Shopping Centres Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Last week I was poisoned at Robina Town Centre.  Admittedly, the word “poisoned” may be a bit over the top, but not much.  I arrived there feeling fine, and within 30 minutes I felt slightly ill. In an hour I felt much worse, and after an hour and a half breathing the chemicals in the air, I started to faint.   Fortunately, there was someone there to catch me and help me to my car.

I would have complained to Robina Town Centre, or to some individual stores, but why bother?  They have never answered any letters or phone calls I’ve made about the quality of their air, and I’ve made a few during my 28 years as Director of Hippocrates Health Centre.  I made the calls because nearly everyone who attended our centre told us that they had to limit their time in shopping centres, or stay out of them entirely, because of the bad air.  Further, hundreds of persons in the many seminars I’ve given raised their hands when I asked if the air in shopping centres made them ill.

This is a scandal, and something needs to be done about it, for the sake of the people who work in the centres, day in, day out, breathing dangerous chemicals, many of which haven’t been properly tested, and some of which are well known to cause serious respiratory illnesses and cancer.   For sceptics, there is abundant, persuasive scientific proof of these dangers in books written by prestigious scientists.  

It’s clear that shopping centres are not going to do anything about this.   But unions and government agencies can, and should, do something to protect people from dangers in the workplace.    We customers have a choice – we can elect to shop in safe places, but shopping centre workers are economic captives! 


We have sent the above letter to several organisations that are in a position to make changes, and we will notify you when and if we hear from them. Meantime, let us know if spending time in a shopping centre leaves you feeling foggy-headed, dizzy and generally unwell, as so many people have reported to us.  

Yours in good health

Elaine Hollingsworth


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Elaine, I completely agree - I LOATHE shopping centres and feel like my head spins when in them. I thought it must've been all the bright lights, which no doubt contributes - but noticed it wasn't so bad at Harbourtown, being an open-air shopping centre. I realised it must be an absolute cocktail of noxious gasses inside the closed centres.  That mixed with their insistence on placing ghastly smelling 'air freshener' in the toilets; makes online shopping far more appealing.  Sara Montague


I have had serious problems with Shopping Centres for many years. I rarely go there. Apart from the "sick building" aspect, and probably bad air conditioning, the stores now reek of toxins contained in the goods, some more than others. I enclose a link from Choice magazine pointing out that Australia has no regulations with regard to the importing of goods containing over the "limit" amounts of toxic chemicals. The EU have soon realised the health hazards and regulated. I don't know what happens with sick buildings, EMFs, etc. there. I feel too unwell to do much about this. I have friends who are healthy who cannot go into some stores, or could not bear the new shopping centre in North Ryde, Sydney, NSW. Rivers stores are particularly bad, they recently burned down in Coffs Harbour - maybe someone just lit a match and the whole place went up! K-Mart is a minefield, especially in the shoe section.


Hi Elaine,   I have not been able to tolerate shopping centers for years.  Not only do I feel dizzy but I have other little reactions like my hands swelling to twice their size within just minutes.   It took me a lot of investigating and for me it is not only the chemicals, but even more so the wireless transmitters and whatever their security systems involve and fluorescent lights.   Since avoiding these places my "lupus" or "radiation poisoning" as I found out is what it really is, has settled down.   Of course the damage to my internal organs is now permanent from all the medications and lack of proper diagnosis.   It is virtually impossible for me to do anything normal like work, travel, etc. any more.   All the best, Conchita


Every time I set foot in a shopping centre, I became anxious and within a few minutes, disorientated. I put it down to the lighting, possibly culture shock, but now I think about it perhaps it was air quality. I cannot grocery shop in a shopping centre and have developed all kinds of strategies to minimise my time in them. If I have to buy something from a store in a shopping centre, I know the closest access point, straight there, straight out. Then I sit in my car for several minutes, regrouping.  I have never told anyone this, thinking it my problem, but thank you for outing me.  I now realise I have a legitimate reason for my paranoia. Cheers Margaret Phillips


My young son had an anaphylactic reaction as we walked into the perfume section of a department store that was located within a large shopping centre. It was quite terrifying - luckily there was a Doctor nearby who just happened to be doing some shopping! I advise all parents out there to think carefully before you expose newborns or young children to these very toxic retail environments. My heart goes out to the millions of people who have to work, day after day, in this toxic air. Thank you Elaine for sharing this article. Sincerely, Fiona Pattinson


My husband and I had always found ourselves feeing sick when shopping at Robina Town Centre...never discussed it with anybody. One example would be…in the newer Woolworths grocery store, my husband felt dizzy and had to leave the store much like your experience. This in only one example of many.    Lisa A


I'm glad you brought this subject to surface. I know about florescent lighting and its dangers causing cancer, headache, tiredness etc. especially in shopping centres. So my trips to shopping centres are always short. Shopping Centers makes me tired.    Pam


I too feel unwell if I stay in a shopping centre for too long (over 1hr, 1 1/2hr). I have always noticed how the hairdresser’s salons have very poor ventilation, and usually not to the outside, and we all know how bad the chemicals they use are. Similar issues arise with cleaning detergents in toilet and on floor.

I am also most affected by the lack of oxygen, and understand how the centre management saves money by turning down the amount of fresh air mixed in the air conditioner cycle. It is a disgrace, and yes the union should be made to do their job. I guess it will have to come from employees making worker's compensation claims.     Alain Romary


I too had a VERY BAD reaction. I was in a discount store in Ballina. The perfumed air made me feel like I was having an asthma attack. Luckily I had my grown up son who accompanied me out of the store. I then felt light headed and nauseous as well as my breathing difficulties. Since then I avoid the Detergent etc aisles at all stores as they sure DO make me feel ill. Overabundance of toxic chemicals!!    Sincerely, Marguerite Morgan


Thank you for addressing an issue I have had instant bodily responses to for the past two decades. I get instant diarrhea within 10 minutes of being in specific stores namely - Spotlight, Bunnings, Target and pharmacies. I believe it is the glues, chemicals, paint fumes and formaldehyde that are off-gassing. Is it any wonder that cancer and illness in general is rife, we allow ourselves to be poisoned on a daily basis.     Susanne Taylor-Rees


Thank you so much for your email. I thought all this time that I was imagining feeling ill every time I go to Robina shopping centre - which is as little as possible - I always feel nauseous, my back hurts and I feel very tired within a short time in the centre. Now I know that it's not just me.   Sabine Signori


YES. I limit my time in shopping centres as I start to feel unwell. I thought it was just me and my sensitivity to all the bright lights, too many people etc....... Also at Robina Town Shopping Centre. Interesting as I never thought of air quality. I prefer shopping at Harbourtown or Pacific Fair in the outdoors.   Cheers Veronica Sherwell 


Hello Elaine,  Your email was very interesting. Whenever my daughters (23 and 14) come shopping with me it only takes a short time before they are complaining they feel sick. They either have a headache or just feel generally uncomfortable. I had not made a connection between the quality of air, or toxins floating around, with how they end up feeling every time we go. Now that you have made me aware I will stick to shops that are in outdoor centres or go to the markets instead. Thank you for sharing your experience and bringing it to our attention.  Kind regards,  T. E. Vidal


My young son had an anaphylactic reaction as we walked into the perfume section of a department store that was located within a large shopping centre. It was quite terrifying - luckily there was a Doctor nearby who just happened to be doing some shopping! I advise all parents out there to think carefully before you expose newborns or young children to these very toxic retail environments. My heart goes out to the millions of people who have to work, day after day, in this toxic air. Thank you Elaine for sharing this article. M. Davie


Dear beautiful Elaine,

I was sorry to hear of your fainting in the Shopping Mall. I know that you are very informed about the way in which our toxic environment is playing havoc with our immune systems. I can't use a blade razor any more to shave with, after developing an allergic reaction to the lubricating strips which all razors come with now. It took me almost a year to figure-out that it was the razors' strips that were causing me the problems. It's electric all the way now.

I try to live simply and minimise my use of their poisons. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for helping to alert me to the greater of these. The problem is only going to get worse I feel unfortunately. What the future holds is a chilling thought.

I wish that I could say something more positive, but there isn't much positive ahead for the bulk of humanity.

Sent with much, much love and gratefulness.

Steve Howard.


I found myself in Toys R Us, Pacific Fair last week. This shop in itself is worse than ANY shopping mall - instant headache, and sore throat within 5 minutes. And these products are meant for KIDS?!?!

Kind Regards,

Facebook Comments

  • Loopy Lou I thought it was just the fluorescent lighting and lack of fresh air... always gives me a headache
  • Nikki Dunn Yep, I always feel sick and faint in shopping centres. I thought it was just the lighting and other peoples negative energy. I didn't even think of the chemicals. Terrible
  • Donna Leigh wow just confirmed why I cant go to shopping centres - I feel like I'm going to pass out. Thanks for sharing Elaine Hollingsworth
  • Denzel Koh Aaaarrrrrhhhhh! I happen to work in one, Mon to Sat 9-5! Good thing is that its only for another month. Never again!
  • Jennie Baird Finally I feel almost normal. Thought for so long that it was only me. Thanks to Elaine and all you people who commented, I feel more ok now to just be me, sensitive and all!
    17 hours ago · Like · 2
  • Ming Turner The smell in the cleaning products aisles, so called perfumes, stale air, the smell of banks of chemical sweets, the list is endless and always headache material when one goes to those 'canned air' malls! How do those folks who work there cope?
    16 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Murray Freeburn I love your work Elaine , you take no prisoners , and say it as you see it , God bless you , our world is so full of fear and cowardice , and the whole air issue weather inside the shopping center or outside , sucking in the pollution from chem trails .. Where does one escape to breath clean air ?? But I wholeheartedly agree , shopping centers make me gasp , I can't begin to think how horrid it must be to have to work in one ..
    8 hours ago · Like · 1


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