Finding a Healthy Eco-Home: What to Look for Before You Buy or Rent
Most of us assume the word ‘eco’ is synonymous with healthy. Unfortunately, when it comes to finding an eco-home, that’s often not the case. You can spend millions buying, building or just renting the ‘eco-home’ of your dreams but still end up effectively suffering from sick-building syndrome. A home can be north-facing, solar-powered, LED-lit, well insulated with super energy-efficiency but still make you sick.
In this blog post let’s explore some of the outdoor aspects that are important to check when it comes to renting or buying, to ensure you do settle into a truly healthy eco-home. In a subsequent blog post I’II share some of the internal aspects of a home that can greatly influence your health and wellbeing.
5 things to check before you move into your ‘eco-home’
What is in the local area?
We all know that living slap bang in the middle of an industrial area is not a good idea. However, there are other less obvious sources of pollution.
Take a golf course: they use seven times more pesticides that cropland. A 20 plus year study in the USA found the cause of death of over 600 golf superintendents linked to cancers associated with pesticides. Childhood leukaemia has also been linked to pesticides. There are many toxic pesticides used on golf courses and parkland worldwide, many of them which should be outright banned because of their impacts on human health and the environment.
The most commonly used herbicide in the world is glyphosate. It’s the main ingredient in Round-Up and has been declared a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organisation. Class actions are currently underway in the USA against Monsanto/Bayer by victims of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma who say they weren’t adequately warned of the dangers of exposure to this highly toxic chemical. A Californian man dying of cancer (non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) has just gone to trial. The 46-year-old father of two with only months to live says he is sick because of contact with Roundup. He used Roundup for two years from 2012 as a groundskeeper for a school. He sprayed it 20 to 40 times per year, sometimes hundreds of gallons at a time on the school properties. In 2014, Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
So how do pesticides find their way to your doorstep? By contaminating groundwater and by polluting the air. Spray drift is a well-known fact. Yet it’s not just golf courses, any expanse of intensively fertilised ground will give rise to the same issue: farmland, parks, schools, universities, vineyards etc. As with all toxicants, the unborn foetus and pregnant mama are most vulnerable to pesticide exposure.
Is it situated by a busy road?
Air pollution is known as the ‘silent killer’ because we don’t usually notice the impact it is having on us until it’s too late. Even living in Perth, far away from the smog of Asian cities, in what appears to be a clean city, the air pollution app ‘Plume’ rarely gives me the all-clear for a pollution-free day.
Plonk yourself 200m from a busy road and you are delving into air pollution territory. The chances of developing adult-onset asthma are increased significantly. Even within 500m, you will be affected when the wind is blowing in the right direction.
Its insidious, invisible nature means we don’t usually make the link between air pollution and heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and asthma. According to the WHO, 7 million people die every year from air pollution. In Australia, annual deaths (3000) from air pollution are three times higher than those from traffic accidents. The noxious gases you breathe include carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide, as well as heavy metals and fine particulate matter, which finds its way into your lungs and wreaks havoc. To add insult to injury, diesel is considered a level 1 carcinogen by the WHO but you would never know as the number of diesel cars on the road increase annually.
Is it near power lines?
I talk about EMF a lot and I know only too well it’s a complex issue but if you take away one thing, remember this. You do not want to live close to high voltage transmission power lines. These highly visible pylons that are the scourge of our beautiful landscapes have for many years now been associated with leukaemia clusters. As I’ve spoken about in my previous blog, above a certain magnetic field measurement (3mG) there is double the incidence of childhood leukaemia within 600m of these power lines. The closer you are the higher the risk.
Street power lines don’t get off ‘scot-free’ either – you want to be at least 5-10m away and perhaps even more, especially if you are close to a transformer. Underground power lines help to reduce the electric field but they don’t do anything to reduce the magnetic field. If you currently live close to a high voltage power line, you seriously need to consider moving and if you choose to live close to street power lines you need to get your new home tested by an EMF expert to make sure it is safe.
Are you close to emergency services, airports or military bases?
As comforting as it might be to live close to a fire station or hospital in times of need, your health will not thank you in the long run. Same goes for airports, military bases and ports. For obvious reasons these types of services and facilities have the latest and greatest when it comes to communications systems: mobile phone towers and radars. You will be bombarded by EMF living close by and the light pollution is usually a health issue too. As I’ve spoken about in my previous blog, man-made EMF is a health hazard and needs to be avoided.
Noise pollution is a given when you live close to airports but added to this is air pollution. Even several kilometres from an airport you will be exposed to jet fuel emissions during take-off and landing.
An emerging issue if you live close to military bases or an airport, is contamination from toxic firefighting foam. Made from PerFluorinated Alkylate Substances (PFAS), the same family of chemicals that coat your non-stick frying pan and waterproof jackets, these foams are highly toxic and are turning up in surrounding soils and water supplies including desalination plants. The PFAS are persistent pollutants which do not degrade and are now being recognised as significant human health hazards.
As well as airports, defence training bases across Australia have also been contaminated. Many other areas are also suspected of being contaminated including areas around landfills, manufacturing plants, industrial areas and anywhere there has had a large fuel or chemical fire in the past 50 years. A number of class actions have been launched in Australia by those affected against the Commonwealth government. If you live close to an area of suspected contamination you need to ensure you have a very good water filter and be mindful of eating produce grown on the land.
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Will you be living near a crematorium?
What a note to end on (excuse the pun). Mercury is released in bucket-loads by Australian industry; we are sadly a global leader when it comes to what we spew into the air, water and land. The 18 tonnes of mercury we offload per annum means we emit twice the per capita global average. Gold metal manufacturing and coal-fired power generations are two of our main sources. Also, surprisingly sugar cane plantations which use a mercury-containing fungicide.
Another unsuspecting source though is crematoriums. All those mercury fillings give off 2 to 4 grams of mercury per cremation. Mercury is one of the most toxic substances known to humans. The phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ originates from the mercurial disease that plagued industrial hat workers, who used mercury to make felt in 19th century England. They suffered tremors, irritability and mental instability.
It really does pay to do some homework before you move house.
Rounding it all up!
To round this up, when considering a new eco-home to rent or buy, don’t move close to large green areas that are heavily fertilised. Avoid homes situated close to busy roads and high voltage power lines. Skip homes that are close to airports, military bases or emergency services. And give crematoriums a miss.
You see, as our real estate agents have been telling us for years, it is all about Location, Location, Location, especially when it comes to finding a truly healthy eco-home!
If you need help finding your next home, you can contact me for advice here.
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