Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A taboo subject - up close and personal

What do we get up close and personal with each day !

This clip shows recycled paper being used to make toilet paper.  
What is interesting about this clip is what is NOT said, but seems an obvious question !
What solutions and chemicals are used to break down the paper, remove the inks, bleach and starch the paper ?
I recently had a discussion with someone where the issue of toilet paper chemicals was raised along with health concerns and skin irritation such as itching, soreness and redness in places we don't discuss.  Since that discussion I have raised this issue with a few people and it has been interesting to note that a few people have mentioned their concerns and sensitivities ....   I had not given any thought to loo paper however given the direct and intimate contact we all have with this product and the chemicals used perhaps its something that should be added to the list of items to carefully consider.  

Recycled content toilet paper traps by Greenliving.com 
"Buying toilet paper made from recycled materials is great but even this can present some challenges.
Recycled paper needs to be deinked before it is pulped and processed. This deinking process may involve chlorine to bleach the paper. Chlorine based chemicals can react with paper fibers to create toxic compounds such as dioxin and organochlorines.

Dioxins cause cancer, learning disorders, decreased immune response, diabetes and all sorts of other nasty problems in the environment. By the way, the same chlorine issue is prevalent when using virgin-fiber based toilet tissue too.

When shopping for earth friendly toilet paper look for statements such as "unbleached", "processed chlorine-free" or "totally chlorine free."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What women, choices & breast cancer have in common - BPA

Sadly there is little media attention and up roar about this chemical here in Australia. Given we have a smaller population than the USA we also generally speaking have less funding available for chemical studies. So here in Australia we often follow, watch, sit and wait for alarm bells to ring in other countries ....and then maybe we will begin to seriously look at an issue.  If I can impart any message along with these videos it is that even if you live in a country other than the USA, it is very likely the same type of foods are packaged using BPA. This certainly is the case here in Australia !

It was great to see a recent report stating the following by CHOICE (Australia) which stated :
"Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said laboratory samples on 38 tinned products - including baby food, baked beans, coconut milk, corn kernels, soups and fish - revealed 29 contained "potentially harmful" levels. Choice found the highest levels of BPA (300-420 parts per billion) in samples of Edgell corn kernels, John West tuna olive oil blend, and Heinz smooth custard with banana." To read the complete story refer to :

What can we do to avoid BPA   - 

- Choose fresh food whenever possible
- Consider alternatives to canned food, beverages and juices
- Use glass or ceramic containers when heating food.
- Avoid handling receipts as the paper is coated in BPA
- Avoid buying product in plastic bottles/packaging marked plastic code #7

As the number of people diagnosed with cancer rises I keep asking myself  "How are our lives different to that of our grandparents ?"  We have so many new chemicals being approved for use each year without the precautionary principle to protect human health, I am not a scientist but surely this reality should be raising some red flags as to a possible causes for some of the rising serious illnesses !   

Take care ....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Greener Kitchen

Its an exciting few weeks coming up and not just because the festive season is around the corner.

Relish designs has experience in kitchen design and custom cabinetry however we are excited to be launching a researched and specialised "green kitchen" design service as the Melbourne  "Greener Kitchens" design consultancy.  www.greenerkitchens.com.au are based in Brisbane and have been broadly published in green magazines throughout Australia. Its an exciting collaboration as green kitchens are made with materials that have low environmental impacts along with lower emissions - so air quality within the home contains less pollutants - just the thing we are passionate about. Bring on cleaner air for Melbourne homes and more options to help people create healthy homes !

Sustainable, lower emission building products are available although a little harder to find than conventional products as we wait for large manufacturers and suppliers to see the demand for healthier, more sustainable  products. I am loving getting into the nitty gritty on where to find what and what can be used where ...

The concept of acknowledging the quality of our indoor air despite not being able to see it or test it daily is gaining recognition. 

In my travels I found a great book you may find of value - Good Green Homes gives an overview of ways we can make our homes healthy for the environment and ourselves for those buying, building and renting - theres some good info for everyone.

Green, clean, healthy & beautiful for the hub of the home - your kitchen.

Happy reading !

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mercury in the home and @ the dentist  ...

Although this topic strays a little from toxins within the home environment I felt this was something worth mentioning ...

I have heard many times that it is not healthy to be exposed to mercury. I had listened and taken note of  mercury found in certain fish products, immunisations and from broken lamps. I have been focused on a healthy lifestyle and what confronts me in my environment and have not given a great deal of thought to my past.

Like many of you, I try not to give too much thought to the past as I am often reminded what has gone before can not be changed. Although, I have recently learnt more about mercury dental fillings. I am not a fan of visiting the dentist but after watching the video below I have been inspired to investigate promptly having my mercury fillings taken out of my teeth, it seems this is one thing done in the past that I can change ...

My mother had no idea that the dentist was implanting toxic fillings into my teeth so many years ago. I am so grateful that this information is now out there so we can take steps to protect ourselves and our children. It seems industry and government has again let us down by not applying the precautionary principle to products that could potentially effect human health. With so much negative press about fluoride bubbling to the surface will fluoride will be the next dental industry health blunder ...

I am thinking I will look into having mine safely removed !

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What are your cosmetics made from ?

The saying we are what we eat takes on a whole new meaning when we consider our skin absorbs the cosmetics that we place on our skin.

Human skin is highly absorbent and a doorway to our internal system, the engine room of our health and well being. This presentation is a reminder that when we seek out the latest in anti wrinkle cream, the latest brand of exclusive perfume and lipstick that will add volume and retain longer lasting colour that we consider what these products are made from.......

Are your cosmetics made from ingredients that are individually considered unsafe and not healthy ? We can not assume that because a product exists that it is safe and made from safe ingredients.......sadly the push for profits is the reason for a product being developed in many cases, not improvement to human health.

Toxic substances cartoon lobby

A sense of humor with a serious message

A toxic chemical lobby launched in the USA is approaching the issue of chemicals in our homes and in our products with a sense of serious humor.  It has been refreshing to see visual campaigns circulating about these issues, although frustrating that these issues still remain largely unseen and unspoken about within the Australian consumer marketplace. 


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Enviro blog has collated a list of furniture considerations as inspired by the new Q Collection from New York that considers the health of your home and the planet.
Avoid :

  • No formaldehyde
    Formaldehyde is used in most furniture adhesives, but the Q Collection uses only water-based adhesives.
  • No polyurethane, no dacron
    Polyurethane, a known carcinogen, is used as a topcoat and in the manufacturing of foam and dacron (part of foam padding) contains toluene. This company uses only water-based stains, topcoats and natural latex foam rubber.
  • No brominated flame retardants
    Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are banned in Europe but are still being used extensively in US upholstery manufacturing.
  • No heavy metals
    Leather tanning is the most harmful of all fabric production processes because it relies on harmful heavy metals like chromium 6.
  • No toxic stain resistant chemicals
    Fabrics often contain dioxin (typically as a byproduct of the dyeing and finishing processes), a powerful carcinogen that is also known to damage the human immune system. Dioxins are also on the "dirty dozen" list of persistent environmental pollutants (POPs).
  • Sustainably harvested wood, 100% certified
    The source of most wood used to make furniture today is unknown. Unfortunately, it can come from some of the world's most threatened ecosystems, such as old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest or the Amazon rain forest. The U.S. is by far the largest importer of virgin timber from the Amazon.
  • Organic or European ecological cotton
    Cotton is the world's most polluting crop because of enormous levels of pesticides and herbicides used in growing it.
  • Non-toxic, low-impact fabric dyes
    Fabric dyes often contain toxic chemicals that are suspected to cause cancer, reproductive or developmental damage.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

WHY I am passionate about your healthy home !

This presentation sums up why I am so passionate to help educate people about "healthy homes". Our precious children are being born into a world that bombards them with chemicals in the very space that parents feel they are safe in - the home. We can make our homes safe only when we know what to look out for. When we are aware of the hidden chemicals disguised in consumer product.

Our babies and children are vulnerable to chemicals in our environment more so than adults due to their size and metabolism. However as adults we too are still subject to the health risks from chemicals and particularly  accumulative chemicals that our bodies have stored over time.

For those who are already ill and trying to recover -  my concern is that people retreat to their homes, they focus on good food, rest and positive thoughts to lift them from illness, yet their home environment may not be supportive.

The world in which we live in has changed and changes ever day with the approval of new chemicals that reach our shelves in the form of products we consume - cleaning products, personal care products, utensils, furniture, building materials & finishes, fragrances, repellents, gardening products, bedding, clothing and the list goes on.

You can make a difference - one step at a time - one purchase at a time  - when you understand what to look for. Which is why I will continue to advocate for healthy homes, decorate for healthy homes and educate for healthy homes !


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do you know your plastics ?


I read labels and now I turn it upside down before I make a decision as to the products I place in my trolley !

You will have noticed a number stamped into the bottom of products that you have purchased off the supermarket shelf and accompanying consumable packaging. These numbers represent a plastics identification code. A healthy home helper …

The Plastics Identification Code continues to be one of the most successful and enduring Product Stewardship programs run by industry. The simple, effective "1 to 7" numbering system identifies the resin composition of plastic containers (and other items intended for recycling). This voluntary coding system has been a key element in the successful collection, recovery and management of used plastics in Australia.” (PACIA)

The plastics coding scheme used and administered by PACIA is a voluntary initiative and although it assists consumers to effectively recycle plastic consumables it also allows us to identify the type of plastic materials that our products are made from or packaged in. These identification codes can assist us to avoid plastics that may contain ingredients that have been linked with health concerns.

Code 3 – PPVC or UPVC (polyvinyl chloride – plasticised and un-plasticised)
Commonly used for food storage bottles such as cooking oil, cordials, shampoo and detergents, including some food wrappings.
TIP : Considered the most damaging to the environment of all plastics and can leach phthalate chemicals that have been linked to many health concerns. Avoid PVC items.

Code 6 – PS or UPS (polystyrene and expanded polystyrene)
Commonly a ridged plastic used for take away containers, white ridged coffee cups, meat trays, plastic utensils.
TIP : Polystyrene can leach styrene a possible human carcinogen

Code 7 – PLA or polylactic acid -  Used for “Other” incorporating new plastics. Items may include baby bottles..
TIP :  Code 7 represents items that are not recyclable and given the unknown better to avoid.

Code 1 – PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)
Commonly used for soft drink & fruit juice bottles & medicine containers.
TIP : repeated use of the same plastic could cause leaching of DEHP a chemical that has been linked to endocrine (hormonal) disruption.

Code 2 – HDPE (high density polyethylene)
Commonly used for detergent bottles, juice, milk , sports bottles.
TIP : This plastic is a better alternative to number 7 that may also be used for the same products.

Code 4 – LDPE (low density polypropylene)
Commonly soft flexible plastic such as used for garbage bags, wrapping films, thin plastic carry bags.
TIP : Considered reasonably safe but avoid heating

Code 5 – PP (polypropylene)
Commonly a hard but flexible plastic that is used for food packaging such as ice cream and dairy/dessert containers, drinking straws.
TIP : Considered reasonable safe but avoid heating

Plastics contain phthalate chemicals (softeners) and other ingredients that have been linked to health concerns. Bisphenol A (BPA) is one ingredient that has been linked to disruptive hormonal concerns, early puberty in girls, developmental toxicity for fetuses and children. There are many reports that raise concerns over the cumulative effects of chemicals that can leach or off gass from plastic products.

Many argue that our lives have been enhanced and made much easier with the use of plastics. There is much to be said for the lack of testing on chemical migration from plastic to humans and the perpetual impact these products have on our environment and human health.

Opt for natural products and fibres where possible, choose glass, ceramic and stainless steel as alternatives for food storage. Support manufacturers and suppliers who consciously support plastic alternatives as they are looking after you and the planet for your children. Your purchasing decisions, daily practices and habits in the home with plastics may be impacting on your health. Creating a healthy home supports good health and the health of the environment.

Monday, April 12, 2010

BAGS ! Not so fab plastics ....

Plastic, plastic everywhere, but if you look and stare, it stays the same.....look and stare.....

Ok, I admit I have seen a little too much playschool, the above an adapted tune from music time.
Major stores in Australia have introduced a fee for shoppers to take home a plastic bag, but is this really making a big difference ?  Perhaps it would make people feel more encouraged to know that using alternatives to plastic bags is great for human health as well as the health of the environment and in some cases aids the financial health of small underprivileged international communities where bag products are made in countries such as India, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
Alternatives to plastic bags use more material and energy to make than plastic bags. Research at RMIT University found that a reusable (green shopper bag) is only more environmentally friendly than a plastic bag when it is used more than 100 times. I recently read in an inflight magazine that Philip R Rozenski, a director at US based Hilex Poly Co (largest plastic bag recycling plant), claims that reusable bags are used on average less than eight times before being thrown out.

So it is not very helpful for us to get a momentary urge to buy reusable bags and then leave them in the cupboard or the car. We need to buy quality reusable bags,  use them often, look after them and get longevity from the products we buy. Owning reusable bags and not using them equates to excessive energy consumptions and contribution to waste.

The Good news is that reusable natural fiber bags made from Jute are not toxic to the environment, not toxic to food, do not emit toxic VOCs and can be put into the compost bin when you are finished with them.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

There is a shift happening ...

The way people think about health & the home environment is shifting in a positive way ......

Over the past few weeks I have concentrated on speaking with people from a variety of industries about the concept of healthy homes. People from manufacturing, trades, retail and medicine are starting to give greater thought to environmental health issues within the home . As a designer I am slowly finding fantastic home wares and personal products emerging that focus on being non toxic as well as beautiful.

It is an exciting time to be alive and making a difference, there is change evolving !  I am a big fan of natural fibers in the home as they reduce the chemical emissions (often odorless) into the indoor air. I am also a fan of natural body care and cleaning products as these also protect indoor air from contamination but also protect the skin from absorbing unwanted chemicals. A win / win for health and the environment.

I am loving the new television advert here in Australia where people are shown cleaning their homes with live marine animals...although disturbing it joins the dots between the act of cleaning and where the chemicals end up.  I will try and list a product each month that I have found that is worthy of being called a healthy homes option. Its been an exciting month, I have found two products that I love and are healthy too Mi Essence tahitian breeze deodorant  and  Eli Wilson skin care  !  Small steps is all it takes ...Enjoy

Monday, March 22, 2010

Banned in 62 Countries yet we are eating it !

For those who missed the 60 Minutes presentation about toxic chemicals in food or for those who need to watch it again I have posted this shocking story on  Healthy Interiors Facebook page  - join us :)

I have known for some time that there are toxic chemicals used in materials, finishes & textiles within the home environment. I have known for some time that many furnishings, cookware and toys may contain toxic chemicals, however I have been truly shocked by this story about the fresh food we consume here in Australia.

This issue is huge and I have found myself feeling bewildered at the enormity of the situation. I have fed my children fresh vegetables from the supermarket that have been grown using a chemical that is banned in 62 countries around the world. We are all busy people with hectic lives however it is a situation like this that needs many voices to instigate change - Carbendazim & Enosulphin need to be banned immediately!

As consumers, this issue reinforces that we all need to ask questions and not rely on Authorities to "do the right thing" !

Friday, February 5, 2010

Finally chemical DEHP resritcted but what about the others ?


I am not a scientist nor have I studied senior chemistry, but it is very clear that internationally there is strong concern about health issues linked to chemicals that are used in plastics.

The recalls.gov.au website has recently announced that NICNAS (the Australian Government Chemical Assessment Scheme) has finally announced that restrictions should be placed on the chemical diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). DEHP is only one phthalate in a large group of phthalate chemicals used in plastic products that we consume.

Phthalates including DEHP are used as softeners in toys and many other products made of PVC plastic to make them soft and pliable.

Phthalate chemcials can be found in many applications such as plastic toys, plastic food storage and utensils, flooring, wall coverings, wall art, shower curtains, vinyl skins, sheaths for electric cables, coated fabrics and shoes and the list goes on....

Studies have linked phthalates to health concerns such as :
suspected of causing cancer, kidney damage and disruption of the body's hormone system. A study by the International Centre for Indoor Environment and Energy (www.ie.dtu.dk), University of Denmark found that a child's risk of developing asthma and allergies increases when they are exposed to phthalates.

The PROPOSED Australian ban was announced Jan 25th 2010 yet is only for DEHP - diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) "in toys, childcare articles where significant mouth contact may occur and vessels and eating utensils for feeding infants".

A recent report by NICNAS found that "the risk of reproductive toxicity in children from the use of products containing DEHP is unacceptable" and recommended that the ACCC consider appropriate regulatory measures to limit children's exposure to DEHP.

Why has this taken so long ?
Why are all the other Phthalates banned in the EU also not banned in Australia ?

In July 2005, the EU permanently banned the use of phthalates DEHP, DBP and BBP in all children's articles. Additionally, the EU banned the use of DINP, DIDP, and DNOP in children's articles which can be put in the mouth. This ban became effective on January 16, 2007 .

The EU saw action on this health concern enforced in 2007 yet it has taken Australia an additional 3 years to make this PROPOSAL !

How long will it now take for the proposal to be accepted and enforced ?

Hooray for small steps ... the summary of all this is " avoid plastics" to protect your health.