Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Clients who hire me as a Natural Home Advisor are often dealing with health challenges.  I can offer them significant expertise in healing homes because of my own health challenges:  I discovered I had Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) in 1989.  In order to maintain my own health, and to share the benefits with others, I have been researching and promoting healthy home products for over 25 years.
The first place I look when evaluating a home is the bedroom.  Most people tend to ignore the bedroom mattress – yet this is where we spend about one-third of our lives!  The first thing I check for is mold or mildew under the mattress, behind the headboard or in the wall behind the bed.   We release moisture when we sleep, so if the mattress is not properly ventilated, mold can result.  A mattress must have air circulation.  There may also be moisture coming from under the house, depending on how well your home is insulated, so the larger structural setting must be taken into account.  There are many other potential sources of trouble that may be important to address in the bedroom, but right now I am going to concentrate on how to shop for a mattress…the regulations, pitfalls, information you may or may not be given, and the best options.
The type of material you sleep on will make a difference in how well your health is supported.  Basically, the healthful types of mattresses now available include regular inner spring mattress sets made with various layers of wool/organic cotton/natural latex, or natural latex (rubber) mattresses with or without wool wrapping.  Organic cotton covers are important on any type.  Wool toppers can also be added onto supporting layers.  There are cotton box spring mattresses which can be ordered without PBDE flame retardants, if accompanied by a doctor’s prescription.  One of wool’s wonderful properties is that it does not require flame retardant because it will not self-ignite.  It is also hydroscopic, meaning it takes in and releases moisture, plus it will retain its loft for many years.
Beware - some retailers advertise their products as natural latex with cotton cover – but notice if the label does not say “organic”. That means there will likely be stain repellent and flame retardant applied.  Also, one of my clients recently found that some advertised natural latex toppers and mattresses may only have 40% natural latex and 60% “other” ingredients.  If you are concerned about health, it’s best to avoid mystery components.
Some people find memory foam mattresses very comfortable.  When shopping for one, either online or at a store, the consumer is often told that the mattress contains no formaldehyde, which is true.  However, what you may not be told is that myriad other chemicals make up this synthetic concoction.   Memory foam has high levels of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), and has been found to emit 61 chemicals, including the carcinogens benzene and naphthalene.  (motherjones.com/politics/2008/03/should-you-ditch-your-chemical-mattress)   Furthermore, like all plastics, memory foam doesn’t “breathe,” so this type of mattress can result in generally uncomfortable sleep and waking up feeling sweaty.  I know of clients with known health concerns (one with MCS and one with cancer) who chose memory foam mattresses for comfort, yet could not stand being in the same room with the off-gassing chemicals from their new beds.  Though they were allowed to return the mattresses, they were faced with heavy restocking fees, or the option to exchange for other conventional mattresses in the inventory, without being informed about stain repellants and most notably, flame retardants.
The story goes, that because people used to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol in bed, fires occurred when people fell asleep and burned their houses down.  Laws were then established to protect us from ourselves.  California’s law requires that mattresses withstand the blow torch test.  If a mattress does not catch on fire when a blow torch flame is applied for specified time, then it passes the test and can be sold legally.  In order to pass, most mattresses are heavily sprayed with chemical flame retardant, PBDEs.  Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are carcinogens, and hormone disrupters which have been shown to reduce human fertility at levels typically found in households.  Amazingly, PBDEs are still applied to children’s clothing and babies’ pajamas.
Another customer of mine in her early 40’s had purchased a regular mattress and was surprised to gain 20 pounds in two months.  Hormone disruption can cause weight gain. She was sure it was the chemicals in her mattress, because nothing else had changed in her life.  She had no history of weight gain before this.  She then purchased an organic latex bed with a wool topper from me.  Shortly afterward she called to tell me her water weight had gone down and she was sleeping so much better!  Another attribute of wool is that it intrinsically helps regulate heart beat and body temperature.  In fact, we call our “Wool Surrounds” (wool topper, comforter and pillow) the best support for women’s menopausal night sweats!
The way that we behave in our homes has generally changed and yet archaic laws to “protect” us are still in place.  Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) has many scientific studies warning us about the dangers of chemicals in household items, and yet the consumer is still not actually being protected.  Even when you ask questions you may get less than completely true or helpful answers.  Organic and wool mattresses are more expensive, but an important investment in health for you and those you love.  Please use this information to help yourself or someone else that is shopping for their perfect mattress.   Modern day princesses need to be cautious about hidden “peas,” with much more toxic consequences.  It is my wish that with this information you will be empowered to make better consumer decisions for your health.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Truths and Myths of Wool Carpet

Above is a microscopic picture of a wool fiber...the burrs keep it from staining and keep it looking beautiful for 25 years.As a designer I love it for how it feels in a home..it actually creates negative ions ,just like if you put a waterfall in a room.  Also the colors in wool looks better,not so harsh. once you get used to specifying wool it's hard to look at plastic carpet.And once installers start installing wool they refuse to install plastic, because there hands get soft from the lanolin and there are never call backs for re-stretches
Wool is the SMART fiber..we have forgotten. It has been used for 25,000 years as the choice for our fabric and rugs.  Those carpets that were woven were handed down from generation to generation,lasting 100's of years. The indigeneous people know that it insulates and regulates your bodies temperture, tht's why they use it even in the desert.in very hot tempertures and extrem climate conditions.
 About 22 years ago I discovered wool as the floorcovering choice that met all the criteria I needed.  Because I recently discovered that the original true linoleum was being made from linoleum instead of plastic and it wears for 25 years..I knew that there had to be other alternatives that we had forgotten Also I had recently been diagnosed with "allergic reactions" to chemicals in synthetic carpet,carpet pad,wallcoverings,vinyl flooring,car exhaust,new paint,adhesives and perfumes. It was because of my developed chemical sensitivities, I needed to find something that was less toxic and my partner and I discovered the wonders of wool!

Can you imagine that there is a fiber that is 100% biodegradable, and does not need fire-retardants applied to keep it from burning?  Wool has a built-in flame resistance that comes from the fiber's high moisture content and the protein in its make-up.FIRE-RETARDANT IS A  KNOWN CARCENOGEN. 
Did you know that hotels use to put wool in all their hallways to keep fires from spreading. AND all hospitals in New Zealand require wool carpet?  I wish we could be that aware in the United States.

MYTH..Wool carpet stains easily...because of its unique molecular structure..as you can see by the picture, it has burrs that keep moisture spills and stains from soaking into the fiber.  This is what the synthetic carpet industry has attempted to duplicate. Also, they have launched a campaign against wool..saying it stains easily!  Which is a myth..and very untrue  I started out selling carpet in 1976 when Dupont Stainmaster carpet was first introduced.  By the time we(my husband and I) started our natural flooring center there were 500 plus lawsuits against Dupont for people being injured by poison (stain repellent) applied to the synthetic carpet. For further investigative reporting and research you can go to Toxic Times and the archives written
by Cindy Duerhing.
MYTH...I like wool,but it costs too much! We encourage our clients to work it out mathematically.
Because wool last 25 years or more.It saves you money.  If you buy a synthetic carpet that cost
$30.00 and last 8 years..if you are lucky and buy another 8 years later for 35.00 and 8 years later same carpet is 40.00 you have spent over 100.00 plus the cost and disposal of 3 trips to dump. Meanwhile you could have purchased a wool carpet had it look,clean up easily, stand the wear-and-tear of a growing family
and spent 60.00 for 25 years.  Plus petroleum is more expensive and wool is staying pretty affordable.

MYTH.." I can't use it in my basement because it might mildew".  Moisture trapped in dark areas normally result in mildew and mold. However, wools protein content and a naturally low PH combine to provide
the ultimate resistance to mildew,mold and fungal attack-not even in temperate zones,but in climatic extremes.

So, in closing for the 22 years I have been working with primarily health compromised client, I have 1,000 of elated customers that have chosen wool.  Hopefully you will consider it for your next investment for your home. go to naturalhomeproducts.com to get amazing specials,always,or call 707-585-2343 P.S.T.

There is much more that I want to write about., but will end it here for today.

Susan Bahl