• Home

Could your home be making you sick?

The low-down on the toxins in your home from a building biologist

By Jenny Ringland

Given the amount of rain we’ve experienced in the last 6 months, and the consequent mould problem many of us are facing, we thought it was time to re-visit our experience with a home biologist.

A few years ago, when a friend mentioned she had a visit from a building biologist to assess how healthy her home was, I was intrigued. For starters I’d never heard of a building biologist let alone the concept of rating the healthiness of my home.

As it turns out, building biology is the science that covers the holistic relationship between us and our homes and a building biologist can give you a reading on everything from air quality, allergens, toxins and even electromagnetic fields.

So, I invited building biologist Deanne Hislop over to do a toxicology report on our three-bedroom rented house in the Perth suburb of Cottesloe where I was living at the time, apprehensive (and pretty curious) about what she would tell me.

She spent about three hours assessing the way we live using a bunch of beeping devices, as well as doing a stocktake of our bathroom, laundry and kitchen products. All this info was then sent to a lab for analysis.

Here’s what she found:


At the start of my sustainable living journey I started to gravitate towards any label that said ‘natural’ or ‘green’. It’s something I still get caught on, even now. Some of the so called ‘green’ brands we were using including laundry powder and dishwashing liquid still contained synthetic fragrance. This is a concern because most fragrance contains high levels of phthalates which are known endocrine disruptors.

The solution:

A little reminder to always read the fine print.
“When it comes to household products I think Abode is the best on the market, I also like Ecostore’s philosophy’’ Deanne says.

What’s on your walls and floor?

It turns out half the air pollutants in our home came from existing building materials such as sealants and paints. Obviously there was nothing we could do about products previously used in a rental house, but for future there are natural alternatives.

The solution:

“Using natural resins is a better way to coat floors and there are toxin free paints available now too,’’ Deanne says.


This is what I was most nervous about – we had what looked like mould dotting our ensuite ceiling. According to Deanne the tests didn’t identify any mould in the house, however she was still cautious as exposure to dead mould can still be toxic and should be removed.

The solution:

“Wash down surface with a solution of oregano oil and a few drops of dishwashing liquid,’’ she says.

His and hers

While my side of the bathroom cabinet is filled with natural products, despite my best efforts my husband still habitually buys his mainstream favourites, which Deanne told me contributed to our reading of a presence of synthetic fragrance.

The solution:

Don’t give up!
“Some of my favourite brands are Dr Hauschka, Ren, Divine by Therese Kerr and Burts Bees, you just have to keep trying.’’ Deanne says.



RELATED: This is how you avoid greenwashing 

RELATED: 6 of the best natural home cleaners 

The Green + Simple Newsletter

Sign up for the best of sustainability each week