The Healthy Homes Story
At YSH we are passionate about health and are proactive about delivering healthy homes to our clients. We went through the heart-breaking experience of losing Elise’s father to prostate cancer and caring for him while he deteriorated from a fit 59-year-old who’d always maintained a healthy lifestyle to his sad passing away just two and a half years later. This personal tragedy set us on a course of intense learning about environmental chemical exposure and its effect on our health.
We know that we can play sport, work-out at the gym, eat well, get plenty of sleep, cover up in the sun, choose cosmetic products wisely, avoid outdoor pollutants and buy environmentally friendly household products, but all efforts to live well and stay healthy can be effectively negated if we don’t have a healthy home. Home is, after all, where we spend most of our time. We also know that primary prevention is the simplest and most economical way to address potential environmental health risks in our homes.
For us, this means designing our homes around our clients’ wellbeing and selecting the healthier alternatives wherever possible when it comes to the products and materials we use in construction and fit-out.
We recognise that hazards can’t be avoided completely but a lot can be done to minimise risk and ensure the safest use of the space. From garage placement and ventilation, to the positioning of electrical wiring and appliances and the use of integrated screening methods to reduce occupants’ exposure to EMF radiation, our designs reflect the value we place on health and wellbeing.
In terms of the emissions, the main offenders fall within the broad group of carbon-containing chemicals referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which included known carcinogens such as formaldehyde, methylene chloride, toluene and xylene. These compounds ‘volatilise’, or transform to a vapour, at room temperature. From building frames, to timbers, wall linings, insulation, kitchen cabinetry (especially MDF and particle boards, and laminates), doors, flooring materials and drapes, we strive to select products with low VOC ratings or zero-emission (E0) ratings wherever possible. Similarly, products such as paints, coatings, sealants, groutings, adhesives and water-proofing agents contain high levels of VOCs and our choice is low-emission products.
The effects on health can include respiratory issues, irritations of the eyes and throat, headaches, dizziness, liver and kidney damage, and central nervous system damage. Further, a significant proportion of cancers are known to be caused by environmental toxins. And poor quality residential air can also exacerbate other illnesses. Particularly susceptible to adverse health effects are vulnerable people such as the elderly, infants, pregnant women and those who are immunocompromised. For children exposed to formaldehyde, an increased risk of asthma is probable, and allergic sensitisation to common allergens is proven.
The level of exposure to environmental health hazards in the home is, to a large extent, a choice. At YSH we believe the value of health cannot be over-rated, and we are proud of our choice to create and deliver healthy homes. We know that many construction materials contain compounds that are harmful, some even carcinogenic, to humans, and that these are emitted slowly over many years as the materials off-gas into the environment. And if that environment is a poorly ventilated enclosed space such as a house, occupants are continually exposed to those harmful emissions, with both short-term and long-term adverse health effects.