Dr. Erwin Thoma:"In one of my talks, a gentleman stood up and told the audience in his own words about the biggest mistake he ever made:
'I am working in the building and real estate industry and a few years ago, I built a house for my wife and me. This house had external wood cladding which was painted with some wood preservatives as was usual then. Two years later, my wife gave birth to our first child which is now physically and mentally disabled. We never tried to prove a connection between the wood treatment and the disability of our child; it couldn't make our child healthy either. However I do know now that treating the external cladding of our house was the biggest mistake I ever made.'"
Why Toxic Wood is a Concern
Synthetic paints, chemical treatments and large-scale wood lamination turn wood into a mix of different materials and compounds. Their effect upon humans is mostly unknown and it is impossible for the average consumer to correctly gauge the risk they are taking with these products.
Why does the wood industry produce and install toxic building materials? Are authorities informed, not guilty or just plain negligent? Are chemicals really that bad?
Here is an excerpt from the 'Salzburger Nachrichten' back in the year 1993:
"Wood preservatives, two parole sentences"
Frankfurt Main (SN, APA). On Tuesday the Frankfurt "Wood Preservative Trial" sentenced both accused men to one year suspended prison term each and a total fine of 1.7 million Schillings, payable to several joint plaintiffs.The executive directors of the company XYZ, 64 year old XY and 62 XY were both sentenced guilty of negligent bodily harm, concomitance, the negligent release of toxins and selling toxic goods while being well aware of the danger they are posing."
Please, allow me now to tell you about my own personal motivation and why our family started taking toxic chemicals seriously.
After six years of living in the Tyrolean Alps in an old Timber cabin, we moved back to our home town in the area called 'Salzburger Land'. The cabin had been built of solid and untreated timber and the house accommodating us now was about 30 years old. It was built at a time when the words 'toxic' and 'building materials' were not yet combined.
Nobody was suspecting that building materials were going to cause serious harm to anyone's health. Our family was perfectly healthy until suddenly two of our children started coughing and having breathing difficulties.
First without fever, later with a slight temperature rise, followed by asthma attacks, fear of going to sleep and cries for help at night: "Mama, Papa, why can't I breathe anymore?" The first doctor didn't have a diagnosis but prescribed a dose of penicillin. The next doctor didn't have any idea either as to why this condition was persisting. He prescribed cortisone for our children and elaborated in their presence, how they would have to carry a puffer with them for the rest of their lives.
We needed a third doctor before we realized we couldn't expect any help from conventional medicine in this matter. This third doctor tested for allergies. Holding our boy's arm he exclaimed: "Oh my God, this boy is allergic to just about everything!"
He listed a selection of native trees and grasses. Strangely, I am a forester and I have taken my son at pre-school age on many walks and tracks throughout the seasons and blooming times of the year, day and night, in and out of the forest and never found him to be overly sensitive to anything.
Our commonsense told us that those medical reckonings couldn't be correct. Our children grew up in the Alps with goats, chickens, dogs and cats. There were no allergies or any other symptoms. Our son in particular spent a fair amount of time in the company of our Billy goat.
Apart from the goatish scent, we never noticed anything having a negative impact on him. The health symptoms had appeared just after we moved into our new house. We thought maybe something in our new environment was having this effect on our children's quality of life.
When looking closer at our new surroundings, we soon realized the house was playing a big part. The brick work was not insulated and therefore there were no dust or microfibers from mineral wool or emissions from plastic insulation. The wood cladding was not treated either and we ruled that out as a possible cause as well.
However, the floors were a different story all together. All the rooms had particle-board floors covered with carpets and vinyl. Particle boards are nothing more than wood shavings mixed with synthetic glues and pressed into boards.
After realizing this might be the possible source of our troubles, we removed all chip and particle boards as fast as we could and replaced it with untreated and solid wooden boards from native trees like oak, ash and larch. There is no toxic wood in our house anymore.
Shortly thereafter, our children were back to their normal healthy selves. What a relief! Like the man who made the biggest mistake. We too couldn't find a 'scientific diagnosis' for the disease of our children. The most important thing for us was the result: Our children have their health back.
I remember the times when he was ill in bed and I told him that every illness has a reason and how faith can move mountains. We all believed strongly that one day he would be running again like a deer in the forest.
The question: "Mama, why can't I breathe anymore?" cannot stay unanswered.
Just think about how it could have ended if we had taken the advice of any of the doctors, if we were prepared to settle for an asthma puffer and not changed the floors of our home at all! Just now, while I am writing these lines, our eldest son has come home from school and told us that he was the fastest runner today.
For many, the dream of owning a house in the countryside is linked to the desire for health and exposure to nature. The choice of the main building material, one which does not burden the health, is particularly important.
The development of new building materials has progressed rapidly since the 1970s, and today everything seems technically feasible. But there is also a steadily rising number of health complaints, the causes of which could be traceable to the immediate living environment. Residual poisons found in some building materials and furniture can release polluting substances for years. They are considered as possible causes of allergies and other diseases as well. The health effects of evaporating plastics, foils of all kinds, solvents, adhesives and other construction chemicals are always posing new challenges.
The key point for a sustainable preventative measure of such avoidable diseases lies in the conscious decision for building with biologically harmless materials. For this reason, builders increasingly demand from planners, property developers or suppliers a full declaration of the processed material from resource, harvesting, and manufacturing. For Holz100, this list of declarations is short: wood. Holz100 is made entirely and exclusively of high quality wood.
With Holz100, not only does it surround its inhabitants with a completely unadulterated building material, Holz100 also strengthens your immune system, calms your vital nervous systems and helps you to live longer. Wooden rooms are so reassuring to our body systems that every night (proven scientifically), we save ourselves an hour of heartbeats each day.
These and other new research results on the health-promoting effects of wood are presented in many, various ways - such as Planet Ark's "Make it Wood" campaign.
After about 20 years of fighting against the stereotypes of prejudice and discrediting attempts from wood and chemical industries, Dr. Thoma succeeded - as he says - in accomplishing technically everything. However, throughout the 20 years, he failed to scientifically explain and prove the positive impacts of wood on the wellbeing of people. As he says: “Intuition doesn’t lie, and the human body doesn’t lie either. Why, then, do I feel so great in the old, wooden house, whereas in a modern building my eyes tear up and my throat becomes scratchy?”. There must be a way to prove the positive impact of wood on people by using academic and scientific methods.
He tried with doctors and with medicine-related professionals, but he didn't get anywhere. A few years ago, he was invited to a wood industry symposium. Many scientists and well-known people participated in the symposium. Dr. Thoma noticed one strange, older man, with Einstein-like hair. It turned out to be Professor Max Moser, who was the department chair at the medical university in Graz. At a meal, Dr. Thoma jokingly asked him what he was doing at such a symposium full of tree huggers. The professor replied that he had participated in the AUSTROMIR program a few years earlier and together with his team, had created the medical research equipment for the Mir international space station. Max Moser is one of the most renowned scientists in Austria, and he was selected for the space program. “But what does this have to do with wood?”, asked Dr. Thoma.
The task of the professor, when it came to the space station, was to study all semiochemical substances that would affect the health or wellbeing of the cosmonauts. The space station has a closed air circuit and ventilation is impossible; hence, the effect of semiochemistry on humans is particularly strong. Semiochemical substances are chemical compounds, such as pheromones, produced by animals and plants that are used to carry information and exert a certain determined influence on the environment. However, the fumes of certain substances and plastics also affect humans. For this purpose, the professor developed a unique apparatus that can measure the effect of secreted substances on the autonomic nervous system of people. Dr. Thoma dropped his spoon from his hand and cried out, “professor, I have been looking for you for 20 years! If you can measure such impacts on humans, we must carry out a joint research project”. The professor replied that if he managed to fund such a project it wouldn’t be a problem, but - for a project like this - a six-digit sum might not be enough. Dr. Thoma had a lot of experience in organizing funding for research projects, and after a year he had a confirmation of the seven-digit sum for the research sitting on his table. Therefore, a large-scale research project was organized, and its results left no doubt whatsoever.
Two identical rooms were built for the project. One was constructed of solid wood, while the other was constructed of laminated particle boards. The result of the experiment was somewhat of a surprise. It turned out that 10 minutes after a man walked from the laminated particleboard to the solid wood room, his biological functions would completely change. His heart would relax, stabilize and slow down. The semiochemical substances released by the wood immediately informed the body that it could feel safe and was out of danger.
Ninety percent of Western Europeans die from three main causes: cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia or Alzheimer's disease. These three risks are exactly the ones minimized by wood. During sleep, the heart rate slows down so that a person saves 1 hour of heartbeat overnight or 3000 strokes. As the number of heartbeats in one’s lifetime is limited to about 2 billion, one can say that in a wooden room people live 1 hour longer per day, and the sleep is deeper and more regenerating. People who suffer from sleep problems all the time, suddenly fall asleep easily in a wooden room. A walk in the forest has a similar effect on people.
Holz100 Canada Inc.