As Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Specialists we often work with customers who are referred to us from one medical office or another. As you might expect, many of them have…
I have never been exposed to cross contamination from mold, that I’m aware of, but apparently, environmental toxins can come into your home through unexpected ways. Yesterday, the doorbell rang and there was a knock at the door. Just like other on-line order shipments, two packages were dropped off and left on my front porch. Due to the following unfortunate mold situation of cross contamination from mold, I will not be revealing the shipping companies nor the type product I ordered.
One box was small, light and square shaped, the other was much larger rectangular box and significantly heavier. I noticed that the larger box was a little battered looking, as I assumed it would have encountered damage from being tossed around from shipping houses and transports to delivery vehicles… It was getting colder, so I quickly pulled the boxes inside the entry and closed the door. This crazy Texas weather in January, it was 80 degrees yesterday. Today? …I think it’s almost 34.
“No wonder almost everyone I know is sick,” I thought while reaching for my knife to cut open the packing tape.
Opening the larger package first, I confirmed my excited suspicions of its contents. As soon as I opened the first side of the box, a familiar smell became very prevalent. It reminded me of my grandmother’s barn in the late spring. I knew that smell, it was mold. Earthy, the kind that tickles your nose and back of the throat. I immediately closed the box, losing the desire to further my inspection of the delivery and tried to regain my senses. I noticed the onset of an instant pressure headache from temple to temple across my forehead. “Now what?” I asked myself.
Timidly, I reached for the smaller box, afraid of the same outcome. Questions were racing through my pounding head… “where did these packages really come from?” I thought. Thank God, the contents of the box was how I expected it.
I decided to set the larger, contaminated package on the back porch and try to contact someone knowledgeable in mold and figure out what to do.
I sat down at my computer to pull up the confirmation emails from the shipping company. Knowing very little about mold, I knew enough to know that it could make someone sick, but I had never experienced immediate symptoms like this! My throat had started burning and I could feel drainage down the back of my throat now.
Deciding to research it a little more before I called in my complaint, I called a local expert on the subject. Apparently in Texas, you have Licensed Mold Assessment Consultants (MAC) which oversee the work of the Mold Remediation Contractors (MRC).
I found out these important points about environmental toxins, mold, microbial or fungal growth that I think are extremely helpful to share. You can also find them on www.IAQRx.com
- Mold is everywhere, comes in all kids of colors and aids in the decomposition process of organic matter.
- There are 2 main categories of mold.
- All mold is allergenic and can cause basic allergic reactions.
- Only certain types of molds are actually considered toxic, because of their ability to create a tiny, extremely toxic, chemical in order to survive. Mycotoxin chemicals are extremely dangerous and can cause far worse health symptoms and conditions in animals and people. (including my immediate symptoms) Cross contamination from mold can also occur.
- Just because a mold can produce toxins, it doesn’t mean it is… Ohh, and there is separate testing for mycotoxins – in the home and in the person.
- The more toxic types of mold are more common where you have water damaged building materials.
- That mold can start growing in as little as 24-48 hours and with moisture of as little as 65% relative humidity.
- Mold spores can easily get airborne and can contaminate the HVAC system and the rest of your space, including your contents.
- Environmental doctors can help diagnose mold in the body and help you detox.
- Only someone licensed can test and confirm the presence of mold. No one else can call it mold or say it’s not.
- And ANY licensed remediation company must have a protocol from a MAC in order to remediate mold inside of a home, so call the licensed Assessor first.
- The MAC confirms and certifies the work of the remediators.
The company I called is FixAIRx, (pronounced “Fix-Air”) and they ended up being more than just a mold assessment company. They investigate and assess every aspect of indoor air quality and what makes people sick in their home. Their assessors were empathetic and incredibly knowledgeable about cross contamination from mold, chemical VOC’s and other contaminates. The education I gleamed far surpassed my expectation of how to properly handle my simple situation and gave me the confidence to handle or avoid much more complex and expensive problems in the future.
Since the call, I have started to think of my environment a little differently, with a new perspective. I thought about the friends I know, how everyone is sick and blames it on the flu or the weather… “Is it possible that our environments could actually be making us sick?” I thought. I guess it’s a larger possibility than I thought! I now plan on paying attention more to my environment and share this important message.
Through this unfortunate shipping experience, I found inspiration. It led me to find some amazing people who have created an organization with their knowledge and passion for helping their community. I feel the ladies at FixAIRx are pioneers in the indoor air quality field, especially in relation to mycotoxins. I admire and wish to help promote their mission, to share what they have learned about the different environmental toxins and collect case study data to aid ongoing medical research relating to the health repercussions from mold exposure in water damaged buildings.
I highly recommend you call them like I did if you have any questions about mold or air quality problems.
-by Heather L.
Rain and wind, they can damage a home or office roof and windows that can lead to ongoing water intrusion. A gail wind or nearby tornado, like we have had in Dallas this year, can cause serious property damage. And, as most property owners know, an ongoing leak can quickly lead to extreme mold and health problems that require remediation to fix.
But, what is less known is that a one time water event, be it flooding or a window leak, can also cause mold to grow inside a wall, in the ceiling, or in a crawl space. Once a building has toxic black mold, it will never just go away on its own. A professional assessment may be needed to identify the extent of the problem.
Mold grows when it has food and a source of water. The food it eats is cellulose which is something like paper, wood, or many types of dust and fibers. As for the water source, it doesn’t have to be standing water. The air itself has a lot of water in it which can be all mold needs to survive and even thrive.
If found and treated quickly, the damage and resulting mold from a single water intrusion can often be fixed quickly before there is excessive damage to the building.
Fortunately, there are several methods to treat mold and health problems beyond just remediation. The use of industrial grade hydrogen peroxide is recommended in many situations. This can be a very caustic substance so it must be handled with care (goggle, rubber gloves and a protective clothing are a must). And, this is just one method the professionals use.
What should also be considered is how to deal with the spores and the mycotoxins that the mold may have left behind in the surrounding areas. These are tiny and can be hard to detect. But, there are also ways of neutralizing them through air restoration processes.
So, even if you have had only one ‘flood’ in your home or office, you may have a problem and possibly toxic black mold. The quicker you have it identified and deal with it, the better. Just because the water is gone, doesn’t mean the mold problem is.
Also, if you think that you or your family or co-workers have any respiratory issues caused by your environment this link from NIOSH may help.
Finding mold in your home or office can be scary. Don’t Panic!
The situation is usually fixable if treated properly. There are several things you should not do to fix the problem and some things that you can and should do to clean up the mold you have found in your space.
First, the DON’Ts
- Do NOT use bleach on mold. Bleach will kill many types of molds. The problem is that killing mold does not necessarily get rid of it completely. Once mold dies or is threatened, it can release the mycotoxins (the poisons created by the mold) into your air or environment.
- Do NOT just clean mold off your HVAC registers and call it good- if mold is present on your registers it is a sign that your entire HVAC unit is contaminated. TEST the mold first – Remember, not all air duct cleaning companies are the same and can easily dislodge spores in the duct lines and they will become airborne and can easily make your family sick. ONLY use HVAC licensed technicians that specialize in these problems and have the license to open and also clean the HVAC units plenums blowers and coils.
- Do NOT paint over the mold except to contain it just prior to it being removed. Painting mold covered wood or sheet rock is very ineffective at containing mold from spreading.
- Do NOT try to cover up a moldy smell with air fresheners or moth balls. Those release chemicals which can be very unhealthy for anyone to breathe.
- Do NOT do a quick “cover up” fix over a moldy area (IE: a black mold patch). This will probably just be temporary until the source of the mold is found and fixed. Also, this cover-up will agitate the mold and can cause it to become airborne and infest your HVAC system. It is best to call in a professional to remediate any mold you find.
- DO Find the source of the mold or water intrusion. Mold is everywhere and it grows where it has water and a food source. Until the water source has been stopped, you will not be able to stop mold from growing and spreading.
- DO call in a professional or use an effective DIY home kit to test your indoor air quality. If you smell or see mold, a home test kit can help. You can find them by clicking here. You can also call in a professional to do IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) testing if you think you have a serious issue.
- DO wear a breathing mask and eye protection when looking for mold or when treating it. Any exposure to mold and the mycotoxins they produce is harmful to you.
- DO use a high concentration 27% hydrogen peroxide to kill mold down to the roots. Bleach will miss the roots and allow the mold to regrow. The higher concentrations oxidizing bubbles is needed to pull the roots from porous materials – the 3% peroxide solutions sold in stores does not work very well. Be VERY careful when using high concentration H2O2 as it can burn your skin. Use good rubber gloves, a mask, protective clothing, and good eye protection and ventilate when you are using it.
- DO continue to replace your air filters as recommended by the manufacturer. Dust and airborne mold will collect in them. Properly changing and disposing of the filter will help your space stay healthy.
- DO consult your primary care physician if you have any symptoms of mold exposure (click for more information
For those you living in the Dallas of Fort Worth Texas area or surrounding cities such as Plano, Richardson, Grapevine, Allen and Carrollton, please see this list of resources available to help you nearby: https://iaqrx.com/resource/
Go to https://iaqrx.com/services for more information.
Exposure to mold can have some unexpected symptoms for anyone. Some molds produce mycotoxins as a defense mechanism that attacks bacteria and other organisms. The FDA regulates these compounds in our foods but not in the air we breathe. They affect indoor air quality and can be detected with air quality testing.
Mycotoxins are a tiny chemical that can stay in the environment, even after a remediation has been done. Mold spores can carry the mycotoxins, but they can also become airborne. If left untreated, they can have some surprising health affects on you and your family as toxic mold symptoms are not just limited to people with allergy symptoms, hay fever or asthma.
Allergies – One of the first signs that mold growth is an issue in your home, is an increase in allergy symptoms. Affected individuals notice an increase in wheezing, coughing, and sneezing, and some highly sensitive individuals may begin to develop a rash, headache, itchy eyes or runny nose.
Respiratory Illnesses & Sinus Infections– As mold spores become more numerous in the air, the affects may be more evident. The first signs of disease are an inflamed sinus and respiratory tract. Family members may begin to experience signs of respiratory distress, such as a persistent cough and a runny nose which antibiotics may lessen, but the symptoms come right back. In fact, the antibiotic penicillin is derived from the mold penicillium which may worsen the problem. It has been reported that upwards of 98% of chronic respiratory infections are fungal related.
Digestive Problems – The liver is the body’s primary filter, and in a weakened state, it may not be able to produce enough bile to remove fat soluable toxins from the bloodstream. If you notice any dark or foul-smelling stool while using the bathroom, you may be suffering from digestive issues as a result of severe mold or mycotoxin exposure. If left untreated, the infection may affect the liver.
Brain Fog – Mycotoxin chemicals are very tiny and because they are fat soluable, they have the ability to breach the blood-brain barrier and disrupt neurotransmitter production in the body. Neurotransmitters are responsible for numerous cognitive brain functions, and a decrease in their production leads to persistant brain fog.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) occurs when mold infection begins to get out of control. This describes a condition where feelings of tiredness persist for weeks or months at a time. As the spores spread, you start to breathe in more of the mycotoxins and these toxins affect neurotransmitters that are created in the brain and control its functions.
Unusual Skin Sensations – As a result of the mold exposure infecting your skin, you may begin to develop a rash that consists of tiny red bumps where the mycotoxins inflame the pores and skin cells in the surrounding area. The spores seep into your pores and are resistant to being washed off in the shower or the bath. Using a antibacterial shower gel or body scrub will help.
Chronic Cough – Mold spores breed in the dark, damp areas of your home, and your lungs provide the ideal breeding ground where they can multiply as they please.
Blurred Vision – People who experience high-mold areas in their home may notice inflammation in the corners of their eyes. This may occur to the extent that the edges of the eyelids turn pink or red. Symptoms of itching appear soon after, and the infection then spreads to the sinus, where it creates inflammation in the upper respiratory tract and nasal cavities. If left untreated, mold infects the eyes and nose causing blurred vision and weeping.
Increased Thirst – Infected individuals may find that they start going to the bathroom a lot more frequently than usual and that no matter how much water they drink, they continually feel thirsty. As mold colonies grow and expand in your body, they start to disrupt normal body functions, such as thirst and urination.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
- Most doctors are NOT educated on environmental toxins, as this not a subject taught in medical school. If you have any of these symptoms, consult with your doctor or seek an environmental doctor that is more familiar with mold and can diagnose fungal related exposures.
- Molds and mycotoxins can both be tested for in the environment and in the body.
For those you living in the Dallas of Fort Worth Texas area or surrounding cities such as Plano, Richardson, Grapevine, Allen and Carrollton, please see this list of resources available to you nearby: https://iaqrx.com/resource/
Go to https://iaqrx.com/services for more information.