Thu, 14 Oct 2010 23:49 UTC
Our homes and the products we fill them with are making us chronically sick, according to an Australian expert in natural medicine and building biology.
Household cleaning products, plastic food containers and baby bottles are causing a rise in maladies such as infertility, diabetes and obesity, says Nicole Bijlsma, founder of the Australian College of Environmental Studies.
Ms Bijlsma is calling for the offending products to be stripped from supermarket shelves - although this view puts her at odds with toxicology experts.
Ms Bijlsma warns our houses themselves are also to blame, with mould, toxic-laden dust and electro-magnetic fields also leading to chronic illnesses such as reoccurring colds and flues and even leukemia, she claims.
She said that in her 21 years working as a naturopath she has treated numerous patients suffering ailments such as the flu, insomnia and weight gain - and often found that the patient's house was the cause.
In one instance a woman was suffering from copper poisoning from her tap water.
Ms Bijlsma's views, contained in her new book Healthy Home Healthy Family: Is where you live affecting your health?, were also inspired by her own experience trying to become a mother.
She suffered 10 miscarriages over seven years while sleeping in the vicinity of a strong electro-magnetic field in her house in Warrandyte, east of Melbourne.
She gave birth to twins in January 2007 when she was 37, only after moving bedrooms and receiving treatment from a reproductive immunologist.
Ms Bijlsma had another child naturally two years later after moving to a different house in the neighbouring suburb of Ringwood.
"If there's evidence to indicate there could be a problem we need to act now until we can prove it's safe, and then we can bring it back into the marketplace," Ms Bijlsma told ninemsn.
Toxicology expert Michael Moore agrees that some things should be removed from our modern environment, but he says a balanced and researched approach is needed and taking products off the market altogether is too extreme.
"You need to take a proper balanced view of the available evidence, not just have a knee jerk reaction - unless there's unequivocal evidence that something is a problem," Professor Moore, from Queensland's Griffith University, told ninemsn.
"Sometimes you'll see something peculiar happening in one individual ... but you can't extract what happened to one person to the general population."
Professor Moore said Australia was a very firm adherent to World Health Organisation standards.
But he conceded consumers should be alert to health concerns about everyday products.
"There is good justification for the removal of some things from our environment ... some of the plastics are now being questioned," he said.
US blogger and author Lenore Skenazy - notorious for revealing in a New York Sun article that she let her nine-year old son ride the subway alone - is far less concerned about the health hazards facing families.
"I don't worry that my kids drank out of bottles that had BPA (Bisphenol A) in them," she told ninemsn, referring to a Harvard study that said exposure to BPA could interfere with reproductive development.
"Kids have been drinking out of those bottles for 25-years and there are still males in the world."
Ms Skenazy, who spoke recently at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, urges consumers to be more sceptical about health warnings circulated in the news media.
"You turn on the news most nights and there's something that's going to kill you - some new germ, some new product, some new additive," she said.
"Often these studies mislead us because they're not put in context. Sometimes it's a small study, sometimes the results are inconclusive."