Category A Healthy. House

John Banta

My introduction to the downside of indoor air quality occurred along with my introduction to fatherhood in 1980. Like many first-time parents, my wife and I wanted to welcome our newborn by decorating the nursery. We painted and carpeted the room in anticipation of our new arrival. The room smelled of chem­icals and I noticed that I did not feel well in there. But it wasn’t until our baby became ill that I realized what a serious problem we had created. By the time I made the connection between my daughter s medical condition and the toxins in the nursery, she had become sen­sitized to even minute amounts of toxic chem­icals commonly found in the environment and was in severe distress. My wife and I de­cided to buy an old Victorian home that had not been remodeled in over 40 years. We pro­ceeded to convert the building into a chemi­cal-free sanctuary where our daughter could begin to heal from her devastating illness.

During that time I was working as a medi­cal technician in a research lab, where I was exposed to numerous toxic chemicals, includ­ing formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, xylene, and several disinfectants. Over the next four years, I felt progressively worse while at work, yet I would feel better once I returned to our carefully remodeled home. My job-related health problems finally became so severe that I made the difficult decision to quit. Little did I know that a new and exciting career was awaiting me.

Because of my hands-on experience in ren­ovating my own healthy home, people began to ask for my advice. My wife urged me to be­gin consulting professionally, which I have done full time since 1986. Over the years, thou­sands of people have consulted me about their homes. Typically, I am contacted in the mid­dle of a disaster: the walls are moldy, the paint is causing headaches, or the landlord sprayed pesticides to control insects. I am hired to de­termine the cause and suggest a remedy for the problem. My job often includes educating a skeptical landlord or spouse about the causal relationship between the problem in the home and health of the occupant.

The most rewarding work for me is con­sulting during the planning phase of new con­struction, where I can help my clients prevent problems before they occur. Although I do not design or build homes, I can troubleshoot and monitor to help ensure a nontoxic, healthful, and nurturing abode. I have really enjoyed working with Paula and Erica in writing this book. For me, it offers a way to reach more people with the information they need to cre­ate a healthy hom

The following special project procedures must be obeyed at all times:

• Smoking is prohibited within or near any structure on the jobsite.

• The use of gas-generated machinery and gas – or kerosene-fired heaters is prohib­ited within or near the building.

[2] No insecticides, herbicides, or chemicals other than those specified maybe used on the jobsite without prior approval by the architect or owner.

• All materials are to be protected from

[3] composite wood products containing urea/formaldehyde binders

[4] Water shall have positive drainage away from the building at all points along its perimeter. Ground shall slope away at a minimum of 5 percent and soil used to grade around the building shall be of an impervious nature with high clay content.

Framing lumber shall be kiln dried.

[6] Only wood that is free of mold and mil­dew is acceptable.

The use of subflooring materials such as interior-grade plywood, pressboard, or oriented strand board (OSB) containing urea-formaldehyde glues is prohibited.

• Subfloor adhesive must be solvent free. (Refer to the section on wood adhesives.)

The following products are unacceptable for exterior sheathing:

• products containing asphalt

• odorous foam insulation boards

• pressure-treated plywood

The following products and methods are ac­ceptable for exterior sheathing:

• їх recycled lumber laid diagonally with diagonal metal or wood bracing as structurally required (a more labor­intensive and expensive solution, most suitable for breathing wall frame appli­cations)

[9] CDX-grade plywood that has been aired out (purchase as far in advance of installation as possible and stack to allow air flow on all sides of each sheet while protecting it from moisture damage)

A drain system shall be installed around the perimeter of the foundation footing. The drainage system shall consist of the following:

• Positive drainage shall be away from the building along the entire perimeter, with a slope of no less than 5 percent and a top layer of impervious soils.

[11] Dampproofing of all exterior wall surfaces that are below grade or in contact with soil shall be carefully applied according to the manufacturer’s directions to form a watertight barrier. (See below for a list of acceptable products.) Care shall be taken during backfilling and other construction to prevent damage to the dampproofed surface.

All doors shall be thoroughly sealed on all six surfaces.

[13] For a clear finish, seal doors with one of the vapor barrier sealants listed in Division 9. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Thoroughly seal wood windows on all surfaces exposed to the interior.

[15] Where a clear finish is scheduled, use a clear vapor-barrier sealant as specified in

Prior to the installation of flooring or subflooring over a concrete slab, a cal­cium chloride vapor-emissions test shall be performed to verify that the slab meets the manufacturer’s maximum vapor – emissions criteria. Testing shall be per­formed at a rate of one test every 500 feet and at a minimum of once per concrete pour area.

[17] Where adhesives are used to apply a wood floor directly over a concrete slab, the slab should be tested to determine if the pH level in the concrete will be compatible with the adhesive.

• Where radiant heat tubing is installed in a concrete slab, heat should be circulated in the floor for two weeks prior to performing a calcium chloride vapor-emissions test.

Author Testimonials

Paula Baker-Laporte

If someone had told me in the early years of my career that I would be writing a technical “how to” book about healthy homes, I would have looked at them with total incredulity! I would have explained that, as an architect, my main concerns were with the creation of beau­tiful and interactive spatial forms and that my aspirations were artistic rather than technical. It seems that fate had a different course for me. I joined the ranks of the chemically sensitive.

In retrospect, the roots of my illness can be traced back to formaldehyde overexpo­sure that I suffered when for a short period I lived in a brand-new mobile home. Working in standard residential construction, I found that my symptoms became severely aggra­vated whenever I visited a jobsite because of the prevalence of this toxic chemical in con­ventional construction materials. Erica Elliott, my friend and physician, diagnosed my con­dition and helped me get back on my feet, and it was through her that I first heard of healthy building. She told me of the alarming number of chronically ill patients consulting with her who were diagnosed with MCS. For many, the primary cause of illness was exposure to mul­tiple toxins in the home.

Even though I specialized in residential ar­chitecture, I had to admit I knew little about the health implications of standard home con­struction. While working with Erica to design her home, I began intensive research into this new frontier in architecture and building. It was then that my personal and professional life took a new direction.

Once I learned the facts, I could never again allow certain products, techniques, or equipment to be used in projects with which I became involved. I understood the health threats they posed to my clients, other inhab­itants, construction workers, and the planet. In my efforts to learn everything I could about healthy building, I came across a body of infor­mation translated from the original German called Bau-Biologie. Bau-Biologie advocates an environmentally sustainable approach to healthy building, in part through the use of natural, unprocessed building materials.

I used these principles when designing a new home for my family. Our home has a timber frame and clay/straw wall system. My husband and builder, Robert Laporte, intro­duced this building system to me when I first met him at a natural building workshop he was leading. Our home has earth plasters and earth and stone floors, and is heated primarily by solar heat and a masonry oven. The electri­cal wiring is in metal conduit. My own health has improved steadily, partly as a result of the clean and vital environment afforded to me by our natural home and unpolluted surround­ings. Although the bulk of my professional design work now incorporates alternative nat­ural building systems, I realize that the major­ity of people planning a new home do not have access to alternative materials and methods of construction. I also realize that, for some chemically sensitive individuals, many nat­ural materials can elicit symptoms as readily as synthetic ones do. For these reasons, much of the information in this book is geared to­ward making conventional building practices healthier.

A healthy home is far more than a home that is free of toxins. It must safeguard the residents on many other levels, described throughout this book. As a result of my re­search, my goals as an architect have grown. To truly nurture us, our buildings must not only be beautiful. They must also be healthful and conceived with mindfulness of our lim­ited planetary resources. The same building design can destroy human health or enhance vitality. The difference lies in the materials and construction methods we choose.

Erica Elliott

My involvement with indoor air quality is­sues began in 1991, when I went to work for a large medical corporation as a family physi­cian. The building housing the clinic was new and tightly sealed, with nonoperable windows and wall-to-wall carpeting. Previously in ex­cellent health, a world-class mountaineer and marathon runner, I began to develop unex­plainable fatigue. After several months, more symptoms developed, including rashes, burn­ing eyes, chronic sore throat, and headaches. The symptoms subsided in the evenings after I left the workplace, only to return when I reen­tered the building.

By my second year of employment, I had developed persistent migraine headaches, muscle and joint pains, insomnia, confusion, lack of coordination, memory loss, and mood swings. By then the symptoms had become permanent, continuing when I was away from my workplace on weekends. My physician col­leagues were puzzled by my symptoms. Some felt I was suffering an unusual manifestation of depression and would benefit from anti­depressant medication. These medicines were not helpful and only masked the problem.

I finally had the good fortune to find a physi­cian trained in environmental medicine who believed I had nervous and immune system damage related to chronic, low-level exposure to poorly ventilated toxins in the workplace.

By the time I resigned my position on the staff of the clinic and the local hospital, I had a full-blown case of multiple chemical sensi­tivity, also known as environmental illness. Most synthetic chemicals commonly found in the modern world, even in minute amounts, caused me to have adverse reactions to such a degree that life became a painful ordeal. With diligent avoidance of toxins, abundant rest, detoxification therapies, and other measures, my life began to stabilize.

Since very few physicians are trained in toxicology and environmental medicine, I im­mersed myself in this field of study, to help myself as well as others. It wasn’t long before my practice consisted primarily of patients with immune dysfunction, including multi­ple chemical sensitivity, autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and severe allergies. I was struck by the number of patients who dated the onset of their symp­toms to a move to a new home or to the re­modeling of a school or office. They invariably had been to many doctors who treated them for conditions such as allergies, asthma, sinus­itis, and depression. The underlying causes were not identified. By the time the correct diagnosis was made, the patients’ immune systems were often severely, sometimes irre­versibly, damaged.

It was during my own recovery that I de­cided to build a home using nontoxic building materials. Paula Baker-Laporte was my archi­tect, patient, and neighbor. Together we began researching various available products and as­sociated health effects. Shortly thereafter we had the pleasure of meeting John Banta, and a fruitful collaboration began.

MCS: What is It?

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), often re­ferred to as environmental illness, is an im­mune and nervous system disorder involving severe reactions to many everyday chemicals and products. For some people MCS occurs with dramatic onset, precipitated by a major chemical exposure or industrial accident. But for most people the condition develops gradu­ally as the result of the cumulative exposures of daily life.

The symptoms of MCS are diverse and unique to each person and can involve any or­gan of the body. Symptoms range from mild to disabling and can sometimes be life threat­ening. They include headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances, depression, panic attacks, emo­tional outbursts, difficulty concentrating, short-term memory loss, dizziness, heart pal­pitations, diarrhea, constipation, shortness of breath, asthma, rashes, flu-like symptoms, and seizures. Symptoms maybe chronic or may oc­cur only when a person is exposed to certain substances. The particular organs affected de­pend on the individuals genetic background and prior history as well as the specific chemi­cals involved in the exposure.

Symptoms are often triggered by very low levels of exposure, including levels lower than permissible by government standards and typically below the levels tolerated by most people. Triggers include a wide range of sub­stances found in the workplace and at home. Solvents, paints, varnishes, adhesives, pes­ticides, and cleaning solutions are most fre­quently implicated. Other substances include new building materials and furnishings, form­aldehyde in new clothes, artificial fragrances in cleaning and personal care products, deter­gents, car exhaust, and copy mach ine and laser printer toner. Symptoms can occur after inhal­ing chemical vapors, after chemicals touch the skin, or after ingestion. Sensitivity to a par­ticular chemical can lead to sensitivity to an

ever-widening range of other, often dissimilar, chemicals. This characteristic is known as the spreading phenomenon.

It may be useful to think of environmen­tal illness as a spectrum that encompasses a wide range of chemical sensitivities. At one end are individuals who may suffer from mild symptoms, such as simple sinus congestion or headaches, which usually resolve when the triggering chemical is removed. At the other end of the spectrum are individuals with full­blown MCS, who suffer extremely debilitating symptoms that can last for months or years af­ter exposure.

Why do some people develop MCS while others with the same level of exposure do not? Because of biochemical individuality, all humans manifest disease according to their genetic makeup, past chemical exposure, and overall general state of health, which includes total load. Total load refers to all the stressors in a person s life, including chemical exposure, poor nutrition, emotional tension, allergies, infections, trauma, and physical stress.

Although the exact mechanism whereby chemicals create this heightened sensitivity has not yet been clearly elucidated, theories are emerging that will hopefully lead to greater understanding and better treatment of MCS. Recent studies have demonstrated how tox­ins, having gained access to the brain through the olfactory nerve, can cause release of excit­atory amino acids that result in swelling, dys – regulation, and destruction of brain cells. The olfactory nerve is also the pathway to the lim­bic system, which is an area of the brain where the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems interact. The limbic system regulates an ex­tremely wide variety of body functions. Many of the varied and seemingly bizarre symptoms reported by persons with MCS are consistent with symptoms known in the medical litera­ture to occur when various parts of the limbic system are damaged by chemicals or physical injury.

Toxic chemicals can also cause direct dam­age to specific tissues of the body such as en­zymes in the liver that are essential in the de­toxification pathway. Because of inadequate amounts of detoxifying enzymes, a person with MCS is less able to handle chemical loads. Also, recent data indicate that certain toxins in the environment, especially chlorinated com­pounds, mimic natural hormones, causing disruption of endocrine systems such as the thyroid, adrenal, and reproductive systems.

The first documented cases of environmen­tal illness resulted from widespread chemical poisoning during World War I. The exposure to mustard gas had long-term consequences for soldiers, many of whom developed chronic symptoms of chemical sensitivities. More re­cently, thousands of veterans who fought in the Gulf War returned with symptoms simi­lar to those found in patients diagnosed with MCS.

Since World War II, the production of syn­thetic chemicals has increased significantly. In 1945, the estimated worldwide production of these chemicals was less than 10 million tons. Today it is over 110 million tons. As more and more synthetic chemicals are introduced into the environment, larger numbers of healthy people are becoming affected. Most people with MCS have not been through a war. They have become ill from ordinary day-to-day, low-level exposures to poor indoor air qual­ity in their homes and workplaces. MCS suf­ferers often say that their role in society is like the canary in the coal mine. When the canary collapsed, the miners were warned that lethal gases were in the air.

Although MCS is a rapidly growing prob­lem, sometimes called a silent epidemic, health care workers know little about the sub­ject. Chemical sensitivity is a relatively new field of medicine, controversial in nature, and not recognized or understood by most physi­cians. The illness does not fit neatly into the current medical model and, unlike diabe­tes or hypertension, there is no simple med­ical test for making the diagnosis. There are remarkably few individuals in medicine who have toxicology training and who are sensitive to the possible neurological, behavioral, and psychiatric problems resulting from chemical exposures. In addition, the chemical and in­surance industries have played a major role in influencing the average persons perceptions about chemicals and their impact on living or­ganisms.

One of the most important steps in the treatment of the chemically sensitive person is to avoid or reduce toxic chemical exposures as much as possible in order to allow the body to heal. A healthy home is a prerequisite for those who wish to regain their health. The person with MCS needs a sanctuary of peace and well-being in a world saturated with toxic chemicals.

In spite of widespread ignorance and vested financial interests, MCS is gradually becoming known to the public as more and more people are becoming ill. For several years a small but growing number of physi­cians specializing in environmental medicine have been focusing on this serious problem. If you would like information about a physi­cian in your area with expertise in the diagno­sis and treatment of chemically related health problems, contact the American Academy of Environmental Medicine in Wichita, Kansas, at 316-684-5500 or aaemonline. org.

Shielding Electric Fields Emitted from Refrigerators

Because refrigerators generate large electric fields, they should be given a dedicated circuit and the wiring should be shielded with one of the recommended metal conduits in order to block the fields. In addition, the metal refrig­erator cabinet should be bonded to the elec­trical ground. Since the compressor motor and defroster will still produce high magnetic fields, the home should be designed with the refrigerator at least 12 feet away from living and sleeping areas.

Gasketed Electrical Boxes

As discussed in the section on air barriers in Division 7, electrical boxes must be sealed in order to make an exterior wall airtight. You may have experienced the flow of air coming through an outlet on a cold day if the boxes are not installed in an airtight manner. It is neces­sary to prevent air from flowing into the living space from a wall cavity not only for the sake of energy efficiency but also to maintain opti­mal indoor air quality. The following gasketed electrical boxes are designed to create an air­tight seal:

. AirFoil

• Lessco Air Vapor Barrier Boxes

• Allied Moulded Vapor Seal Boxes

Residential Lighting

Residential lighting can also be a source of electromagnetic fields. Here are some point­ers on residential lighting and EMFs:

• Transformers of low-voltage lighting pro­duce a magnetic field. If you use low volt­age lighting, choose remote transformers and locate them in closets at a distance from where you spend a lot of time.

• Fluorescent lighting with ballasts emits magnetic fields that may not be detect­able on an inexpensive gaussmeter. Avoid fluorescent lighting with ballasts in areas where you spend a lot of time, and never locate it on a ceiling below a bedroom. It should also be noted that fluorescent light tubes and compact fluorescent lights con­tain mercury and should be properly re­cycled. Breaking the tubes may release the mercury. (For more information about proper disposal, see

• If you are using recessed can lighting, spec­ify insulation contact airtight (ICAT) cans. These cans save energy and prevent dust and attic gases from filtering into the cans.

• If wiring is run through a metal conduit, the metal housing of the fixture must be in electrical contact with the metal conduit in order to shield the occupied space from electric fields.

Smoke Detectors

The two basic types of smoke detectors are ionizing and photoelectric. The ionizing type contains a radioactive substance called ameri­cium-241. Although the radioactive substance

is shielded, we cannot recommend this type because there is no safe place for disposal once the smoke detector is discarded. Smoke detec­tors are available for use with 9-volt batteries or for hardwiring into the 110-volt household wiring, with or without battery backup. We recommend a hardwired photoelectric system with battery backup, which can be purchased through BRK/First Alert and MCS Referral & Resources. If you are wiring so that your bedroom circuitry can be shut off, it is impor­tant to put the smoke detector on a separate circuit so that it will always remain active. If this circuit is run through a metal conduit, the electric field will be minimal.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

All gas-burning appliances to which occu­pants are exposed, such as gas ranges and dry­ers, should be tested for carbon monoxide emissions prior to building occupancy. Hie installation of a simple monitoring device en­sures that you will be alerted if a problem with carbon monoxide develops. The device should have battery backup and a digital readout. The following CO monitors meet these criteria:

• Aim S-450 is a portable pocket alarm CO detector unit with a digital readout.

• BRK/First Alert

• NightHawk Carbon Monoxide Detec­tor contains a sensor that samples the air every 2У2 minutes and updates the digital readout.

Further Reading

Becker, Robert O. Cross Currents. J. R Tarcher, 1990. A timely and eloquent warning on the hazards of electronic pollution

Von Pohl, Gustav Freiherr. Earth Currents: Caus­ative Factor of Cancer and Other Diseases. Freeh – Verlag, 1987.

The Property Survey

Based on the findings of a property survey, it is possible to provide specific recommendations for any planned construction activity. Anticipated fu­ture developments in the neighborhood should also betaken into consideration.

First, map the naturally occurring terrestrial ra­diation pattern to detect anomalies in the Earth’s magnetic field as well as radioactivity.

Second, assess the risk of power frequency fields. Be aware that on days with little moisture in the air the electric fields from high-tension power lines might be overestimated, although in many cases building materials will attenuate the exter­nal fields. In contrast, alternating magnetic fields are mostly independent of the weather. Because power consumption fluctuates over any given day, week, or even season, data logging is neces­sary for proper risk assessment.

Third, measure RF radiation. Radio waves, or microwaves, ride along the airwaves with an inten­sity that varies with the distance from the source of emission and the time of day. To accurately as­sess the highly complex web of electromagnetic waves, data logging is a must. The main direction and specific frequency bands of the major sources of RF radiation need to be carefully monitored so that appropriate shielding advice can be given.

Remember that in creating a safe electrocli­mate in your bedroom any attainable reduction is worthwhile and nature is the ultimate guide.

a. Baubiologie Maes/Standard of Baubiologie Methods of Testing (SBM-2008) is available from the International Institute for Bau-Biolo – gie & Ecology, buildingbiology. net.

b. James Oschman. Energy Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, 2000.

c. Robert O. Becker. Cross Currents. Tarcher, 1990.

d. James Oschman. Energy Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, 2000.

e. Robert O. Becker. Cross Currents. Tarcher, 1990.

Vicki Warren, BSEE, is the program director for the International Institute for Bau-Biologie & Ecol­ogy (IBE). IBE is a leader in natural healthy-build- ing education. Vicki has taught in public schools and has worked in the power industry and tra­versed the globe as a test engineer and trainer. She is a certified Bau-Biologist Environmental Consul­tant (BBEC), Indoor Environmentalist (CIE), and li­censed educator. She can be reached at vwarren@ buildingbiology. net.

main or subpanel as well as on all connected outlets. To maintain proper functioning of an automatic demand switch in the long run, you should test it by inserting a control lamp once a month, just as you would test a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).

If elevated AC electric fields originate from neighboring apartments or adjoining houses, demand switches will not help and shielding strategies will have to be explored.

Prudent Avoidance Strategies

There are many simple and inexpensive ways to make the bedroom a sanctuary that is free from these stressful fields. Here are five suggestions:

1. Use battery-powered clocks near the bed. Re­search has shown that exposure to high mag­netic fields during sleep can cause severe long-term illness. Many electric clocks pro­duce high magnetic fields.

2. Turn off circuit breakers affecting the bedroom while you sleep. A restful sleep is necessary for health and a strong immune system. Electric fields affect the biocommunication system, keeping you from sleeping soundly.

3. Use beds without metal. Metal frames and metal box springs can amplify and distort the Earth’s natural magnetic field, leading to a non-restful sleep.

4. Make sure there are no elevated magnetic fields. Magnetic fields from appliances and building wiring can penetrate walls into a bed­room and disrupt the body’s communication system.

5. Eliminate or shield from RF. Radio frequency signalsfrom portable phones, cell phones, and wireless devices have been shown to inter­fere with the body’s immune system. External sources need to be shielded. In today’s world of

ubiquitous cell phone towers and radio com­munications, there are many things you can do when building to block RF that will be bom­barding your home. The first line of defense, of course, to measure the site before purchasing it and reject it if there are unacceptable levels of RF. If RFs cannot be avoided or are antici­pated, the following should be considered:

• Use solid, dense building materials such as stucco, stone, brick, or concrete.

• Use low-emissive (Low-E) dual-pane windows with metal frames or frames painted with RF – reflective paint.

• Use foil or RF-reflective netting under the roof­ing or a grounded metal roof.

If you are not able to make major structural changes to the home, another option is to buy special shielding fabric that can be tented around you while you sleep. A source for this fabric is safe livingtechnologies. com. Beware of the multitude of devices on the market that claim to be effective against RF. The vast majority of these are gimmicks with limited or no measurable effect.

Radio Frequency Radiation

The higher the frequency of the electromagnetic

radiation, the more the electric and magneticfield components meld. The energy level of radio fre­quency (RF) radiation is billions of times stronger than the natural high-frequency energies from the cosmos that existed during our biological de­velopment. Research shows that cataracts, blood composition changes, hormone alterations, and chromosomal abnormalities are induced at high – frequency energies.0 Sources of high RF radiation located outside a home require changing the lo­cation of the bed or shielding with RF-reflective paint and/or material.

Internal RF sources, such as cellular phones, wireless communications, and cordless phones, should not be in or near the bedroom, or at least not while you sleep. Cordless phones based on 2.4 or higher gigahertz technology emits pulsed RF energy 24 hours a day. Choose analog 900 mega­hertz models instead and use them sparingly. It is also important to consider avoiding light dimmer switches and fluorescent lighting of any type, as they can create RF signals that travel on the elec­tric house installation, contaminating the entire living space.

The RF detector (50-3000 megahertz) and RF analyzer (800-3300 megahertz) are used to detect pulsed radio frequency signals, track down their sources, and test the effectiveness of mitigation. Goal: Exposure limits are: pulsed less than 0.1 mi­crowatt per square meter and nonpulsed less than 1 microwatt per square meter.

Static Electric Fields or DC Electric Fields Static electricand static magneticfields (also called DC fields) occur in nature, where they can surprise us with enormous intensities. These fields do not vibrate at any frequency but are static — that is, independent of time and unchanging. Adverse

health effects from static fields can occur when the fields deviate from the natural background even to a small degree. Thus, fora healthy environment, deviations from these natural static fields need to be eliminated. Unfortunately, this condition is of­ten overlooked by indoor environmentalists who are not Bau-Biologists.

Static electricity is produced between electric charges at rest. At the right dose, air electricity is essential for sustaining life, but, when unbalanced, static electric fields can cause subtle health effects that are not as obvious as a shock. These effects re­sult when static electricity generating materials upset the natural air ion balance and concentra­tion. Synthetic carpeting, stuffed animals, uphol­stered furniture, and blended bed sheets are the major sources of static electricity in the bedroom. The cure is easy: use natural materials that can­not become so highly charged and that discharge quickly, such as cotton, hemp, silk, and wool. If replacement is not possible, cover the offending material.

Static Magnetic Fields or DC Magnetic Fields Often while sleeping we are not in sync with the Earth’s natural static magnetic field because of highly magnetic metal mattress springs. A DC gaussmeter or a liquid (oil) filled compass moved slowly across a bed can detect static magnetic field anomalies. A compass is sufficiently accurate for risk assessment of the innerspring mattress. Goal: Size changes under i milligauss (100 micro­teslas) when using a DC gaussmeter, or less than a 10-degree change in direction in 3 inches (7.5 centi­meters) when using a compass.


Building materials such as concrete, glazed tiles, and granite countertops may show radioactivity levels far above the ambient level. Select materi­als with lower radiation. All radiation exposures should be As Low As Reasonably Attainable (the ALARA principle). Even the smallest radiation ex­posure should be avoided. All homes and sites should be tested for radon following the EPA guidelines.

A Geiger counter compares the ionization ef­fect of radioactive radiation to the natural back­ground. To establish the natural background radiation, it is necessary to take several measure­ments at various spots, diligently avoiding poten­tial sources of radioactivity. Goal: Less than a 70 percent increase and ideally less than 50 percent.

Guidelines for Creating a Safe Electroclimate in the Bedroom

The Standard of Building Biology Testing Methods (SBM) was pioneered by Bau-Biologist Wolfgang Maes in cooperation with the Institut fur Baubi – ologie und Okologie Neubeuern (IBN). The place where we spend most of our time should have the lowest electromagnetic readings possible. Based on the precautionary principle, the Building Biol­ogy Guidelines for Sleeping Areas are designed to provide optimal conditions for maintaining long­term health and apply mainly during sleep and regeneration, when humans are most vulnerable to electromagnetic influences. The recommenda­tions are based on input from medical doctors and on decades of testing experience and thousands of sleeping-area surveys.3

A Building Biology survey will measure primar­ily six parameters of the electromagnetic spectrum: alternating current (AC) electricfields, AC magnetic fields, radio frequency radiation (RF), static fields, also known as direct current (DC) electric fields and DC magnetic fields, and radioactivity.

Sleeping Area Survey

AC Electric Fields

The human body is an amazing self-rejuvenating entity that can repair itself while it sleeps. This is accomplished with its own internal electrical sys­tem, which functions with very weak electrical im­pulses. Electrical impulses generated by the brain are used for intercellular communication. This is possible because the body is composed mainly of water with a high mineral content, making it highly electrically conductive.

Vibration tells cells when to divide. Brain cells, nerve cells, and bone cells all vibrate at different rates to communicate with one another. Unfortu­nately, our bodies act as tuning forks. When you
vibrate a tuning fork (an external electrical influ­ence), any other tuning fork in its vicinity (such as the body) will start vibrating at the same rate, or frequency, and cells will be confused about how fast tog row. b

In the typical sleeping area, electrical expo­sure from external sources (live electrical wiring in ceilings, walls, and floors) is thousands of times stronger than the body’s own electrical system. Long-term exposure to these high-level electric fields can impact health by impairing the body’s ability to communicate within itself. You spend about a third of your life sleeping. Doesn’t it make sense to reduce exposure to electric fields in your sleeping area?

To test body voltage, the voltage, or electrical pressure, between a person and a dedicated rod driven into the Earth is measured. Tests are done with electrical appliances on and off, with cir­cuits energized and de-energized, to determine what devices and circuits affect the electric field strength in the sleeping area. Goal: Body voltage should be less than 100 millivolts, and preferably less than 10 millivolts.

Guidelines for Creating a Safe Electroclimate in the Bedroom

Electric field testing measures electric field strength using an electric field meter. The sleeping area is carefully surveyed until all sources are iden­tified. Goal: Electric field strength should be less

than 10 volts per meter and preferably less than i volt per meter.

AC Magnetic Fields

Magnetic fields travel unimpeded through almost any material. Alternating magnetic fields cause eddy currents (the induction effect) in the human body and can lead to abnormal nerve, bone, and muscle stimulation.0^ Therefore, appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, swimming pool pumps, and breaker boxes should be located far from sleeping areas. A survey will help establish safe distances fromTV sets, electric baseboard heating elements, and clock radios. Additional problems of net currents on building wiring and plumbing systems are a reality, especially in urban areas. The resulting elevated magnetic fields need to be carefully traced and eliminated.

A gaussmeter or tesla meter is used to survey the sleeping area for elevated magnetic fields. These meters can be either a single-axis or triax­ial instrument. Goal: Less than 200 nanoteslas (2 milligauss), and preferably less than 20 nanoteslas (o.2milligauss).

Since net current causes magnetic fields, the other main measuring instrument is the amme­ter. Once the identified internal magnetic fields are removed by turning off the power, a clamp – on ammeter is used to measure current on the grounding system, especially the water service supply, TV cables, telephone lines, and even the air conditioning system’s Freon lines. Typical values are less than 150 milliamperes.

Electric Fields and Insomnia

Several years ago, John was asked to investigate the house of a woman who claimed she had not slept well since moving in. Upon inspection of the bedroom, John noted that the electric fields registered over 5,000 millivolts on the meter. He explained that the goal for a healthy house is 20 millivolts or less. (These measurements are rela­tive, and are measured in the body using special equipmentand techniques.)

The elevated electric fields were a result of the electrical wiring in and near the bedroom. The fields were being concentrated in the metallic bed – springs, which acted as an antenna, redirecting the electric field upward toward the client. John explained that the easiest way for an electrician to lower the electric fields in the bed would be to in­stall a remote controlled switch on three of the cir­cuit breakers in the basement that controlled the electrical wiring in and around the bedroom. The client’s husband expressed his skepticism regard­ing the investigation and findings. He doubted that the electric fields could explain his wife’s sleeplessness since he did not experience similar symptoms. He was reluctant to follow John’s rec­ommendations.

John then suggested that the couple try an experiment to ensure that a remote switch would indeed be money well spent. They were instructed to turn off the three breakers in the basement ev­ery night before they went to bed to determine if the woman slept better. John reminded them that since there would be no power in the bedroom they should have a battery operated alarm clock and flashlight available.

A few weeks later, the client contacted John to report that she was sleeping soundly for the first time in years and that both she and her hus­band were elated. She related to John what had transpired after he left their home. When the time came to turn off the breakers on the first night, she could hear her husband grumbling with resent­ment and stomping loudly down the steps to the basement to turn off the breakers. That night she slept so long and soundly that she barely made it to the bathroom in time the following morn­ing. Her husband took note of her improvement and the second night went into the basement to shut off the breakers without saying a word. Again she slept soundly and awoke with the sun, feel­ing refreshed. By the third night she began to feel romantic, a feeling she had not experienced in a long time. By the fourth night her husband was whistling while he took the basement stairs two at a time. At this point the couple was eager to invest in a remote switching device.


Because of standard wiring practices, readings of 1,000 millivolts or higher in a home are typical. Wiring homes for low electric fields is much easier and more cost effective when this consideration is part of the initial building plans. Wiring paths, for example, can be situated to limit the number of circuits involved, and high-field emitters can be placed at a safe distance from the sleeping area. Electric fields in existing homes cannot always be controlled by simply shutting off the breakers. Sometimes expensive shielding is needed. Sensi- tivitytoelectricfieldsvariesfrom personto person. In the case described above, the client developed severe insomnia while her husband experienced no ill effects.

an outlet and a switch in the same unit and can be installed in a typical outlet box. The switch is designed to cut off power to the adjoining outlet and to all outlets downstream from it. When the switch is on, electricity flows through the hot wire and anything plugged into the controlled electrical line will function normally. When the switch is off, the electrical wiring from the switch and beyond is “dead” and no fields will be present in the rest of the circuit downstream from it.

This method of controlling fields may be inconvenient because the switch must be turned off at a distance from the items to be controlled and cannot be reached easily from the bedside. Kill switches can be wired into bedrooms and other chosen areas and placed more conveniently if the wires to the kill switch are run inside grounded metal conduit. When wired in this manner, the switch can be placed so that you can reach it without getting out of bed. The hot wire leading to the kill switch is still energized, but the field from it is shielded by the metal conduit. The room must be wired so that the kill switch is first on the circuit. When the switch is turned off, the fields are blocked and none of the electrical equipment plugged in along that run of wire will operate or produce fields.

Electrical runs from adjoining areas need to be carefully considered so that their fields do not enter areas designated to be free of fields. It is important that smoke detector and refrigerator/freezer circuits are never on a cir­cuit with a kill switch that might turn them off. All equipment that must operate twenty-four hours a day should be specially shielded or po­sitioned far enough away to prevent the fields from penetrating walls into the sleeping area. The electric fields generated by this type of household equipment generally do not extend more than 12 feet from the equipment.

A cut-off or demand switch can be installed as an alternative to a kill switch to eliminate unnecessary AC electric fields from dedicated rest and sleeping areas.

Cut-off or Demand Switches4

Automatic demand switches are readily avail­able in German-speaking countries, and have been introduced into North America. These switches are a convenient solution because they do not require any lifestyle changes. The automatic demand switch cuts off power from selected circuits when there is no need for power consumption. The switch is installed next to the circuit breaker at the electric panel, making use of the existing wiring to control the circuit. When the power is cut off, a 3-volt DC control voltage monitors the circuit to en­sure that it comes back on as soon as a switch is turned on demanding electricity.

For example, a demand switch can be in­stalled for the bedroom circuit in the main panel. The bedside lamp is usually the last thing turned off at night. Once it is switched off, the bedroom circuit will go into sleep mode because the demand switch senses that no current is flowing and therefore cuts off the power. Since no more AC electric fields ema­nate from this particular circuit, no body volt­ages can be induced. (Only the very low DC control voltage is still present.) As soon as the bedside lamp or any other device in this circuit is turned on, the required power (and with it the undesired fields) will reappear.

This type of demand switch works only when a bedroom is serviced by a single electri­cal circuit. Unfortunately, it is common prac­tice in the United States to connect the wall outlets of a given room to a different branch circuit than the ceiling light of the same room. Also the wiring for adjacent rooms with com­mon walls may be on still another energized branch circuit.

The successful operation of an automatic demand switch depends on its proper instal­lation. The selected electric circuit must not supply any electric appliances or electronic devices that draw power on a permanent basis, such as clock radios, video recorders, TV sets with stand-by mode, refrigerators, intercoms, antenna amplifiers, battery chargers, answer­ing machines, and cordless phones. These de­vices need to be either disconnected or, better yet, kept out of the bedroom. If they must re­main, they will need to be connected to other circuits not controlled by any demand switch. If one of these appliances were mistakenly connected to a protected circuit, it would ren­der the demand switch inoperative.

Sources for automatic demand switches in North America are:

• Breathing Easy

• Safe Living Technologies, Inc.

In North America, switch modules are offered by home automation specialists. The modules require either an additional bell wire to trans­mit the control signal, which would be suit­able only for new construction, or a dedicated regular circuit separate from the one you wish to control. There are also automatic wireless modules available, which we do not recom­mend because most of them emit radio fre­quency radiation while there is a load on the line.

Before you consider installing a cut-off or demand switch, you should have a Building Biology survey performed. A professional as­sessment will clarify whether a demand switch is necessary and, if so, on which circuit or cir­cuits it should be installed. Often it is not suffi­cient to cut off power only to the circuit for the bedroom you are concerned about because AC electric fields emanating from wiring of adjoining rooms beside, below, or above the bedroom may affect the room in question. A mistake in the installation of a demand switch may also become the source of elevated AC electric fields caused by the loss of the electric field from the shut-off circuit. Sometimes the elimination of a field has the unintended con­sequence of no longer canceling electric fields from other circuits in the area of concern. For example, if you cut off the power from the bed­room wiring running through the wall behind your head, it is possible that the AC electric fields from the wiring of an adjoining room in the same wall will extend even more intensely into the head area of your bed.

It is important to note that cut-off or de­mand switches might be installed either in the wrong panel or on the wrong circuit. The elec­tric field distribution of all circuits needs to be carefully surveyed by a qualified consultant in order to single out the circuits of concern and select the appropriate number of switch mod­ules. A preventive installation without a pro­fessional survey is never a good idea.

Another caution is that most voltage testers will not detect all electric circuits governed by an automatic demand switch, which operates with a low control voltage. However, if a person touches one of the electrical conductors, the automatic demand switch might be initiated to turn the power back on, with the potential risk of an electric shock. To ensure safe usage, all electric circuits controlled by an automatic demand switch must be clearly labeled in the

Electric Fields

Wiring to Reduce Electric Fields

In Germany, Bau-Biologists have long been concerned about the negative health effects associated with exposure to electric fields. In the United States, mainstream science has given little credence to the notion that electric fields pose a health threat and remains skepti­cal in spite of continuing evidence of biologi­cal effects.

A 1996 study by the Ontario Hydroelectric Company indicated a greater than sevenfold increase in cancers among long-term work­ers exposed simultaneously to magnetic and high electric fields.2 The study suggests that the presence of electric fields potentiates the health impact of magnetic fields. Additional data published in 2000 support the role of electric field exposure in leukemia.3 These findings may shed light on why various stud­ies of the impact of magnetic fields alone on humans have been inconclusive.

A proportion of the population appears to suffer from hypersensitivity to electric fields. These individuals may react to exposure with immediate neurological symptoms such as insomnia, depression, and anxiety. One fre­quently reported symptom is that of feeling physically exhausted but too jittery to sleep, or “wired and tired.”

Wiring for reduced electric fields is not required by the electrical code and can be costly. Electric fields generated by wiring can be shielded in metal conduit. This practice is standard in commercial construction but rarely found in residential construction. Even if metal conduit is used, electric fields will still be emitted from appliances or fixtures once they are plugged in unless they have been spe­cially wired or renovated. For people with hy­persensitivity to electric fields, special wiring techniques similar to those used to block elec­trical interference in hospitals and sound stu­dios may be a necessary expense. Techniques for this type of specialty wiring are beyond the scope of this book and will require consulta­tion with an expert.

Wiring for Household Electric Field Reduction

The following instructions may be specified to reduce electric fields generated by household wiring:

• All household wiring shall be placed in MX, MC, or rigid metal conduit.

• All electrical boxes and bushings shall be metal in order to provide shielding of electrical fields throughout the entire run to the panel.

• Avoid running wire behind or under bed placement locations.

Wiring for Electric Field Reduction in the Bedroom with a Kill Switch

A less expensive approach is to reduce electric fields exclusively in the bedroom by employ­ing a kill switch, which cuts the power to an individual circuit. You can turn off the power to the bedroom just before you retire at night, creating a field-free sanctuary. Because the presence of high electric fields is most com­monly associated with sleep disturbances, we believe that such a device is an important fea­ture in electric field reduction for the healthy bedroom.

Kill switches are most effectively used when wire runs are planned in advance. In brief, certain wiring, such as the wires leading


Подпись:Electric Fieldsoonduih

J -^hoWn

Electric Fields

Electric Fields

Подпись: ^ConWoWed by ^Wifcb |/ ontiate £#nfrfrM .by ^wifcbI

Kill Switch:The kill switch is used to eliminate electric and magnetic fields from plugged in appliances. When the kill switch is off the appliance is off and the fields are eliminated.

to smoke detectors or refrigerators, should not be included with bedroom runs. Typi­cal electrical switches used for freestanding lamps and other electrical appliances turn that equipment off by cutting the power to the hot (black) wire of the equipment. This does not cut off the electrical field as long as the equip­ment is still plugged in. The entire run of wire up to the switch ends up radiating electric fields even when the switch is off. A kill switch is designed to cut off the fields in any given run of wiring. Using a kill switch is especially appropriate for bedrooms, where power isn’t
usually desired or necessary while the occu­pants are asleep.

The least expensive way to accomplish this is to install a double-pole switch in a conve­nient location along the run of electrical wire well before it enters the area of the home to be controlled. Heavy-duty switches have an increased amperage limit rating and can per­form this task as long as the amperage on the circuit beyond the switch does not exceed the amperage limit rating of the switch. Combina­tion electrical outlet and double-pole heavy – duty switch units are available. These contain