Category A Healthy. House

Window Testing

Water infiltration caused by faulty windows or installation procedure is a common source of building failure leading to mold infestation and water damage. Because water infiltrating through window assemblies will often leak directly into the wall cavity, a problem can go undetected for a long time and once it is dis­covered the damage is often extensive.

Such problems can be avoided if the proper testing protocol is carried out at the time of in­stallation. Some windows are designed with drainage channels and weep holes that allow water to drain to the outside of the building and not into the wall. One way to test the ef­fectiveness of a windows drainage capacity is to temporarily block the weep holes with putty and then fill the drainage channel with water. If the window is properly manufactured and installed, the water should not drain out of the drainage channel when the weep holes are plugged. This test should be performed on each window for a minimum of 15 minutes. Be sure to remove the putty from the weep holes when the test is complete.

Moisture Meters

There are two general types of moisture me­ters. The first uses sharp pin probes that are pushed into the material to be tested. The pin probe meter detects moisture by electri­cal conductivity, since wet materials conduct greater amounts of electricity than dry materi­als. This meter leaves pinholes in the materials being tested. The second type of meter sends an electronic signal into the material. The de­gree of moisture determines how the meter will register the returning signal.

Both types of moisture meters are bat­tery operated and can be used repeatedly. The meters range in cost from about $200 to over $1,000 and can require some technical expe­rience. For example, damp wood is measured with a different setting and scale than damp concrete or brick. Companies that specialize in fire and flood damage restoration are likely to have this equipment and be experienced in its use. If you decide to purchase or borrow a moisture meter, plan on spending some time becoming familiar with it and thoroughly reading the owner s manual and instructions. Keep in mind that hidden metals or salt de­posits may falsely indicate that materials are wet when in fact they are dry.

Testing for Weathertightness

All homes are supposed to be weathertight but many are not. One simple method for testing is to literally water the house. You can specify that the exterior of the house shall be weathertight before any interior construction begins. Once the exterior is complete and the doors and windows are installed and caulked, spray the house with a hose so that every part of the house gets soaked for at least 15 min­utes. Then inspect all areas inside the house for leaks. A moisture meter will be useful for this task.

This test should be performed only prior to the installation of interior sheathing or insula­tion so that leaks can be easily detected, dried out, and remedied. The test will be much more effective if a negative pressure can be created in the house while the test is being performed, as this will more accurately simulate pressure conditions that exist during a storm. A blower door is an excellent way to create a known negative pressure for this test. (See the section on blower doors below.)

Moisture Testing

Ensuring that materials are dry is essential in healthy building. Building materials can be ruined by moisture damage. The follow­ing four building practices can cause warp­ing, deterioration of materials, and microbial growth:

1. Application of finish flooring materials over insufficiently cured concrete slabs

2. Failure to quickly and thoroughly dry out precipitation that enters an unfinished structure

3. Installation of wood members with a mois­ture content greater than 17 percent

4. Enclosure of walls containing wet-applied insulation systems, such as cellulose or spray foams, before they are properly cured

It is not always possible to detect by visual in­spection whether a material is wet. A variety of test procedures have been developed to as­sist in determining if a material is dry.

Culture Collection

Special moist, sterile swabs called culturettes are good for this type of sampling. The cul – turette is presterilized and comes with a fluid- filled glass ampoule to provide just the right amount of moisture. The ampoule and swab are housed in a sterile plastic tube. About one minute before collecting the sample, squeeze the area of the tube over the ampoule to break the ampoule and release the fluid, which then soaks the cotton swab. Slide the moistened swab from its sterile tube and use it to wipe one square inch of the area to be tested. Then in­sert the swab back into the sterile plastic tube for shipment to the lab. Since this method uses liquid, the fungal spores will be hydrated and begin to colonize. It is important to ship the specimen to the lab via overnight delivery ser­vice or the test may be invalid.

Vacuum Dust Collection A filter designed to fit on a domestic vacuum cleaner is used. Since the filter’s pores are smaller than mold spores, any mold spores present are collected. The filter canister is then shipped to a laboratory for analysis.

Other Mold Test Methods The practice of testing for molds by letting spores settle on an open culture dish is now discouraged by knowledgeable specialists. Since certain harmful molds such as Aspergil­lus and Penicillium are very light and have a tendency not to settle on culture dishes, they are underrepresented in the analysis. Other methods of testing for airborne fungal spores and contaminated materials are available but require a trained technician with sophisti­cated equipment.

Radioactivity Testing

Although radioactivity in building materials is rare, John Bantas home inspections have revealed radioactive stone and tile glazes. Highly radioactive materials can be tested simply by holding a radiation detector next to the material.

For lower levels ofradiation, measurements of longer duration should be performed. Place at least one pound of the material in ques­tion in a glass container with an instrument for measuring radioactivity. A useful instru­ment designed for this purpose is Radalert loo, whose small size allows it to fit easily in­side a one-gallon glass pickle jar along with the material to be tested. Set the meter for to­tal counts and leave it to measure for a timed period of 12 to 24 hours. As a control, the test must also be performed in the same way, in the same location, but with the jar empty. Re­peat both tests several times to be sure a radia­tion-emitting solar flare or short-term cosmic event did not interfere with the results. To ob­tain an average count per minute, divide the total number of counts recorded for each test by the total number of minutes the test ran. A substance that measures less than 10 percent higher than the control test is considered to be free of radiation. Readings more than 20 per­cent higher than the control test are consid­ered to be significant.

Bau-Biology Standard SBM 2008: A Unique Indoor Environmental Assessment Tool

The professional Bau-Biology Standard SBM 2008 provides a uniqueand comprehensiveassessment and evaluation system consisting of over30 indoor environmental parameters. The Standard uses an unorthodox approach because it is not based on single threshold limit values derived from medical dose responses. Instead, the Standard uses a gra­dient scale with four different levels based on the concentration levels normally encountered in na­
ture or non-problem buildings. The evaluation cri­teria are determined by the deviations from this normal state and are expressed as categories of change. The categories are: normal environment, slight change, significant change, and severe change. The table below defines the four catego­ries used in the Standard and provides an example for carbon dioxide (C02) levels.

Normal Environment

Slight Change

Significant Change

Severe Change

Reflects normal envi­ronmental conditions or common and inevitable background levels in our civilized environment

Slightly higher levels; fol­lowing the precautionary principle, long-term miti­gation is recommended, especially with sensitive or ill individuals

Likely to present an elevated risk; short-term mitigation is recom­mended

Call for immediate action and mitigation; in many cases interna­tional guidelines for occupational exposure limits may be reached or exceeded

C02 <500 ppm

C02 500-700 ppm

C02 700-1000 ppm

C02 >1000 ppm

The Bau-Biology Standard is based on the pre­cautionary principle. It is derived from studies based on long-term exposure during the human regeneration phase (while sleeping) and was es­tablished over decades of experience. The refer­ence values are designed for sleeping areas, not for commercial or industrial workplaces. All other standards in North America are based on the work­place and do not directly address health at home. The Bau-Biology Standard itself is divided into two sections: Evaluation Guidelines and StandardTest­ing Methodology. These are further differentiated into three groups of environmental parameters:

• Group A. Indoor Air Climate and Environmen­tal Toxins


• Group B. Fungi, Bacteria, and Allergens

• Group C. Physical Fields and Radiation

A comprehensive assessment of potential biologi­cal environmental risk factors and their reduction to achievable levels are the basis of the Standard.

The Institute for Bau-Biology and Ecology (IBN) was founded in 1976 by Anton Schneider of Ger­many. The German word "Bau" means building, habitat, or shelter. "Biology" refers to the study of living things. The institute studies and addresses the impact buildings have on human health and promotes healthy, environmentally and ecologi­cally friendly construction techniques.

The Standard was developed between 1987 and 1992 by the consulting firm of Baubiologie

Maes in conjunction with the IBN, environmental consultants, physicians, and scientists. The docu­ment was initially published in the German jour­nal Wohnung und Gesundheit (Living Spaces and Health) in 1992. A ten-member Standard Commit­tee reviews and revises the document periodically. The latest update was in 2003. In the meantime, the Standard has been internationally accepted as a comprehensive tool for independent indoor environmental assessments in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand and is available in the United States through the International Institute for Bau – Biologie & Ecology in Clearwater, Florida.

The three groups of environmental param­eters and categories of change are outlined in a condensed version in the following tables. The Baubiology Evaluation Guidelines are proposed for sleeping areas and are not directly related to work areas.

Group A: Indoor Air Climate and Environmental Toxins





Slight change



Severe change


Carbon dioxide concentration in air (ppm)






Relative humidity (%)


<40 / >60




Formaldehyde concentration in air (ppm)






Total volatile organic compounds in air (pg/m3)






Total pesticides concentration in air (ng/m3)






PCP, lindane, permethrin in wood (mg/kg)






Dichlofluanid, chlorpyrifos in dust (mg/kg)






PCBs, chlorinated fire retardants in dust (mg/kg)






Polyaromatic hydrocarbons in dust (mg/kg)






Plasticizer in dust (mg/kg)






Small air ions (per cm3)






Electrostatic charge in air (V/m)





Group В: Fungi, Bacteria, and Allergens


Mold counts (spore counts or colony forming units)

1. Mold counts should be less or similar when compared to sur­rounding outdoor environments or non-problem buildings.

II. Mold types in the indoor air should be similar to those present in the outside air.

III. Particular toxic species such as Aspergillus or Stachybotrys, yeast-like fungi such as Candida or Cryptococcus, and coliform bacteria should be present only in low concentration levels.

IV. Any suspected microbial colonization (water damage, odors, material deterioration, high RH, or building history) should be investigated.

Group C: Physical Fields and Radiation












AC electric fields in air (V/m)


1 -5




AC electric fields on body (mV)






AC magnetic fields, flux density (mG)






Microwaves in power density (uW/m2)






DC electrostatic charge, surface (V)






DC electrostatic charge, discharge time (s)






DC magnetic fields, deviation (ЦТ)






DC Magnetic fields, deviation (degree)






Ionizing radiation (increase in %)






Radon gas in air (Bq/m3)






Terrestrial radiation, deviation (nT)






Terrestrial radiation, deviation (%)





The Standard Testing Methodology for these environmental parameters was developed in con­junction with the Evaluation Guidelines to provide consistent and repeatable measurement results. Bau-Biology building investigations and assess­ments are unique because they examine a large number of environmental factors and look to na­ture, our planet Earth, for guiding principles.

The Standard makes a quantum leap by ab­andoning the traditional dose response-based threshold and action levels. It provides informa­tion on normally encountered background levels and establishes gradients that enable the envi­ronmental consultant to put measurement values into a real-life, proactive perspective.

Most indoor environmental testing in the United States focuses on a very few factors such as mold, asbestos, formaldehyde, and lead. Rarely does it address the electromagnetic spectrum, which has changed so significantly over the last decades. The knowledge of how to test, assess, evaluate, and heal our habitats and structures em­powers us to improve our health, safety, and well­being in a lasting way.

For a copy of the actual standards or more in­formation on testing, assessment, and Bau-Biology concepts, contact the author or the institutes and associations listed below:

• Peter Sierck, President, Environmental Testing &Technology, Inc., 5431 Avenida Encinas, Suite F, Carlsbad, CA 92008,760-804-9400, PSierck@ ETandT. com, Baubiology. com

• I nstitut fur Baubiologie&Okologie Neubeuern IBN, baubiologie. de

• International Institute for Bau-Biologie & Ecol­ogy (IBE), Clearwater, Florida, buildingbiology. net

* Berufsverbad Deutscher Baubiologen (VDB), baubiologie. net

• Verband Baubiologie, verband-baubiologie. de

Peter Sierck, CMC, CMRS, REA, BBEI, founder of En – vironmentalTesting andTechnology, Inc. (ET&T) in 1986, pioneered indoor air quality testing meth­ods and procedures for residential and commer­cial buildings. Peter is a naturopathic physician, industrial hygienist, and Bau-Biologist. He has surveyed and helped remediate over 3,000 build­ings and is a member of the Bau-Biology Standard Committee.

or glass slide and ship it to the laboratory. The lab technicians will stain the tape sample to make the fungal growth easier to view and then examine it under a microscope.

Asthma from a Chlorinated Swimming Pool

When B. W. was a five-year-old boy he came with his parents to consult with Dr. Elliott about his asthma. The most recent flare-up had occurred during a school field trip to the local swim­ming pool. Upon further questioning, a pattern emerged revealing a relationship between water and the triggering of the child’s asthma. Dr. Elliott suspected that the chlorine in the water was act­ing as an irritant to his airways. She suggested that thefamily swim in a public pool that had switched to ozone for water purification. In that particular pool, chlorine was used as a supplement, but only in very small quantities. They were happy to note that their son could now swim comfortably with his friends without difficulty breathing. The family went on to purchase filters for their showerheads that effectively removed chlorine from their show­ers. They also removed all chlorinated cleaning products from their home. Now that there was

• adequate mechanical ventilation and de­humidification

• a watertight enclosure around the pool area that retards vapor diffusion to prevent water damage to the surrounding struc­ture

• surface finishes that are impervious to water and easily cleaned

• a rigorous maintenance program to re­move condensation and mold growth as soon as they appear

Because of the intensive upkeep required to maintain a pool or spa so that it does not neg­atively impact indoor air quality, we do not readily recommend including an enclosed body of water inside a healthy home. How – one less triggering agent for the asthma, Dr. Elliott could more effectively focus on strengthening the boy’s lungs.


Chlorine is a poison used to kill bacteria in water. It is absorbed through the skin, inhaled into the lungs, and ingested. At room temperature, chlo­rine is a gas with a pungent smell. It is very reac­tive, combining readily with most elements to form compounds, many of which, such as chloro­form, trihalomethanes, and organochiorines, are known to be carcinogenic. Symptoms commonly resulting from swimming in chlorinated water in­clude runny nose, red eyes, cough, asthma, joint pains, swelling, nausea, urinary discomfort, rashes, and hives. We suggest that you use a less toxic dis­infectant for your pool.

ever, if an indoor pool is planned for the home, consider taking advantage of the large body of heated water as part of the design for a com­prehensive climate control strategy. The water can act as a reservoir for solar heat storage and humidification.

Environmental Testing

It may be desirable to conduct diverse quality control tests or product analysis while select­ing materials and throughout the construc­tion process. This testing can help ensure that materials and installations are as specified. Planning in advance for many of these tests is recommended. Waiting until the last minute will result in costly construction delays since many of these procedures will require that you order test kits, hire specialists, or wait for labo­ratory results.

Materials Testing

In choosing healthy materials, you and your architect will base decisions on information supplied by the manufacturer, such as prod­uct literature and an MSDS, as well as on the appearance and smell of the products. While certain hazardous substances, such as lead, asbestos, mercury, and polychlorinated bi­phenyls (PCBs), are no longer a concern for products manufactured in North America, precautions may be required if you are using recycled or imported materials. Available tests are included in Chart 13.1. Materials tests you may want to consider are discussed below.

pH Testing for Concrete Slabs

Concrete must be properly cured to ensure its strength and durability. Improperly cured concrete may exhibit a strongly alkaline pH, which can cause adverse chemical reactions when certain adhesives and flooring materi­als come into contact with the concrete. The pH of cured concrete must be under 9 to be considered acceptable. A pH test is performed by dampening an area of concrete with dis­tilled or deionized water. The dampened area is then tested with pH paper or with a special pH test pencil available from the Sinak Cor­poration. The color change that the paper or pencil mark indicates is the pH level.

Formaldehyde Testing

Although many manufacturers are now us­ing less formaldehyde than they once were, it is still a common additive in many products. The cumulative effect of several products con­taining only moderate amounts of formalde­hyde can cause severe health consequences. Our approach is to avoid this chemical when­ever formaldehyde-free substitutes can be lo­cated.

A simple do-it-yourself spot test can be used to ensure that products containing form­aldehyde are not used. A drop of test solution is placed on the material in question and al­lowed to stand for two minutes. If the drop changes from clear to purple, formaldehyde or other harmful aldehydes are present. The shade of purple can range from a faint pink to a dark plum, depending on the concentration of aldehydes. The test must be read at exactly two minutes because the drop will eventually turn purple even if no aldehydes are present. The solution leaves a purple stain on porous materials and should be used in a place where will not be visible.

Surface Sampling for Fungus

Materials damaged by mold growth should be rejected, but not all stains are from mold. Lab­oratory analysis will probably be required to determine if mold is a problem, but there are several do-it-yourself methods for collecting mold samples.

Bulk Sampling

Collect a small amount of the material in ques­tion in a doubled plastic bag and send it to the laboratory. A teaspoonful of the suspected material is probably enough.

Tape Sampling

Press a piece of clear cellophane tape onto the surface to be tested. The best place for sampling is at the edge between the stained area and the dean area. Then stick the tape to a plastic bag


Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs

If you wish to include a swimming pool or hot tub inside your home, the two major health concerns to consider are water sterilization and humidity-related mold infestation. Пае standard disinfectants used to kill microbes and algae in swimming pools are chlorine or other halogenated compounds, which are easily absorbed through the swimmer s skin as well as inhaled into the lungs. Піеге are sev­eral alternatives to chlorination. Ozonation is a popular method used in Europe for steriliz­ing water. Other methods include electrolysis, ultraviolet light, and filtration through char­coal and pesticide-free diatomaceous earth. Pools using these alternate methods need to be frequently monitored for the presence of bacteria. Occasionally a small amount of harsher chemicals may be required.

Nonchlorine-based systems for pool dis­infection include:

• AquaRite Saline Generator: Uses com­

mon salt and converts it to free chlorine with none of the side effects of standard chlorination

• ClearWater Tech, Inc.: Ozone generator system for pool disinfection

• DEL Industries: Water ozonation for pools, wells, and spas

• Real Goods: Source of the Floatron, a solar-powered pool purifier combining solar electric power with mineral ioniza­tion and reducing chlorine usage up to 80 percent

Enclosing a large body of heated water within a living space will create a humid micro­climate, which is an invitation to mold growth and can result in damage from condensation. Design measures can prevent mold growth and condensation damage. The following fea­tures should be integrated into the design:

• fitted covers that remain in place to pre­vent evaporation when the pool or hot tub is unoccupied


A Checklist for Choosing a Healthy Mattress

Our homes are places for rest, retreat, and regen­eration. If designed, built, and furnished simply and intelligently, they can help us restore our bal­ance and our connection with nature. For most of us, however, creating a healthy home environment is unfamiliar — and sometimes overwhelming — territory and it is hard to know where to begin. Even if you can’t make every detail in your home healthy, besure your bedroom is as healthyas pos­sible. It’s the most important room in the house. And the most important piece of furniture in the house is your bed, where you spend a third of your life. We are most vulnerable when we sleep. Our bodies let down, shed metabolic waste, and re­group. A healthy, natural, and well-designed mat­tress can provide the right conditions for all the important processes of the body’s natural elec­trical system, internal organs, and subconscious mind to work smoothly and without interference.

Our entire body is in close, direct contact with the materials we sleep in and on. And for eight hours a night we literally inhale, at very close range, whatever is in those materials. Most ordi­nary mattresses are made almost entirely of raw ingredients from the petroleum industry that are made into synthetic components such as visco­elastic and polyurethane foams, including Dacron, whose formulations may contain TDI (toluene dis – carnate, which OSHA labels as a hazardous ma­terial) and other toxic chemicals. To meet federal flammability regulations, they may also contain synthetic chemical fire retardants called organo – phosphates. Mattresses containing natural mate­rials, such as conventional cotton and wool, may also contain pesticide residues. The older a mat­tress gets, the more toxic it becomes if it contains
organophosphate flame-retardants and/or pes­ticide residues because, as the breakdown pro­gresses with age, the rate of release of those toxins increases. They are released as chemical mole­cules that never completely outgas and that bind to house dust, which is then inhaled or ingested. Even mattresses marketed as "natural" may still contain toxic ingredients. Mattress layers can also be held together with glues and their fabrics may be treated with chemicals and harsh dyes. These materials are then wrapped in a quilted surface layer of synthetic fabric stuffed with polyester. These ordinary mattresses trap moisture, dirt, and dust, creating a dust-mite haven that can exacer­bate allergies.

But there’s good news. Thanks to a fast-grow­ing sustainable lifestyle industry, you can now choose beautiful bedding, linens and textiles made from organic natural materials, and com­fortable mattresses that are healthy for the back and for those who suffer from allergies. Here is a checklist of things to consider when buying your new bed.

First, narrow your search by limiting your choices to mattresses made only of high-quality natural components such as pesticide/chemical – free or organic wool, organic cotton, and natural latex, which comes from the rubber tree. Let’s look at each of these components in more depth.

Mattresses and bed systems made with high – quality certified organic wool or locally produced pesticide – and chemical-free wool batting are my preference because both are healthy and highly fire retardant. Since mattresses made without chemical fire retardants still have to pass federally mandated burn tests, you can be sure your fam-

ІІу is safe. Furthermore, wool cushions the joints and muscles, wicks and dries moisture away from the body, and is naturally dust mite resistant, so you don’t need synthetic barrier covers. Since the average body loses about a pint of moisture va­por into the bed every night, it’s important that the battings used in beds and bedding efficiently and effectively wick and dry to eliminate condi­tions favorable for mold and dust mites. Wool is also a temperature and humidity regulator, which means you’ll sleep not only drier but also warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, even in very humid climates. Except for rare individuals with severe wool allergies, even most people who can’t wear wool clothing have no reaction to wool inside a mattress because it is chemical-free and encased underthe mattress ticking.

Some plusher organic mattresses also con­tain organic cotton batting placed underthe wool layer to keep out dust mites. Organic cotton bat­ting is a much healthier choice for you and the environment than conventional cotton batting because standard cotton is farmed with high lev­els of pesticides and herbicides. Not only is stan­dard cotton a toxic burden for the earth and for farm workers but pesticides residues also can re­main in the cotton batting throughout the manu­facturing process. Even if these residue levels are low, you don’t want to spend eight hours a night with your face next to them.

Natural fabrics such as organic cotton sheet­ing and ticking are free of the chemicals used in conventional fabric manufacturing. Organic fab­rics that are undyed, or dyed with natural and low – impact pigments, are free of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that outgas in low levels from conventional fabric finishing, synthetic dyes, and permanent fabric treatments. Natural fabric cov­erings also eliminate a subtle type of electromag­netic field called electrostatic charge. The result is a more healing bed, with natural surfaces that because of the absence of static don’t attract as much dust as synthetic ones.

Natural latex is a comfortable and contour­ing alternative to synthetic memory foams and mattresses imbedded with metal coils. Natural latex mattresses avoid the chemical stew found in typical foam mattresses and need no coils, or innersprings, that might sag or protrude and can prematurely age your mattress. High-quality nat­ural, sustainably produced latex does not sag over time, does not need metal springs to keep its shape, and can offer continuous support for as much as 20 years or longer, depending on the quality of the latex and an individual’s changing support and comfort needs. Make sure that the mattress manufacturer uses only 100 percent nat­ural latex and no synthetic rubber blends.

Second, when choosing your mattress it is im­portant to note that mattresses with metal coifs may pose other challenges for your body. Metal bedsprings (as well as metal bed frames) can act as antennas for human-made frequencies, especially those from FM radio, providing subtle, long-term exposures to a variety of low levels of electromag­netic fields (EMFs). Metal also becomes magne­tized, which may interfere with our bodies’ natural orientation to magnetic north.

Finally, pay special attention to the facility where the bed is made. To avoid cross-contami­nation from other types of materials, your organic bed should be made in a facility that produces

• Coyuchi: Organic cotton bedding

• Eco-terric: Green and healthy furnishings, beds and bedding, and accessories for the home

• Gaiam: Organic bedding and home acces­sories

• Heart of Vermont: Organic futons, mat­tresses, and bedding

• Janice’s: Natural and organic bedding

• Mary Cordaro Collection: Natural,

healthy beds and bedding

• Natural Home: Natural beds and bedding

• Nirvana Safe Haven: Organic and natural beds, bedding, futons, and home accesso­ries for the health-minded and chemically sensitive



only organic beds and bedding, or at the very least isolates its organic facilities from areas where synthetics may be used and does not run any synthetic or conventional fiber or fabric through machines used for organic materials.

Ask if the factory does its own sewing, quilting, and garneting. (Garneting is a mechanical pro­cess whereby short fibers are combed into a spe­cific orientation and formed into thin webs, which are then layered to create the batting used in a mattress.) If the manufacturer tends to outsource these and other steps in the manufacturing pro­cess, the chances greatly increase that your "or­ganic mattress" has been cross-contaminated by synthetic materials in manufacturing plants that make both conventional and organic products.

Find out if the raw materials such as the cot­ton or wool used in your mattress are domestically produced. Transporting them from other coun­tries in containers may add to the cost and will certainly increase the chance that the materials have been exposed to contamination from pesti­cide sprays and other synthetic materials. Long­distance transportation also greatly increases the product’s environmental footprint.

Ask the manufacturer if its mattresses have passed the federal open flame test, certified by a third party, without the use of synthetic materials. Although wool is a very important component, it is not the only ingredient necessary for a mattress
to meet federal flammability regulations. Natural wool, in the right weight and properly garneted, along with correct construction of organic and natural materials, will be an effective fire retardant provided there are no synthetic materials in the mattress.

If the mattress and bedding products are cer­tified with an environmental label, make sure to inquire what that label actually certifies. Check that the certification process includes testing not only for VOCs but also SVOCs, or semi-volatile or­ganic compounds, including pesticides, flame re­tardants, biocides (chemicals that kill bacteria and mold), and plasticizers.

There are many beds on the market today that claim to be made of natural materials and to offer significant health benefits. Because your health and the health of your family are so important, and because you have so many natural beds to choose from, be sure to do your homework and take this checklist with you when you shop for the right mattress.

Mary Cordaro is a certified Building Biology Practi­tioner. She is president and founder of НзЕпуігоп – mental, a healthy bedroom products company, and has been consulting/educating on the healthy home since 1989. Mary is the creator of The Mary Cordaro Collection, a luxury line of healthy, organic beds and bedding. See h3envir0nmentai. com.

Подпись: This bedroom, found in Arizona, provides its owner with an abundance of fresh air! Photo: Robert Laporte.

Sachi Organics: Manufacturers of organic cotton beds and futons and retailers of or­ganic bedding and linens

• Shepherd’s Dream: Custom-made wool mattresses, solid wood bed frames, and or­ganic linens

• Sleeptek Oasis Collection: Custom-made organic mattresses and bedding sets

Further Reading

Leclair, Kim and David Rousseau. Environmental by Design. Hartley and Marks, 1993. Overview of larger environmental concerns related to furni­ture manufacturing

The Bedroom as Sanctuary

When J. D. was 51 years old he consulted Dr. Elliott complaining of insomnia, asthma, and fatigue. It became clear from an exhaustive environmental history that J. D.’s symptoms began during the time he lived downwind from a location where aerial spraying was carried out seasonally for pest control. The repeated pesticide exposures appar­ently had left the patient feeling debilitated, with­out his usual zest for life, and with multiple medical problems, including allergies and sensitivities to a wide range of substances.

As part of his treatment program, J. D. was ad­vised to reduce his exposure to toxins in his home. Since he was on a limited budget owing to his decreased earning capacity, he concentrated his cleanup efforts primarily on the bedroom, intend­ing to focus on the rest of the house later. Given the time he spent in bed, J. D. realized that his bed should be the healthiest place in the house. He had recently purchased a mattress made of artificial foam. The synthetic fibers were emitting formaldehyde fumes as the mattress aged, prob­ably contributing to the tight feeling in his chest upon waking. Fortunately, J. D. was able to sell his boxspring mattress and purchase an organic cotton futon, which he placed in an untreated wooden frame. His formaldehyde impregnated, wrinkle-free sheets and polyester bedding were exchanged for 100 percent organic cotton pillows, sheets, and blankets. Because of his concern about possible dust mites in the mattress, he used an or­ganic cotton barrier cloth, woven so tightly that it was impenetrable to these insects. He laundered his bedding frequently in unscented, nonchlori­nated detergent.

After J. D. recovered financially from replac­ing his bedding, his next project was to pull up the old carpet in the bedroom. Although the carpet was several years old and no longer outgassed toxicfumes, it was still a reservoir for dust, dirt, and microorganisms in spite of frequent vacuuming. J. D. wanted a floor that was attractive, health en­hancing, and easy to clean. He chose to install pre­sealed cork flooring because it resembled wood yet felt soft to the bare foot. On the floor he placed two untreated wool scatter rugs that could be eas­ily taken up and cleaned.

The heating system in J. D.’s house is forced

good support and absorbency in a chemical – free environment. Untreated wool will repel dust mites, mold, and mildew. The mattress base should be a European-style wood-slat foundation, which allows the natural mattress to breathe and gives the same height and look as a conventional box spring. People with sen­sitivities to natural latex would need to test a mattress with latex before making a costly pur­chase as most mattresses are nonreturnable.

Permanent-press bedding is treated with formaldehyde that remains in the fabric after washing. Wool blankets may be mothproofed with harmful chemicals. Even pure cottons, unless organically grown, are heavily sprayed with pesticides. Healthy choices for bed sheets include organic natural fibers in cotton, cot­ton flannel, silk, hemp, or linen. Blankets, du­vets, and comforters are available in organic down, silk, wool, or cotton.

air. The ductwork had been cleaned on a regu­lar basis and electrostatic air filters were used on the return air ducts. Nevertheless, J. D. decided to close off the vents to his bedroom and use an elec­tric ceramic heater. In addition, for the bedroom he bought a portable air filter that contained a HEPA filter for dust, mold spores, and pollen and a charcoal filter for fumes. The electric motor in the air filter was sealed to avoid toxic emissions and the unit itself was housed in a metal box.

J. D. did not know whether he was sensitive to electromagnetic fields. Since there would be little time or expense involved, he decided to take the necessary measures to reduce EMFs. He discarded his electric blanket, replaced his digital alarm dock with a battery operated one, moved his telephone into an adjacent room, and plugged in his televi­sion at the other side of the bedroom so that the screen was more than eight feet from his head.

The curtains on the windows were replaced with naturally finished wooden louvers, which were handsome and easy to clean. The room was cleaned once a week with a simple solution of vin­egar and water. He was careful not to introduce toxic odors such as air fresheners, fabric softeners, colognes, and other artificially scented household products. When he occasionally needed to dry- clean his clothes, he left them on the back porch for a few days to air out the toxic chemicals found in dry-cleaning fluid. He was careful to remove his shoes before entering his sanctuary.

J. D.’s efforts paid off. He noted a definite improvement in his overall health. He was now able to get a full night of uninterrupted sleep and awake feeling refreshed, without the tight sensa­tion in his chest. His energy increased and he was able to think more clearly. J. D. gradually regained his enthusiasm for life and has become a great pro­ponent of the benefits of bedroom sanctuaries.


We spend an average of eight hours a day in our bedrooms. Sleep is an important time for rest and recovery for all of us, whether we are sick or in the best of health. Designing our bedrooms with spe­cial care can create a healing environment where our bodies can mend from the daily barrage of ex­posures we all experience to varying degrees.

There is some confusion about the vari­ous terms used to describe cotton products. According to the Pesticide Action Network, conventionally grown cotton accounts for nearly 25 percent of the worlds insecticide use. Organic cotton is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers and with farming practices that increase soil fertility. Natural or green cotton products use con­ventionally grown cotton but are free of harsh chemical bleaches, dyes, and sizing elements such as formaldehyde. “100% cotton” indi­cates that no other fibers have been used in the fabric but does not mean that the fabric is or­ganic or naturally processed.

Sources for organic beds and bedding in­clude:

• Casa Natura: Consultant and retail source for natural and organic beds, bedding, and linens

Shower Curtains and Liners

New PVC liners and shower curtains have a strong odor from outgassing toxins. Many shower curtains are treated with harmful chemicals to create mildew resistance. Cotton duck cloth shower curtains are naturally water repellent, wrinkle resistant, and attractive but they take a long time to dry and must be treated to resist mildew growth. They can be machine washed and dried. They are available through several mail order companies includ­ing Gaiam and Heart of Vermont. Natural hemp curtains are now available through Real Goods. A glass shower enclosure, although more expensive to install, will be a permanent, low-maintenance, and healthy solution.

Beds and Bedding

The most important furniture decision with regard to health is the choice of beds and bed­ding. We spend approximately a third of our lives in bed. Infants and children spend even more time there. While we sleep, our noses are in close contact with our bedding.

Standard mattresses are made of synthetic fabrics and padding and treated with petro­chemical fire retardants. A bed that promotes health should have many of the same charac­teristics as a home that promotes health. The bed should be:

• nontoxic

design and green and healthy practices. This was a natural progression for Cisco Brothers, a company that has always been socially responsible, provid­ing employment through apprenticeship pro­grams to underdeveloped communities in South Los Angeles since the early 1990s.

Simultaneously, I set about trying to find suit­able fabrics produced without the chemicals used in standard agriculture. Cotton is the world’s most importantfibercropand one of its most important cash crops. It is also one of the most intensively sprayed field crops. In the United States, accord­ing to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 53 million pounds of pesticides and 1.6 bil­lion pounds of synthetic fertilizers were applied to cotton fields in 1996. In California, cotton pro­duction ranks second for the total amount of pes­ticides used.

Organic farmers practice soil building with cover crops and composting, crop rotation, and safe and effective pest and disease control. Weed management means hoeing by hand, and instead of using defoliants organic farmers rely on a hard freeze to defoliate the cotton.

Eco-terric’s exclusive collection of organic Ka – lamkari fabrics comes from a small fair-trade vil­lage operation in the southwest of India. This is an ongoing endeavor in conjunction with the ar­tisans, and features organic cotton dyed with 100 percent natural dyes. All solids are hand-woven, and all prints are block-printed by hand. The nat­ural beauty of these fabrics, combined with the timeless art and craftsmanship of the Kalamkari tradition, has made this collection the perfect complement to our mission of bringing natural beauty with color to the home.

• able to absorb and dispel moisture without supporting mold or mildew growth

• easy to clean and sanitize

• nonconductive of electricity (free of metal)

• highly insulative

The following futon bedding system fulfills these characteristics. The mattress is made of layers. One or more 1- to 4-inch-thick un­treated organic cotton futons are topped with a 1- to 3-inch wool futon. The layers rest on a slatted frame raised above the floor to a com­fortable seating height. The cotton futon pro­vides firm back support, while the wool futon adds resilience. Varying the thickness and the number of layers will accommodate different firmness preferences.

To properly maintain a futon, it should be

aired weekly in sunlight to sanitize it and then fluffed and replaced in a rotated position so it will wear evenly. A bed made of thin futons has an advantage over a single thicker mat­tress because the layers can be easily lifted and carried. It is important that air be allowed to circulate under the futon to facilitate evapora­tion of moisture, thereby preventing mold or mildew growth. A slatted platform will hold the futon firmly in place and permit air circu­lation around it.

Since the first edition of this book was published, many organic, metal-free mattress options have become available. These mat­tresses often are made of a combination of nat­ural latex, wool, and organic cotton. This com­bination system conforms to the body shape and comes in a variety of firmnesses offering

I have been saddened on many occasions by stories of cotton farmers in India whose lives are made virtually unbearable by health problems re­sulting from constant contact with pesticides and by huge debts owed to the giant chemical com­panies. It was tremendously exciting to receive the news that Srinivas Pitchuka, owner of Bundar Ka – lamkari House and Syamala Arts and Crafts, with whom I have worked on our collection over these past years, was the recipient of an award for being the first company in his province to produce or­ganic textiles.

I will continue to search for ways to produce furnishings and textiles that not only enrich our health and our homes but also care for our planet and those who work on it.

Rowena Finegan, BBEC, owner and founder of Eco-terric, strives to create beautiful, colorful, and environmentally friendly living spaces using healthy materials that are also socially responsible. After studying Bau-Biologie, Rowena was inspired to open her first Eco-terric store in Bozeman, Mon­tana, in 2005. The newest location is at The Green Home Center on Polk Street in San Francisco. She collaborated with Cisco Brothers of Los Angeles to create the Inside Green furniture collection. She is also creating a line of organic textiles suitable for use in home decor. Rowena is a contributing writer to Green*Light magazine and has been featured in the Son Francisco Chronicle, Furniture Today and Helena Lifestyles. See eco-terric. com.