Sunday, December 13, 2009

A store that helps you create a healthy home is finally launched !

We have been busy researching product, asking lots of questions and sourcing items for the store that supports good health and a healthy home environment. The store currently sells a range of premium Australian Certified organic cotton bed linen, towels, pajamas and body basics. Many more exciting, quality chemical free products to arrive in the coming weeks…..

Look for the words “Certified Organic” when purchasing products as anyone can make organic claims, it is only those products with the word “Certified” that have proved their claims to an independent auditor. When buying organic make sure you are paying for REAL Organic product.

Room by room you can be informed with to eliminate chemicals in your home and create a safer, healthier space for your family to live. The store is a resource site with educational information about the toxins that may lurk in your home such as formaldehyde, flame retardants (PBDEs), bisphenol A, phthalates, pvc and many more.

There is so much information to wade through when tyring to source a healthy home and socially responsible product, such as ;

Where was the product made ?
Who made it ? Were workers treated fairly ?
What is it made from ?
Are all the materials used in making the product safe ?
Are materials and manufacturing practices sustainable ?
Does the product label inform me of all I need to know ?
Can the product compromise my health ?

As consumers we are not protected from chemicals sold on retail shelves disguised in bedding, clothing, furniture, cleaning products and personal care products. The Relish Designs healthy interior store only sells product from reputable suppliers who value consumer health and provide product that is free from harsh chemicals and audited where possible as quality Certified Organic.

We look forward to seeing you in the store and would value any comments you have !

May you have a Merry Christmas and safe holiday a fantastic 2010 awaits ...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

BPA & Teeth, the human interior

A quick tip next time you need the services of an orthodontist or dentist. Bisphenol A can be found in bonding products used to adhere braces to teeth, it can also be found in some retainer products and may be used in tooth fillings. Remember to ask your dentist about what is in the products they use, as there are many product choices on the market. Bisphenol A has been associated with health concerns in studies linking it to hormone disruption, early puberty for girls, thyroid complaints, pre birth male genital deformations and hindered sperm production. Bisphenol A is an accumulative toxin and has been found in human breast tissue and in breast milk.

Bisphenol A can be found in many products, some of which are plastic toys, plastic kitchen products, and in some food packaging such as BPA lined tinned food. BPA has been found to migrate / leach from its source eg into food.

Just like the products we bring into our homes, we need to ask questions of our dentists to protect our personal interior.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Do you make these decorating assumptions ?

* I can trust products that I purchase.

* People are not allowed to sell products that are dangerous to my health.

* I can trust the companies making products because “they” wouldn’t sell product that are harmful to people.

* The government accurately and strictly regulates all products sold in Australia.

* All imported products are tested and known to be safe before they can be sold in Australia.

* If homes could make people sick the government would campaign health messages telling people what to do.

There are currently no laws in Australia that require wholesalers or Australian manufacturers to fully disclose on labels all the materials and chemicals used to make a product. There is currently no mandatory testing done on household items to check if products going into our homes are emitting dangerous VOCs that will pollute the air our families breath and potentially harm our health.

Should a consumer wish to complain about a product they have purchased Australians can do this through their State Consumer Department or to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). After a complaint has been submitted, these organisations will then investigate and pursue any testing should this be required. So the assumption that if product is on the shelf it is safe - is false.

Over the coming months I will post a few alarming insights that will challenge the many assumptions that are made about products used in homes.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Consumed by consumerism

Apologies for neglecting this post, however I have been slightly obsessed with researching consumerism and inadequate labeling laws that are not protecting consumers from potentially harmful chemicals. From mercury, fire retardants, Teflon, PVC, VOCs, formaldehyde,lead, nitrogen dioxide and the rest (and there are many more). I have been shocked at how ill informed we all generally are as to the studies that link these everyday pollutants in our homes to very real health concerns. Its not that many don't care, its a case of "we don't know, what we don't know".

At school we were not taught how to create a home that meets our emotional and physical needs. It is a given that when we fly the coup we will find a roof, connect utilities and furnish it with things we like. At no stage are we taught about the health hazards of a home found in the building materials, finishes, furnishings and from the way we choose to live. I don't remember anyone ever telling me to be wary about what my homes walls were made from .....beware asbestos, or that I may buy a mattress that has been soaked in flame retardants that has been banned in other countries and documented as to contributing to respiratory health complaints and a list of other health concerns.

As we find our way in the world we learn about finance, politics and social behaviour, but we rarely take the opportunity to learn about preventative health initiatives unless it is a Government campaign through the media, or we fall ill and are induced to action. Poor indoor air quality is ranked in the top 8 public health concerns by the World Health Organisation. The 21st Century allows us the pleasures of technology and new product developments however we are being too slow in understanding that we need to question the use of chemicals used to make many products.

Many scientific minds understand this and have published papers about particular chemicals and their effects on human health. What is frustrating about this is that much of the scientific findings that call for a precautionary approach to chemical use and warnings as to indoor air quality in our homes are being ignored.

As consumers we trust that people are not allowed to sell product that could be harmful to our health. We assume that the Government has product testing in place to protect consumers from harmful chemicals. Unfortunately I have learnt this is not always the case.

There is so much general info to know about creating a healthy home, healthy home practices and how to prevent children from being exposed to potential poor health triggers within the home environment that I have felt compelled to write a book - which is where I have been the past few months.

Environmental & Indoor health is documented by Government and International Organisations as a real issue, perhaps if all consumers were given the opportunity to know about these things we may all be able to help ourselves by preventing illness while also helping our exhausted health system and the environment.

Who knew that decorating could have so much depth :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Natures art work

Photos taken on a weekend escape to the beaches of QLD.
Photos subject to copyright.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Inhale Inspiring Colour

I have recently spent some time with professionals in the paint industry educating myself on the healthier products available to consumers. I have been truly inspired by the efforts of some companies to improve paints and interested to see some green washing of some products in the market place. Green washing being products that have been talked up, or presented as eco friendly when perhaps they truly do not meet this criteria when examined closely.

Most paints in the past have been cocktails of chemicals that leach fumes into the environment which can take a toll of human health, detrimental to painters, residents and the environemnt. According to the World Health Organisation paints that are manufactured using petrochemical refinement processes have been found to cause cancer, respiratory allergic reactions and a list of associated health affects. Studies have found that exposure to paint fumes has been linked to respiratory infections, headaches, dizziness, allergy reactions etc. I had once thought that someone, somewhere was watching and protecting consumers from health hazards sold in the form of products - I was sooooo wrong.

I am inspired by the work of Jo Immig an Australian Environmental Scientist who has dedicated her time to try and educate people on dangerous chemicals in our environment and in particular our homes. The National Toxics Network & Total Environment Centre issued a paper by Jo Immig called "How the chemical cocktail inside our homes is poisoning our children - working together to clear the air ". This paper highlights that it is now well documented that children are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of chemical pollution and that their exposure to it is partly responsible for increasing rates of chronic childhood diseases such as asthma, allergies, cancers and birth defects.

The "Working to clear the air" report lists the potentially harmful chemicals in paints :

Acrylic (water based paints )- Glycols (ethylene and propylene), glcol ethers, alcohols, formeldehyde, preservatives, amines (ammonium hydroxide, amino-2-methyl propanol), monomers, volatile plasticisers, fungicides such as aromatic mercury compounds.

Enamel (pertroleum solvent-based) - Aliphatic & aromatic hydrocarbons (toulene, xylene),ketones (acetone, methyl ethyl ketone), alcohols (butanol, ethanol), esters (n-propyl acetate, butyl acetate) free monomers, volatile plasticisers, fungicides such as aromatic mercury compounds.

The Australian Government is lacking in legislation to protect consumers from many harmful chemicals that are indoor air pollutants. The Australian Government does offer a National Chemical Information Gateway for those who have the time to question products on the shelves of our stores. If you want to educate yourself on what people are exposing themselves and their children to in everyday life through the products bought for homes go to

Although this information may seen overwhelming please don't retreat, there are non toxic paints on the market and as I have found out they are now getting very competitive with the major brands. When buying paint choose the product with the lowest VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) percentage you can find and that would be a great start to helping the health of your family, the painter and the environment !

If its all too hard call an environmentally passionate interior decorator who can help you create a healthy home.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

With every breath you take

The recent storms in Brisbane provided an opportunity for schools and Government to give some thought as to the materials replacement eg carpet, furniture etc at local schools. It was interesting and very disappointing to observe that low toxic materials and environmentally responsible materials are not mandatory in the procurement policy for Australia Government schools.

I have been advised that there is a sustainable policy however the relevant purchasing people on projects do not have to select sustainable products or more importantly non/low toxic products for installations in Australian schools. With indoor air quality a known health hazard as documented by large organisations such as the World Health Organisation, The Environmental Protection Agency, the CSIRO, many health scientists and even on the Australian Government website - why is this not a consideration when selecting materials and finishes for our school classrooms ? Children are more vulnerable to chemical exposure than adults. There are Green commercial initiatives to improve indoor air quality of office spaces but this is not mandatory for our schools.

Building materials and finishes and particularly products installed to the interior of a building contribute to indoor air quality and inadvertently the health of the occupants. There are many chemicals found in all types of products that are used within the home, these are found in paints, adhesives, varnishes, soft furnishings, wall linings, some timbers and furniture, to name a few. At room temperature and higher chemical fumes off-gas (release into the air) creating a cocktail of chemicals into the indoor environment. These products can continue off gassing for years depending on their composition. The gas that is produced is often referred to as a VOC (Volatile Organic Compound). There are growing numbers of product on the market that offer low VOC alternatives for materials and finishes.

The Government has initiated environmental studies within school curriculum where issues such as indoor air pollution and sustainability are taught to encourage change. However it appears that contrary to Government social initiatives that the Government does not have existing strict purchasing legislation in relation to these issues for Government spending, with particular concern for our schools and environments that accommodate children.

The National health system is witnessing so many children with allergies, asthma / respiratory complaints and chemical sensitivities. With the Brisbane storm last November, Nth Qld floods, Victorian bush fires and the national educational refurbishment funds pending many construction decisions Nationally will be made that will impact on Australians health for many years to come.

We are all told to think about consuming healthy food, but before we eat we breathe ! I love this photo by tanakawho, for me it represents time indoors.
Healthy carpets, paints, timbers, soft furnishings and furniture are available. Just because you can not smell a chemical in the air does not mean it isn't there.
Looking forward to innovative change ......

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hello first post

This is my very first post, so I guess I will tell you a bit about who I am and what inspires me. My name is Melissa Wittig and I am an Interior Designer. I have recently relocated from Melbourne in Victoria to Brisbane Queensland, Australia. A daunting yet exciting family adventure with many anticipated discoveries and lifestyle changes. In Melbourne I had an interior consulting business, working with clients to design and/or decorate spaces. Now in Brisbane and living amongst half unpacked boxes while we settle and find a permanent place to call home, I am looking forward to meeting new people and finding new things.

I have a strong interest in healthy homes and creating internal spaces for people to live where VOC's are reduced (volatile organic compounds). Many products within the home produce toxic fumes (off gassing) which can contribute to illness and allergies for the residents. I am always on the look out for beautiful products that contribute to healthier homes and the environment. Products that are eco friendly are often healthier for humans.

We are all so busy that looking beyond the aesthetics of a product for the home is time consuming and often rendered too hard. I hope to share with you imagery, information and references that may inspire your ideas and encourage all to ask more questions.

I love colour, pieces with character, unusual and functional spaces with an element of surprise. Not to mention a fetish for doors as they represent anticipation and reflect character. I love these doors above photographed by Frank Jakobi on Every home is as unique as the occupant. This blog will help me find time to appreciate design delights around me.