ShareThis Page
Murrysville

Murrysville physician's book examines in-home toxins

Patrick Varine
| Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, 12:03 a.m.
Dr. Rob Brown of Murrysville examines potential sources of toxins in staff writer Patrick Varine's home.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Dr. Rob Brown of Murrysville examines potential sources of toxins in staff writer Patrick Varine's home.
Dr. Rob Brown of Murrysville uses an electromagnetic field meter to measure radiation escaping from a microwave at staff writer Patrick Varine's home.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Dr. Rob Brown of Murrysville uses an electromagnetic field meter to measure radiation escaping from a microwave at staff writer Patrick Varine's home.

A series of unexpected nosebleeds got Dr. Rob Brown looking more closely at whole-home health.

"I was painting my living room at the time, and I started getting these nosebleeds," Brown said.

Eventually he was forced to go to the emergency room, but doctors could not find a specific cause. Brown ultimately traced it to the volatile organic compounds in the fresh paint.

"I aired out the house and waited two weeks before sleeping in my bedroom near the living room," he said. "I haven't had any nosebleeds since."

Brown, of Murrysville, began looking at other potentially unhealthy areas of his home and eventually wrote and published his first book, "Toxic Home/Conscious Home: A Mindful Approach to Wellness at Home."

"My mother was very health-conscious about food and healthy living, and it really led me to be very aware of how I feel in the presence of different things in my environment," he said.

During a tour of a Tribune-Review staff writer's home to identify potential toxins, Brown touched on some of the areas covered in his book.

Air quality

The volatile organic compounds that led to Brown's nosebleeds are difficult to pin down.

"There are long-term effects," he said. "They can affect our immune systems, they can cause cancer and the chronic effect is very hard to assess."

In order to remove particulates from the air, Brown recommended purchasing home-furnace air filters with a minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV rating, between 5 and 12.

"Those are usually the pleated type of filters," he said.

Houseplants also have been shown to absorb several types of VOC, and Brown said putting one in as many rooms as possible goes a long way.

Too much energy?

Brown swept the house with a meter designed to pick up electromagnetic fields, or EMFs, which are far more prevalent in daily life thanks to modern conveniences like microwaves, cellphones and wireless routers.

The trade-off for convenience is that the body is constantly being bombarded by low- to mid-frequency radiation.

"They say modern microwaves don't leak radiation," Brown said as his EMF meter buzzed angrily and maxed out while standing up to 15 feet away from a running microwave. "But I haven't found one yet that doesn't. I got rid of my microwave several years ago."

When a cellphone emitted a pulse to check things like email and text messages, it registered as a spike on the EMF meter, and a wi-fi router constantly emits radiation as its sends its signal to all corners of the house.

Brown recommended keeping such routers in the basement, and if they must be kept in a bedroom or living area, that they be set on a timer, "to give your body a break, at least during the night."

The National Institutes of Health website defines this type of non-ionizing radiation as "generally perceived as harmless due to its lack of potency."

Brown is not so certain.

"You can see the EMF reading on the phone," he said. "I tell people to use their speaker-phone as much as possible. Don't hold it to your head."

In the kitchen

Brown's first piece of advice for the average kitchen: don't trust the water company.

"There are just too many things that can happen between the water treatment plant and your faucet," he said, recommending a counter-top water filter as well as ridding the kitchen of plastic water bottles (he prefers glass).

When it came to cleaning, Brown said chemical cleaners are not only hazardous, but many go too far in killing bacteria.

"You don't need to kill 99.9 percent of all bacteria," he said.

Online health forums are awash with combinations of vinegar, baking soda and lemon that can be used for cleaning.

"Vinegar is really good for you," he said. "It works a good alternative to Lysol and other cleaners."

Consuming vinegar is another healthy habit, he said, whether it's in the form of fermented foods like pickles, or simply adding a splash of apple cider vinegar to a salad.

One step at a time

All of Brown's warnings can seem a little overwhelming, especially when they are all pointed out at once.

He advised taking things one step at time.

"Make one small change," he said. "See if you notice a difference. Then make another, and another, and eventually you find it's not that difficult to eliminate potentially unhealthy things from your home."

"Toxic Home/Conscious Home" is available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble .

For more on Brown, see RobBrownMD.com .

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me