Book reviews: Is your home
UPdate spring 2005
My House is Killing Me
by Jeffrey C. May
John Hopkins University Press
When I first received My House is Killing Me, I loaned it to a friend who had
recently become ill in her own home (but not elsewhere.) After several weeks,
she returned the book. “Was it useful,” I asked. “Oh yes,” she sighed, “but its
tiring. Every time I read a bit, I have to get up and go clean some place else.
I had to buy my own copy. Its going to take me a while to get through it.”
The subtitle,The Home Guide for Families with Allergies and Asthma, says it all.
Author Jeffrey C. May focuses on common allergens including dust, dust mites and
other critters, and yeasts and moulds in their many forms. May, an indoor air
quality professional, looks at where these substances may be silently and
invisibly accumulating in many houses. He shows how to track allergens to their
sources; leaky shower stalls, dryers that vent into garages where moisture
accumulates, dust mites in carpets, closets and bedding. Finding and eliminating
allergens can go a long way to overcoming allergies and asthma.
Don’t ignore the warning signs is one of May’s main lessons. The faint smell of
oil, the musty smell or stain on the ceiling can be indications of problems
which are serious. Track problems to their source. May draws on his experiences
with clients to show how he investigates problems, determines the cause, and
finds a solution. He provides many easy to follow recommendations, although not
all the diagnosis or solutions are in the ‘do it yourself’ category. Many of
problems he describes require an expert with specialized tools to detect. An
Homes that Heal
by Athena Thompson
New Society Publishers
Our homes are our third skin, writes Athena Thompson in Homes that Heal . How we
design and live in our homes is as important to our health as what we put on our
skin. Thompson’s book is full of “Jane, Liz and Steph” stories, through which
she contrasts the conventionally build or renovated home, and the habits of its
inhabitants, with the a healthy home, based on principles of building biology.
Thompson is motivated by her concern for children’s health, and believes that
the choices people make about their homes are essential factors in their
Homes that Heal introduces you to your house in a new way. Thompson takes the
reader behind the paint colours and furnishing designs, which is where the
attention of most home owners stop, and draws attention to the often unnoticed.
The wet spot on the wall, the vent pipe that doesn’t vent outside, the “new”
smell from a piece of furniture, the appliances multiplying on your kitchen
countertops all mean something, and they all may be affecting your family’s
Homes that Heal is a very chatty book, enjoyable and easy to read. It covers a
wide range of issues. It’s an excellent introduction to 21st century air quality
issues. Homes that Heal focuses on newly recognized sources of ill health, low
level chemical exposures, and shows how we can live more happily, and healthily,
by making more conscious choices.
The Sick House Survival Guide
by Angela Hobbs
New Society Publishers
What distinguishes The Sick House Survival Guide from other books on healthy
homes is its attention to the impact of electromagnetic fields (EMF). Hobbs
bases her book on her own experience tracking down the environmental factors
which made her severely ill. Her hypothesis, based on this experience, is that
high EMFs in combination with low level chemical exposures can make people
severely hypersensitive, and that overcoming sensitivity requires dealing with
both types of exposure.
We live in a time when the electronic gadgets are multiplying in every room of
our homes. Outside our homes, cell phone towers, power lines and other high
concentrations of electromagnetic fields are being spawned.
There isn’t a lot of research yet on the effects of electromagnetic fields, and
Hobbs’ book may be dismissed for this reason. But, as with chemical sensitivity,
the experiences of individuals dedicated to reclaiming their health may be all
that we have to work with for decades until research science catches up. There
seems to be evidence that there is a group of people who are extremely sensitive
to electromagnetic fields. The Sick House Survival Guide may be a gift to people
in this category, and to health practitioners who work with them. It certainly
raises valuable questions for all of us. A very practical and helpful book.