The day I engaged Building Biologist, Raphael Siket from Ecolibria to assess my home, my suspicion was confirmed, my home was quite literally making me sick.
We had been living in the home for just over 2 years but I had noticed a decline in my health with recurring eye infections and a list of other symptoms such as watery eyes, body aches, night sweats and concentration/memory issues.
I had begun my building biology studies having fortuitously learnt of the course listening to Alexx Stuart from Lox Tox Life interview Nicole Bijlsma, founder of the Australian College of Environmental Studies, on her podcast.
Nicole was discussing the wide-spread problem of mould in Australian housing and the possible health effects of living in a water damaged building. As Nicole was describing CIRS, Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, otherwise known as biotoxin illness, I was in disbelief. My strange, seemingly random symptoms started to make sense in light of this new information.
After a quick internet search I came across Surviving Mold, a US site by Dr Ritchie Shoemaker who is acknowledged for primarily establishing the link between biotoxins and previously undefined illness and subsequent methods for diagnosing and treating the multisystem, multi symptom illness.
For me the absolute clincher was that having been diagnosed with coeliac disease, the specific HLA haplotype for coeliac disease was found to be directly correlated with mould susceptibility whereby the body is unable to produce antibodies to biotoxins which results in excessive inflammation throughout the body.
I saw an integrative practitioner who made a diagnosis of CIRS and having just completed the Mould unit with my study I knew I needed to know if my home was contributing to my ill health.
Raph carried out a typical BB assessment including the checking of air quality, moisture issues and emf exposure. He found that our upstairs ensuite bathroom had a moisture problem extending out from the tiled shower recess with very high moisture readings at all testing points on the floor tiles.
Based on his experience, Raph was certain that a mould issue would be found under the tiles in the substrate flooring and given my side of the bed was less than a metre from the ensuite, this was a concern, however he was confident that the water damage and mould problem could be remediated.
There was another water ingress problem on one side of the house that was causing water to pool after heavy rainfall under the main bathroom and one of the kid’s bedrooms downstairs. This would require some significant drainage works but again, there was the possibility of remediation.
Raph then began testing the EMF levels in our home. I watched him go back and forth from the front of the home, where both of our daughter’s bedrooms were and out to the street several times.
When I asked him if all was ok, he said with some disbelief that he’d had to re-check his equipment and measurements several times because the magnetic fields were extremely high in both bedrooms. He then took the readings again with me present and explained that the power lines out the front of our home were double power lines (2 rows) increasing the voltage output and magnetic field exposure levels.
The only remedy for magnetic fields is distance and there just wasn’t an easy fix to reconfigure the home’s floorplan so that our girls weren’t sleeping in those two rooms with exposure levels in the range of 11mG.
Childhood Leukaemia is associated with long-term exposure to magnetic fields above 4mG, whilst Building Biology standards for maximum exposure levels are set at 0.2mG for bedrooms.
I didn’t care one bit that regulatory authorities set standards far above these levels. The growing concern amongst the scientific community regarding exposure limits, questions about the methods used to assess EMF effects, industry influence on ‘safety levels’ and the fact that testing is based on adult not children’s exposure were just a few reasons that as a mum, I was not prepared to ignore the risks, so the search was on for a new home.
When I found what I hoped to become our new home, we again engaged Raph to conduct a pre-purchase building biology assessment.
The biggest concern I had was the proximity of the home to a small cell tower. I was extremely nervous because this home ticked everything we wanted for it to be our forever (well until the kids move out!) home.
Raph assessed the home giving it ticks all round and fortunately the slight valley that the home is situated in meant the cell tower did not pose an issue.
We have lived here for over 12 months and I have not had one eye infection since moving in and my health is so much better.
Looking back on the past 4 years, I can now see that perhaps I needed to experience what I did to go on to learn what I have, so that I am better placed to share my experience and knowledge with others.