The Art Inventory

Learn To Limit Toxins in Your Home

by Kirby Lindsay, posted 25 April 2011


The use of even a simple water filter, like this one from Brita, can help cut down on toxic exposure. Photo by K. Lindsay

Once a month, the Bastyr Center for Natural Health offers a free, open-to-the-public educational conversation, their “Living Naturally” series, at their Fremont campus (3670 Stone Way N.)  On April 30th, from 10:30a – 11:30a, Dr. John Hibbs, ND, a naturopathic physician and professor at Bastyr, will present, “Detox Your Home:  Identify Common Household Health Hazards.

What We (Cannot) Live With

Dr. Hibbs, with 26 years in family practice, also supervises the toxicology clinic at Bastyr.  He has a special interest in environmental illness, toxicology and depuration therapies (ways to remove toxins.)  This will be the first ‘Living Naturally’ conversation he’ll lead, and he hopes to provide, “somewhere in between a 101 and 102,” level class.

He will cover the diverse mixture of toxins that exist in nearly every home:  toxic metals in our water, food, cooking containers and utensils, organic compounds we (and our kids, and pets) carry in from outside, as well as volatile organic compounds (VOC) contained in the building materials for our homes, and products we buy every day.

When something irritates a body’s immune system, it triggers an allergic reaction.   Dr. Hibbs explained that toxins also upset the immune system, at some level.  “Most chemicals, when they enter the body, will be detected by the immune system,” he said.  “They can cause a similar response as allergies,” which may alert us to their presence, he explained, “many chemicals are being tied to auto-immune disease.”

Remodel work, like this done in Kentucky in 2009, can involve chemicals and exposure should be limited. Photo provided by FEMA

Yet, many toxic chemicals “can cause a low level immune response,” Dr. Hibbs expanded.  “The immune system is set to attack the unfamiliar,” he said, but when a chemical attaches to a protein cell, or otherwise healthy tissue, “the immune system is set to attack the unfamiliar,” and will hurt cells, tissues, joints or organs, to remove the irritant.  Toxic chemicals, “put the immune system into a hyper-alert mode,” and can cause the body to self-destruct.

“It’s not conjecture anymore,” explained the senior clinician at Bastyr, yet “public health hasn’t caught up with the science.”  While some chemicals do deliberate damage, in others “there is definitely being identified a cumulative effect,” Dr. Hibbs said.  Fuels surround us in urban settings – car exhaust, gas stoves and water heaters, BBQs, etc. – that have failed to fully burn off.  Fuels are neurotoxins that can, in time, cause nerve damage, often starting with a tingling and/or numbness.

What We Can Do

Dr. Hibbs will talk about toxins, and ways to ‘detox’ the home; methods to make ourselves – and our loved ones – safer.  During the conversation, he also can address specific concerns and situations.

Leaving shoes by the door may not be tidy, but it can limit the spread of toxins. Photo by K. Lindsay

For now, he recommended, everyone should remove their shoes at the door.  “Something we should all be doing,” he said of entering the home, “particularly true for those who are sick already, or have small children.  The particulates we pick up are coated with chemicals,” from soil, and streets.  Unburned fossil fuels, dioxins, styrene, etc. can be measured in area soil, and enters homes daily carried on the bottom of our shoes.

Dr. Hibbs also encouraged the use of some kind of water filter, “even just a Brita.”  While he allowed that, “Seattle water is pretty good,” it still could be better – especially during summertime droughts, when our water supply is supplemented with ground well water.

Home construction, and building products, brings many toxins into our homes.  Dr. Hibbs encouraged serious – and thorough – consideration during any remodel.  “When going to the trouble of replacing the plumbing,” he said, especially for homes built in the 1970’s and before, “you need to go to the street,” and create an entirely lead-free system.

More significantly, during any size remodel, relocate rather than living amidst the dust, gasses, and other exposures.  When choosing materials, particularly coatings, use lower VOC products.  A slightly higher price will balance out against serious health considerations.

Today, nearly every product we encounter is petroleum-derived, and many contain suspected carcinogens, if not direct tissue toxicity.  Learning about the products we use can make it easier to find the healthy options, to be wise consumers.

To find out more, or get answers to specific questions, attend the ‘Living Naturally’ session on April 30th.  Additionally, in May, on Saturday the 21st (also at 10:30a) Dr. Hibbs will lead a second ‘Living Naturally’ conversation, on Anti-Aging Remedies for Health & Longevity.  To RSVP to either session, or for more information on the series, contact Seth McOmber at 206/834-4163, or by email.

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©2011 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.


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