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Healthy Home Lighting Makes a Difference in Your Home

Lighting in your home can affect your health.

Healthy Home LightingDo you ever think about lighting and how it affects your health? Not only is lighting extremely important in creating a particular atmosphere, but it is also affecting your health. Most people know that healthy home lighting can affect melatonin levels and sleep, but did you know it could also affect cortisol, asthma, and even blood sugar balance? And by the way, if you did not know this: melatonin is some of our best free-radical scavengers and cancer fighting protection.

Last month we discussed lighting geared toward workplaces and discussed the components of lighting. The information in that post is geared toward healthy office lighting, but many of the principles are applicable to healthy home lighting as well. Click here to revisit that office lighting post and review lumens, color temperature and color rendering index.

Keep in mind lower Kelvin temperature is warm and cozy while higher Kelvin values are more like daylight, which is invigorating. The higher the temperature, the more blue is in the light, which increases mental alertness and reduces melatonin.

A Side Note About Melatonin and Sleep

Electronic screens emit blue light which is one of the reasons using technology in the evenings and/or before bed could disrupt your sleep.

Have you been strong-armed into using CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs because you’ve heard they are green and consume less energy? Not so fast. CFL bulbs create dirty power on your wiring system. You could install filters to remove this interference, but these filters are still controversial as they sometimes increase other types of electromagnetic radiation. Plus, the electricity used by the filters would cancel out any type of energy savings offered by CFLs. That’s dealing with normal operation. But what about when you break a CFL bulb? The mercury released actually creates a hazardous waste area! Yikesola. They are very toxic. If — or in our experience when —you break a fluorescent bulb, we recommend you seal off the area, open a window and leave immediately. You can return 24 hours later for clean up after all has settled. Studies show if a fluorescent bulb is broken on carpet, you can never completely remove the mercury. Plus, in our opinion, they are pretty ugly and the light they emit is simply not attractive.

And while we are on the subject of fluorescent lighting, they really are not a healthy source of lighting as they are shown to cause migraine headaches (http://www.livestrong.com/article/122360-health-effects-fluorescent-lighting/) and eye disease (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222423/).

Conventional wisdom on “green” lighting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What do we do?

Remember those good ole incandescent bulbs? Yep those! They work just fine, the light is good and they don’t cause health issues. In the home, standard incandescent bulbs are great! LED lighting is another option. LEDs are generally better than CFL bulbs, but consider these two things:

  1. Some are worse than others, but our friends at Healthy Building Science have done some testing (http://healthybuildingscience.com/2013/09/10/emi-and-leds-not-all-leds-are-the-same/) and it appears that CREE LEDs are best.
  2. Be aware of Line Voltage vs. Low Voltage. “What?” you might say. Line voltage is the standard voltage found in outlets and junction boxes (examples include lamps, and most ceiling fixtures) while low voltage uses a transformer to step the voltage down from 120 volts to 12 volts.

Many recessed can lights are low voltage, as are task lighting, desk lighting and LED strips. Do we love having this kind of lighting for working or just creating a mood? Of course we do! However, it comes at a price, and that price is magnetic fields. If you choose this type of lighting, place the driver/transformer away from locations where you spend a lot of time


Well friends, there’s still a chill in the air where we are, so w’re headed to light our EcoSmart non-toxic bioethanol fire. We have to admit fire light might be our favorite source of lighting!

Cheers to living healthy!


7 Ways to Create a Healthier Office Environment

We are a little obsessed at the moment with creating a healthier office environment.

7-ways-create-healthier-office-environmentYes, its true: We’re obsessed with offices. In fact, so excited we can barely stand it. Did you know health is no longer something you pursue before or after work? That’s right, health can be obtained while you work. Are we loving the relationship between building biology and workplaces? You bet we are. It’s like getting married, except the marriage is between work and health. And the great news is, more research is being done to show the relationship between buildings and health (check out McGraw Hill Construction’s Smart Market report on how buildings affect health). If you are interested in higher productivity and employee satisfaction while reducing sick days, keep reading.

Lets talk about all the ways to make an office or workplace healthy.

Air Quality

healthy-office-air-quality-fanWhether it’s new construction or renovation, you can ensure all the building materials and products used will not “toxify” the environment with a lot of off-gassing. In many situations an air flush (forcing air through a new construction building prior to occupancy) could be beneficial. And while we are on products, cleaning products will inhibit good air quality faster than most anything else. So once you make it healthy, don’t ruin it with unhealthy cleaning products. The healthy ones are everywhere, so that’s easy. Let’s also ensure there is not only a smoking ban inside, but one outside as well. Throw in some upgraded air filtration (or at least an individual unit in areas where there are machines like copiers which pollute the air), and your air will be much cleaner. A recent Harvard study showed that cognitive function and response rates are much increased with improved air quality.


Water

healthy-office-pure-waterThe stuff is necessary for life. Research shows we humans still aren’t drinking enough of it; and particularly enough clean and healthy water. Research also shows people will drink more water if its easily accessed. Solution: place healthy filtered water stations at regular intervals.

 

 


Lighting

healthy-office-lightingDid you know lighting is one of the biggest ways your circadian system is regulated? The circadian rhythm is the biological mechanism for regulating the cycle of sleep and activity. Proper lighting, glare control, and exposure to daylight can dramatically influence eyestrain and productivity. It will also decrease eye related health issues such as headaches.

 

 


Fitness

healthy-office-fitness-take-the-stairsExercise at work? Yep, you heard that right. We love incorporating walking and cycling desks. Why not burn more than three times the calories of sitting? Even a standing desk is better than sitting all day. Or, go ahead, ride your bike to work. Many offices are equipped with showers and bike racks. Maybe you are lucky and there is a gym in the office so you can grab a workout during lunch. Yoga classes onsite? Sure, healthy employees are more productive employees. If the above options are not present, at least take the stairs. Six flights a day is enough to offset the average annual weight gain.


Electromagnetic Radiation

healthy-office-hard-wired-networkAdmittedly, this is a little more difficult to control with the demand of WiFi and other technologies. However, you can ensure workers are as far away as possible from routers and offices are not located adjacent to mechanical rooms. And did you know, a hard-wired system is more reliable for that super jazzed up conference room you use to impress your clients?

 

 


Collaboration

healthy-office-collaboration-teamWork spaces are opened up. Gone are the days of the private office. Collaboration is key so work spaces are designed with more comfortable groupings to encourage teamwork. This is fantastic because we all know teamwork creates success and mental stimulation. Remember, the healthiest happiest societies are those where people are more (and more often) relational. You need a minute to revitalize? No problem, lets incorporate a meditation room. 15 minutes and you are nearly as good as new. Many offices also offer seminars about sleep support, stress management, or nutrition.

 


Food

healthy-office-food-strawberriesAre there onsite food options? Perfect! But lets be sure vending machines are free and clear of unhealthy items and plenty of fruits and veggies are accessible. Maybe there is a coffee bar. We suggest offering hot tea and healthy juices as a complement to the typical coffee with cream and sugar.

 

 


Ahhhhhhhh… so many fun ways to make an office healthier. Are you trying to recruit the best talent or the next generation of workers? A more collaborative, healthier office could be a key component. And why wait? In the future this will be the norm. Work, home, play, live — the lines are getting blurry. And that is music to our ears.

Are Power Lines Dangerous? The Connection Between Power Lines & Health

Power Lines are Everywhere

Is there a connection between power lines and health?We see them all the time but in a sense, they are invisible to us. The power lines that provide our electricity are everywhere, but do you ever think about them? More importantly, are power lines dangerous to our health? Most of us go through our day expecting lights to work, food to be cold, and the oven to be hot. Is this method of delivering electricity completely safe? Yes — and no. We don’t want to scare you but remember the quote: Knowledge is power (no pun intended!).

Vital Spaces has seen an increase lately in concern with power lines and their health impact, and the concern is valid. We’ve reviewed a number of studies, which show that living near or next to power lines increase the chance of cancer and other health issues. There is a lot of controversy over whether power lines are dangerous. Regardless, power lines create magnetic fields, and magnetic fields have been linked to many health issues from headaches and depression to cancer, particularly childhood leukemia.

Should you be concerned? We think the answer should be yes: a small amount of effort could yield big health benefits.

About Magnetic Fields

Lets do a quick review. What are magnetic fields? Magnetic fields are electromagnetic radiation caused by current. Current is present when appliances are on and running. Magnetic fields are also generated by wiring errors and transformers. The other sources of electromagnetic radiation include electric fields (caused by voltage) and radio frequency (caused by communication signals) such as those emitted from cell phones, WiFi, radio and cellular towers, Bluetooth devices, your Apple TV or Roku, and practically any other wireless device in your home. All electromagnetic radiation is linked to health issues, but in this blog we are most concerned with magnetic fields as they relate to power lines.

Power Lines Generate Magnetic Fields

What happens near power lines? Magnetic fields can be very strong. Fortunately, fields decrease dramatically with distance. Factors that increase a reading include proximity to transformers. Transformers are used to change the voltage on the line, typically stepping it down to enter a home or building.

The distance the lines are apart from one another also make a difference. The closer they are together the more the lines are canceling each other out. There is something called a Hendrix Spacer Cable which decreases the distance between the lines. Buried cables are much better since the spacing is naturally closer. An electrical substation is obviously worse. Additionally, the loads on the lines can be less or more depending on time of day and are highest generally in the evenings when people are home and utilizing electricity most.

Limiting Your Risk

Are there guidelines for limiting exposure to magnetic fields? Not in the United States. The International Association for Building-Biology® and Ecology has a limit of 0.2mG (milligauss) for sleeping areas (your body is 10 – 100 times more susceptible while sleeping and sleep is the time to give your body a rest since it is in healing mode). The World Health Organization says a level of 3 – 4mG is possibly carcinogenic. Sweden has a limit of 3mG and Switzerland sets the limit at 10mG. Vital Spaces typically sees readings of 0.2 – 1.5mG in the average home environment. As a building biologist, we want to see readings of less than 1.

What Can You Do?

  1. We suggest having a building biologist measure magnetic fields in and around your property as well as property you are considering for purchase. Contact Vital Spaces today to schedule this assessment.
  2. You can purchase an inexpensive meter and measure it yourself. Keep in mind that many times we see clients who have done this, but they either feel their meter is not reading properly or they just can’t be sure they are measuring correctly.
  3. Once we learn the level of exposure and risk you are dealing with, Vital Spaces is available to offer common sense solutions. You may be surprised at both the risk you’re dealing with and the practical steps you can do to improve your health.

Bottom Line: Isn’t a quick magnetic field test worth your health and especially the health of your children who are more susceptible than adults? After all, you deserve to live your best life!