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The Building Physiologist

The Building Physiologist

written by Dorit d’Scarlett


As the Building Physiologist one of the areas that I consider  important to look at is whether the microbes inside our particular built environment are helpful or harmful to our health.

keyboard-germsGiven that we spend about 90% of our time indoors, whether that is in our work space or at home, the kind of bugs we interact with both through touching them and breathing them in can actually have a significant impact on our health.You’ve probably heard of Legionnaire’s disease – a potentially fatal lung infection caused by the inhalation of Legionella bacteria.   The Legionella organism tends to multiply in many common building systems such as cooling towers, hot and cold water systems and whirlpools and it’s very important to make sure these are regularly serviced and cleaned. A much more common problem that is often disregarded is mould contamination in the inside air. Outside mould tends to be regulated by various environmental factors, but inside mould grows out of proportion in damp and dark conditions. Then you are breathing in a mould soup that infests your lungs and causes symptoms like these:

  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sinus problems and post-nasal drip
  • Itchy rashes
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headache, anxiety, depression, memory loss, and visual disturbances
  • Immune system disturbances and fatigue
  • Gastro-intestinal problems

According to mycotoxin expert Dr. Harriet Ammann, exposure to indoor molds can damage the systems of your body in the following ways:

Vascular: blood vessel fragility, hemorrhage from tissues or lungs Digestive: diarrhea, vomiting, hemorrhage, liver damage, fibrosis, and necrosis
Respiratory: trouble breathing, bleeding from lungs Neurological: tremors, loss of coordination, headaches, depression, multiple sclerosis
Skin: rashes, burning, sloughing, photosensitivity Urinary: kidney toxicity
Reproductive: infertility, changes in reproductive cycles Immune: Immunosuppression

If you suffer from mould allergies there is research suggesting vitamin D could prevent mould allergies, so make sure your your vitamin D levels are optimal.

We all know that if our gut contains healthy microbes (that’s why we eat lots of fresh fruit and veg and maybe even supplement with some healthful probiotics) our health improves. Our immune system is strengthened, our brain-gut relationship is kept in balance and our general well-being is supported. I’d like you to think of your relationship with the microbes in your indoor environment in a similar way, as ecologist and engineer Jessica Green, PhD, says, it’s like Architectural Yoghurt.

The best way to keep a healthy balance of microbes in our indoor environment is to make sure:

  1. all surfaces are kept clean on a regular basis with a solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide diluted 1/2 cup in 2 litres of clean water and sprayed onto surfaces then wiped over with a clean cloth.
  2. allow as much fresh air to circulate through the space as possible.
  3. in a humid environment allow as much light and direct sunlight inside as possible to dry the environment and naturally kill mould.
  4. consider other options like using a dehumidifier or better still an Get a high-quality air purifier to control mold toxins. In addition to the mold itself, you need to make sure you get rid of any mold toxins. When a mold breaks down, it disintegrates, and every little particle may contain mycotoxins that have the capability of making you very sick.One option is a HEPA filter unit or another is a photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) unit. One unit will cover a whole house or office space of 280 square meters

The use of airconditioners means air is often recycled and microbes recirculated. In this TED Talk Jessica Green discusses the important role microbes play in our lives and in our environments and why allowing the outside air in is so important.