A few weeks ago we chose most of our bathroom fittings. I didn’t think it would be an issue, finding products suitable for people with immune disfunction where their health is impacted on by sensitivities to certain chemicals, seeing most products are made from inert materials such as porcelain, ceramic and stainless steal. But I was wrong: Access to Buildings and Services is Everything When it Comes to Even Attempting This!
Since deciding on using tiles throughout our whole house (like we have any other choice!?), I’ve been to 5 tile and bathroom shops where, in 2 of those, I became so ill, I almost decided (only almost!) on letting my boyfriend, and future house partner, choose the tiles and fittings for us. However, when it came to visiting Reece Plumbing in Drysdale, Victoria Australia, I decided to call first, asking if I could please make an appointment with a salesperson not wearing sprays or perfume/aftershave/hairspray. (Yes, I do get nervous asking this, still! But a woman has to do what she has to do.) So I said:
“I am sensitive to chemicals, particularly those used in perfume, aftershave, spray deodorants and hairsprays; and I need to be able to come into a shop and not get sick from breathing them in. I do wear a mask when I go out but this doesn’t stop the solvents, petrochemicals and fragrances—used in the dispersion of these products—from sticking to my clothes, skin and hair, impacting on my health when I take off the mask after I leave. Is there, perhaps, a quite time I can come into the shop? And, is there someone there willing to not wear sprays on that day who can assist us?”)
Once I knew that I could actually have this accommodation made, we popped into Reece for a visit. But first, I went to their website and spent a couple of days (while sick in bed) going over their products and working out what could go where. Reece have a great online system, somewhat like a wish list where you can click products, adding them to a ‘Compare List’. So this awesome tool was my baseline for finding what might suit.
I am determined to create my dream bathroom. I love taking baths. Long, hot (no longer candlelight), relaxing baths in epsom salts. I have symptoms where my joints and muscles hurt; a bath helps with this immensely.
When it comes to bathroom fittings, Ryhs, the excellent and exceptionally helpful Assistant Manager at Reece, went above and beyond to not wear any sprays and also have the air-conditioning on as requested. I was even able to take my mask off while in there. The air quality was great compared to other building product supply shops!
And on another day, when we’d already said we might come in but weren’t sure due to how unwell I’d been all week, Rhys made sure not to spray anything on just in case. Lucky for me, because we did manage to make it in that day, spending almost 4 hours choosing just about everything we need.
In my experience, Reece can accomodate people with a range of disabilities: There, that’s my review of Reece Plumbing at Drysdale in Victoria, Australia… Nah, just kidding: I have a lot more to say about them:
(But first, some background information on smells verses chemicals: I am so lucky, Dan, my boyfriend, does all the sniffing for me. This way, I don’t have to breath in chemical-irritants to which I am sensitive to. This saves my health from getting impacted on via pesky, unregulated chemicals allowed into products sold in Australia. *Thanks* NICNAS. (Of course, the majority of the population is fine with small doses, but I, and many others, have medical conditions where these do impact on our the state of our health. The doctors know it. NICNAS know it. Disability Discrimination Services (DDS) know it. However, there’s a large set of the population who are not educated about it and this is causing problems for some of us). Note to Aussie Government: Address this issue please. Thanks for reading my blog… ) If I have someone, a carer or friend with me, my medically-recognised disability is not impacted on by breathing in substances that have been proven by science-based medicine to make me sick via impacting on my immune system. My boyfriend is so sweet, I think I need to do a post, introducing him to you all soon…)
You know, I just want to decide and move on as far as bathroom products go. There’s so much to work out with building a house; and in my case, the bathroom fittings used need to meet these needs:
1), must be inert and not outgas formaldehyde, VOCS or petrochemicals into the indoor airspace;
2), be functional, sturdy and smart in their design [read they’re not going to leak and cause water damage];
3), aesthetically, they must look amazing;
4), they must carry a good guarantee; and preferably be European in design (They have the REACH regulations too when it comes to safer chemicals used in the manufacturing of them:
REACH is a regulation of the European Union, adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals, while enhancing the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. It also promotes alternative methods for the hazard assessment of substances in order to reduce the number of tests on animals.
Sadly and shamefully, we don’t have that in Australia to protect us.
We have decided on all our toilets, baths and some fittings. 75% of our gear are coming from Reece.
I am especially liking a tap Kale, our plumber, put us onto: it has to tap mixers (levers on the side) (see slide show below) that can deliver rain water using a lever on one side and town water using the lever on the other side! So clever. So smart. (KLM Plumbing have just completed the fitting of most of the internal plumbing throughout the walls of the house. Impressively, Kale, has kept the floor clean by using drop sheets, thus not walking mud over our new (and clean) concrete slab. Mould Illness peeps have to love that, hey?)
I have to point out how good Reece plumbing, compared to other shops have been when faced with selling products to someone sensitive to chemicals: great return policy; provide all MSDS without blinking; they allowed us to open boxes and (Dan to) sniff products to see if any coatings had any particular noxious odours coming from certain coatings on products.
Can you believe that, after reading my Immunologist’s letter one shop even asked us to sign a waiver saying that if any of their materials impacted on my health, they wouldn’t be liable, nor could we return them? I’m not naming the business here but would really like to!
(Another shop (that sells blinds) said outright that their products won’t be suitable for me because they come from China and they can’t guarantee what’s in them. Grrr… Discrimination right there. You can’t refuse to sell to someone based on their disabilities. But I did appreciate the heads up; ergo, if they’d known I’m one of those bloggers who puts the colour of their undies on the internet, I think they may have handled that differently. I probably will name this company later when I get to the blinds section of my book/blog because it’s not really very cool; and it’s a great example of what’s wrong with sourcing products from China (without having a Quality Control Policy in place, at least!).)
Anyway, what does signing a waiver like that even mean? Would it stand up at VCAT? I think not. Did it deter us from using their business, yes? Did I tell them that they are actually breaking the law by breaching our Australian Human Rights Act, which states:
Use of chemicals and materials
A growing number of people report being affected by sensitivity to chemicals used in the building, maintenance and operation of premises. This can mean that premises are effectively inaccessible to people with chemical sensitivity. People who own, lease, operate and manage premises should consider the following issues to eliminate or minimise chemical sensitivity reactions in users:
- the selection of building, cleaning and maintenance chemicals and materials (see Note below);
- the provision of adequate ventilation and ensuring all fresh air intakes are clear of possible sources of pollution such as exhaust fumes from garages;
- minimising use of air fresheners and pesticides;
- the provision of early notification of events such as painting, pesticide applications or carpet shampooing by way of signs, memos or e-mail.
Note: There are a number of relevant environmental and occupational health and safety regulations and established standards, however, as is currently the case with other standards referenced in building law, compliance with those standards may not necessarily ensure compliance with the DDA.
No, I didn’t bother taking the opportunity to educate them. I just wasn’t well enough at the time, so I just waited until I felt better, taking our business somewhere else, landing right on Reece Plumbing’s doorstep…
These are the shots from our shopping trip to Reece to choose plumbing fittings for our two bathrooms:
Reece have over 450 stores in Australia. You can find one near you by visiting this page. If you have fragrance allergies or any condition where you are impacted on by chemical-irritants, you may want to call, asking to speak to management so that you too can arrange an appointment to visit during a quieter time. You are welcome to show them this page; or you may want to just wing it if you don’t feel shy about it. Either way, Good Luck!
As a side note: MCS was mentioned in this article, my diagnosis is ‘Inhalant Allergies’ to Chemicals
Reece: Bathroom Fittings
Reece: The Roca Range
Kado Lux: Toilets and Bidets
Fragrance Free Plumbers for People with MCS and Related Medical Conditions: KLM Plumbing
VOC free, Formaldehyde-Free Walls and Flooring for People with MCS and Related Medical Conditions: Modakboard
Australia: Reece Plumbing
Dehumidifiers that Don’t Give of Plastic Fumes (for most of us): AusClimate (Get the one without the styrofoam in it!)
All Products and Materials Used So Far: Build and Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House
Emerge Australia: What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
Plumbing for the Chemically Sensitive: I interview a plumber!
Get ready for cover Launch: my up-and-coming book: Freedom: an allergy-free, eco-friendly house
The Steps to Building an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free house
The Steps to Building an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free house and the tradespeople and companies we used (So far we have been really lucky with the team of people who we’ve found to help us build a low-toxic house.):
Design your house. We used Quin Wyatt, eco-Designer, and new beforehand, via testing with a doctor, what to avoid using before hand, plus, and apart from the actual style and design (the look), we knew exactly what we wanted: allergy-wise
Find your workers (yes I have a post: How to Find or Organise Fragrance Free Workers [post coming up]
How to Test Building Products and Products for you own or someone else’s Suitability [post coming up]
How to Apply to Council so that it passes through quickly [post coming up]
A fully, well-cured Concrete Slab, solid as a Rock from D&C Fear Concreting
Low-toxic Pluming installed by a fragrance-free plumbing team: KLM Plumbing
Choosing Fittings for the bathroom, kitchen and laundry: @Reece Plumbing
Choose your internal Building structure: We went with Hardwood from Calco [Post coming up]
Build a frame: we went with Damien and his team from Pristine Carpentry [Post coming up]
Choose a roof style, find a roofer [post coming up] , which are often, but not always a plumbing and roofing job (because plumbers and roofers often do both); We have the maddest Japanese style roof, which we are over the moon about, installed by Yeo Roofing and designed by Quin Wyatt, eco-draftsperson.
Virtual House Tour: using Sun Study Designs made by Quin our eco-draftsperson [up-and-coming post]