Episode 17: Creating A Healthier Home With Tammy Louise From Building Biology Mama
Today, I’m talking to Tammy Louise, who’s a building biologist over at Building Biology Mama. Tammy’s work involves identifying and addressing health hazards within indoor environments such as a home. It’s a really interesting topic that I am excited to share with you today!
In this episode, she delves deeper into why we should be aware of health hazards within our home.
Particularly, when it comes to our children. She also talks about:
- Some of the most common health hazards she sees in homes as a building biologist.
- What Electromagnetic fields (EMF) are, their health implications and how we can reduce our exposure to EMF.
- Find Tammy at Building Biology Mama here
- Listen to the Healthier Homes and Living Podcast
- Get on the waitlist to join the KLUB when we open again
Hey, hey, how you going today? Welcome back to the podcast!
Today, I’m talking to Tammy Louise who’s a building biologist over at Building Biology Mama. If you haven’t heard of a building biologist before, it’s someone who identifies and addresses health hazards within indoor environments such as homes. Really interesting area and I’m excited to be talking to her and bringing you this information. Now, this is a huge topic. I may say this is a huge topic a million times through this podcast. We really are just bringing awareness to some of these things and scraping the surface. Whetting your appetite for you to want to know more about this huge subject.
So please, do not feel overwhelmed when you listen to this. Use it as an introduction to the subject and definitely look at seeking some more information on this area. If it’s something that you are interested in, which I think as mums, we should all be interested in this topic. Tammy shares lots of information with us today, including why we should be aware of health hazards within our homes. Particularly, when it comes to our children. Some of the most common health hazards she sees in homes as a building biologist.
We dive into EMF – electromagnetic fields. What they are and what the health implications of them are. How we can reduce our exposure to EMF, the most important bit I think.
I really hope you’ll enjoy this chat I have with Tammy…
Jess: Welcome to the podcast, Tammy! It’s great to have you here. Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Tammy: Hi Jessica, thank you for having me on the podcast today. Yes, I am a building biologist and I teach mums how to identify and minimise environmental factors. This includes chemicals, and EMFs, and a whole range of other environmental factors that may negatively impact their child’s health. Their behaviour and their learning. As much as I’m a building biologist who goes into somebody’s home after a family has been experiencing ongoing health issues, seek to find mold. If there’s a mold problem, or if the cell tower across the road is causing an issue.
Tammy: A big part of my job that I really love is that I love working with mums, to empower them. We make so many decisions as mums and I really love being able to work with them. Giving them the knowledge and therefore the confidence to be able to maximise their children’s health.
Jess: Yes, I love that. Because this is such a big topic when we’re talking about, our environment and our home and the impact that certain things can have on our health. It can be really overwhelming. And I think that is a really good point to start off with the podcast is that, we will be talking about a whole heap of different things today. You may start to feel a little bit overwhelmed but I think both Tammy and I are really passionate about just making a commitment to make one change and doing that until it becomes a habit. Then moving on to the next thing because those small steps can really make a difference long term. So yeah, I think we’re very much on the same page in that respect.
Jess: I know this is a really big topic, but can you explain why we should be concerned about health hazards in our homes? And the impact that they might have on our children’s health?
Tammy: Yeah, so I think there are multiple reasons why we should be concerned or be aware of health hazards in our homes. Firstly, because I think health hazards in our home can affect our unborn children and that’s massive. Before we’re even thinking about having children, health hazards that are in our home have the potential to impact our unborn child. And the reason why is because as a mother, we take on the chemicals and we take on a toxic load. Sometimes, depending on the chemical or the toxin, we have that ability to offload that onto our unborn child or even for breastfeeding mums. So that’s one reason why I think we need to be aware of health hazards in our homes and try to minimise them.
Tammy: Another reason is that children are not little adults. Health hazards do not affect children the same way as they affect adults. For example, fetus, infants and children. Their susceptibility to harm from environmental toxins, from whether it’s ingesting a pesticide, it will be different. It comes down to the simple fact because they are growing and they are developing. Their composition, their metabolism, their ability to excrete toxins, physiologically, their biochemical processes, they’re all different. So therefore, their ability to get rid of these toxins or these hazards once they’re exposed to them is different to an adult.
Tammy: And another reason why I think we should be aware of hazards in our home is because children in particular, have different exposure pathways. For instance, they tend to spend more time on the floor. Being on the floor is a very different environment. Their breathing zone is much lower than ours. So they’re exposed to different toxicants than what us as adults are. Down on the ground, that’s where the dust usually sits. Carpet cover is particularly problematic, because it’s just a sink for everything that’s gone on in that environment. You can’t ever get everything out of the carpet, and they’re down on that level.
Tammy: So they’re exposed to those toxins more so than what an adult will be. They also have higher hand to mouth ratio. And they also pick up objects, put things in their mouths. So their exposure is different to ours but it’s also increased, it’s more so than ours. That’s why I think we should be aware of the health hazards in our homes because they have that potential to impact our children’s health more so, if that makes sense.
Jess: Yeah, definitely, that makes a lot of sense. Thank you for switching that concern to aware because I think that that’s a much healthier way to look at it. You brought up so many good points there. That children aren’t just small adults, I’m saying this all the time when it comes to their nutritional needs. They’re not just small adults. They’ve got a higher need for nutrients than we do as adults because of all that growth and development. And as you said, they’re more susceptible to damage from toxins because they are growing and developing. When we have children, it’s a time when we start to be more aware of these things, because our kids just are so vulnerable. So yeah, so many good points there.
Jess: As I’ve said a few times, this is obviously a huge topic with so much to cover. We’re just going to try and sort of scratch the surface today to bring more awareness to mums. Give mums that are listening something to think about. Can you explain some of the most common health hazards or toxins that you see in family homes as a building biologist?
Tammy: Yeah, so the most common environmental toxins or health hazards that I see in the home is usually, the first one’s probably surrounding food and water. Pesticides is an issue in conventional farming and the water contaminants in our water supply is an issue. Chemicals that we bring into our home can often be a problem. Unfortunately, labelling laws are not the most transparent or the easiest to read these days. Sometimes even with the best of intentions, new products that are brought into the home. So in regards to the sofa or the mattress, these things often are sprayed with flame retardants or stain resistant chemicals. These aren’t always necessarily needed to be there and there are better products there.
Tammy: It is often something that they’re the sort of chemicals that we’re often seeing. The other thing that I’m also seeing, because I work a lot with new families, is in regards to like the baby bottles. The clothing, those sorts of things. The environmental toxins associated with those products. But then also EMF. The single biggest thing would be the EMF, the environmental exposure to that.
Jess: Yes. We’re going to dive into those in just a second. Just back to, I guess the chemicals that we’re bringing into our homes via cleaning products. Personal care products, furniture, clothing, things that we need for babies like baby bottles that you mentioned. Do you have a couple of tips on ways that we can take note. When we’re choosing new products to be bringing into our homes, what can we look for. What would you recommend to start to reduce the amount of chemicals that we’re bringing into our homes?
Tammy: Yeah, in regards to chemicals and personal care products, aside from being able to understand all the different chemicals out there. What they do and the impact that they can have, because that’s just not realistic. Getting back to basics and looking out for things that have minimal ingredients in them. Then searching up what those ingredients are, getting au fait with those brands, and then sticking to that brand. Therefore, you don’t have to think anymore. Or getting in touch with a building biologist who can assist you with purchasing. “Right, I want to set up my makeup, is there any brands that you recommend that are the safer ones that I can get?” And then sticking within those brands.
Tammy: Then you don’t have to think about those things anymore. So finding go-to brands, I suppose is one of my tips. Then you don’t have to keep, revisiting. Ideally, a company doesn’t change their ingredient list, which is not always the case. But if we can get our staples correct, that will go a long way in helping us minimise. With baby bottles and those sorts of things, sticking to what our grandmas and our grandparents used to do. Sticking with things like glass that are inert, and it doesn’t react, just trying to stay away from plastic. They will make a big difference. Silicon, here nor there, in regards that it’s inconclusive.
Tammy: You know, there are studies to show that it can leach at high temperatures. Particularly, in the presence of fat and all of that. So, I’m cautious about recommending silicon. But when you need a substitute, sometimes like in the teat of the baby bottle, I’d much prefer to go down the line of a silicon teats than a plastic one.
Jess: Yes, that’s a really good tip. And I love that advice of minimal ingredients, looking things up. I don’t know, if you rate the Chemical Maze app as good. But I find that really helpful for looking up you know, different ingredients. Whether they be additives and preservatives in food or cosmetic and cleaning ingredients. Because that, like you said there’s hundreds or thousands of different chemicals, and we can’t know them all. So yeah, having those go-to brands and I think I saw on your website, you’ve got a recommend page with recommended brands for different products as well.
Tammy: Yeah, yeah, that’s right, I do. There’s only a few things up there but I mean, it’s a growing list all the time. I love that you mentioned the Chemical Maze. EWG also have a great website, but I just want to put a bit of a caveat on there because sometimes people go to those sources. They look at them, and they’re like, “Oh, this one, you know, says it’s a one…” You know, it’s limited, it’s fair, it’s not very toxic. Sometimes you need to go down into and look further into it, because there’s actually no data on it. There’s no research on this. So it’s not necessarily a safe option or a safe ingredient or, a safe something that you want to be included in a product.
Jess: Yeah, that’s a really good point. And so, like for the Chemical Maze. I know they give a smiley face, a sad face or a neutral face. So sometimes, that neutral face will mean, well, there’s no research to show that it’s harmful, but we’re not really sure.
Tammy: Yeah and research is limited. I’ll just go back to the issue that we have in regards to drugs. I mean, if you look at the drug, DES, was a form of estrogen that was given to mothers to prevent miscarriage. And yet, the daughters that were born had no effect on the mothers, there’s no side effects. They would say. If a mother took DES while she was pregnant and the child that was born, whether it was a girl or a boy, there was adverse health effects. And it was subsequently pulled. The adverse health effects would be like, huge. Some of them were rare forms of vaginal and cervical cancer.
Tammy: So, we’ve got to look at these things and say, “Well, long term effects, sometimes it’s not studied.” That was a drug that’s tested infinitely more than what these chemicals are being tested at. We just have to be very careful. That’s why if I go back to basics, going back to minimal ingredients, then you’re going to, I think, be in a bit of step. Than if you go, “Yeah, they’ve looked at that one, and they’ve tested it, and they’ve done that.” Have they tested on vulnerable populations, on pregnant women and children? And have they looked at the long term? You often find that most cases they haven’t.
Jess: Yes, and that’s a really good point. Those minimal ingredients, ingredients that you recognise or can look up and sticking to those go-to brands. Because as you said, research only goes so far. There’s all the complexities of, maybe this particular chemical on its own isn’t terribly problematic. But then when you mix it with this, this and this, that is also prevalent in our environment. Then it does become problematic. So research can’t tell us everything. I love that you really brought that up.
Jess: Let’s move on to EMFs. Can you tell us a little bit about what they are? Just for anyone listening that might be thinking, what is this EMF? I know it’s very complex. So just a simple kind of explanation of what EMFs are, and some ways that we can reduce our exposure to them.
Tammy: Yeah, so EMFs are just waves, right? Electromagnetic fields. EMF just stands for electromagnetic fields. They really are just waves and they just vary in frequency and length. There are four major EMFs that building biologists look at. We try to minimise in the home because we know that they have adverse health effects. Those are AC electric fields, AC magnetic fields, radio frequencies and dirty electricity. When you think of EMFs, because often we’ll get called in and we’ll get someone and I’ll say, “Oh, I really am worried about my smart meter.” They’ll start talking about electric fields. And you really got to look at electric fields as there’s many different types of EMFs and think of them as fruit.
Tammy: So the electric fields are apples, the magnetic fields of bananas. The radio frequencies are watermelon, and the dirty electricity is kiwi fruit. As much as they are the same, they’re all fruit, they all have different properties. And so they reacted, behave in different ways. They also have different ways they can impact our health as well. Beyond getting into, more detail, I suppose the most important thing I think, is, as you mentioned, how we can reduce our exposure to them. So, I think magnetic fields and electric fields generally emanates from appliances. The electrical wiring, and the power, the power routes outside.
Tammy: There’s minimal that we can do to minimise our risk from that. If your house is wired correctly, and you’re set back enough from a power line, then expect them saying that. They generally aren’t a problem, if that makes sense. So they shouldn’t be a field that you have to worry about. Often, there’s something going around with the wiring. Or someone’s very close to a substation, very close on a circuit story building, and they arrive close to the power lines outside. Then we’ll see issues and we’ll have to try to work with the clients to lower the exposure. But outside of distance, it’s very difficult.
Tammy: Then you’ve got radio frequencies, which is the biggest thing that most people we get called in for. People were worried about it, you know, the whole cell towers, and smart meters as well. Those things, I know it’s everywhere. And often people go, “Yeah, when I turn on my Wi-Fi on my computer, I can see all of them come up on my list.” It’s one of those, yes, they are around you and yes, it is everywhere but the impact that is having on you, it varies. Because it depends on how close you are to the source, depending on what the source is.
Tammy: It depends on, there’s lots of variables. And there’s also a lot that you can do to reduce your exposure to them. A lot of it comes back to you being empowered and knowing how to use these tools, which is great. Because it means we can do a lot.
Jess: Yeah, yeah, that’s great. Wi-Fi is one of the things that people are worried about. So what are some simple things that we can do, most houses have got Wi-Fi. Schools have got Wi-Fi. Are there some simple things we can do at home to reduce our exposure to these kinds of EMFs?
Tammy: Yeah, absolutely. So as a building biologist, we recognise that the place that you want to protect the most is the sleeping space. The biggest thing that we recommend is that you try to minimise or switch off everything at night. If you do have Wi-Fi, as you have around your house, which is what most people do. Especially from working from home and having children on home learning on the computer and that sort of thing. They didn’t have it, they do have it now. If you can’t get it hardwired, my first recommendation is to get it hardwired. And when it is hardwired, make sure that the WiFi component is switched off and not sending its signal. Sometimes it can still be sending a signal.
Tammy: If you can’t do that, aside from that, make sure it’s all turned off at night. So that you can protect that sleep space, because that is where we get to regenerate our bodies. That’s when we get to repair our bodies. We try to protect that as much as possible. That also goes to us adults or even teenagers, if they’ve got their phone and they’re taking it into their bedroom at night. You need to put it on airplane mode, don’t have it next to the bed. Some people have gotten rid of their house corded phone, their corded phone. If they can’t go back to a corded phone, don’t get a cordless phone. It’s exactly like having a mobile phone, those DECT phones are pretty much the same thing.
Tammy: Try to switch it off at night and if you can’t, because you need to be in contact with someone, try to have that phone away from your sleep space as much as possible. Have it in another room at least away from you and have the volume turned up loud so that if it does ring that you can go attend to it. But it’s not, you know, you’re using distance there to try to minimise your exposure because it does decrease with distance.
Jess: Yeah, yeah, that’s great. No, my kids, think I’m crazy for putting their devices on airplane mode. Or I get them to put them in the living area while they’re sleeping out of their bedrooms. And yeah, we turn our Wi-Fi router off at the switch at night time, even though it’s a bit of a pain. Because it takes a while to kind of start up again in the morning. But we generally try and do that. The other thing that I do, and I’d love to know if this is worthwhile is I have an Ethernet kind of plug for my laptop. I spend a lot of time on my laptop. So I’m plugging it in as opposed to using the Wi-Fi. Is that beneficial?
Tammy: Yeah, as long as the Wi-Fi component is turned off. That’s the thing, so that’s hardwiring. So you using the Ethernet is exactly what hardwiring is.
Jess: Yeah, and again, it’s not really common practice these days. But if you are spending a lot of time on your computer, then getting that sort of hardwiring connection or Ethernet connection to that computer that you’re spending a lot of time on. I think is, all these little things that we can do can make a big difference. So we talked a bit about EMFs. What they are and how we can reduce our exposure to them. What are the dangers of EMFs on our health?
Tammy: Yeah, so the dangers of EMFs depends on who you talk to. If you talk to ARPANSA which is the Australian governing body or look to America, then they’ll just tell you that there virtually is no issue with it. However, if you look at the researchers who study this, and for decades, they have been saying that, in particular, cancer is a massive issue in regards to radio frequencies. But it’s also been linked with magnetic high magnetic fields as well. There was a study done, I think Werheimer and Lipa, if I’ve said that correctly, first alleviated the problem with magnetic fields in cancer leukemia in children and that was decades ago.
Tammy: Cancer is one of the biggest things that can have an effect on but there’s also a range of symptoms that people can get. Like some people say that they’re getting headaches. The tinnitus in the ears, dizziness, brain fog, it can affect people differently. It’s a bit like people with SIRS. I know we had a chat just for your group earlier in regards to SIRS. It’s a bit like that in the sense that there are some nondescript sort of symptoms that could be attributed to this. Could be attributed that and the researchers are finding that some of the symptoms are attributed to radio frequencies as well.
Tammy: You’re not necessarily electrically sensitive. What they’ve dubbed is electrically sensitive individuals from being around this stuff. So the symptoms do range in how they can affect our bodies. However, you’ll be hard pressed to get a governing body recognising those as symptoms which can be problematic. When you’re going to the doctor and you’re presenting with certain symptoms.
Jess: Yeah, yeah. And I think it can just be quite confusing and murky because we were talking about SIRS. We did a video for the Natural Super Kids Klub members specifically all about SIRS and mold illness within our home. If you’re a Klub member, you will be able to find that in the membership site very soon. But a lot of those symptoms that are related with mold illness or SIRS sound like they’re similar to some of the ill effects we can get from EMFs. The western medical model has not recognised these conditions very well.
Jess: So I think it makes it, I guess, a little bit confusing. But I think the important thing is that we’re aware of these things. We’re starting to try and reduce our exposure to them. So that is really what today’s podcast episode has been all about. I think we could have spent a podcast episode on all of these different elements that we’ve talked about. Can you tell the audience, Tammy, how people can find out more, if they’re wanting to learn more about this? The work that you do and the services that you provide and where they can find you?
Tammy: Yeah, great. My colleagues and I are doing workshops for people who want to find out more about this sort of stuff. We do some seminars as well, so you can find us over at healthierhomesandliving.com. Also, if you’re looking specifically for some help with you in your home specifically, you can find me at buildingbiologymama.com.au.
Jess: Okay, beautiful. I’ll make sure that I pop those links in the show notes. Head on over to the podcast section over at naturalsuperkids.com if you’re listening to this podcast elsewhere. I’ll have those links there for you so you can find out more about this very interesting topic. I just find it so fascinating. Thank you so much for joining me today!
Tammy: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me!