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Healthy Environments : A design and consulting service concentrates on introducing people to a holistic way of life.

April 09, 1993|ROBIN MAY OLSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Robin May Olson is a North Hills writer. and

An untreated-wood crib, bedding of all-natural material and a wool rug on hardwood floors weren't part of the pink or blue baby bedroom that danced around Carol Ann Scott's head when she found out that she was pregnant.

But it is the room she ended up with after she became concerned about creating a healthy, nontoxic environment for her child. For help, she turned to a design and consulting service called a room of one's own, which specializes in creating environmentally healthy rooms for children.

"We had to work within our perimeters. We are renting a house, so we could only change certain things. However, the room turned out very warm and comfortable, and using nontoxic materials helped put our mind at ease," Scott says.

A room of one's own, which is based in Sherman Oaks and West Los Angeles, has consulted with a handful of people in the San Fernando Valley--doing projects big and small--since Mary Cordaro and Joanne May Bittan opened the business more than a year ago.

The pair are mostly self-taught environmental designers, but Cordaro, 39, recently earned a certificate in the study of the impact of building on the environment and health, she says. Bittan, 38, who studied as an artist, specializes in the design, whether it's ordering the right paint or helping get a specific piece of furniture designed.

"We try to create a healing environment that has to do with lifestyle. It introduces people to a holistic way of life; they see how everything is interconnected," says Cordaro, who knows of similar businesses that do home inspections but none that also offer solutions.

When examining a home, they test for toxins in such things as the furnishings, paint, flooring, building materials, and drinking and bathing water. They also examine indoor air quality and insulation, check for mold and fungus problems, and measure electromagnetic stress. Clients fill out a health and home questionnaire to find out what materials or toxins the family may be sensitive to.

If a fuse box or computer are on the other side of a bedroom wall, they would point out that the crib should not be placed against that wall. If hardwood floors lurk beneath the carpet, they might suggest pulling up the carpet to get to the least toxic surface.

For decorating, they provide a variety of sources for nontoxic furnishings, floor surfaces, paint and bedding. (The main reason finished furniture can be considered toxic is that formaldehyde, which outgasses, or emits noxious gaseous particles, is used.)

Bittan and Cordaro can also help clothe your child--with organic clothing made of cotton that has not been treated with pesticides.

Creating a nontoxic environment may ease a parent's mind, but is it really necessary?

Julie Roque, an assistant professor in urban planning at UCLA, says it could be very important. Roque teaches classes on air quality, toxic reduction and environmental planning. "Most homes would be OK, but it is advisable to check on indoor air quality, especially for a young child," Roque says. Indoor air quality can be affected by outgassing from carpets, paint, drapes and pressed board, especially in new homes, she says.

Marcie Stemplar's chemical sensitivity and her children's asthma led her to remodel her Tarzana home. Now her house is almost toxin-free, she says, after using natural stains and paints, putting in new ducts and filters, installing new carpet and natural wood floors, and completely remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms.

"Mary's knowledge is incredible. It has given us a whole new perspective on things. Every aspect of our living has been changed since the remodel," Stemplar says.

Where and When What: a room of one's own. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, available by appointment only. Price: Initial in-home consultation lasts 1 1/2 hours and costs $150. Phone consultations are $20 for 15 minutes. Call: (818) 981-7245 or (310) 838-2892.

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