100 ways to live to 100: Your healthy house

Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100

Your healthy house

This section is the worst supported, the most agenda-driven, the most counter-factual and the least referenced. It’s also actively, rather than passively, harmful. Recommending homeopathy instead of antibiotics is stupid but it is no worse than not treating the condition. Advocates for electrosensitivity not only don’t fix the cause of the illness, they are the cause.

Oddly, as @LennyLaw points out, they have omitted a rather important factor that is of particular relevance to the WDDTY core demographic (TQ9ers): radon. Moving away from the South-West, or at least testing for radon and if necessary installing radon extraction equipment, is far more likely to be of benefit than guarding against non-existent electrosensitivity.

But then, radon is natural. In August 2007 (apparently the last time  they mentioned radon), WDDTY were promoting the evil of mobile phone radiation as opposed to:

…frequencies similar to those found in the earth’s natural background radiation, which is being emitted from radon gas, lightning, the sun or the earth’s own magnetic field. Also, over the course of our human
evolution, our bodies have developed defence mechanisms against those natural frequencies.

Yes, you read that correctly. Radon is apparently not a problem because natural. Something else doctors don’t tell you.

26 Choose a home away from power lines, electrical meters and substations, and railway lines if you can

Studies show an elevated risk of leukaemia in children who live and sleep near power lines. If in doubt, measure the EMFs in your home or have independent monitoring done. Visit www.powerwatch.org.uk or check out WDDTY’s Electrosmog Doc’s column.

The claim that power lines cause any demonstrable health effect is soundly rejected by an immense body of research. As the Health Physics Society note:

In conclusion, there are no known health risks that have been conclusively demonstrated to be caused by living near high-voltage power lines. But science is unable to prove a negative, including whether low-level EMFs are completely risk free. Most scientists believe that exposure to the low-level EMFs near power lines is safe, but some scientists continue research to look for possible health risks associated with these fields. If there are any risks such as cancer associated with living near power lines, then it is clear that those risks are small.

This is an important point: science can never prove a negative, so no study finding demonstrating an effect, however weak, however likely to be coincidental, can ever be truly refuted. This is cynically exploited by fearmongers such as Powerwatch and “WDDTY’s electrosmog doc” to build a subculture of paranoia and self-reinforcing anecdotes. More on this later.

Some studies do indeed show a weak positive correlation between childhood leukaemia and power lines. Others show the opposite. There is no credible evidence of adult cancers being caused by this. An effect on only one cancer in only one age group seems unlikely to be anything but chance.

27 Cook with electricity

Nitrogen dioxide, spewed out by gas cookers and gas and oil-burning boilers, often stays concentrated in the home particularly in this age of double glazing, and is implicated in arthritis, asthma and other allergies. One American study concluded that gas cookers generate concentrations of nitrogen dioxide of 200–400 ppb (parts per billion); this means the average kitchen with a gas cooker has an atmosphere comparable to levels of pollution usually accompanied by government health warnings. Also consider moving your gas boiler outdoors.

There are four mains sources of risk in gas cooking, three of which WDDTY missed entirely:  fire, NOx, CO and microparticulates (<100nm). Of these, particulates applies roughly equally to electric cooking and fire to a lesser degree. So of the four risks, one of which is similar with electricity and one is lesser but still present, they missed three, and proposed the most expensive solution (changing cookers) rather than the cheapest (decent extraction).

In fact, a modern gas oven (with no pilot light) will emit very little CO or NOx and a decent extraction system (as fitted in most kitchens these days) will fix it. 

Here’s a review in Occupational and Environmental Medicine from 2001:

Very high concentrations of oxides of nitrogen may also be generated by gas cooking, and with no extraction and poor ventilation, may reach concentrations at which adverse health effects may be expected. Although respiratory effects of exposure to NOx might be anticipated, recent epidemiology suggests that cardiac effects cannot be excluded, and further investigation of this is desirable.

Again, the message is pretty clear: ensure your kitchen has efficient ventilation, and your gas appliances are serviced regularly. Or opt instead for the much more expensive option of changing your cooker, and forget about the particulates because WDDTY chose not to think about them.

Presumably you’re supposed to knit your own electricity, since you live where there are no power lines.

I’m not sure how well this plays with WDDTY’s core demographic, who are solidly in the Aga target market. No doubt WDDTY’s raw food “expert” will tell you not to bother cooking at all.

28 Minimize your exposure to volatile organic compounds

Derived from petrochemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene and formaldehyde can be found in plywood, particleboard (chipboard), wood panelling, insulation, ordinary house paint and adhesives. All ‘outgas’ a stew of toxic vapours at room temperature, causing eye and respiratory irritation, memory impairment and possibly even cancer. Choose eco-friendly paints and real wood over MDF and other ‘wood compounds’. Blast VOCs out by turning the heat up to 100 degrees F (38 degrees C) and opening the windows. Repeat for two or three days.

WDDTY cite no source for this, and I can find no credible source advocating it.

Most outgassing is during the first few weeks after installation, and modern houses may be force-ventilated during this period for exactly that reason. There are various types of insulation, but all have either inherent vapours or are treated to prevent rot, and the treatments have vapours. This is a great reason to ensure the house for a while after treatment. Choosing a random temperature that your heating system probably can’t achieve, so will require large-scale space heating, is irrational.

Perhaps as well as eating your food raw you’re supposed to live in a cold house.

29 Check your water-supply pipes

Although lead pipes have been banned since the 1970s, most of the water in Britain still runs through rickety old Victorian pipes, and the drinking water for one in 10 British people has a lead content far in excess of World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Lead is known to cause brain damage and lower the IQ of children chronically exposed.

Again no source is cited, and no credible source comes readily to mind for the 10% figure or for the risks of lead from legacy mains supply infrastructure. For a house to have lead pipes and the householder not to know, it must have been built before 1970 and not modernised since then – and the householder probably has to have been living there since before 1970, since surveyors note lead piping as part of the normal building survey. If you are concerned about your domestic water you can have it tested free of charge by your water company.

Hard water areas even where lead pipes are still in place, have lower lead levels due to the limescale buildup on pipes. The claim that “most of the water in Britain” still runs through “rickety old Victorian pipes” is questionable. Leaving aside the fact that large chunks of British housing did not even exist in the Victorian era, including whole towns and cities, the largest network of Victorian pipes was Thames Water’s, and they have been replacing them for much of the last decade to mitigate leaks.

The pipes will not necessarily have been lead, either. Thames Water describe their legacy infrastructure as “Victorian cast iron pipes”, but if (like Lynne McTaggart) you grew up in the US, you might have a valid concern: the lead industry mounted a huge campaign in the US to promote lead for municipal supplies despite its higher cost over cast iron, and the cleanup from this is still in progress. I found no obvious evidence of parallel campaigns in the UK.

So this looks like advice based on the assumption that the UK situation is the same as that in the US. It isn’t.

30 Consider wood floors and area rugs

Carpets in homes trap more allergens, are doused with dangerous pesticides and outgas more chemicals than do uncarpeted floors.

Again, no source is cited. If you do follow this advice remember that most laminate flooring is on an MDF back, which WDDTY also tell you causes a problem. In fact, no such problem exists: the gases reduce exponentially over time. There’s also no evidence that a rug is any different from a carpet in this respect.

It might be wise not to carpet your new baby’s room with brand new white shag pile.

Washing the puke out is a bugger.

31 Minimize your exposure to indoor EMFs

Keep the TV and computer screens at a reasonable distance. Place beds and chairs six to eight feet away from domestic sources of EMFs like electricity meters and TVs, and keep bedside electrical or battery-operated appliances at least two feet from your head. Don’t keep electric blankets on while you sleep, and also unplug all electrical devices in your bedroom at night (like TVs, telephones and computers).

This is a mix of archaic advice and paranoid nonsense. In the old days of cathode ray tubes, it made good sense to sit a decent distance form the screen (both from the point of view of avoiding exposure to low-level ionising radiation, and because it minimised perception of flicker. With modern LCD screens, this is unnecessary.

There is no credible evidence at all of ill effects from battery appliances. There are literally no sources other than paranoid EMF/electrosensitivity sites promoting this, but again, more below.

32 Make sure all family members use computers safely

If you’re a man, don’t use Wi-Fi with the computer in your lap as it may adversely affect your sperm and fertility.21 technology, and set up a network for your household computer using the electrical system.

Reference 21: Fertil Steril. 2012 Jan;97(1):39-45.e2. Use of laptop computers connected to internet through Wi-Fi decreases human sperm motility and increases sperm DNA fragmentation. Avendaño C, Mata A, Sanchez Sarmiento CA, Doncel GF.

As usual with such studies, the Wi-Fi element is not separated. The most likely cause is heating, well know to affect sperm. No obvious control for this is included in the paper.

It’s now time to wrap up the credible evidence for adverse systemic effects from Wi-Fi usage around the home:

tumbleweed

But it’s much worse than that. The Wi-Fi paranoids, promoting “electrosmog” and “electrosensitivity” are not just not helping, they are actually the cause of the problem.

Studies on so-called “wind farm syndrome”, Wi-Fi issues and the like, consistently find that they exist only where they are talked about in the media. There is no known physical way they could happen, no credible objective evidence linking the symptoms to the purported cause, but a strong evidence base for the “noceboW effect”, whereby the symptoms are caused not by the purported source but by the expectation that they will be caused by it.

WDDTY is playing a part in actively making people sick.

33 Choose safer household cleaning products

Most ordinary cleaners contain a cocktail of chemicals toxic to people and plant life. Choose cleansers free of sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), phenols, formaldehyde, naphthalene and other widely used chemicals. Avoid air fresheners, which are just chemical cocktails. Ditto for materials impregnated with flame retardants.

You should definitely avoid anything made from chemicals. Oh, wait, you can’t: everything is made of chemicals, by definition.

Definitely avoid cocktails of chemicals though. Use only the pure elements. Oh, wait, that’s utterly impractical and ridiculous.

Seriously, there are all kinds of reasons for handling cleaning agents with care (and absolutely never consuming them as a miracle cure), but used in accordance with the instructions, they are safer than the consequences of not using them. Bleach is effective in killing bacteria and preventing infections.

Avoid air fresheners? Well, yes, unless you want your home to smell like a cheap minicab.

But avoid flame retardants? There are no words to describe how dangerously stupid this would be. Every year in the UK there are nearly 60,000 house fires and 500 people die. The number of cases of people provably killed by flame-retardants in furniture and soft furnishings is, as best I can establish, zero.  That’s why it is illegal to sell some products in the UK unless they are treated with flame retardant.

34 Watch out for lead in house paint

House paint containing lead is largely banned in the UK and US, but could be present in older houses. Leaded paint is an often ignored source of lead in the blood and the greatest source of lead poisoning in children.

A telling point: yes, lead paint has been banned since the 60s, but it is still the leading source of lead poisoning ,even though WDDTY want you to believe that 10% of UK houses have dangerous levels of lead in their water.

Even WDDTY can’t be wrong all the time!

35 Clean up your ‘dirty electricity’

Surges of high-frequency voltages or EM radiation in 50–60 Hz power lines can cause a variety of disorders like asthma, multiple sclerosis, tinnitus and electrical hypersensitivity; all improve when exposure is reduced.22 Buy a Graham–Stetzer (GS) filter (www.stetzerelectric.com), which is specially designed to clean up power from inside and out by shorting out highfrequency

Reference 22: Electromagn Biol Med, 2006; 25: 259–68 Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: biological effects of dirty electricity with emphasis on diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Havas M.

This is complete nonsense. There is no proven link between high frequency transients and these conditions, the Stetzer claims in WDDTY are misleading and unsubstantiated. The study cited is unblinded and refers to a condition with cyclic symptoms.

Once again WDDTY are causing a problem not fixing it. And they are doing so on the say-so of a columnist whose entire business is selling the products to “cure” the problem he purports to diagnose.

It’s a bit like sending someone to Bernie Madoff for advice on clearing their debts.

Addendum: Thanks @PencilBloke for pointing out that this is also mutually exclusive with point 32 – any system that effectively filters high frequency transients from your mains supply will also ground out the superposed high frequency signals used by ethernet over power. On the whole you’re probably better off with a steam-powered difference engineW.

36 Choose safer cosmetics

Perfumes and cosmetics contain a witch’s brew of carcinogens, mutagens, preservatives and toxic heavy metals. New evidence shows makeup and cosmetics cadmium play a key development of aggressive often fatal breast cancer.23 Encourage all the women and preteen and teenage girls in your family to use non-toxic makeup and nail polish.

Reference 23:  PLoS ONE, 2013; 8: e72639 Chronic Cadmium Exposure Stimulates SDF-1 Expression in an ERα Dependent Manner, Esmeralda Ponce, Natalie B. Aquino, Maggie C. Louie.

Why use any form of makeup or nail polish? Seriously? Needless to say the source doesn’t mention cosmetics as a source of cadmium, so even when WDDTY give what would appear to be simple and reasonable advice, they still get it wrong!

37 Choose cars that run on petrol or electricity

Diesel cars may release less carbon dioxide, but they higher levels of particulate matter, VOCs and nitrous oxide—all harmful to human health and responsible for nearly three-quarters of toxic air pollution. The Environmental Protection  Agency (EPA) has now labelled diesel exhaust a ‘likely’ carcinogen.24

Reference 24a: Environ Health Perspect, 2002; 110: A458–64 NIEHS News Rising from the Ashes: NIEHS Awards Post-WTC Grants, E Dooley

Reference 24b: Lancet Oncol, 2002; 3: 581 Clear skies not so clean

WDDTY have apparently never heard of diesel particulate filters, which have become ubiquitous since these two (old) publications. Actually of course the environmentally responsible choice is to walk, cycle and use public transport as much as possible, but this is unlikely to go down well with an audience which is likely to be interspersing pages of WDDTY with discussions of whether the BMW or the Volvo is safer for taking Tarquin and Jocasta to the Montessori nursery.

The issue for the driver is not what goes out of the tail pipe, but what’s present in the cabin. Cabin air quality is no worse in diesel cars, and modern diesels with emission controls are much less dirty than older cars anyway. The major source of exposure to diesel fumes is likely to be sitting in heavy traffic, regardless of what powers your own car.

38 Use natural pesticides

The weed killers and insecticides we spray all around our gardens can cause cancer—especially leukaemia in children, brain tumours and prostate cancer—as well as birth defects, arterial damage and other disorders.25 Use eco-pesticides and natural pest prevention methods.

Reference 25: Institute of Science in Society, ISIS Report 06/10/10

ISIS is not a particularly reliable source. It is committed to campaigning against biotechnology. The linked source includes an exhortation to “Ban GMOs Now“, not a hallmark of a neutral source.

There’s no doubt that pesticides can cause health damage. The evidence that they do so when used prudently on non-food plants is slim to none, and the evidence of any significant effect even from use on food plants is pretty weak, provided the levels are as per the directions.

In the end, the balance between higher yields and less pesticide is one on which reasonable people can (and do) differ. We recommend you take your sustainable gardening advice from Bob FlowerdewW rather than Lynne McTaggart.

39 Choose safer personal-care products

Avoid shampoos and toiletries using TEA (triethanolamine), DEA (diethanolamine) and products with excessive perfumes, nanotechnology and hair dye (which contains resorcinol and p-phenylenediamine, or PPD, both linked to allergies, cancer and sudden death).

We would go further. Avoid pretty much any product sold on TV by fake scientists wearing white coats and using sciencey-sounding bollocks to sell overpriced junk. Especially if they talk about “nourishing” your hair: hair cells are dead, you might as well attempt to bring roadkill back to life by “nourishing” it.

However, WDDTY cite no sources for their particular selection of things to avoid. So it’s opinion, based on a well-established agenda and well-established lack of good critical judgement.

40 Limit your mobile phone use

Some 200 studies point to health hazards like brain tumours and infertility that may be due to long-term mobile-phone use, especially among children. An Italian court recently found a direct causal link between extensive mobile phone use and brain tumours Keep your mobile phone an arm lengths’ away when not in use, says electrosmog expert Guy Hudson, and text rather than talk whenever you can.

The number of studies pointing to a possible relationship is irrelevant, because the scientific consensus is that there is no solid evidence of a causal relationship, and such a relationship would be unexpected as mobile phones do not emit ionising radiation. It’s no surprise that electrosmog believers like Hudson advise against mobile use, but his opinion is known to be misleading (see above).

For credible information on mobile phones and cancer risks see Cancer Research UK, the World Health Organisation, the National Cancer Institute and other reputable sources.

The consensus of these sites is clear, and we covered it in Talking on your mobile phone 16 minutes a day triggers cancer, and the Mayo Clinic sums it up nicely:

For now, no one knows if cellphones are capable of causing cancer. Although long-term studies are ongoing, to date there’s no convincing evidence that cellphone use increases the risk of cancer. If you’re concerned about the possible link between cellphones and cancer, consider limiting your use of cellphones — or use a speaker or hands-free device that places the cellphone antenna, which is typically in the cellphone itself, away from your head.

Who to believe? A man who sells you products to supposedly make your “dirty electricity” clean, or prestigious cancer research institutes and international public health bodies?


Errata and updates:

  • Item 27 updated 25/12/2013 thanks to a tip from @ogoffan

4 thoughts on “100 ways to live to 100: Your healthy house”

  1. Blast VOCs out by turning the heat up to 100 degrees F (38 degrees C)

    They could always use some of those portable gas fires…

    And using a mains network in place of wifi as they suggest may not work if you have fitted those Stetzer mains filters…

  2. In fact, it’s not at all clear what these filters do. Their website talks about ‘surges’ and ‘high frequency filtering’, but it doesn’t seem to clearly state what filter or voltage protection they provide. There is mention of ‘humming’, so they possibly include a choke of some sort. Characteristics, eg frequency profile or energy absorption data are not given, of course.

    My hunch is that it is simply a common mode choke with a varistor between live and neutral – that might give some filtering (although who needs it is entirely debatable, of course) and would be cheap to produce.

    They also don’t seem to understand CE marking.

    1. Surges have bugger all effect on us humans though they may affect your sensitive electronic toys (hence the popularity of surge filter extension leads). High frequency filtering is probably a complete waste of time. Virtually every device these days has a switched mode power supply, and dimmers, fluorescent lamps and the like also introduce transients (and always have).

      My personal view is that people who believe this crap should live a paleolithic lifestyle. That way they ill be out of our hair by age 35. This might be controversial.

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