Ep.81: Non-Toxic Environments with Andrew Pace
This episode of The Vibe Podcast is an excerpt from a very special event that I’m doing with Ryan Sternagel called, “The Toxic Home Transformation Summit.” Ryan and I interviewed more than 30 experts in what is causing toxicity in our lifestyle, inside our homes, inside our pantries, in our energetic environment, and we asked each speaker for clear and actionable ways to clean it up, so that we can live healthy lifestyles even in this modern world. The Toxic Home Transformation Summit will air for free in June.
In today’s interview, I bring to you a building materials expert, Andy Pace. For 25 years he’s been advising people who have depressed immune systems, allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivities. He consults to interior decorators, and people in the building industry on creating a green and non-toxic home.
We’re talking today about furniture, carpet, paint, and flooring. Let’s learn about how to build, remodel, or live in a high vibration home.
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Join us at The Toxic Home Transformation Summit: Click Here
Learn more about Andy’s Green Design Center
Check out his podcast on iTunes!
Robyn: Hi there, and welcome back to Vibe. This episode of The Vibe Podcast is brought to you by a very special event that I’m doing with Ryan Sternagel called, “The Toxic Home Transformation Summit.” Ryan and I interviewed more than 30 experts in what is causing toxicity in our lifestyle, inside our homes, inside our pantries, in our energetic environment, and we asked each speaker for clear and actionable ways to clean it up so that we can live healthy lifestyles, even in this modern world. The Tox Home Transformation Summit will air for free in June. So if you’d like a free seat in this online event, go to GreenSmoothieGirl.com/Summit.
This interview today is an audio excerpt from the summit with one of our experts. Today I’m bringing you a building materials expert. His name is Andy Pace, and for 25 years he’s been advising people who have depressed immune systems, allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivities, because multiple chemical sensitivities is actually a real diagnosis now. There’s a lot less awareness than there should be. But, it’s an actual medical diagnosis, and he sits on a lot of different Boards of Directors for Green Buildings Organizations. But what he does is he consults interior decorators, and people in the building industry. But also just individuals who want to remodel, or want to build a home from the ground up, or learn about how to create a non toxic home.
We’re talking about furniture, we’re talking about carpet, we’re talking about paint, we’re talking about flooring. I think this will be useful for you if you ever have any remodeling in your future, or if you’re thinking about moving, or if you might potentially be building a home in the future. Let’s learn about how to build, remodel, or live in a high vibration home. So, welcome Andy.
Andrew: Thank you very much, I’m really happy to be here today.
Robyn: Well, I’m happy to be here today too, because — I have not told you this yet — but the reason I wanted to interview you (because I look at all the people that Ryan and I are interviewing, and I said, “I want him”): you know that Ryan is building a home in Park City.
Robyn: What you don’t know is that I am moving to park City this fall, fall 2018, and I’m not building. I’m moving into a condo that I already own up there.
Robyn: And so, it will be a year and a half old when I move into it. I’m kicking tenants out, and moving in. And so, I’m super interested on a personal level, because I’m going to buy all new furnishings, because I am taking all of my furniture that I live in here in this home, and putting it into a rental. Another property I own up there in Park City, two of them actually, that’ll be rentals. But you know, I want to do it right.
Andrew: Mm-hmm (*affirmative*).
Robyn: I also want our followers in The Toxic Home Makeover Summit to learn what I’m doing, and what, you know, a lot of our mental blocks are. “Oh my gosh, this is going to be so expensive.” And what I’m learning, as I learn more and more here, is it’s not necessarily, not always super expensive. But also, when you get really sick, like Ryan and Teddy’s son had cancer all of a sudden, there is no better expenditure of your money than to clean up your lifestyle.
We wanted our followers to be able to learn from our journeys, and what we’re doing as Ryan and Teddy build a totally green home, and as I make my new home as clean and non-toxic as possible. Anyway, that’s a long background to: we hear this term, “Green building,” all the time these days. What does that actually mean when people use that term, and what does that have to do with our health?
Andrew: Sure. So the term “Green building” came about basically in the mid 1990’s. It had to do with sort of this encompassing idea of energy efficiency, global environmental concerns, and the health of the occupants. The problem is, as the building industry adopted green, the whole human health issue basically got pushed back to the back burners. Builders, architects, the industry as a whole adopted the entire energy efficiency part of green, as the, that was the common goal. Energy efficiency, saving our natural resources — which is a fantastic goal to have.
But, what happened was, all the green building certifications that are being used now across the country, they completely eliminated the human health component of it; and while most of the builders, architects, designers, consultants, talk about “green” from a human health standpoint, the metrics that they use really have nothing to do with human health, they have to do outdoor air pollution. And so, they got confused, and now myself and our company are really the only organization in the country that focuses on the human occupant based upon the toxicity, and the hazards that are found in traditional building materials.
Right now there’s over 88,000 chemicals used in the production of building products and home goods. 88,000 chemicals. Out of those 88,000 chemicals, we only know the toxicological effects of three percent. We have no idea what some 88,000 chemicals do to the human body. So, what we try to do is take the approach of, “let’s just reduce the overall chemical load.” We know that with chemical sensitivity, and asthma, a key trigger is formaldehyde. And, if we can eliminate formaldehyde from the building materials, from the built environment, we can eliminate a vast majority of the problems. We also know that by eliminating formaldehyde, we’re also taking care of a whole host of other chemicals that are petrochemically related.
It’s been a long 25 years of coming to this point now. We have a group of about 100 manufacturers that we can trust, about 7,000 products that we can use to help maintain or build a completely healthy home.
Robyn: So, let’s just go there for a second, getting rid of formaldehyde. I imagine formaldehyde is in a lot of different home products, building products. You said when you get rid of the formaldehyde, a lot of other chemicals disappear with it, because they’re probably all in the same products. So, what kinds of products have formaldehyde in them? Are we talking paint, are we talking carpet, are we talking particle board and furniture, or what?
Andrew: Yes, all of the above. Formaldehyde as an ingredient was taking out of paints back in the late 70’s, when they used formalin as part of the formulation. Manufacturers have added back in what are called formaldehyde precursors, or formaldehyde donors. These are chemicals that each make up less than one percent of the volume, so it doesn’t have to be listed on the material safety data sheets. But, as the paint cures, it actually combines to create formaldehyde. Along those lines, one of the biggest problems we have in this industry is what we call, “Green washing.” This is the way that manufacturers write about their products in a way that make them sound very safe, very healthy. But, when you actually look at the words, the words have no meaning. The words don’t add up.
And, so we know that formaldehyde’s found in a lot of, even the zero VOC paints that are in the market today. We know that-
Robyn: VOC? VOC being?
Andrew: Okay. Zero VOC paints will contain formaldehyde, and actually will create formaldehyde during the curing process.
Robyn: Define VOC’s, because not everybody watching will know that term.
Andrew: Sure. So, a VOC is a Volatile Organic Compound. VOC’s are regulated by the EPA because of the propensity for them to react with low level nitrogen, and UV to create smog. So, the EPA back in the mid to late 90’s started regulating VOC’s in products, and you’ll notice now when you go to a hardware store, a paint store, a lot of the products you’ll find are zero VOC. And, the manufacturers give the illusion that, that means that it’s safe for the occupants. In reality, that just means that they don’t contain chemicals that contribute to outdoor pollution, but they can contain chemicals that are highly toxic to humans, that aren’t regulated as VOC’s. Those chemicals include acetone, ammonia, and butyl acetate, common found in zero VOC paints.
Robyn: Okay, so this reminds me of how nutrition is more of my jam, and I try and educate people about the same things that a lot of the marketing terms. These are for profit companies talking about their foods, wanting you to think that they’re healthy, and most of the marketing terms out there designed to make you think that it’s healthy are completely meaningless-
Robyn: … Unregulated. Sorry to hear that it’s very similar in the case of building materials, and I’m not entirely surprised. Can you talk about furniture? I’m going to be taking a lot of my furniture and putting it in the rental properties, and taking my family heirloom antiques. Wherever I am, you can probably see one or two of them in my house. My mother and grandmother are antique collectors. I’m going to keep those, and my guess is that those aren’t very toxic.
Robyn: But, what kind of, if we can, what kind of furniture should we buy? I have been told that I need to go to local craftsmen and say, “Use lumber, don’t use particle board.” Can you talk about that a bit? Is that accurate? And then, that and what else about the upholstery?
Andrew: Sure. So, that’s partially accurate. When you’re going with solid wood furniture, you eliminate all of the formaldehyde found in the particle board itself. Particle board, plywood, is usually held together using adhesives that contain urea-formaldehyde. Some of the new plywood and particle board on the market is actually urea-formaldehyde free, although they replace the urea-formaldehyde with phenol formaldehyde, which is just another version, but it’s about 50 to 100 times less likely to become airborne. So, it is safer. But for those with extreme sensitivities, they will react. So, solid wood furniture will be free of that. However, you have to worry about two things with solid wood furniture.
You have to use wood glue, and I have personally tested water-based, so-called non-toxic wood glue, to have anywhere from 100 to 200 times the legal limit of formaldehyde. And, the other thing are the finishes. Most finishes that are used by commercial furniture markers will continue to off gas toxins for about three and a half, to four and a half years after it reaches a full cure. So, provided that you can use safe finishes, which there are a lot on the market now, going with solid wood furniture is going to be your best bet.
Robyn: Okay, so I have to be buying furniture from people who are educated in this whole thing. They’re probably pretty deep in all this information. You’re probably one of the best uses of the Green Design Center and your services is to connect us to those people that you trust, who actually know all this stuff, and are using those safe finishes. Is that right?
Andrew: That is correct. We are putting together basically a service that we can connect buyers and sellers, whether it’s furniture, painting contractors, flooring installers, architects, designers. We really have become sort of this clearing house to vet a lot of these companies for our customers. I mean, over the last 25 years I’ve been hired by thousands of customers worldwide, to help design or build a healthier home. And, we have a pretty extensive list of companies that can use healthier materials.
Now, I’ll be honest, for every one company out there that can use healthy materials, there are 1,000 that don’t want to, because they’re just afraid of the unknown. They haven’t used them before, and they’re worried they’re not going to work as well as what they’re used to. However, once we get a chance to work with them, and switch them over to a healthier product, they usually like to stick with it.
Robyn: Mm-hmm (*affirmative*), well thank you for doing that work in the world, because it’s pushing a boulder uphill to educate people about this. And, when furniture makers have been doing it this way for forever, or paint, or carpet-
Andrew: Mm-hmm (*affirmative*).
Robyn: … Or, whatever. They … Yeah, I mean you’re in a very similar position that we are in when it comes to food, is trying to explain to people what they’ve been eating their whole life is actually really toxic, even though they may be standing up and still moving around. It doesn’t mean it’s not-
Robyn: … Creating cancer risk.
Andrew: Well, and that’s the thing with these materials. I had a client in today who has extreme chemical sensitivity. Her daughter is moving into a new home, but doesn’t have the same sensitivities so she’s not doing all the same materials for remodeling that her mother did. And I had to say, “The problem with chemical sensitivity — or somebody who is really going through this disease — unless it affects you personally, directly, most people just rather opt for whatever’s easy, whatever’s convenient.” It’s getting better. There are more products available. I will tell people now that, “Unlike 25 years ago, you do not have to give up a aesthetic, durability, availability, or price just to buy healthier building materials.” It wasn’t the case 25 years ago, but nowadays it’s easy.
Robyn: So, you just have to go to the right suppliers, who know what they’re doing.
Andrew: Yeah, right supplier. You have to trust, you have to find somebody to trust.
Robyn: Okay, so is it okay if, for a free gift, that you give all the people who purchase the summit, we can give a list from the Green Design Center of some of the suppliers that you think are best?
Andrew: What I will do, is I will put together a personal list of my favorites, and then we’ll put them on a … We have kind of an insider list.
Andrew: Insider newsletter that we give a lot of trips and tricks, so we’ll be happy to do that.
Robyn: Okay, we will share that. So, if I’m going to move into my condo in a year and a half — and I don’t just ask this to take this the direction where my life is going in 2018, but also for the sake of people who are; not everybody’s going to be building a house like Ryan and Teddy are, so they would ask you questions about building house.
Robyn: But, I think we’re all moving into homes of varying ages. If my condo was built a year and a half before I moved into it, has a lot of the off-gassing from the carpet, and the paint, et cetera already happened? Is it when you first move into a new home that it’s usually the most toxic? Or, what do you know about that?
Andrew: So, yes and no. Building materials will off-gas for the lifespan of them. However, within the first 90 days, to 120 days, you’ll get a lot of the initial big aromas coming off of the surface. A lot of that is what the products absorb during the manufacturing process, and shipping process. However, I’ve tested carpeting that’s 25 years old, that still off-gasses well over 400 parts per billion of formaldehyde. 25 years old. I mean, there was a study done years ago by a scientist, Dr. Rosalind Anderson, and she actually tested carpeting that’s over 20 years old that still off-gasses enough to kill laboratory rats. I mean, carpet is absolutely horrible. Other building materials can be anywhere from a few months to a few years. But, thinks like plywood, particle board, if you go into a home that was built 30 years ago and rip out the old carpet to replace it with something safer, and now you’re exposing that plywood to the ambient air again. The first thing you’ll smell is formaldehyde coming off of the floor. It doesn’t go away on its own.
Robyn: Does it help to have it covered with carpet?
Andrew: Well, it does. But the problem is, is that whenever replace the carpet, you’re now exposing it to air again, which the formaldehyde becomes airborne, and then the carpet itself. I mean, carpet itself can contain between 600 and 1,200 chemicals that will off-gas for a dozen years or more. So, we’d always tell people, “The very first thing you should do is rip out the carpet. I’d rather have you live on sub floors, than live on toxic carpet.” There are safer versions of course.
Robyn: I gotta go dig up the research on the highest cancer rates in various professions, because I know dentists, and farmers, and cosmetologists are at the very top of it, and I know exactly why.
Andrew: Mm-hmm (*affirmative*).
Robyn: The only things that those three professions have in common is high chemical exposure. But, now I want to go look at it in terms of these poor carpet layers-
Andrew: Oh yeah.
Robyn: … And, just people in the construction industry in general.
Andrew: Yes. I speak every once in a while for The Paint and Decorating Contractors Association, and there’s a huge problem within the paint industry, with painters and substance abuse, because of the fact that a lot of the chemicals that are in paints and coatings are actually classified as narcotics. So, when they’re not on the job site painting, they gotta get their fix through other means. So, throughout the entire construction industry, there are huge, huge problems. But, nobody wants to address them.
Robyn: Yeah, how sad. Basically these painters are huffing all the time.
Andrew: Yeah, right.
Robyn: At my gym recently a couple of years ago, a guy that I have worked out with for decades just suddenly got sick and died. He was a painter, and he was young. He was younger than me, died of cancer. So, I’m going to go learn a little bit more about that, and we’ll share more about that. I’m really glad to have your expertise, and we don’t want this to be a fear thing. We want this to be an, “Okay, awareness. Now here’s what your tactics are.” And, they can hire you.
Andrew: Mm-hmm (*affirmative*).
Robyn: They can get your list of preferred vendors, and swerve a lot of this toxicity. What do we need to know about repainting?
Andrew: So, with repainting there’s a couple of issues. First of all, we would like to know what is on the surface right now. If it’s a water based paint that’s on there right now, generally speaking it’s a matter of washing the walls to get rid of any surface dust or grease. And then, a couple of coats of the new paint would take care of it. If it’s an existing paint that might be oil-based or solvent-based, then we have to apply a special primer to the surface, and then we can do our two coats of paint. But, generally speaking, we work with a brand called, “AFM Safe Coat,” which is the only doctor recommended paint in the world. This material goes on like any other paint, there’s no difference to it. You just want to make sure that it’s a clean, sound surface to start with, and once you’re done, it’s going to look as beautiful as any high quality product on the market, but it will not off-gas whatsoever.
Robyn: Interesting. Okay, so then there’s another issue. We could talk about EMF’s, and that’s like, we could do a whole separate interview, I’m sure, about EMF’s. We’re talking more about chemical toxins primarily in this interview. But, I’m looking at the EMF exposure in my condo. I’ve already measured the radon in [my condo] –
Andrew: Mm-hmm (*affirmative*).
Robyn: … And I already need radon mitigation. I’ve already told the tenants who are living in my condo, “I’ll pay for it, just get it done.” But, I don’t think they’re super motivated right now because they’re going to be moving out this fall.
Robyn: So, I need to get that done, and I’ve been reading about EMF-blocking paint, so that you paint it, you paint the walls of your bedroom so that you’re not getting the effects of the cellphone tower, and the WiFi, and whatever. But, what do we need to know about the chemical? Do you know anything about this? The chemical off-gassing of the EMF-
Robyn: … Blocking paint.
Andrew: Right. So, whenever we get involved in situations where there are multiple avenues that we have to deal with because of chemical sensitivity … You know, chemical sensitivity is a pretty broad brush. I mean, most people who are chemically sensitive are also sensitive to electromagnetic fields, they’re also very sensitive to even natural things like essential oils and aromas. So, we have to be very careful with deciding what’s most important sometimes, and if the chemical off-gassing is the most important thing, we actually use a program here we call, “Degree of Green.” Degree of Green is a system that I created about a decade ago, to basically ask the customer a series of questions to find out what their personal Degree of Green is, and what we are trying to avoid, what we’re trying to do. It’s 27 different questions. When we’re done, we know exactly what direction we need to go.
So, we use that system, we find out where they’re at. And, if electromagnetic fields are really as strong in the need to avoid as chemical exposure, we can do a coating of the Y Shield EMF-Blocking Paint, but then we have to then paint it over with the AFM Safe Coat product to block the off-gassing, you know?
Andrew: There’s no perfect product –
Andrew: …that does it all.
Robyn: So, two different paints.
Andrew: Two different paints.
Andrew: And, there’s a third paint if a customer has extreme sensitivity to mold. We actually have a coating that will kill mold on contact, keep it from coming back for up to five years, not using any antimicrobials, but using lime. Ground found lime. It’s a product called, “Caliwel.” And, it’s EPA registered, it’s extremely effective, and it’s completely toxin free. However, if people are extremely chemically sensitive, because of that particular resin they use, we’ve got to top coat it with safe coat. So, there really is no perfect product. We always find out what’s most important, and kind of take it from there.
Robyn: So, you could do [that], if you were really going for it. If you’re really chemically sensitive, if you’re looking for answers, you could do an EMF paint over the top of that, because of the off-gassing. Over the top of that, a chemical toxin-safe paint. And then possibly over the top of that, a mold protective paint.
Robyn: Okay. So, there’s a lot there to think about. There’s probably parts of your home you might want to be more concerned about than others. What parts of your home would you spend the money on, or the effort to repaint? Mostly your bedroom ’cause you’re sleeping at night, or the places you spend the most time in?
Andrew: I think that the bedroom is the sanctuary. The bedroom has to be the safest room in the house. For those who are moving into an existing home, the very best thing you can do is create that safe room, where, six to eight hours a night hopefully, you know you’re getting restful sleep, and the room itself is not poisoning you. So, that means making sure you’re using the right paints and coatings, making sure the flooring is free of chemical off-gassing. You have to have a good quality air purification system in that room, if you don’t already have one throughout the entire home. Obviously with electromagnetic fields, if that is of a concern, (which it should be to everybody) but, for some it’s more than others. I like the idea of hiring an electrician to put in a kill switch for that room, to make sure you can turn off all power to that room with a flip of a switch when you enter the room.
Robyn: A kill switch the electrician installs. Very, very interesting. It might help people get more restful sleep too.
Robyn: As well as reducing your cancer risk. I mean, if you’re spending a third of your life in that one room, that is kind of my thought if I’m going to do the EMF blocking paint, and then maybe the one over the top of it. My bedroom’s going to be my first choice. Probably, also my office because I work from home.
Andrew: Right, right.
Robyn: So, you mentioned that when people have chemical sensitivity you’ve noticed they also tend to be EMF sensitive. And I just want to mention this, because I interview so many practitioners and subject matter experts when it comes to disease prevention and longevity (and, because of my podcast Vibe on iTunes, I keep asking practitioners this) and I wanted to mention it that people that have chemical sensitivity might have — and Dr. Ben Lynch who will be featured on this Toxic Home Transformation Summit will talk about — the actual genetic snips that [one] may have –
Andrew: Mm-hmm (*affirmative*).
Robyn: …the genetic mutations that may lead you to be very chemically sensitive. He himself, is chemically sensitive. I believe it’s the DAOA, but he’ll talk about that. I think the MTGFR gene plays a role. But, most of the practitioners that I have talked to, and also on my world wide research (I’ve been to 19 clinics studying cancer, and chemical sensitivity, and related issues), they say that the reason we become chemically sensitive is that our immune system is maxed. It’s fighting as many dragons as it can. It’s like, imagine that you have 100 fighters, and they’re battling 100 foes, right? Now, if I have 100 fighters, and I’ve got 20 guys that I gotta battle, I can flex. I’m fine, I’m standing up straight, even though there’s WiFi on in my office, or there’s off-gassing paints.
But, when you’ve got your 100 guys are all maxed out, fighting 100 different foes, then you are very, very sensitive to EMF’s. You’re sensitive to chemicals, because your immune system is maxed.
Robyn: You’ve dealt with lots of experts on this. I mean, this has been your career for 25 years. What do you think about that theory?
Andrew: It’s actually a very valid theory. And, the one thing about this particular disease — and multiple chemical sensitivity is a documented disease now — the thing about this disease is that we don’t know very much about it. It is, I think, because of the fact that it just recently got added to the American Medical Association’s Manual just about a couple of years ago. We are just now starting to see some research being done on it. What I used to say is, “Everybody’s born with this 55 gallon drum in their body, and that drum absorbs chemicals throughout the day. And, at the bottom of that drum is a spigot with a filter.” So, your body can absorb the chemicals, and then filter it out.
With chemical sensitivity, that drum gets filled up really fast, and once it starts to overflow, you can’t stop it. So, any chemical they come in contact with that’s petrochemically related to the one that they actually had a sensitivity for, will also cause the exact same reaction. Now, here’s the even trickier part of this. I’m sure if you’ve talked to people who have chemical sensitivity, they will tell you that they react to smells.
Robyn: Mm-hmm (*affirmative*).
Andrew: And that’s partially true. They’re actually reacting to the chemical, whether it has a smell or not. What’s really scary is that, if you have chemical sensitivity, you can actually have the exact same reaction to the fear of a smell or a chemical, than you can the actual chemical itself. How that happens is, if you’re chemically sensitive and you walk into a room, and you sense a smell you’ve never sensed before, your body can actually create the exact same adrenaline response. It’s just like coming in contact with a toxin. When people say that, “Oh, it’s all in your head.” Actually, that’s sort of true in some situations, and that’s why those with chemical sensitivity are so skittish about any products. Because, they don’t know if it’s going to cause a reaction or not. Their body is telling them, “There’s something wrong,” only because it’s new.
So, when we get involved in new home construction, let’s say we’ll actually have the client test every single product that’s going into their home. All the way down to the screws and nails that hold the house together. We’ll provide it in a glass jar, they’ll do the sniff test. If they’re worried about that, then they’ll go to their physician, or health care practitioner. Whether that’s a holistic healthcare practitioner, or an allergist, and they’ll do muscle testing, and see if that actually is a problem.
Once they’ve approved that, we check it off the list on the Excel Spreadsheet, and then we know if they ever walk into that home and they smell something, they’ve tested it all. They know it’s not going to cause a reaction. That’s the extreme of the extreme, but it does work.
Robyn: Interesting. I think my whole life I’m really sensitive to smells — in the sense I feel like I get sick — and right now I have a close friend that I’ve been trying to think how to have the conversation, “Could you please stop wearing that perfume when we go out?”
Andrew: Oh, yeah.
Robyn: Because, I literally feel nauseous after 45 minutes in the car with her, and I don’t wear chemical perfumes. But, back when I was having my babies, I didn’t want to give my baby to someone to hold her, even if it was my mother-in-law who wore a chemical perfume, because then I got the baby back and the baby actually made me a little bit nauseous. And so, we just have to be so compassionate to the growing number of people who are chemically sensitive, and probably more that there’s just an awareness-
Robyn: … That this is a real thing. I finally got up the guts to ask my mother-in-law to stop wearing chemical perfumes when she’s going to hold my babies, because I wanted to wipe them down afterwards.
Andrew: Right, I don’t blame you. And perfumes are horrible because commercially-available perfumes are a combination of synthetic and natural chemicals. And so it’s very, very difficult from our standpoint; we actually have sealers that we can use inside of bathroom vanities to seal off odors that have been absorbed into the wood. But, if it’s a perfume, because it’s both synthetic and natural, it’s almost impossible to seal.
Robyn: It gets through, yeah. I ready a study that they were testing perfumes, because a lot of ingredients in perfumes are not chemicals that have been actually approved.
Robyn: Literally, the average in these synthetic perfumes that most women are wearing — men too — was 14 chemicals that the USFDA knows nothing about. That are not tested, they are not approved. Not that the ones like, like you said, the 88,000 chemicals in our furniture, furnishings-
Andrew: Mm-hmm (*affirmative*).
Robyn: … Paint, whatever. And like you said, three percent of them are actually tested. Plus, we don’t know what the aggregate is, right?
Robyn: We could test this one chemical in certain ways, but we don’t know what it means; there’s 80,000 chemicals, potentially toxic chemicals, in our furnishings. Let’s talk a few more specifics. What should we be aware of when redoing our floors?
Andrew: So, first of all we always advocate the use of hard surfaces that are easy to clean, easy to maintain. So, common theme you’ll hear from me is to avoid carpet, because typically the average carpet is just a toxic material. It absorbs and releases other VOC’s, so it becomes this sponge in the home. There are exceptions. There’s two brands of carpet made in the world that are completely chemical free. For those who are chemically sensitive and want something soft underfoot, this is what we do all day long. But, beyond that, hardwood floors, ceramic or porcelain tile, natural linoleum, natural cork. And I’ll be honest with you, even some vinyl.
Now, in my career, my 25 years I’ve never advocated for the use of vinyl floors, because vinyls contain plasticizers, and phthalates, and usually off-gas formaldehyde. But, we’re finding that there are some specific materials out there that are far, far better. Matter of fact, what we’re using for Ryan’s house is a vinyl planking material [where] the majority of the ingredient is limestone. So, it uses a natural ground-found mineral, and combines it with virgin plastics, and some other things to make a product that’s highly durable and does not off-gas. We’ve tested this to be zero off-gassing. And, it carries a 50 year warranty. It’s a smooth surface so it’s easy to maintain, you don’t have to use any toxic chemicals to maintain it. And, it’s going to last.
One thing that you find from people who don’t know about this industry very much is they always assume that, “Oh, you’re buying one of those green building materials that’s probably expensive, there’s not a lot to choose from, it’s ugly.” You know? They expect people who live in a healthy home to be in dirt floors and straw walls, and that’s absolutely not the case. These floors are beautiful, functional, durable, and very, very cost affordable. And on top of that, they’re completely free of chemical off-gassing. So, we’re really excited about what’s on the market right now.
Robyn: Even carpet. I can get some high-performance carpet that looks really great for a long period of time, and it’s been out there for long enough that they actually know that, and it’s not going to off-gas petrochemical fumes.
Andrew: You got it, yep.
Andrew: And, what it uses is good old fashioned wool. So using a natural fiber in wool, that backing is hemp, jute, and cotton. All organically sourced, there’s no pesticides. And, there’s no flame retardants used, there’s no chemical dyes, there’s no moth proofers. So, if you’re chemically sensitive, you can tolerate this. If you’re sensitive to wool, because of the lanolin in wool, you still have to be mindful of that. So, we always will allow people to test for their own personal tolerance. That’s one thing about all the products that we sell: there is no perfect product. So there’s nothing that we have, there’s nothing available in the world that’s completely safe for everybody. Someone will always react to something. So, we always make sure to test for personal tolerance.
Robyn: That’s really going to the mat for your client. That’s really, really great. We started talking about furniture, and I just want to go back to: we talked about how particle board and plywood are the problem, and more often if you go with regular lumber you’re going to be safer. Can you talk a little bit about upholstery? I mean, upholstery is mostly… what? The STAINMASTER? The Stain Guard that’s the problem?
Andrew: Yeah. So the upholstery, the problem will be a couple of things. Flame retardants, stain blockers or stain resisters, antimicrobials. These are a big one nowadays. You’ve heard of Microban, and Microban is finding its way into a lot of consumer goods these days. All that is, is Triclosan; it’s a low level pesticide. And, it off-gasses for the lifespan of the surface. When you’re buying upholstery, or having furniture upholstered, make sure you’re using organic fabrics. Even sometimes a natural leather, for those with a chemical sensitivity it will be far easier to tolerate than some organic fabrics. The other thing is, because it’s more of a solid surface, it’s less likely to absorb chemicals from other sources.
Robyn: Okay, so organic fabrics, or natural leather, and make sure that you specify that you don’t want any STAINMASTER, or you don’t want anything for stain repellent. I don’t want the Microban.
Robyn: And, we don’t want the flame retardant.
Robyn: Three things, right? Okay. So, I heard the term geopathic stress recently, where your home’s located, where it is on the earth, can be harmful; and it feels a little bit like, “Oh my gosh, I cannot take on all of these things.” But, what’s going on there, and what can you do about it if your home happens to be in a bad zone, and where do you even find out if your home is in a geopathic stress area?
Andrew: Right. So, I’ll be honest with you, that’s not a strong suit for me. Only because that usually requires somebody to come on-site, and test the home actually as far as where it lies. But also, what else is around it. The biggest thing when it comes to the site… let’s say you’re building a home and you’re trying to choose your site. I like to look for a few different things. First of all, what is the WiFi situation in the area? Again, that comes down to electromagnetic fields and other things, that you really can’t control on the site. You can control it in your home.
The other thing is, what was that land used for prior to you building? If that was a farm 30 years ago, heck, even 50 years ago, the chemicals used in traditional farming can stay in that soil for at least 30 to 50 years. Now, some soil is better than others as far as how well it perks and it filters. Although, that just means that those chemicals have found their way down to the water table, so you have to test that as well. I like to look at all this as like a common sense solution. Once we know what we’re testing for, what we’re looking for, we can check that off the list.
There are other things to look at when it comes to the lot itself. How the house will sit on the land to take advantage of passive solar, to take advantage of traditional wind currents. That really comes down to that individual client, finding out exactly what they’re looking for.
Robyn: Yeah, this is gonna be really interesting to see everybody that Teddy and Ryan know, because I know they’ve been working closely with you, and I think I’m going to need to hire you to see what I can do with an existing home, not building one. But, what can people do about EMF’s? We know to keep our WiFi router off. I have my WiFi off in my home, and on our phones we just use cellular data, we don’t use the WiFi. We just get a plan that covers. And, it’s not like that’s no EMF, it’s just less. But, what about for people who are building, or are maybe going to have an electrician update. What are some things you can do to the houses electricity itself to decrease EMF?
Andrew: So you can actually have the electrician wire the home in a method that eliminates electromagnetic fields from the wiring itself. And, really what this means is, doing things the old fashioned way honestly. You’re using twisted wires so that the electromagnetic field stays within itself. You’re not crossing any electrical lines with any water lines, so that the water’s not carrying it with that electromagnetic field throughout the entire house. There are other things you’re doing with grounding the electrical a little bit differently. Again, like I mentioned before, put in kill switches in the bedrooms to make sure that those bedrooms are the sanctuaries.
When it comes to internet access, television and so forth, what I like to do is make everything hardwired, you know? Put it in your networking cable throughout the entire house, and you can even get routers to plug your cellphones in. So, if you wanted to use your cell device, but use it hardwired. And so, by eliminating all the internal WiFi, eliminating all the internal electromagnetic fields, it makes it a lot easier now to combat the other things that are coming into the house by using different types of shielding during the construction process. And, you know, if you’re forced to use a smart meter from the electrical company, there are smart meter covers that completely kill that radiation.
Robyn: That’s so important, especially when there’s multiple smart meters. I have to figure that out in my new place in Park City, because sometimes there are two or three smart meters, and they triangulate, and they cause people severe, severe distress. Let’s talk for just a minute about [the fact that] we’re going to have a speaker on the summit talking about air quality, and in my house I really like The Air Doctor. But, let’s talk a little bit about water quality. What’s your opinion about best water quality?
Andrew: Well, what we find out is first of all, are you on city water or well water? Because, there are different systems based upon those. And then we will look at, “What is typically the problem in that area?” There are websites you can go to, to find out what the ground water is like in a certain area if you wanted to move or build. Once we know that, we know what type of system to install. We advocate for whole house systems, whole house filtration systems. And then, point-of-use specifics, so whether you needed a point of use for chloramines, a point-of-use for an ionizing filter. There are a lot of these specialty filters on the market, but I would say water is probably one of the easiest to deal with.
It really is, because there’s one pipe coming in. So, there’s one pipe coming in, we know we can stick that through a specific filtration system to take care of what’s in that water, and what comes out is going to be drinkable. You don’t have to worry about the chemicals then absorbing into the skin. Obviously chlorine and fluorine’s are a problem, because of the city water. And then, the problem with the other chemicals, the radon, or … I’m kind of drawing a blank on that, but there’s a lot of things to deal with when it comes to well water on old farm land, so usually a series of three or four different filters the water goes through before it becomes pure drinking water.
Robyn: Okay, so even well water is not [perfect]. I mean, people think of it as better because it doesn’t have the chlorine, and fluoride in it. But, then there’s all the glyphosate that’s in our ground water now, so your well water still may need attention.
Robyn: So, let’s say I want to work with you on my home. You’re far away, you’re not here in Park City Utah where I am. Or, someone’s watching this and they want to hire you to help mitigate, because they’re chemically sensitive, they’re struggling with autoimmune disease, there’s cancer that’s happened in their own home, they’re wanting to bring their risk level down. How does it work to work with you long distance?
Andrew: So, when I started the company 25 years ago, all I wanted to do was get products, healthier products, in the hands of people that needed it. I really didn’t care and I still don’t care where a person is located, I just want them to have access to the healthier products. But what’s happened is, I get calls from people worldwide, trying to help them remodel, or maintain a home, or build a home. So, you can hire me in 15 minute increments, to make it easy. We have some clients that’ll actually hire us for a full year, because they’re doing a construction project. So, they get access to us 24/7 via telephone and email. If you are a customer, just wanting to get three or four questions answered because you have a contract or on site, that’s probably a 15 minute telephone consult.
It’s very easy, and I think that instead of spending hours and days internet investigating, only to call somebody like us and have us now completely change what you’ve learned. I’ll be honest, internet is both a pro and a con. I spend hours every day re-educating people because they thought they did research, and they found incorrect information, and we have to retrain them.
Andrew: They probably could have found out from us in 15 minutes, everything they needed to know, and saved all that time.
Robyn: Yeah, and again, that’s because of so many marketers making so many claims that confuse so many consumers.
Robyn: How about my decorator? So my decorator is Molly, she’s my sister-in-law, and she’s really interested in holistic stuff. I’m totally going to have her watch this interview, because as a decorator I imagine there’s probably a business opportunity there for her to not only help people decorate their homes, but sort of plug them into these resources that you have, that may be new to her. Do you work with interior designers?
Andrew: We do. As a matter of fact, I do a lot of guest lecturing at a lot of the interior design schools around the Midwest. What we created is what’s called the, “Green Design Center Trade Partner Program.” If you’re an interior designer, a contractor, even another retailer, we have created a GDC as a buyers group. So, you signup with Green Design Center as a trade partner, you get access to all 7,000 products that we have at wholesale. You get an education about the materials from us; all the leads that are generated through our own social media and website go directly to the local trade partner. My background is architecture and design, so I speak that language, so I can help go through the process with whoever’s interested.
Robyn: Interesting, because I bet there are plenty of interior decorators who would love to help people in a more mission-oriented way. Besides having a beautiful home, why not have a beautiful healthy home? Which is your whole mission. I just want to point out to people that this isn’t just what we think, that “this is toxic, we think this is making people sick.” This is stuff I got from Ryan and his notes to me, Andy, that I just want you to comment on if you want.
A few years back, a large fluorine company called, “Lumber Liquidators,” got in trouble because people were getting sick from their floors, even though they were supposed to be safe. Tell us a little bit about that. And/or, now there’s another big manufacture that’s facing potentially millions of dollars in fines in replacement costs because their products are releasing toxic levels of formaldehyde. Comment on that a little bit, because I want people to know that there’s actually major litigation, and class action issues from consumers who are getting sick, that is out there in the mainstream.
Andrew: Yeah. The first one you mentioned, the Lumber Liquidators problem, happened a few years ago because most of their flooring materials are made in China. The problem is that, through translation, or through poor translation, a lot of times the documentation does not come across properly. What was happening was, the flooring was being marketed as being CARB compliant. CARB stands for the California Air Research Board. They have a certification that says that, “Materials like flooring can’t release more than…” I believe it’s 17 parts per billion of formaldehyde. Their product was coming into North America stamped CARB compliant.
But, people were complaining that the flooring was making them sick. Finding out through a 60 Minutes documentary that these floors released anywhere from 10 times to 1,000 times the CARB limit of formaldehyde. And Lumber Liquidators was in a tailspin because of this, and they had to rip out hundreds of thousands of square feet of their flooring, because they were mismarked and mislabeled. It’s one of those things where nobody can prove whether they were doing it intentionally, or was it the fact that it was just very poor translations. But, the problem existed, and people were getting sick. That comes down to trust your source.
The latest problem that’s happening is with a completely different manufacturer, and they make what are called, “TJI Joists.” Which are floor joists for new construction, and that’s underneath the subfloor. It basically holds the whole floor up. These joists were being sprayed with a fire proof coating, and that fire proof coating was releasing toxic levels of formaldehyde, literally causing people to leave their homes because of how sick they were getting. And, now we find out that there are thousands of homes across the country that are affected with these products, and people don’t know what to do. This problem is so new; it’s only happened in the last six months. It’s just now becoming part of internet searches, and there is a class action being formed for this.
The fact of the matter is that, because of the fact that we have a building industry that focuses on green from an energy efficiency standpoint, and not a human health standpoint, these things will continue to happen. Because, manufacturers are not being told to use non toxic materials. They’re being told by the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, to use outdoor air friendly ingredients. In doing so, the unintended consequences, they replace those with human toxins, and there are no regulations for that stuff.
And so, the canaries in the mineshaft, the chemically sensitive in this world, are the one’s who are telling us there’s a problem; and now, people who don’t have chemical sensitivity — just everyday folks with other issues with depressed immune systems — they’re being affected because their homes are poisoning them, because there are no regulations right now for toxic ingredients. Zero. Formaldehyde is a key trigger for sensitivity, it’s a cancer causing agent. Yet, it’s found in half of the building materials available these days. And so, these big problems that are happening will continue to happen, until we do something about it.
Robyn: This can be very discouraging to talk about. But, I think what’s exciting is that you have, and I want to end on this positive note. I feel like you are creating awareness, and you are calling attention to the canaries in the coal mine, and you are organizing all the companies and products that are out there paying attention to chemical sensitivities. And, whether we feel sensitive or not, like you said, it’s actually affecting whether we react to a smell, or our flooring makes us noticeably sick or not. It’s affecting all of our cancer risk, at a minimum. At a minimum.
And so, I’m excited that you’re out there creating awareness about this. You know, I’ve spent a lot of time the last couple years trying to educate people about EMF’s. They don’t even think it’s real, and so many people were making fun of us and saying, “That’s not a real thing.” Even though there’s literally 8,000 published studies saying, “Electromagnetic frequencies are these chaotic or radioactive frequencies, are damaging to our health.” Whether we notice it, or feel it, or whether we can see them or not. They do exist, they are measurable, and the effects of them are measurable on human cells.
On a positive note, we are going to give you a list of resources from Andy Pace at The Green Design Center, of favorite suppliers that he can easily connect us to. But, tell me why you do this. Why have you been doing this for 25 years? How is this more than a job for you, but more mission?
Andrew: I started the company 25 years ago because customers of mine were getting sick when I was selling a water-based coating, and we rushed three of our own workers to the hospital because of inhalation complications. People living in the condos above were complaining of the odors, and I thought that there’s absolutely a better way to do things. We found better ways to do things. It took us a long time to put together this list of trusted manufacturers. But, I do this because there are better ways, and I believe that … You know, I still get Christmas cards, and thank you notes from customers of mine from 20 years ago, that are just happy to be alive, they’re happy to be living in a home that we’ve been able to help them remodel. Families who have autistic children can actually live in a newly decorated home, and it doesn’t exacerbate their symptoms.
Yes, this is a business for us. And, we treat it as such. It’s a professional organization. But, the fact that we can sleep at night, literally and figuratively… I don’t have to worry that I’m poisoning my customers, I don’t have to worry that we’re trying to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes to sell a product. That we know we’re doing good things, and we know that folks who are severely affected by their environments can build, remodel, or maintain a healthy home, and really not spend a dime more than what they would normally spend.
Robyn: Well thank you for the work that you’re doing in the world, and thank you for being here with us because I’m excited to be part of more people learning about the great work that you’re doing, and thank you for your integrity. Thank you for helping educate us, and I’ll be really pleased to share, with those who purchase the summit, your special free gift. And so, thanks so much for being with us Andy Pace.
Andrew: Thank you.