The latest trend in building is Smart Homes.

Is the convenience of technology in built environments worth the risk of potential health issues?

Buildings are being powered up to be sustainable and efficient but are overloaded with technology. How much is too much?


Are the conveniences of technology worth the cost of potential health risks?

Imagine you have designed and built the perfect home for yourself or your clients. You have your project certified as LEED, WELL or LIVING BUILDING CHALLENGE incorporating biophilic design elements. YOU HAVE CHOSEN all the construction materials TO BE healthy AND use a low carbon footprint. No expense has been spared on the flooring, carpets, cabinets, plumbing, etc. The house is beautiful, energy efficient and healthy.

In addition, the house is set up as a smart home. Your doorbell is not only wireless, it can take video, and you can talk to it. You can play any music anywhere in the house with a voice command. Your sprinkler system knows when to go on and off in different places. Even your refrigerator knows how many eggs, how much milk and ice it has. The lights are controlled wirelessly and can even change colors or have them go on when your client isn’t home. The alarm system is wireless. You can even lock or unlock their front door from anywhere in the world using a smartphone. The 5G WiFi router allows instant internet access from anywhere in the home. Even their HVAC system knows when someone is home, turning itself off if no one is around to enjoy the heating or cooling.

Everything in your house can be pre-set or controlled using a smartphone.

Sounds ideal.

Today technology is infused everywhere because convenience is in full demand and manufacturers incorporating it in all their new products. It is all perfect and worthwhile until their child is diagnosed with leukemia or comes down with an autoimmune disease making them electrosensitive.

This is why we like to say that smart homes = sick people.


Where do you draw the line between health and convenience?

Today’s technology is very cool. Who can argue that knowing instantly if your water system is leaking, or knowing if you left the oven on when you leave the house is not a good thing? The problem is that all of this stuff is connected wirelessly to the internet. Gigabytes of information are flying past, around and through the inhabitants of a house usually to a 5g router that transports that information to a cloud. What is wrong with that? Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are the things that make your smartphone work, and allow your doorbell to communicate with your refrigerator. The question is how much is too much technology and where do you draw the line between health and convenience?


  • Leukemia

  • Lymphoma

  • Brain Tumors

  • Weakened nervous system

  • Melanoma

  • Breast cancer

  • Miscarriage

  • Birth defects

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Lou Gehrig’s disease

  • Depression

  • Nausea

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Anxiety

  • Dizziness

  • Mental confusion

  • Memory loss

  • Sleep disturbance

  • Itchy or burning skin

  • Skin rashes

The International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety (ICEMS) and the National Institute for the Study and Control of Cancer and Environmental Diseases published a report, “Non-thermal Effects and Mechanisms of Interaction Between Electromagnetic Fields and Living Matter” in 2010.

This was an international effort by scientists to compile what was known at that time about the biological effects and mechanisms of action, and included studies showing EMFs create oxidative stress, blood-brain barrier permeability, genotoxic and fertility effects, heat shock (or stress) proteins, changes in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and in neurotransmitters, and much more.

They say: “In children, we are seeing increases in psychiatric disorders, psychotropic medication use, chronic medical conditions, delinquency, addictions, aggression, sensory integration issues, and disability filings.”


There has been numerous studies how EMFs and RFs (wireless, cellular) have been found to cause a large number of illnesses in people, animals and plantlife. The BioInitiative Report synthesizes the key findings of thousands of scientific studies showing biological effects from electromagnetic fields.

The U.K. publication, Electromagnetic Sensitivity and Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity contains references to 1,800 studies showing effects of low-intensity exposures.

There exists decades of military Radiofrequency (RF) research showing risk, much foreign research, and even an industry-funded review, “Mobile Telecommunications and Health,” prepared by the Ecolog Institute, which was issued in 2000 and lays out the known risks in great detail, including DNA risks, cancer risks and risks to children.



On top of all that science, what happens when someone hacks into your security system? How secure is your doorbell? Do you think someone might be able to get into your email or bank account once they are connected to your home system? Believe it… It can happen.

Norton has even published an article offering tips to help secure all of the numerous smart devices in the modern home.


At DesignWell we consult with homeowner, builders, architects and developers on how to incorporate environmental wellness methods into their projects.

Let’s work together on designing and building homes that support the environment and human health and well being!

We are a growing company with a passion for the health and wellbeing of people. We are NOT anti-technology. We have smartphones. We wrote this on computers connected to the internet.

It is important WHERE your project is located, as well as how you use technology, and what is necessary vs. what seems cool. We have helped enough sick people that we understand what they need to do so they can heal in a supportive and inspiring environment. What would be ideal would be to get them into houses designed so they don’t get sick in the first place!

To schedule testing or a consultation contact us today

A healthy dose of interior design for a little girl with leukemia


Portland-based Consulting and Interior Design company, designWELL studios donated its time and services to brighten the home of a young local girl battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

Nine-year-old Stella Monteverde-Cakebread was diagnosed with AML on February 1, 2010. When Michelle Bexelius, owner of designWELL studios, heard of Stella’s plight, she contacted the Monteverde-Cakebread family and offered them complimentary environmental wellness assessment.

By doing something as simple as repainting Stella’s bedroom using high-quality non-VOC paints and primers (Dick’s Color Center and Pratt & Lambert), Bexelius is proving that ecoHealthy can also be ecoBeautiful. “There is always an alternative [to unhealthy products]; you just have to pick your priorities and know what to look for,” she explains.

Michelle checked the electromagnetic frequency (EMF) levels, moved Stella’s bed, and checked for lead in the windowsills. On the advice of designWELL studios, the family is also getting new, healthy mattresses, pillows and bedding thanks to (Eclectic Home), sustainable cork floors (Eco Haus) and custom designed textiles (cool cotton). The bedroom was cleared of clutter, the stuffed animals were minimized and the space was organized to create a harmonious haven.

We also want her room to resonate with her style making it fun for an almost 9 year old and her 4 year old sister to call their own. Michelle designed curtains and a duvet cover and pillow to brighten the room. Melamine furniture and plastic storage containers were replaced with solid wood pieces to improve the indoor air quality.

It will be a bright moment when Stella sees her room for the first time. We will be there smiling too knowing we helped improve the health of her room so a little girl can heal and grow up and fulfill her dreams.

UPDATE: Stella is now a healthy college student as of 2019!


New case study why sourcing healthy wood flooring saves money and prevents future health issues


New case study: Why sourcing healthy wood flooring saves money and prevents future health issues

By Michelle Bexelius
Environmental Wellness Design Director
Designwell Studios

When sourcing flooring options for interior design projects there are many to choose from that span the spectrum depending on project cost and style.  Flooring eats up a large part of the budget of a project, around 10%. While trying to remain on budget and keep with the style of the project many sources for wood flooring fall short when it comes to health and safety for the people inhabiting the space.

Many wood flooring companies have pollutants like formaldehyde in their products as well as adhesives. The pollutants in formaldehyde can off gas up to 15 years in an indoor environment. The people who come into contact with formaldehyde acutely or long term are at risk for mild to severe health issues. Being an environmental designer trained in building biology, healthy building and remodeling focusing on indoor air quality and electromagnetic fields, I have seen hundreds of cases of environmental toxin exposure and a large percentage have come from pre engineered wood products containing formaldehyde.

This is a case study on why sourcing healthier wood flooring products is vital in preventing chronic health issues like asthma in children after family who moved into a newly built home that proved to be toxic from formaldehyde adhesives in pre engineered wood flooring.

A few years ago a family of 4 (mother, father, baby, toddler) moved into a brand new 3,000 square foot home with new wood floors, cabinetry and carpet and other traditional building products. What happens to them is something you would never wish upon anyone close to you. The children, 8 months old and 2 years and their mother were continually sick with cold symptoms that lasted for more than two months, unusually long after cold and flu season. This was when I was contacted to perform indoor air quality testing to find out if there was something in their home making them sick. After walking in the door I was instantly struck with a strong load of a chemical smell, the room climate was stagnant and heavy. I instantly felt lightheaded and anxious.

After the test results came back from the lab, it was clear there were elevated levels of formaldehyde, 87 ppb (parts per billion) to be exact. Levels 0-16 ppb are the range within acceptable limits. We then determined the source of formaldehyde was coming from the adhesives underneath the pre-engineered wood flooring. The builder was alerted and said they would help mitigate the problem. They installed a new heat recovery ventilation (HRV) unit to help move the air, but the company didn’t balance the indoor air quality correctly, nor install it correctly and they ended up putting in an electrostatic air cleaner that produced a significant amount of ozone. I noticed this when I visited the home again to consult and I couldn’t even be in the home due to the heavy amount of pollutants in the air. I recommended the reinstall the HRV system using a more experienced Heating and Cooling (HVAC) company as well as removing the electrostatic cleaner.

I did recommend to my client that they could replace the flooring with healthy wood floors but they had already spent so much money on hotels, doctor’s bills, consultants, testing and appliances to help their environment. If they had replaced the wood floors with healthier wood floors and adhesives and removed the carpets they would have had a much healthier environment and saved a lot of money. They thought that all new homes off gassed and that their new home would do so within a few months and didn’t realize it would take up to 15 years and have their baby now a toddler suffer from chronic asthma.

My clients ended up taking the builder to court to educate, create awareness and redeem the money lost that was spent trying to mitigate a problem they didn’t sign up for. They won their case and now the builder hopefully has awareness of using healthier building products and materials in their future projects.

Now is the perfect time as a interior designer and architect to source healthier products and materials for your clients health. Choose products and materials that are certified, healthy and safe for humans and the environment.

Cases like these can be prevented from the start of a project by sourcing healthier materials and products. It is also important to test the indoor air quality after installation to ensure a healthy environment.  As an environmental designer and after indepth research, I highly recommend using mafi wood floors for future building and renovation projects.  

Contact DesignWell Studios if you have wood floors you’d like to test and see if they are off gassing formaldehyde or other toxins.

Safety and Electromagnetic Fields = Location. Location. Location



Is your home near the following: airport, electric power plant, a foundry, radio/tv tower, a cell tower, power lines/transformers, any industrial plants, a farm, a crematorium, hazardous waste site, a superfund site, nursery, vineyard, orchard, golf course, high traffic highways roads... you want to test your indoor air quality and electromagnetic fields and radio frequencies (wifi).

These outside elements play a bigger role in your life than you think. The golf course is green and beautiful yet they could be spraying pesticides on their grass to make it look perfectly green which blows into the air up to a mile.

Cell towers and power stations are necessary for electricity and communication but if they are too close they could have adverse health effects on your and your loved ones. Each location is different, that’s why it’s important to test first.