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What is Sick Building Syndrome?

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

Have you heard of that term before? Have you ever walked into work or a similar indoor environment and felt sluggish, with scratchy eyes or even a tight chest? Sick building syndrome gives Monday-itis a whole new meaning. If you have experienced that unwell feeling when spending too much time indoors, it’s time to take it seriously. Think of those itchy eyes, irritated airways, headaches and body aches as a red flag your body is waving, sometimes gently, sometimes with desperation for the relief that only fresh air can provide.

Did you know that the average Aussie spends about ninety percent of their time indoors? Factors such as closed windows, poor ventilation, recycled air, mouldy air-conditioning systems, fragranced people and products, electronics, fabrics and furniture treated with chemicals such as flame retardants etc., all contribute to symptoms experienced by some people in certain indoor environments. It is a recognised condition that is known as sick building syndrome. This syndrome is diagnosed when a person exhibits symptoms of ill health in a specific building and not elsewhere – with no other identifiable illness present. Symptoms can range from respiratory irritation to fatigue and headaches – and these are only a few.

Air-conditioned areas that are closed up, lacking access to fresh air (think hospitals, hotels, shopping centres, office spaces) tend to be the worst culprits for sick building syndrome. If air-conditioning units aren’t regularly cleaned and serviced, if vents are poorly located, bringing in car exhaust or factory fumes and allergens like pollen, then the quality of air circulating declines.

Then there are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). VOCs are ‘a class of carbon-based chemicals, which evaporate easily at room temperature, giving off vapours that can be inhaled’ (Is Your Home Making You Sick? – Peter Dingle). Sources of VOCs include paint, carpeting, electrical appliances, furniture, adhesives, cleaning products etc., and these chemicals are found in the dust particles of most homes. VOCs are more prevalent indoors, with concentrations found to be up to ten times higher indoors than outdoors. The sneakiest of all the VOCs can be found in fragrance and perfume (which I personally avoid like the plague).

In addition to VOCs, biological contaminants like mould, fungus, viruses and bacteria, can contribute to the poor quality of indoor air. These tend to flourish in humid climates or any damp areas. I recently listened to a podcast on Low Tox Life with Alexx Stuart and Nicole Bijlsma (amazing building biologist) about home health and how we’re all basically unknowing victims of a mould crisis due to global warming and rising humidity – mould loves the stuff!

The possibility of our buildings making us sick could feel a bit overwhelming, but with this knowledge we become empowered inhabitants of this developed world. While the mainstream population (I’m thinking policy-makers, councils and governments, building companies etc.) might have a long way to go in learning about how to effectively reduce our exposure to toxins, individually we can all do a little bit here and there to help. If you work or live in a building you suspect has poor indoor air quality, have a chat to the owner/manager/landlord; express your concerns and follow up (gently!). You can do your bit and consider taking breaks outside and opening your windows, if possible. Be an advocate for your own health and invite fresh air into your space. This blog is a handy resource for learning how to detox your home Plus I have a free email series with strategies to help reduce the toxins in your home.

If you suspect you are suffering from sick building syndrome, it is best you talk to your health practitioner and take active steps to purify the environment you spend most of your time in.

Krissy Ballinger

Krissy Ballinger

Author, Advocate & Founder

With a background in health promotion, Krissy's passion is to educate and increase awareness on reducing the number of toxins that people expose themselves to on a daily basis, through an honest, simple and realistic approach.

She has sold over 20,000 self-published books and is now published as the author of Naturally Inspired, Simple DIY Recipes for Body Care and Cleaning.

Her recipes have taken her to the screen on more than one occasion, with morning TV appearances, and she received recognition as a ‘Woman Who Will Change The World’ in the AusMumpreneur business awards in 2018.

Beautiful Bicarbonate

Beautiful Bicarbonate

Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as bicarb or baking soda, is an ingredient you might be most familiar with seeing in cakes and muffins, but did you know how useful it is in both body care and cleaning recipes? I would absolutely recommend it as a staple to have handy around the house. Why do I love it? Because of its antifungal, antiseptic and gentle exfoliating properties, plus it is excellent at eliminating odour.

Did you know bicarb comes from beneath the earth and is mined in the form of ore (from huge natural and ancient deposits, 400-500km deep). It goes through a bit of a process before it lands on the shelves. The ore is extracted, refined, separated, ‘washed’, cured, packaged and shipped.

Don’t confuse bicarb (sodium bicarbonate) with washing soda (sodium carbonate). I often get asked if the two are interchangeable, and I’m going to say… not really! Washing soda won’t work in the Fizzy Bath Drops, but you may not notice much difference in the Dishwasher Tablets or Washing Powder, for example.

But… you can actually make your own washing soda by baking bicarb in the oven – did you know that? The way it works is by inducing a simple chemical reaction which releases excess carbon dioxide. In a nutshell, you basically bake a shallow layer of bicarb in an oven (200 degrees celsius) for approx. 60 minutes, stirring a few times throughout the baking period. You’ll know it’s done when the powder feels grainy, rather than smooth and soft. This is especially handy if you need to make a batch of dishwasher tablets or washing powder and you’ve run out of washing soda. I’m going to be honest here and say I’ve never needed to do it as I have bulk supplies (from Blants – use code KrissyTILP for 10% off!) so you might need to do some more research before you attempt it yourself.

I use bicarb in so many of my recipes – to name a few: Washing Powder, Coffee Body ScrubPeppermint Bath SaltsNatural Deodorant Paste, Cleaning Paste and Oven Cleaner

If you haven’t tried my Fizzy Bath Drops or Blank Canvas Fizzies yet, you really need to! They’re two of my favourite recipes using bicarb. Watch me make Cleaning Fizzies below!

Here are some simple ways you can use bicarb around the house:

  • Use bicarb as a carpet or mattress deodoriser – mix ½ cup of bicarb with some essential oils (optional but pretty amazing – my favourites are lemon, tea tree and lavender) and dust over area of the carpet that needs deodorising. Leave for 1 hour or so, give it a thorough vacuum and voila! (Recipe from Naturally Inspired.)
  • A simple paste of bicarb and water is very useful for those pesky underarm stains on shirts. See my Stain Treatment Paste.
  • Forget those brightly-coloured-fake-fragranced-overly-expensive dishwashing machine ‘cleaning’ solutions. A handy trick for a fortnightly clean for your dishwasher – after cleaning the filter and spray arms – is to place 1 cup of white vinegar in a glass jug on the top rack and add ½ cup of bicarb to the floor of the dishwasher, then run a short but hot cycle.
  • For those trying out DIY shampoo, if you feel your hair might need an extra clean, dissolve 1 tablespoon of bicarb in a glass of warm water, apply to hair and massage as you would usually. Then rinse with a mixture of apple cider vinegar/water (50/50) if you like. Note that this is not recommended for daily use, rather as an extra clean here and there when needed.
  • My go-to for hard water stains in the toilet is to add ¾ cup citric acid and ¼ cup bicarb (and a few drops of tea tree or clove oil if you have it) to the toilet bowl, swirl around, leave for 20 minutes or so, then scrub with a toilet brush.
  • I use this same ratio of ¾ cup citric acid and ¼ cup bicarb with a splash of water to clean my shower. Check out my quick video here.
  • You can even clean your silver jewellery naturally with bicarb. Simply line a bowl with foil, add 1 tablespoon bicarb, and 3 drops lemon essential oil (optional), then cover with hot water. Leave for 5 minutes swirling the bowl occasionally. You can then use also a soft microfibre cloth or very soft toothbrush to clean and polish further, if necessary. (Recipe from Naturally Inspired.) 

For even more handy recipes using bicarb, follow this link, or have a look under ‘sodium bicarbonate’ in the index of my book, Naturally Inspired: Simple DIY Recipes for Body Care and Cleaning. Among other recipes, using bicarb, you’ll spot mouthwash, toothpaste, deodorant dusting powder and a gorgeous exfoliating foot scrub.

Krissy Ballinger

Krissy Ballinger

Author, Advocate & Founder

With a background in health promotion, Krissy's passion is to educate and increase awareness on reducing the number of toxins that people expose themselves to on a daily basis, through an honest, simple and realistic approach.

She has sold over 20,000 self-published books and is now published as the author of Naturally Inspired, Simple DIY Recipes for Body Care and Cleaning.

Her recipes have taken her to the screen on more than one occasion, with morning TV appearances, and she received recognition as a ‘Woman Who Will Change The World’ in the AusMumpreneur business awards in 2018.

Hand Sanitising Spray

Hand Sanitising Spray

This spray is my go-to recipe when it comes to on-the-go-germ-fighting-fluid-in-a-spray-bottle! Since we stopped frantically killing the germs (good and bad) from our bodies, we’re actually much healthier and our hands are less irritated. And it’s no wonder; some of the ingredients in mainstream hand sanitising sprays have been linked to endocrine-disruption, skin irritation and organ system toxicity (plus toxicity to aquatics and environmental persistence).

Triclosan-containing soap products were not found to provide any additional skin-sanitizing benefits compared to soap not containing Triclosan. In addition, TCS was found to produce bacterial resistance via target site modification which decreased the inhibitory effect of this chemical. With research findings like this, it’s a wonder we are still seeing it in personal care products. Even though regular soap and water is more effective at cleaning and is the ideal solution for dirty hands, I can see how sanitiser is handy to have when you’re on the go.

So, rather than spend your time analysing labels, or chance compromising your health, why not make your own?

This hand sanitising spray recipe contains some powerful essential oils which are highly antibacterial and antimicrobial, and won’t dry your hands (well, it doesn’t dry ours). Does it destroy all of the germs on your hands? Unlikely. But it is enough to give me some peace of mind when I’m out and about and don’t have access to a sink, soap and water.

Because it contains water and essential oils, I suggest shaking it well, making it in small batches and reading all of my recommended reading notes.

 

Makes: 50 g | 1.8 oz Prep time: < 5 min.

Ingredients

50 g | 1.8 oz water

1 heavy pinch salt

30 drops of essential oils

My choice of essential oils…

My favourite essential oils in this recipe are tea tree, thyme and cinnamon, but don’t be limited by my suggestions. Use oils that fit your budget, or those that you already have in your collection. Read here for more information.

Method

1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix until combined.

2. Transfer into container of choice. (I use a glass bottle with spray atomiser).

To Use

Spray hands as required. Since oil and water don’t mix, you’ll need to shake well prior to each use.

Recipe Notes

  • You might find it easier to add ingredients directly into your chosen container and shake to combine. Add essential oils first to lessen the risk of them overflowing when you secure your lid.
  • I strongly suggest you check out the blog posts under “Recommended Reading”.

Krissy Ballinger

Krissy Ballinger

Author, Advocate & Founder

With a background in health promotion, Krissy's passion is to educate and increase awareness on reducing the number of toxins that people expose themselves to on a daily basis, through an honest, simple and realistic approach.

She has sold over 20,000 self-published books and is now published as the author of Naturally Inspired, Simple DIY Recipes for Body Care and Cleaning.

Her recipes have taken her to the screen on more than one occasion, with morning TV appearances, and she received recognition as a ‘Woman Who Will Change The World’ in the AusMumpreneur business awards in 2018.

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