Is your home making you sick?

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Home is where the heart is, but yours may not be the safe and secure place you imagine it to be.Behind closed doors all is not well, and before you nod your head knowingly about the nasties on the kitchen sponge or shrink away from the flu-riddled telephone handset, you should know the problem is bigger than common household germs.While we like to think we are safely ensconced at home once the front door is closed, your interiors can directly affect your health. Everything from the type of light in the living room and the heater you use will impact on your quality of life.The good news is some simple steps will go a long way to improving your way of life. 

Light the way

Thomas Edison invented the long-lasting light globe and the world hasn’t been the same since. Designed with the best of intentions, artificial light has replaced nature’s timekeepers, the sun and the moon.As a result, our circadian rhythms are well out of whack, Welnis Labs CEO and founder Nigel Hobbs says.Nigel fronts an interior consultancy and fit-out company which specialises in making home interiors healthy.“It’s important in the morning to get up in bright blue and white light,” he says. “It stimulates the body into gear for the day.”
Extending daytime long into the night with artificial white light keeps us awake, he adds.Ideally, lighting with low-level red and orange hues should be used in the evening to prepare us for sleep.“Our circadian rhythm naturally follows light intensity from day to night, so keeping a bright light on confuses the rhythms and will not help you relax at night,” Hobbs says.
Mood lighting, which allows you to turn a harsh white light to a soft yellow, is ideal for socialising with the family or watching television in the evening.The bright blue screens on computers, tablets and mobile phones are also problematic at night.
“Some people will hop into bed andwork on their laptop and the light will keep them awake,” Hobbs says.
To address the problem, he suggests downloading a blue-light app which dulls the colours of a screen at night.
He also recommends F.lux software which makes the colour of your computer display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and bright like sunlight during the day. 

Noise pollution
City living is always going to be little noisy. Honking horns, arguing neighbours, barking dogs, you name it. Noise pollution can lead to lower productivity, stress and poor sleep, and with more families looking at apartment living as an affordable option in Sydney, it may be our biggest residential problem in the future.Home builder Ichijo Homes specialises in designing houses that are environmentally tolerant and can significantly reduce noise coming from the outside world.The company’s Eco 34 design, on display at Kellyville, features double-glazed windows which are filled with argon gas to provide maximum insulation from outdoor conditions, keeping the cold air and noise out and the warm air in, just like an aircraft window. The company’s research suggests 33 per cent less external noise filters in through these windows from the outside to the interior of the home compared with the standard.Nigel argues there needs to be a similarly clever building approach to apartment development in the future.“I think wellness and interiors will be a significant shaper of how we build apartments down the track. Quantum shifts have to be made in how we design apartments for the future — and wellness has to be at the core of that,” he says.“It’s great we’re seeing new buildings that are focused on being environmentally friendly, and I am behind that 100 per cent, but we have to make the interiors healthy for humans too.” Hobbs says when it comes to buying real estate, most people don’t factor in noise disruption, but it can cause major stress. “Noise in the street, constant background noise, it all affects how we sleep,” he says.
For now, double-glazed windows are the best option for homeowners who need to filter out external noise.

To WI-FI or not?
It might seem impossible not to be a wi-fi family in this day and age, but should parents be concerned about wi-fi emissions?The US-based Global Healing Centre has raised serious doubts about the safety of the unseen forces that permeate everything around us, linking wi-fi to everything from insomnia to adverse affects on cell growth and derailing brain function.But the jury is still out on the health implications of wi-fi, according to the government agency Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). Assistant director, communications Robert Guilfoyle says that on the basis of current scientific information, ARPANSA sees no reason wi-fi should not continue to be used in the home, at school and in other places.Guilfoyle says wi-fi emits low-level radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME). “The ARPANSA standard is designed to protect people of all ages and health status against all known adverse health effects from exposure to RF EME. The ARPANSA Standard is based on scientific research that shows the levels at which harmful effects occur and it sets limits, based on international guidelines, well below these harmful levels.”The government agency says there is no established scientific evidence of adverse health effects from wi-fi RF exposure. However, if parents wish to reduce the RF EME exposure from wi-fi, they can do so by increasing the distance to wi-fi equipment and reducing the amount of time the equipment is used.

Gas heater risks
Unflued gas heaters (those that don’t have a vent directed outside the home) emit poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and nitrogen oxides into the home which are harmful and can be fatal. Asthma Foundation NSW CEO Michele Goldman says electricity is a better alternative for good health and wellbeing.“Gas heating is a lot cheaper, but if that is your option, for whatever reason, then there are some things you can do to reduce harmful emissions,” she says.Avoid using unflued gas heaters, but if that is your only option, make sure the room is well ventilated, she advises.“You won’t want to be opening all the doors and windows in the home, but you should have a small window open.“That said, never use them in the bathroom and definitely not in the bedroom. There have been deaths dueto unflued gas heaters.” S

SAFE DRINKING
Most of us take access to fresh drinking water for granted. Even during the deluge that swamped Sydney last month, our water filtration system operated well, ‘delivering high-quality drinking water that has met the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, some of the most stringent in the world’ says Sydney Water.Our treatment plants operate under strict filtration targets designed to remove pathogens, particles and colour, with water tested every six days, the supplier says.Regardless, Nigel says he is not comfortable drinking tap water.“On some days with the amount of chlorine in the drinking water, it’s almost like drinking from a pool,” he says.His suggestion is to fit an alkaline water filter to your drinking tap.“It’s the closest to natural spring water that you can get and it balances out the acidic foods we like such as red meat and alcohol.”
More ARPANSA, arpansa.gov.au; Asthma Australia, asthmaaustralia.org.au; F.lux, justgetflux.com; Ichijo Homes, ichijo.com.au; Welnis Labs,
welnis.com.au; Sydney Water, sydneywater.com.au
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