When attempting to make a church or other building healthier for all and accessible for those with chemical sensitivities, there are many areas to consider. Because of the cumulative nature of toxic exposures, every positive change matters, no matter how small it may seem. I urge people not to get overwhelmed by the list of possible changes to make, but to simply take a step, then take another. Keeping the body of Christ as healthy as possible and making churches accessible to all is worth the effort it entails. The stakes for inaction are high.
Questions to Consider
* Is the church cleaned with non-toxic, fragrance-free products? This is perhaps the easiest change to make, and one that can greatly increase the safety of the air and the health of those who breathe it.
* Are products that the church provides for members’ use also non-toxic and fragrance free? This category may include items such as soaps in the bathrooms or dishwashing products in the kitchen.
* Are there any “air fresheners” of any type (spray, mist, solid, gel, etc.) used in the building? They should be removed.
* How does the church deal with the issue of bugs and mice? Are non-toxic pest-control methods used when action is necessary?
* How is the lawn maintained? Are safe products chosen?
* Is the church ventilated well and is there provision for adequate air exchange? Are ventilation fans installed? Do windows open?
* How is the building heated and cooled? Is there the possibility for gas, oil, or combustion by-products to affect the indoor air? Is there a gas stove in the kitchen that may cause problems for some people?
* When the building is renovated or remodeled, are products and projects chosen with human health in mind? Are low-toxicity paints and sealers selected? Are inert building and flooring materials used?
* Are church members educated about toxicity considerations? Are they asked to refrain from wearing fragranced products in the church environment? Are there notices in the bulletin or on the church website addressing the issue?
* Is provision made for church members who are unable to attend? Are they able to participate in the life of the church through webcasts, conference phones, or in other ways?
* Is there at least one Christian church in the area that those who are chemically sensitive can attend? If not (or even if so), would your church consider building a chemical “safe room” to meet the need?