lerman-house-2-copy.jpgBy Michele Chan Santos

On a quiet street in the tree-covered city of Rollingwood, a suburb of Austin, Texas, sits a house designed to epitomize everything technology and modern design can do to make a home environmentally friendly and safe for families with children.

The sealed concrete floors are free of allergens and dust, and can be cleaned with water, with no need for harsh cleaning solutions. Two tankless, on-demand water heaters supply instant hot water, and are 50 percent more energy-efficient than traditional natural gas water heaters. The swimming pool has a state-of-the-art filtration system, a copper ionization system which means the pool water stays clean with no need for chlorine or other chemicals. The detached storage space keeps lawnmowers, gas, paints and other toxic substances in a place where their vapors don’t seep into the main living space. Compact fluorescent bulbs provide light. All the paint has low or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds which are toxic).

This brand-new house, at 502 Riley Road, won the 2008 Healthy Child Healthy World Home Award. Each year, the California-based organization Healthy Child Healthy World chooses a house in the United States which demonstrates ways in which to make homes safer and freer of chemicals and environmental toxins.

“I hope families visiting the house get a sense of empowerment,” said Anne Robertson, a board member of Healthy Child Healthy World who lives in Austin. Robertson worked with the developer, Stanley Lerman of Jivaka LLC, and the architect, Peter Pfeiffer of Barley & Pfeiffer Architects, to offer a week long tour of the house. The home is currently on the market for $2,575,000, but Robertson made it clear that many of the home’s earth-and-child-safe adaptations could be adopted by families with modest budgets.

Robertson recommends “Five Easy Steps,” a program by Healthy Child, to reduce your child’s exposure to chemicals. The steps involve cutting out pesticides and toxic cleaners and eating morelermaninterior.jpg healthfully. “These steps have an effect,” Robertson said. “Your children will be less sick, less vulnerable – really, it’s about empowerment.”

Healthy Child Healthy World was founded by Jim and Nancy Chuda of Los Angeles. The Chudas’ daughter, Colette, died in 1991 of a Wilm’s tumor, a cancerous mass in her abdomen. She was five years old. The Chudas believe there is a link between this cancer and pesticide exposure to the child’s mother while she is pregnant.

They did extensive research to discover why their daughter got sick and why she died, said Rebecca Foster, a close friend of the Chudas and a board member of Healthy Child Healthy World.

Then, Jim Chuda, an environmental engineer, and Nancy Chuda, a news anchor, founded the organization with the goal of sharing practical strategies and alternative products with as many people as they could, in order to make homes and schools safer for children.

“There is so much new research and information now on ways to avoid toxic exposures, whether it’s in your home, office, school or community,” Foster said. Healthy Child Healthy World’s mission is to make sure “that everything you put into your home is non-toxic, whether it’s cleaning materials, foods or laundry detergent. When you are in a non-toxic house, it looks beautiful and it feels good,” she said.