Interview by Diana Keeler / Photography by Angie Wendricks
Photo: Angie Wendricks @countyroadliving
Everyone wants a healthy, happy home — but where
to start? Dr. Rob Brown knows. Trained as a physician, Brown began his own journey to wellness
after injuring his knee while training to climb Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro. When
traditional medicine failed to produce lasting relief, Brown was surprised to discover that
alternative treatment — in this case, involving magnets — did. So began a lifelong
investigation into non-traditional wellness practices.
In his book, Toxic Home/Conscious Home: A
Mindful Approach to Wellness at Home, Brown provides the ultimate manual for creating a
healthy environment, from the proper disposal of compact fluorescent lightbulbs to the
safest meats, fish, and vegetables. Along the way, Brown makes an impassioned case for
self-advocacy. As Brown says, "Everyone needs to develop their own truths. With this book,
I wanted to let people know what my truth is."
Here, we speak to Brown about how to create a
healthier, happier home right now, from minimizing use of BPA — otherwise known
as bisphenol A, a chemical used in plastics — to using houseplants to manage our
exposure to VOCs (volatile organic compounds, which can be released from consumer
products like paint.) For more details, see Brown's book.
What's the single best thing I can do right this minute to detoxify my home?
The most important thing is to purify your water and to stop drinking out of plastic water bottles. Put it in glass or metal water bottles. This is because of the BPAs [in plastics], which are estrogen-mimicking compounds. The skeptics will say that there's not much in the water [in plastic bottles] — but we're looking at situations where you're having it a few times a day, every day, for decades — especially if you're drinking an acidic solution like a soda, which increases the effects. And I think this is why we're seeing an uptick in cases of breast cancer or uterine cancer. We're saying our hormones are screwed up because of the materials we're putting in our cosmetics. Plastic bottles are the bigger problem.
OK. Done. What's next?
After water, the next step would probably be purifying the air — having houseplants is crucial. It's a good feng shui element! They eat up VOCs —
Do you worry a lot about VOCs?
It's funny. While I was writing the chapter on air in my book, I painted my living room and in the process I started getting nosebleeds. The nosebleeds were horrific. I asked the ER doctor if it could be it be VOCs from the paint. He didn't think so — but I knew.
Photo: Angie Wendricks @countyroadliving
Are there particular plants that will help lower VOCs?
Not really. You really don't have
any idea what VOCs are being emitted by all these things in your home. To try to tailor your
plant choice to the VOCs you're being exposed to is unrealistic. I just bought what I like.
I had the study by NASA, where they showed which houseplants absorbed which chemicals the
best, and I went into Home Depot and I bought a house plant for each room. Ironically, I had
to walk by all the pesticides and herbicides to get to the plants. The type of plant doesn’t
matter so much — some good choices, though, are plants like sentry palms, spider plants,
aloe vera, English ivy, and peace lilies. Pick out what you like, and spread them out
among your bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen. Treat your plants like pets!
They'll protect you in return.
What sort of adjustments have you made to lower the amount of VOCs in the house?
I don't use Glade or Carpet Fresh.
If you bring dry cleaning into your home, it needs to be dry. And if I do paint the house,
I'll make sure that the windows are open. You just need to be conscious of what you're doing.
Bloomist note: Ask your paint retailer for recommendations for low or no-VOC paints.
My daughter did an experiment for school with an EMF detector, and she measured the EMFs emitted from all different sources in the house: the wifi router, the portable phone, the microwave. There were some early studies on the microwave that made it sound healthy and safe — but after her study, I threw away my portable phone and my microwave.
Another tactic would be to investigate one of the many vendors that sell EMF-shielding devices. I've tried out several, including “netting screens” — these are decals that can be applied to EMF emitters such as cell phones — and "area shields.” I’m impressed by the volume of research some manufacturers have done to document the protective physiological effect of their products.
"A lot of spiritual teachers talk about the importance of being present. I think this is a piece of a big puzzle, and that the truly important thing is to stress self-awareness and self-reliance — being conscious, making conscious choices, being present. We will always be our own best advocates." – Dr Robert Brown