Author: Dr. Gary Huber
Mold exists in your home and environment but is it making you sick? Do you have excessive exposure that is poisoning your system causing headache, muscle pain, foggy head, poor sleep, sinus infections, repeated cold and sore throat? There is a lot you can do to uncover this hidden menace.
There are dozens of mold forms and they are natural in our environment. Most forms of mold exist outdoors and if you have ever spread mulch of walked thru wet leaves in the fall then you inhaled mold spores and mold endotoxins. This exposure is not typically a problem unless you are allergic to mold. Allergy to mold and exposure to mold are 2 different things. Most people are not allergic yet all of us can be affected by mold biotoxins if exposed on a regular basis at high enough doses.
It is when mold moves indoors and lives in our homes or workspace that we can experience bigger problems. Water damaged buildings can hold dangerous mold forms such as Stachybotrys and Aspergillus that produce both spores and endotoxins, also called biotoxins. If your basement has ever flooded or even simply had repeated water leaks than you may be at risk. If your roofline has a small persistent leak or a window has water near it on a regular basis then this is the potential first step in developing dangerous mold. If you have a finished basement with drywall, realize that drywall is the preferred food of mold and as it covers the cement wall behind you may have no way of seeing it. It may be living in your air ducts or in an old furnace. And who doesn't have a cardboard box in their basement holding family memorabilia or old clothes. Paper and cardboard are once again a favored source of food that mold feeds on.
So what’s the big deal, should all be living in fear of mold toxins? No, fear is never a good place to hang out but lets discuss what all of this means and develop a few ideas and strategies to identify if you are at risk.
Mold is all around us so when is it dangerous? Mold can grow when fed with humidity and stagnant air. It feeds on vegetative matter like old leaves, wood, paper, cardboard and gypsum (drywall). Any stagnant water will eventually grow mold. And yes, mold can even grow inside of the human body if our immune system is weak and we offer a welcome environment. Mold growing inside of us is very uncommon and typically affects only those with a damaged immune system such as that caused by chemotherapy, immune suppressant drugs, AIDS or chronic Lyme infection. Once mold establishes itself it begins to produce spores and biotoxins (endotoxins). Biotoxins are poisons and some examples are bee and wasp stings, poisonous snakes, reef fish and brown recluse spiders. Biotoxins enter the body and are normally tagged by the immune system to be removed. In approximately 24% of the population, the immune system genes, called HLA DR genes, that normally help to remove the foreign toxins, do not work. Biotoxins are able to thrive and cause illness in individuals with these susceptible genes. HLA-DR genes can be tested to see if you are susceptible.
Mold can grow in any season or environment and can cause serious problems. Molds reproduce by forming spores that can survive under extremely harsh conditions. Molds can cause serious illness and can present with a variety of different symptoms.
A 2007 study found that 21.8 million people reported to have asthma in the United States and of those individuals; an estimated 4.6 million cases were attributed to mold and dampness in the home. This equates to $3.5 billion to the national annual cost of asthma. So how do we know if you have mold exposure? Well let’s explore the broad array of symptoms.
Signs of mold exposure
There are a multitude of symptoms that can occur from biotoxin illness.
Some of the most common symptoms:
- Muscle cramps
- Unusual pain
- Ice pick pain
- Shortness of breath
- Memory issues
- Abdominal pain
- Mood swings
- Appetite swings
- Many more
As you can see, this list of potential symptoms is very broad and vague. If you have had issues like the symptoms listed above and yet struggled to get it resolved through traditional medical treatments then perhaps the diagnosis of mold exposure was overlooked. It is quite common for someone to be diagnosed with headaches or focus issues and be assigned a diagnosis of ADD, fibromyalgia, IBS or other diagnosis that has no testing to prove or disprove its source.
The first step is to take a serious look at your home and don't assume that your house is “clean”. This has nothing to do with how tidy you are. Here are a few questions to consider.
- Has your basement ever been breached by water? Even a small repetitive leak can be an issue.
- Do you have your clothes drier operating in a small closed off area of your basement? This can produce humidity at high levels.
- Has your roof ever leaked or have you been up in your own attic to explore for signs of frost and thaw that lead to moisture accumulation?
- Have any of your appliances such as dishwasher, clothes washer, or refrigerator ever had a leak? Would you be able to see it if it did occur?
- Showers and sinks are all potential sources for leaks that can occur behind the wall or cabinet. Has there been staining water or signs of staining to floor, cabinet or walls?
Decreasing Exposure Risk
There are a number of simple things you can do to reduce your risk. Mold has a difficult time growing and existing in an area that is well ventilated and is of low humidity.
- Keep humidity level <50% in your home. Get a simple “hygrometer” (costs $10 on Amazon) that measures room humidity.
- Use dehumidifiers especially during humid months
- Run a fan in your basement or suspicious areas to keep air moving.
- Seek VALID professional help to assess water leaks, water stains and mold suspicion.
Who To Trust
There is no certification to be a “Mold Inspector” in the state of Ohio. I have discovered someone who I feel is qualified and has the educational background to claim himself an “expert” in this area. Chuck Billingsley is an environmental engineer. I refer to him as the “Mold Whisperer”. I hired Chuck to assess my home upon the recommendation of a patient who had experience with him. I wanted the assessment as my kids kept getting repeated colds and I had a sinus infection that just would not go away. Something was wrong and I intended to get to the bottom of it. Chuck didn't know what I did for a living and was probably wondering why this strange guy followed him thru every room of the house as he did his inspection. I peppered Chuck with mold questions for more than 2 hours and I’m telling you the guy knows his stuff. So if I am putting MY reputation on the line to help you get your home assessed the only name I trust is Chuck Billingsley to do a thorough and complete assessment. Chucks contact info: Mold Inspection Sciences Phone: (513) 448-1253
Chuck did find mold in my basement when I had no suspicion of it. He showed me where it was and recommended someone for clean up. Chuck does the testing and is not involved with any of the remediation and that is exactly what you want. You DO NOT want one company doing the testing, then remediating it and then assuring you that they did a great job. You want a separate party assessing the result, not the remediation folks themselves.
I hired Matt Ellison of “DisasterWorks Environmental Restoration” to come in the clean up our mold. Matt’s company is a small operation with a stellar work ethic and a mindset to match. Matt informed us of everything he was doing every step of the way. The work was done in clean professional fashion and all of his crew were a pleasure to work with. The result? Chuck rechecked some tests after the remediation and found “0” mold to report. Now we run a dehumidifier and a small fan in the basement and my worries of a recurrence are slim to none. Matt was awesome and I highly recommend him.
DisasterWorks contact info: Phone: (800) 772-6795 WEBSITE: www.disasterworks.net
If you think you have a mold issue then come in for assessment as I am well versed in Dr. Shoemakers mold and biotoxin protocol. I offer a few tools (below) to help you in your initial assessment so you can begin to understand and explore the possibility of mold in your own life.
- Biotoxin Questionnaire - http://biotoxinjourney.com/biotoxinillness-test/
- Free Visual Contrast Test - https://www.vcstest.com
- Informative Surviving Mold Website - http://www.survivingmold.com/mold-symptoms
- Basic Mold Facts - http://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm#mold