors? (State of Knowledge, 2001).
Understanding this helps to shed light on the impact that our homes (and workplaces) can have on our health.
I’ve visited many properties where doors and windows are rarely opened, and the occupants rely on the heating and cooling systems to regulate the temperature.
What this means is that indoor air contaminants build-up, and oxygen levels decrease as very little air is exchanged.
Ventilation is important and exchanging indoor air regularly is essential.
Many people get worried about how this can be done. But I’ve got a super quick and easy way to do it! If you open every door and window in your place, you can exchange the air in as little as 2 minutes. I recommend doing this at least three times a day – but hourly is ideal.
With the advent of amazing new technologies over the last 15 or so years, many people are glued to their devices. Have you noticed that any time you have a question, you reach for your device and Google it?
We’ve already spoken about the short-wave light from the screens, but there’s much more to it.
The constant interruptions when a message comes through, or a ping on social media, even emails, phone calls and the rest can prevent us from relaxing. And when we see something disturbing or distressing right before bed, it’s fairly likely to affect our sleep.
I live and work by what is called “the precautionary principle” – which means that unless something is proven beyond reasonable doubt to be safe, then I will be mindful about the amount of time I will use it, if at all. Currently, there are scientists sitting on both sides of the fence about the potential harm to health from wireless radiation. As such, in the absence of irrefutable proof that it’s safe, I say that caution is warranted.
We need a break from the mental (and emotional) stimulation, the short-wave light, and (potentially) the wireless radiation. We need time for quiet reflection, to be still, to enjoy the company of others…
And so, my tip for you is: Create daily pockets where you remove these devices from your body, your pockets, and your space. Turn them off, put them in a room and walk away. Perhaps you could charge them overnight or keep them off all weekend. Instead, you could spend some time in nature without your device, have a nap, catch up with a mate, stare at the sky, have time with fur-family, or curl up with a book… There are so many ways to enjoy your time without your devices, I promise!
Creating a Healthy Home Can Support Your Health and Wellbeing
Our homes are our castles, our sanctuaries from the world. They should be places that nourish and support us in our health and wellbeing on every level.
By taking steps to create a healthier home, you can be supporting your body to heal and detoxify – and it can be super easy to do!
And, if you’re already feeling fit and healthy, then having a healthy home can help to keep you that way.