A key component of the 21st century lifestyle is the convenience of being connected, which has extended to the development of “smart home” technology. WiFi, fancy internet-connected appliances, remote-controlled security systems, Alexa, Amazon Echo, Phillips Hue lighting systems, the list of ways to upgrade and increase comfort in your environment seems to be ever-expanding.
But have you considered the negative aspects of modern living?
Sure, some artists have explored the concepts of smart homes turning against the homeowner or large-scale technology breaches causing mass chaos. But there are risks even when such things are operating as intended.
For instance, all of these gadgets are constantly emitting wifi transmissions, Bluetooth signals, noise, flashing lights and more that actually disrupt the millions of electrical impulses that your body emits to regulate your cellular activity. It may seem harmless or hard to grasp the idea of these hidden variables affecting your health, but unnatural energy interferes with your body’s critical processes, including sleep, hormone production, the immune system, and your ability to heal, to name just a few.
When looking for ways to improve the body, we tend to focus more on traditional means such as exercise, food and supplements that seem easier to grasp. But a healthy environment provides just as much if not more benefit as movement and nutrition. Left uncontrolled, these seemingly harmless aspects of everyday life have the potential to negatively affect your energy levels, cause brain fog, affect your sleep quality and carry over into your mental and physical performance.
4 Every Day, Overlooked Environmental Factors Impacting Your Health
The four most critical variables to consider that you encounter every day are light, air, electricity and water. There are some simple ways to combat and mitigate the detrimental effects that are caused by our manipulation of our environment and these vital components.
With light, for example, there are ways to set up your environment to provide for natural light. Or, regarding the component of air, a Clean Air Study done by NASA identified certain toxin-removing plants that are easy to grow and improve the quality of the air you’re breathing. With electricity, there’s plenty of ways hack electrical pollution out of your environment. And there are strategies for water that leave it clean, pristine and thoroughly filtered. Adapting your surroundings to simulate more of a natural environment will go a long way toward improving your overall health and well-being. By exploring these four components in-depth, you’ll find little ways and simple opportunities for optimization.
Depending on the source, light has the potential to wreak havoc on your sleep, your eyes and your overall health. LED (light-emitting diode) is rapidly replacing compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs because LEDs do not contain mercury like CFLs and they’re far more energy efficient. However, they may pose environmental risks and toxicity hazards from arsenic, copper, nickel, lead, iron, and silver. And they threaten your health in other ways.
Common LED lighting is used in aviation lighting, automotive headlamps, emergency vehicle lighting, advertising, traffic signals, camera flashes, and general lighting. Large-area LED displays are also used in stadiums, dynamic decorative displays, and dynamic message signs on freeways. They also cause severe retinal damage to the photoreceptors and by the induction of necrosis. The American Medical Association even put out an official statement addressing the health and safety issues associated with white LED street lamps.
Most people are completely unaware of the negative health effects of these artificial light sources on endocrine and cellular levels in humans, which include the risk of cataracts, blindness, age-related macular degeneration, mitochondrial dysfunction, metabolic disorders, disrupted circadian biology and sleep, cancer, heart disease and more.
Where you can, when you have control over your environment, there are safe lighting alternatives that you can use to your advantage. At a basic level, what you want to do is expose yourself to as much natural, blue light in the mornings and you want to eliminate as much artificial light as possible in the evenings. These “bookends” of a day provide the best opportunities to apply light strategies. You can learn more about why morning sunlight exposure and then blocking blue light in the evenings is important in the article How To Hack Your Environment For Better Sleep.
Beginning with the concept of daylighting, you want to ensure that your environment is set up to take advantage of any natural sunlight filtering in. The practice of placing windows, other openings and reflective surfaces that provide for natural light will do this. Another habit that will improve your sleep, energy levels, and physical health is to take a daily brisk morning walk outside.
The next thing you can do is carefully select the lightbulbs in your house by determining areas of your home where you want to have more wakefulness or energy versus those areas designated for rest. In areas like the office or the gym, the bulbs should be chosen to produce copious amounts of blue light, mimicking what you would get if you were out in the sunlight. This will keep you alert throughout the day and help to keep your circadian rhythm in balance.
In the bedrooms and bathrooms, the rooms you use often in the evenings, relaxing nighttime red light bulbs can be used. The company “Lighting Science“ makes some great nighttime bulbs. These types of lights don’t emit blue light, with blue light being exactly what you want to avoid in the evenings. Essentially, after the sun goes down you want to minimize your exposure to blue light, which disrupts the normal cascade of hormones that maintain your body’s circadian rhythm (and overall health), to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Other nighttime strategies include wearing blue light blocking glasses such as Swannies. These allow you to scroll through your smartphone or watch TV without actually introducing too much artificial light into the retina. There is also software you can put on your computer such as IrisTech that will not only regulate the blue light emitted from your screen depending on the time of day, it also optimizes screen pulsations to reduce eye strain and adjusts the brightness of your screen to the light around you to reduce eye pain.
Taking lighting strategies one step further, there are photobiomodulation (light manipulation therapy) devices that emit certain wavelengths of light that can be used to regulate or even “hack” the body’s natural circadian rhythms. A headset device called the VieLight Neuro makes use of transcranial-intranasal light therapy, meaning you wear it as a headset with a nostril probe. This may sound silly looking, but it does incredible things like reducing inflammation in the brain, stimulating the production of copious amounts of nitric oxide in neural tissue, boosting oxygenation and enhancing memory function and cognition, all by using near-infrared light stimulation. Their website has plenty of research on photobiomodulation and their devices.
Air quality plays a huge role in your health. It’s something that you probably don’t think of often, especially if you don’t live in a heavily polluted area. However, indoor air quality greatly affects your well-being and performance as well. Recent studies have demonstrated that, in addition to significant amounts of harmful bacteria on the surfaces of fitness equipment, the average fitness center has concerningly high levels of air pollutants, including carbon dioxide, formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Exercising in polluted air causes acute and chronic airway restrictions, thickens blood and causes inflammation, damages the lungs, and more. Working out at a gym may not be as beneficial as you think if the carpet or flooring in the gym is releasing volatile organic compounds, cleaning chemicals, aldehydes, benzenes, molds and other toxins.
In your home sanctuary, there are strategies and special things you can put in place to enhance air quality and combat the threat posed by various places you visit throughout the day. As with light, a simple place to start is to get as much help from nature as possible. Opening windows and doors to circulate the air is key. To ensure that the air circulating is pure, clean and filtered, there are toxin-removing plants that you can place around the home. NASA's Clean Air Study found that plants such as Peace Lily, Boston Fern, English Ivy, Areca palm and other easy-to-grow greens take in the toxic chemicals through their leaves, their roots, and even the soil that they sit in, removing many of the toxic vapors that may be lurking about our environment. Installing a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) air filter will also go a long way toward increasing the quality of air in your home.
A final effective strategy relating to air that you can implement is saturating the air throughout the house with essential oil diffusers that release difference scents based on what you are looking to accomplish. For example, in the office where you’re looking to get work done, pine, cinnamon, and mint work well for stimulation. Lavender, rose, or bergamot will relax the body and would be a good idea in the bedroom. To take advantage of this while you travel as well, there is an all-in-one portable essential oil diffuser and humidifier, which allows you to not only clean the air that you're breathing, but also to infuse that air with things that assist you in the activities you’re trying to optimize for. After the air around you is circulated, filtered and perhaps scented, you can further reap the benefits of air with nasal breathing tactics, which you can learn more about in the article Breathe – Banish Stress & Kiss High Cortisol Goodbye.
The modern wonders of electricity are amazing, but its benefits don’t come without potentially harmful side effects that may not be the best thing for your body. On a daily basis, we’re exposed to electrical pollution or what’s known as “dirty electricity” through things like WiFi routers, cell phone signals, cell phone towers, and microwave radiation. In addition to this, the potentially harmful forces constantly churned out by exercise equipment, appliances, computers and self-quantification devices have effects on your cell membranes and the actual red blood cells that circulate through your body.
Every time you use electricity and electrical appliances, you are exposed to electric and magnetic fields (EMFs). EMFs are invisible forces that surround electrical equipment, power cords, and wires that carry electricity, including outdoor power lines. This radiation can cause headaches, vision problems, anxiety, irritability, depression, nausea, fatigue, disturbed sleep, and poor physical performance. Even worse, all metallic objects, including electrical circuits, telephone wiring, water and gas pipes, and even the metal objects we carry on our bodies such as keys, watches, and jewelry can act as antennae which collect and magnify these energy waves, creating a compounding effect that significantly alters the natural balance of our body’s biochemical energy patterns. There are a few practical ways to hack electrical pollution out of your environment and limit your exposure to EMFs.
Safe, clean electricity has a smooth sine wave that goes up and down 60 times a second. In contrast, “dirty electricity” operates in the 4 to 100-kilohertz frequency range and can contaminate both the electrical supply and a human cell’s electrically charged membranes.
When you're constantly bombarded by EMF waves, it can not only distort your internal cellular communications, but it can also “entrain” your body. Entrainment, also known as sympathetic resonance, is the tendency of an object to vibrate at the same frequency as an external stimulus. When you become entrained to any disruptive external frequency – such as the frequency emitted by your wireless router – you can lose the integrity of your intrinsic frequencies (e.g. the natural vibration of your cells), which can degrade physical and mental performance and create huge potential for some serious downstream health issues. The books ”Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn’t Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution” by Anne Louise Gittleman and “Dirty Electricity” by Samuel Milham will help you to grasp of the seriousness of this issue along with providing details on protecting your home and body against the ravages of EMF.
Beginning with strategies to protect your body in your home environment, consider placing dirty electricity filters in the main rooms. Unplug your wireless router or switch it off wireless mode when you're not using it (you can even program it to turn off at night and back on again in the morning). Taking this even further, you could just use ethernet cables when you want to connect to the internet.
Thinking about your portable electronics, avoid using your cell phone when the signal is weak (this amplifies EMF) and consider using an anti-EMF case for your smartphone. Keep your cell phone or laptop several inches away from your skin whenever possible, and put your cell phone on airplane mode if you need to put it in your pocket or near your head while sleeping or exercising. If you need to place an electronic device in your lap, use an EMF blocking pad such as a Harapad to block radiation, which is a great way to protect yourself from some of the radiation that can come off the bottom of your laptop as you're working.
Also, rather than using traditional headphones, there are special headphones that allow the sound to travel in air tubes rather than in wires up to your ears. So in addition to ensuring that you keep your cell phone away from your skin when using a headset, rather than using a Bluetooth enabled headset, consider something like the “airtubes” by Aircom. The air tubes don’t subject your neural cells on the outside of your ears or the inside of your brain to electricity from your phone, which has been shown to be risky when it comes to neuronal damage.
One other strategy you can use is purchasing a negative ion generator, which churns out the same type of ions released by waves crashing into the shore at a beach or tall pines swaying in the wind in a forest. HEPA air filters like the one mentioned in the section on air can be found with a built-in negative ion generator. Related to this would be getting something like a Himalayan rock salt lamp. Salt lamps produce negative ions in the air and emit a calming effect to counter potential electricity pollution in your home.
Water is an essential and unavoidable necessity of existence. Since you’re drinking water and cleaning yourself with water every day, the quality of water you use and put in your body is something that should be a high priority. The average office, gym, and (unfortunately) average person’s home is void of clean, pure, electrically charged water.
If the water is filtered, it is often filtered to such an extent that many of the beneficial minerals are removed and the water’s natural electrical charge disappears. From industrial dumping to pesticide runoff to leaky storage tanks to government mandates and more, nasty water contaminants may be pouring out of any faucet, including asbestos, chlorine, lead, mercury, volatile organic compounds, arsenic, fluoride, glyphosate, and other chemicals, endocrine disruptors, and even pharmaceutical drugs. Not only are hundreds of toxic chemicals lurking in municipal water supplies, but several tap water disinfectants are added in, including chlorine, chlorine dioxide, chloramine, and ozone.
Chlorine exposure has been linked to asthma and dementia at common exposure levels. Fluoride, another common additive to water in the United States, is an endocrine disruptor that can affect your bones, thyroid gland, pineal gland, blood sugar levels, and have major adverse effects on the brain. And this is just a small sampling of the hidden dangers in water.
On the other end of the spectrum, the ideal modern water system would look like this. Obtaining your water from a well, it passes up through the pipes and into your house where it goes through a special filter that causes the water to spin through a series of glass beads that does what is called structuring the water, allowing the water to vibrate very similar to the way that it would if it were traveling in an underground spring. The water then passes through a remineralization process that restores minerals and is finally exposed to natural UVA, UVB and infrared rays from the sun to “charge” the ions and increase the vibration of each individual water molecule.
While you may not quite be able to immediately set up that ideal, there are things you can do that will get you closer. Installing a reverse osmosis system for the drinking water in your home is a good start. Make sure it has one or more charcoal filters in the system as that will help remove other unwanted substances like chlorine. Unfortunately, when you use a reverse osmosis system, the good minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium are filtered out along with the bad minerals like fluoride. Demineralized water is also more acidic. So to make your water healthy with good minerals once again, and to increase alkalinity, you can re-mineralize the water with a few drops of a trace liquid minerals supplement. You can also purchase reverse osmosis water filters that come with a built-in remineralizer.
To get started as simply as possible with optimizing the water you’re drinking, you can put a glass of water (not plastic preferably) out in sunlight, add a pinch of sea salt to it, let it sit for 20 minutes to a couple of hours, and then you can drink that. Referred to as “Hunza” water, hunter-gatherer tribes around the world have this practice of taking water and putting some kind of a mineral or an ash into the water and then setting that water out into the sunlight. Sunlight causes the water molecules to vibrate and causes those minerals to get better absorbed by your body. Finally, to get as close to natural water as possible, a great site that will allow you to find the closest natural spring to your location is findaspring.com, which helps you find access to natural spring water sources.
There are many factors in your external environment beyond your control. The diesel exhaust getting piped out the backside of the trucks that drive along the road you run or bicycle on, the chemical-laden disinfectants that get sprayed on the treadmills and exercise equipment at the gym, the pesticides and herbicides that litter the grass at a public park, your neighbor’s WiFi signals and the street lights and bright bulbs from oncoming cars are all things that you, unfortunately, have to deal with. However, in your controlled, personal environment, there are simple and effective strategies for optimizing light, air, electricity and water.
This week, for light, try keeping artificial lights off as much as possible when you don’t need them on and consider replacing the bright lights in your bedroom with candles or nighttime bulbs. For air, get a new houseplant, a HEPA air filter or just open the windows and let in fresh air to your home or office more often. Now move on to electricity. Simply establish a habit this week of not using WiFi or Bluetooth unless absolutely necessary. If you’re not using it on your computer or phone, turn it off! Finally, there’s water. Switch from plastic to glass bottled water, or get a countertop or under the sink water filter.