Is your building making you sick?
We hope that you are managing to cope through this difficult time, it does seem easier to get deliveries and food supplies than it was at the start of the lockdown, which is good. We are still working from home, although hoping some of the restrictions will be lifted soon so we can venture back into the office, in a safe way, in the near future. For those new members who have recently subscribed we will get a postal pack sent out when back in the office and in the meantime will send out an e-mail pack.
Some of you have noticed that you recently received two e-newsletters (one from last September and the other from the beginning of May). This was because quite a few people were not receiving our newsletters. We apologise that this issue has taken a while to resolve, our previous IT volunteer very kindly looked into this for us. We hope that the problem is sorted out now so do let us know if you have any further problems. We are also currently updating some of the helpsheets and ensuring the links on our website are all working.
It is May awareness month, thanks for those of you who have been liking and sharing our Facebook pages. It is still important to get people taking about MCS and other chronic illnesses.
Glossary: EI: Environmental Illness, MCS: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, EHS/ ES: Electro-Hypersensitivity
An easy to make carrot salad, full of vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, vitamin B6 and full of fibre. Ideal in this hot weather. Click here for the recipe.
As the head of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Joe Allen is working to transform design and construction of indoor spaces by revealing how ventilation, temperature, lighting, and noise affect health. His team drove a key part of that research forward in 2015 with a series of papers that proved what countless office workers long suspected: Indoor air quality influences job performance. The CogFX studies, conducted in collaboration with Syracuse University and SUNY Upstate Medical University, and supported by a gift to Harvard from United Technologies, showed a direct link between cognitive function and indoor environment.
In the study’s first phase, 24 participants worked for six days in a simulated office while researchers regulated the room’s concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the chemicals released from things such as carpets and surface cleaners. They also set ventilation rates and carbon dioxide levels, re-creating the conditions of green and green+ certified buildings and conventional office space. Then they put subjects to the test. “We watched how they made plans and decisions and accessed information relative to what was happening to see if they could be strategic in their thinking and we found really dramatic effects even from minor changes to the indoor environment,” Allen said. “One of the deans asked me, ‘How will your research impact the world?’ I put that line up in our lab and it’s still there. Our approach is to pursue research that we know will transform the market — and transform health.” Participants’ cognitive function was significantly affected in all nine areas tested, including focused-activity levels, information usage, and strategy. Crisis-response scores were 97 percent higher at the green office setting compared with that of conventional office space, and 131 percent higher at the green+ office setting. The results supported Allen’s idea that your physician may have less of a role in day-to-day well-being than the facilities manager where you work. “All of that has such a big impact on our health, but we just don’t recognize or appreciate it every day.”
Most of us aren’t alarmed by the smell of fresh paint or a new carpet. But those odours, released in the form of VOCs, can be toxic. In his lab, Allen is probing the health effects of VOCs and other chemicals, including hormone-disrupting agents lurking in flame retardants commonly found in furniture, toys, and other household items. Last year he co-authored a paper with Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, exploring possible links between flame retardants and thyroid disease. The research, said Allen, showed “a higher risk of thyroid disease in women who have higher concentrations of this chemical in their blood, and an even greater risk for women who are postmenopausal.” Allen and his team are also researching possible links between a class of chemicals found in stain repellents and immune suppression, testicular and kidney cancer, and high cholesterol. Such compounds have been dubbed “Forever Chemicals” because they “never go away,” Allen wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece last month. To read the rest of this article, click here.
This article was first published online in The Harvard Gazette by Colleen Walsh in February 2018.
Be careful with car repairs: One of our subscribers told us that her car had to go in for repair recently and that the garage ended up adding a cleaning product to her air-conditioning. This contained two chemicals that are toxic. Please ensure that you know what is being done to your car if in for repair and don't accept any cleaning as they may add products that you are sensitive to.
Disinfecting may thwart virus but raise chemical risks at work
This article written in the U.S looks at the issue with an increase in chemical cleaning products due to Cornavirus. Read more here.
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