Episode # 7 How Your Home Can Affect Your Health

This episode originally appeared on Future Tech Podcast and Future Tech Health Podcast with Richard Jacobs. In this episode, Richard interviews Stephen to learn about the opportunities and challenges within everyone’s home. This was an interesting podcast as Richard asked questions that most other people would ask as well, so there is definitely something here for everyone.

The show transcript:

Stephen: Welcome to Your Healthy House. I’m Stephen Collette

Stephen: This podcast, I explore your indoor environmental quality concerns and opportunities. We look at the facts and debunk the fiction. We will discuss examples you can relate to and the doable actions you can take in your own home or apartment. We will also look at the history of how our homes are, the way they are and the future of healthy housing for everyone. I promise to make this fun and interesting for both of us.

Stephen: [inaudible] episode number 7, how your home can affect your health. This episode is a little different than the others folks. This episode, I was interviewed on another podcast by Richard Jacobs. He’s the founder and host of Future Tech Podcast and also Future Tech Health Podcast. Richard is a great guy. We had a really great conversation about how to keep your home healthy. Richard had different questions, questions that you’re going to have as well, and I think the podcast came over really well, so I hope you enjoy this episode. I strongly recommend you check out Richard Jacobs’, Future Tech Health podcast and Future Tech podcast. He’s interviewed 1500 people over years and years. He’s a really great interviewer. His podcasts are really cool. I’ve been digging into them and I really enjoy them and I know you will too. Thanks. Enjoy the show today.

Richard: You’re listening to the future tech podcast with Richard Jacobs. Future technologies such as artificial intelligence, STEM cells, three D printing, gene editing, Bitcoin, blockchains, the microbiome, quantum computing, virtual reality and exploring space are much closer than you might think. In fact, many early versions of these technologies are in play right now and the companies that are using these technologies for the focus of this podcast, my goal for you, the listener, is to learn from these podcasts. You may very well learn something that may change the course of your life for the better. Steer you towards a new career would give you insight into addressing a thorny medical problems. You remember this podcast and its content is informational in nature. Only no medical tax, legal, financial, or psychological advice has been given. So do you enjoy the podcast? Please listen, subscribe like them. Tell your friends about it. Thank you.

Richard: Hello, this is Richard Jacobs. For the Future Tech and Future Tech Health podcasts. I have Stephen Collette from Your Healthy House and the website is www.Your Healthy House.ca He is passionate about buildings. We’re going to talking about how buildings work, and all the details involved with them. So, good to meet you Steve. Thanks for being here.

Stephen: Thanks a lot for having me, Richard. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Richard: Yeah, I just came back from a trip to Europe, a lot of old super interesting buildings are there, but the, you know, tell me about your background. Why are you interested in buildings and what fascinates you about them?

Stephen: Yeah, I really like buildings. I’m a total nerd. I’m a card carrying, building nerd for sure. I find what’s fascinating about them as we simply as a species don’t actually understand how they work very well. We, we think we do. We think we understand how they work, we don’t actually understand it. And the more I learn about them, the more I’m confused at how they actually stand up themselves. So I think it’s, it’s a deeper topic that we simply don’t take seriously.

Richard: What do you mean when you say people don’t understand buildings like a, I dunno, it seems pretty simple. Basic. Like where does the things that you found that you thought you understood or knew and then turned out to be more nuanced, interesting than you first thought?

Stephen: I think in a homeowner market I think is, is where we find the biggest concerns. Most people simply don’t understand how to maintain their building properly, how to take care of their home, what to do if there is a problem. Most people, when we look at our homes are looking at buying a home. We look at what color is the walls, you know, how good is the carpet? Um, are the cabinets updated? We don’t really look at, Oh, is there potential for water to come in? Is the basement leaking? Is there, um, you know, cell phone towers nearby that we may be sensitive to where they’re brand new chemicals offgassing in here, we don’t really take into consideration the fact that hold Thor homes are our castles. They can in fact also make us really sick.

Richard: It’s true. I’ve heard of reports of black mold. Um, you know, obviously fires, no accidents. Okay. Just stuff like that. So you focus more on residential homes, but do you deal with commercial stuff?

Stephen: Yeah, I do some light commercial, but for the most part I do focus on the residential market. There are environmental consultants specializing in industrial and commercial and you know, the big schools and whatnot. But oddly enough, there’s very few environmental consultant specializing in making our homes healthy, which is unfortunate because we spend a great deal of time and them raise their children in them and, and we need them to be as healthy as possible. Cause we do spend a significant amount of time in our homes and, and insight as a whole, you know, the classic EPA, uh, numbers of that we spend 90% of our time inside. It is a huge number. And at home with young families especially and retired people, that’s where our immune systems need all the help they can get.

Richard: So what, what’s your role? You just study environmental conditions in homes or do you advise homeowners or do you advise companies you do lead certification? Like what, what’s your role?

Stephen: Yeah. So, um, as I said, I’m a nerd on many levels. So I’m a Building Biologist, which is a German school of thought, looks at the built environment, how it interacts and impacts occupant and environmental health. So the Germans were kind of green and healthy before anyone else even knew about it. And this came out in post world war II. The Germans had to build a lot of homes because they’d been destroyed from the war. And what happened was they built crappy houses because they just, they needed them quickly. And by the 1960s, doctors were associating illness with these neighborhoods and they did something very German, which was figuring out the problems. So architects and doctors and city planners and public house hall came together and they realized that poor construction can make people sick. Oh. So one of the outcomes was a school was started in Europe, in Germany that came over to North America over 30 years ago. And uh, and I’m one of the graduates now, one of the instructors. So building, I’m a building biologist, I’m also a building scientist. So looking at how buildings work and how they fail. Um, I’m a lead consultant, so I do sustainable, uh, you know, consulting as well. And I used to build straw bale homes and natural building consulting and I’m also a heritage professional, so I work with older buildings as well. So I get called into help people in their existing homes. For the most part I’ll do a lot of insurance work with losses and that’s where I get to see the catastrophic failures, the really serious when things go bad. Um, and by seeing those you can work backwards to realize and locate where the potential concerns could rise up and rear their ugly moldy heads.

Richard: Yeah, we think the biggest concern would be proper ventilation in a home and getting a good fraction of fresh air. And then one thing I hate throwing up, as, you know, used to be able open the windows everywhere, commercial buildings and home. Now a lot of them are fixed and you know, we’d like to open the doors and windows at least once a day, you know, for some pressures that or keep it closed up all the time.

Stephen: Well that’s a great observation, Richard, in your right. We used to open our windows more and that’s partially due to the construction and it’s partially due to our operation. When we grew up, when I grew up, my mom was home, you know, typically more commonly it was one income families. And so someone was there operating and managing the building. You know, my mom would open the windows when it was nice clothes and when it wasn’t close, the curtains when it was really hot, she was a building operator and manager. Nowadays we can’t afford, most of us can afford one income stream. Everybody’s out working. And so we don’t have that operation anymore and we don’t have that taking care of and fresh air than we have to go to. The default, which is now more mechanical systems, was a heat recovery ventilator or an energy recovery ventilator, mechanical ventilation. And it’s really unfortunate where I did a home where their bathroom window frame was completely rotted out and I, they’d been in this home for 13 years and I said, when was the last time you opened the window? I said, we’ve never opened the windows in this house ever. And I was just flabbergasted.

Richard: I think that’s pretty common. I wouldn’t say that that’s a rarity unfortunately. But what happens if, you mean what happens in a homework can build up and how is the air quality different? A building or a home versus outside? What are the differences you’ve seen?

Stephen: Buildings fail. Um, in two ways. They fail from the building itself and that is typically water related. So that could be water, rain, water, getting in, snow, getting in depending on your climate. Um, it could be a groundwater getting in, so something falling from the sky or something rising up from the ground. Um, that’s the most common way. Buildings fail and impact occupant house. That water leads to the potential for mold growth to waters cause mold as the effect. When we’re looking at the occupant, the second major indoor environmental issue, which the occupant related and they’re typically bringing junk in toxics and chemicals that they don’t realize, they’re actually really harmful to them and their family. And they’re bringing them in because they see them on TV and they see them in the aisle to shopping’s store and they’re nice and shiny and they’re supposedly amazing, easy solutions for them. And those are oftentimes really chemical Laden issues. No.

Richard: You mean cleaners and things like that or what were some examples of them?

Stephen: Yeah, cleaning products would be your, your first and foremost a really serious indoor air quality issue. There’s not lemons in that cleaning product. There’s not a mountain spring air crammed in that can, um, their petroleum base synthetics. You can have an a in an air freshener, over 120 volatile organic compounds, unstable petroleums that are jammed into these. And you wouldn’t really go outside and wrap your lips around an exhaust pipe on a car anytime soon because of the, you know, the chemicals are bad yet because these ones smell sloughy and lovely. We bring them into our homes, but chemically they’re really similar.

Richard: So again, what have you observed in terms of numbers or percentages of how the air quality starts to differ inside someone’s home and you know, over time?

Stephen: Yeah, I’ve been doing this for about 15 years. I’ve done about well over 3000 environmental inspections. I’ve seen a lot. I, I think there’s a real separation of those who were real consumers, those who are praying to the advertising gods that bombard us on every device that we use and trying these products and those people inadvertently are increasing their body burden. So I think a, um, I guess an example, uh, so you can imagine yourself as them as a rain barrel and through our lives are bodies are exposed to different things and the rainbow fills up in an empties. And that can be, you know, motor oil paint in the bathroom, dog hair, um, Paul and all these different allergens and toxins within everyone’s life. And some of us, uh, so what happens is sometimes their body can’t process it fast enough. And so we get to the top and then we’re exposed to one more thing in our body that rain barrel spills over.

Stephen: And that’s an illness and you’re like, Oh, I’m sensitive to this or allergic to that. It’s true, but your body’s actually full of junk and in it and has no capacity to to process it. And so this is a Dr. William Ray from Dallas, Texas. This is his analogy and it’s a great one. And so what I tried to do is lower people’s daily burden. So if I can clean up the chemicals and help you clean up the chemicals in your house, show you where the potential for mold is, help you manage, you know, particulates, electromagnetics, chemicals and biologicals. The more I can reduce your daily burden, the greater potential you have for health, right? I’m giving you a greater buffering mechanism. And then, you know, like some of the other, uh, people you’ve had on your podcasts, you know, then you know those gut microbiome and amazing stuff like that.

Stephen: Then there’s that opportunity for house, right? If there, if the body is bombarded by exterior exposures in our homes, then the positive microbiome can thrive, right? Because it’s too busy fighting the bad guys, right? It’s too busy fighting ill health. So by creating a healthier environment, you and your microbiome, you know, along with everything else going on has a much better chance of thriving when you go into a home. What will you do? Typical, yeah, typical healthy host inspection’s going to take three, four hours. We’re going to walk around together. Um, it’s really important that the homeowners are with me because, uh, I have questions in the more they can answer about how they use the space, the more I can help them. But also we don’t, we’re not taught how to use our homes. We’re not taught when to change the furnace filter. We’re not taught how often and clean the duct work. You know, in high school we didn’t how to do our taxes or taking care of our house to useful things high school could have done for us. Um, and so it’s a lot of education and, and I work with all, all types of people, you know, all incomes, all ethnicities, all diversities. And it doesn’t matter. Um, we simply don’t understand our homes. And so by walking them through explaining how the building physics works, how hot air rises, how air moves, how moisture moves, how thermal energy moves. My understanding, some basic physics, really simple stuff. Nothing complex, but understanding how hot air rises and how that affects her home, I can empower them to make changes. I don’t want to come in and just tell them, do this, do this, do that. When I really try to do is educate them so that they can understand, wow, that’s a really good idea. I understand the rationale and I understand the basic science to empower myself to make changes. You know, any monkey can come in and take an air sample that’s not difficult. But to be able to educate the homeowner and empower people and even tenants, it’s not just homeowners. We all want to live healthy. And so, you know, I can, the typical healthy house inspection might take three, four hours. If I didn’t have to talk to anybody, I could probably do it in 20 minutes. But that’s not benefiting them. That’s not empowering them and helping them move forward. So it’s really important than the education

Richard: or again, what are some of the specific recommendations you’ve given to people and maybe tie that back to the science. Yeah,

Stephen: sure, sure, sure. So classic. So I live in a cold climate lemon Canada. Um, and so we understand how chimneys works, hot air rises. And so, um, the taller the house, if you have a two story house and a basement, um, that’s a very tall column. And our Anna catches our, in fact, outside doors. For most of us, the attic leads into an unconditioned space. And for most of us, our attic hatch is a piece of plywood sitting in the sitting on the ceiling in your closet upstairs versus your front door is an insulated air tight latched entity to keep the winter out of the house. But at the top of our chimney, I got a piece of plywood, not airtight. And so we are bleeding energy in cubic meters per hour on an average home in a cold climate, you know, Ontario. Um, in an average month, it’s an incredible amount of air leaving. And that’s our heating dollars of course. But for every cubic meter of air that leaves, there’s a cubic meter of air that comes in and that’s gonna come through the cracks and the crevices that’s going to come through your dirty basement walls and along your rim joist for the concrete stops in the Woodstock. And those are really filthy places. So we’re pulling in dirty air in the winter time. It’s very dry air in a cold climate. And so then we’ve got like respiratory issues. We’ve got particulate that heating irritant, you’ve got heat loss. That hot, moist air is also gonna condense up in your attic and turn into liquid or even frost, and it’ll actually freeze on the bottom of your roof deck and you’ll see little icicles in the spring time it’ll rain, which is super cool. For me, a nerd, it’s pretty terrible for the average homeowner to have their attic raining and that compresses the insulation. And so this is, this is a huge thing just because we didn’t seal our attic catch and it’s going to take you longer to get a chair and to move the boxes than it is to get up into that attic. Catch and seal it with tape or caulk or double sided foam gaskets and a couple eyelashes. So that simple trick and that simple, um, detail affects probably 90% of the homes across North America.

Richard: Well, all right. I’ve seen some homes that are, I guess lead certified or they’re supposed to be environmentally sound and they’re all sealed up and they seem to me as far worse than old homes that may have read a lot. I mean, what’s your, what’s your thoughts there? She methods, buttons, Heights, nothing leaks. Ultra efficient home, better or worse?

Stephen: Yeah. Excellent question. Um, I’m, I personally lean towards older homes. Um, from a health perspective, new homes can be healthy when all the details are done properly, all the equipment’s installed properly, all the equipment is balanced and the homeowners understand it implicitly and know how to use it. The challenges, most of those never happen. There’s a fault in all, in that chain, in almost every single time. We also have a lot more newer products, newer chemicals. Um, we’re not using solid trees and lumber like we used to. Now we’re using manufactured and engineered lumber and, and materials. And that’s fine. We’re not cutting down the trees we used to, which is important, but they all have glues and solvents in them. And so the tighter the home, the more chemicals are present and the harder it is for them to off gas. So it takes longer for them to get out of the house because we’re not opening windows because we’re relying on the mechanicals. The older homes, you don’t want anything older than world war II, 1950s and 1940 Z and, and back. What you’re going to see is solid lumber, solid materials, some drywall, plaster, solid wood cabinets are going to be made out, uh, more, uh, plywoods and particle boards. So you’re going to see a difference. Now as you go back a hundred years, you’re going to see a lot more dust issues on older. They’re really old homes. Century homes going to have a lot of dust issues. They’re not insurmountable. Neither is a new home. But we don’t think about these. You know, you think about it, I think that’s great. Um, you’re a novelty. In my world, most of us just want the sparkly new house, you know, and they don’t think about, Oh they kind of smells in here or that new car smell, you know. Um, some people actually liked that you can buy the air freshener at, uh, you know, I went to home Depot and hang new car smell cause you’re not getting enough chemicals in your daily drive to work. But we need to realize that clean doesn’t have an odor and these chemicals in newer homes are impacting our brains and our health for sure.

Richard: Well, all right. So you said that for instance, an attic is not sealed when you’re pulling air from a, you know, that place in the house, but then you’re saying the everything is too sealed. It’s no good either. So what’s the happy medium here?

Stephen: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah, it’s really difficult to get an old house really airtight. It’ll never be perfect. Um, it takes a great deal of effort and, uh, time and labor to make that happen. So there’s still going to be air movement. I want you to think about your home as a, as a call under, right? And as we approach the physics, the more I can contain that vessel, the more I can seal those holes, the better control I have over it, the better control I have over, uh, that home, the easier it is to clean. Right? And so oftentimes when we’re thinking about indoor air quality strategies, we jump right to clean. And if you’re trying to clean basically the entire outside, cause it’s moving through your house and cubic meters per hour, you’re wasting your effort and money. So we want to contain the vessel as best as we can. And then once it’s contained, then we can control it mechanically. And I’m thinking about managing it and then it’s significantly easier to clean. So again, dumb it down. Keep it simple

Richard: about as to the sweet spot too. As long as everything’s off gas, then sea level home.

Stephen: Yeah, for sure. Yes, I agree. Yeah, you’re great at this. You should come work for me. You’re absolutely correct.

Richard: It just seems contradict.

Stephen: It can and it is a balance. Um, it is a balance. Most of my inspections, most of my work is with existing building stock. Um, so rarely do I get called into new construction I have and I’ve done it. But typically speaking, it’s existing building stock and that building stocks important because most of us live in it. And when we started looking at like the carbon economy and trying to make things, uh, energy efficient and you know, energy reductions by 80%, you know, by 2050, you know, some numbers bantered around are like 80% of the building stock in 2030 exists right now. And so we have to make these homes more airtight to meet, to save energy, but we have to do it wisely and we have to do it thoughtfully. And the homeowners have to be educated. Most homeowners simply don’t know how they’re, how to properly operate or their ventilation systems if they’re not taught. And that trick alone, that five minutes, um, would make a huge difference in making people more comfortable in Halcyon in their homes.

Richard: Okay. Now you’re getting a little South by the way of, you can speak up, I’m sure. How long does it take for a home to off gas?

Stephen: It depends on what’s being used.

Richard: Five. Can I paint a wall if I put in new carpet or you know, I mean, what are ballpark times for all these things? What’s a good practice if I do something in my house and walk for about [inaudible]

Stephen: yeah. So you want to pick the healthiest building materials that you can afford and some of them are very, are the exact same price point. So it’s not costing you any upgrade. You can pick a zero VOC paint or zero V with zero VOC tents for no price difference. Uh, I don’t get paid by them. Uh, but Benjamin Moore’s Natura and Benjamin Moore’s aura paints are really great. There’s better paints that are more expensive, but off the shelf for the same price point if there’s zero VOC, and that’s a great option. So there’s always simple solutions. And then we want to make, uh, when we talk about timeframe for offgassing yeah, it depends. The chemicals are so varied, uh, within manufacturers. Um, it could be for paint, theoretically it’s not fully cured, you know, 30 days. So you could have some offgassing but paints going be a couple of days for 90% of the odor. Um, you’re going to see, uh, carpets are gonna, especially in a damp basement or on a slab foundation. They’re going to be, um, uh, the, the more, uh, moisture, the, uh, older is going to be there a lot longer cabinetry. They can be offgassing without you smelling them. So formaldehyde is a, uh, is older frame, but uh, does impact a lot of people and you may not realize it. That’s the problem. You may just have a niggling headache or uh, you know, some little brain fog and not really figuring out what’s going on and associating it with um, an actual cause and source. And sometimes that’s what I get called in for is to, is to figure out what’s making them ill. um, but I think the power of the is is the ability to search out a healthier building materials. And there are green building supply companies across North America, um, who are happy to help and they’re great places to start and to learn the language of what is available and what’s healthier. Um, if there’s someone close, great, go have a look. Um, have them send some samples. If not, you’ve got a language to go talk to your local suppliers and see what they have. And if you need help, then you know, a building biologist obviously use can help you source those materials. But it depends because we’re all different. You know, when we talk about some of the, the brain chemistry and neuroscience that, that, that have been people, uh, talking on this podcast, our brain chemistries is all unique. And so some people are sublimely sensitive, uh, exquisitely sensitive to certain things. I had one client react to the polyethylenes screens on her South facing window when the sun hit them. Remarkably rare. But that was the problem. It took me a while to figure it out and we switched them out for metal and shoes. Fine. And some people can work in the worst conditions and not be affected whatsoever. And so this becomes really hard because oftentimes within a home environment, one person will be more sensitive than the other, and that can lead to real, uh, conflict. Uh, you know, a wife may be more sensitive than the husband and he thinks she’s crazy and she’s totally reacting. And so it’s hard to figure that out. So everybody’s different. That’s, that’s a problem.

Richard: Oh, when do you get called them and people even know that you exist and what you’re doing CIS. And when did they call you in for what problems?

Stephen: The bulk of my work is, uh, for indoor environmental inspections is with insurance companies. So I get called in for disasters. So when your hot water tank let go, when your roof fell off, when there’s no potential specialists or mold in the building or chemical real chemical issues that we can’t figure out, some homeowners find me through and network, um, through, you know, just being in the business and, and being in the environmental, uh, green, uh, certain network in my area. So, uh, marketing and doing talks and a lot of, you know, public service in the beginning and just educating people and empowering people. And uh, word of mouth. Um, I don’t have to do a lot of advertising because uh, I guess if you offer great service to clients and then they’re happy to share your name and uh, and most of my clients come referred so I’m very grateful for that. It’s taken awhile but,

Richard: but again, if people don’t have a disaster kind of problems my day experience where they would need your help.

Stephen: Yeah. Typically it’s health related. So my two main client bases are going to be retired families and a young starting a family. Those two age brackets are willing to pay for their health. Those of us in the middle, I’m simply too tired. It has to be serious, right? Cause I got to get kids to circus and I got to kick kids to soccer and I got to and, and, and, and, right. But those starting a family and those retired, they have time to think about their house. And those, those are typically the ones that call me because they think there might be a problem with their house. And so they’ll reach out to me. Older people still find me any yellow pages. Um, and younger people it’s go, go for sure. So, um, so targeting those, those two markets, um, that’s how they reach out to me. And that’s how, uh, that’s how I find the work. Yeah.

Richard: Okay. Well very good. So what’s the best way for listeners to find out more to find you and evaluate if they have an issue?

Stephen: Yeah, well I appreciate that opportunity. My website is www.yourhealthyhouse.ca I am in Canada’s, what’s your healthy host. Dot. CA. Um, my bio’s on there, there’s lots of articles I’ve written. Um, I’m starting a podcast next month and uh, September’s, I’m excited about that. Um, and uh, yeah, that’s the best way. Lots of free information on that website cause I tried again to educate and empower people from the website so they can learn more. So, yeah.

Richard: Okay. Well very good. Well, Steve, thank you for coming on the podcast.

Stephen: I really appreciate the opportunity and it’s a great podcast. I’ve been listening to it and really enjoy it.

Richard: You’re listening to the future tech podcast with Richard Jacobs. Future technologies such as artificial intelligence, STEM cells, three D printing, gene editing, Bitcoin, blockchains, the microbiome, quantum computing, virtual reality and exploring space are much closer than you might think. In fact, many early versions of these technologies are in play right now and the companies that are using these technologies for the focus of this podcast, my goal for you, the listener, is to learn from these podcasts. You may very well learn something that may change the course of your life for the better steer you towards a new career would give you insight into addressing if there were any medical problems. You remember this podcast and its content is informational in nature. Only. No medical tax, legal, financial, or psychological advice is being given. If you enjoyed the podcast, please listen, subscribe like them, tell your friends about it. Thank you.

Stephen: If you enjoy this show, please leave a review and subscribe to the podcast and you will be doing your part to help others create their own healthy homes. If you’d like to learn more about me, Steven Collette, and what I do, please check out my website at Your Healthy House dot. C a music for the podcast is by Brian Pickett of voodoo highway music audio technical support is by Mike Pickett. Editorial support is by Eric Rosen. I’m your host, Stephen Collette. Thanks for listening and enjoy your day. Cheers.