What To Do If Your Home Is Mold
First, you need to identify the source of water intrusion and fix it. A leaky roof or pipe will only create more issues after mold remediation.
Fixing an extensive mold problem is best left to professionals. When you disturb-mold infested materials, the spores and toxins spread like dandelion seeds in the wind. Attempting to tackle it yourself could make a bad problem much worse.
When looking for a professional mold remediator, some of the questions you should ask are:
- Are you certified in mold remediation? Examples of major certifying groups are the American Council for Accredited Certification and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification .
- How do you document your work? This should include photos of damaged areas. The company should also provide an itemized cost estimate before starting.
- How do you contain mold-contaminated areas? This generally includes using thick plastic sheeting to seal off the moldy area. Remediators also use indoor air scrubbers with high-efficiency particulate air filters. These should be vented to the outdoors.
- How do you clean your equipment? Besides air scrubbers, remediators also use HEPA vacuums. Ask what measures they take to avoid contaminating your house with their equipment. Do they change HEPA filters between jobs and sanitize their equipment?
- How do you dispose of moldy material? The moldy debris should be double-bagged before removing it from the building.
What Are Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds
Another source of irritation from mold exposure comes from substances knownas microbial volatile organic compounds . These compounds are producedthrough fungal metabolism and are released directly into the air, often givingoff strong or unpleasant odors. Exposure to mVOCs from molds can irritate theeyes and respiratory system and has been linked to symptoms such as headaches,dizziness, fatigue, nasal irritation and nausea. The effects of mVOCs are notcompletely understood and research is still in the early stages.
Where Is Mold Found
Mold is found all over the world. It can grow on and in buildings and also outdoors. Although mold can exist in a variety of places, it grows especially well in damp, moist environments. Your walls, furniture, floors, carpets, and other areas of your home can contain mold. Kitchens, bathrooms, and other damp places are especially likely to have mold. Mold is common everywhere, and people are exposed to it every day.
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Why Are Mold Issues Difficult To Diagnose
Conventional medicine recognizes that mold can cause allergies but does not recognize that mycotoxins emitted by some species of indoor mold can cause a problem, says McElroy. This means that doctors unfamiliar with mold and mold treatment may miss one of the main types of mold reactionsthe chemical and inflammatory reaction. This is for a few reasons:
- There is no gold standard in testing for mold
- There is no standardized treatment protocol or drug for mold toxicity
- There are very limited human-based studies looking at the connection between mycotoxins and human health
- The presentation of mold issues is very different among patients
- Not everyone exposed to mold mycotoxins will have a reaction to them
Its no wonder mold illness can be hard to diagnose. Fortunately, holistic medicine providers consider environmental factors that affect health when evaluating patients and may have additional advanced training in treating mold toxicity.
According to McElroy, one of the biggest challenges with mold is that mycotoxins can cause only some people to launch an inflammatory response. This unpredictable response can go on for years after a long-term exposure in a susceptible individual, she explains.
Effective Treatment For Symptoms Of Mold Exposure
Get Your Home Tested Properly
Proper mold inspection requires hiring an experienced Indoor Environmental Professional that uses various testing techniques to ensure there has not been water damage leading to mold growth in your home. When someone is sick in the household, the degree of mold testing needs to be more comprehensive than if someone was doing a general home inspection. I have witnessed mold inspectors miss water damage and mold growth in patients homes because they did not do a thorough investigation, or used the wrong testing methods.
Proper testing for mold helps to establish the scope of work for remediation. It is a conflict of interest to hire an inspector who also does remediation. However, most reputable inspectors can recommend a contractor who specializes in mold remediation.
To find a certified IEP in your area, visit www.acac.org and look for CIEC and CMC certifications. You will also find certified remediators with CMRS and CMR designation.
Treatments for mold Illness
Prescription medications and supplements referred to as binders are used to reduce the mycotoxin burden in the body. Technically these compounds do not bind mycotoxins, but they adsorb like static cling. Mycotoxins are secreted with bile from the gallbladder into the intestines. Mycotoxins adhere to binders in the intestines and then excreted through the stool.
Glutathione in Treating Mold Toxicity
Reduce Inflammation in Mold Toxicity
- Transfer Factors Enviro
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How Are Mold Allergies And Exposure Diagnosed
There are no proven tests that show when or where you may have been exposed to mold. However, your doctor may check for mold allergies by reviewing your symptoms and performing one of the following tests:
- Blood test. Your doctor takes a blood sample and then sends it to a laboratory to measure the number of certain antibodies, which can indicate your immune systems sensitivity to different mold species.
- Skin prick test. Your doctor takes small amounts of mold and applies it to your skin using a tiny needle. Your skin will break out in bumps, a rash, or hives if youre allergic to that type of mold.
What Mold Smells Like
Mold has a damp, musty scentsimilar to what youd smell after opening an old book. In general, smell is not a good way to determine if there is a mold problem, says Laureen Burton, a staff chemist and toxicologist for the Environmental Protection Agency . The smell of indoor molds can differ depending on the type of mold, the surface on which its growing, and its source of moisture. Plus, she says, some people dont notice a smell at all.
The mold smell is caused by microbial volatile organic compounds , which are substances that are naturally produced by molds as they grow. The health effects of inhaling mVOCs are largely unknown, says Burton, although exposure to some mVOCs has been linked to symptoms such as headaches, nasal irritation, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.
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Proper Testing For Mold Illness
Physicians that specialize in mold illness have narrowed in on tests that are most effective in determining if mold is an underlying cause of someones symptoms. Before considering laboratory tests, there is often a clinical suspicion someone may be suffering from symptoms of mold exposure.
When someone is experiencing any of the above symptoms and no other diagnosis has been made that explains these symptoms mold illness should be considered. There is also the circumstance when someone has another diagnosis such as Lyme disease, but treatments have not been effective in resolving symptoms.
There is no one perfect test to diagnose mold toxicity. I use the two testing methods below to determine if mold and mycotoxins are undermining someones health.
Urine Mycotoxin Test
A urine mycotoxin test indicates whether or not a person is excreting mycotoxins from mold exposure. However, our bodies should excrete mycotoxins after exposure to mold and this does not necessarily mean someone has mold illness. The degree of elevation of mycotoxins in the urine suggests the severity of mold toxicity.
Great Plains Laboratory and Real Time Laboratory are the labs most commonly used by physicians treating mold toxicity. The two labs use different testing methodologies and test for different mycotoxins, so it is hard to compare results between the labs.
Preparation for urine mycotoxin testing
Mycotoxin Antibody Test
Is All Mold Toxic
Mold is not the only pathogen that grows from water damage. Fungal fragments, spores, mycotoxins, bacteria, mycobacteria, actinomycetes, VOCs, and other biotoxins can also form in damp buildings. These pathogens combine to produce a toxic soup that can lead to a multi-systemic and multi-symptomatic illness.
Not all mold is toxic, but many mold species from water-damaged buildings produce mycotoxins. It is the indoor concentration of mycotoxins and the rest of the toxic soup that can contribute to chronic debilitating symptoms.
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Mold Illness Misunderstanding And Misdiagnosis
You might be wondering if youre experiencing toxic mold exposure symptoms. If you lived or worked in a water damaged building and tried to learn the truth about the risks to your health, you probably came across some conflicting information.
Maybe you were told by a practitioner that your symptoms couldnt be mold related or that your fatigue, weakness, brain fog, memory issues, headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, and other debilitating symptoms were all in your head. Perhaps you were even referred to a mental health specialist. If so, youre not alone.
Theres a lot of misunderstanding about toxic mold exposure and the resulting impact on human health. Thankfully, awareness is growing. What was once speculation is now defined, diagnosed, and treated by integrative and functional medicine practitioners with the Shoemaker Protocol and other natural therapies. And research continues to be funded and published by large institutions such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Yet, there is still much to be done to inform the larger medical community and the general public. Lack of awareness about mold not only lead to misdiagnosis but also fear, shame, and confusion. Many sufferers are left feeling hopeless, believing there is no solution. Ive written this article to correct faulty assumptions about toxic mold exposure from a medical perspective.
What Is Mold Toxicity
Youre likely familiar with mold allergies. But you may wonder how they differ from mold toxicity, also called chronic mold illness. In short, poisons produced by mold can cause illness that extends beyond common mold allergies.
Mold allergy symptoms tend to be limited to your respiratory tract, eyes, and skin such as a runny nose and itchy eyes. Allergies happen when your immune system overreacts to mold spores. Those are dormant forms of the fungi. Theyre lightweight and easily float through the air.
In contrast, mold illness results from mold growing indoors and producing toxins. These can trigger varied and widespread symptoms in your body.
The buildings that harbor mold toxins are water-damaged buildings. This damage can result from any water intrusion such as from flooding, melting snow, or leaky pipes. Everyday activities like showering without good ventilation are risks, too. Warm, humid environments also increase mold growth risk.
Toxic mold growth could happen in any type of building. The most problematic ones are those where you spend a lot of time. That includes homes, workplaces, and schools.
Studies suggest that up to 50% of buildings in North America and Europe may have water damage.So, its better to suspect a building has a mold growth problem rather than assume it doesnt.
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Identifying Mold In Your Body
20-30% of people cant respond to toxic exposures of mold from water damage and excessive mycotoxins found in food.
If you suspect that you are already experiencing symptoms of mold exposure, steps must be taken in removing mold from the body. You can first confirm the presence of mold in the following ways:
- VCS Test: The VCS Test is an online visual test that can help confirm the presence of biotoxic illness, as well as possible symptoms caused from mold and mycotoxin exposure.
- Blood testing for mold: The C4A compliment detects recent mold exposure, while the TGF-Beta 1 is indicative of longer-term mold exposure.
- HLA DR/DQ: This gene is located on chromosome number 6, and it encodes a protein called an MHC Class II protein. Testing for this gene can reveal your genetic susceptibility to biotoxin illnesses.
As hinted at above, your genes play a large role in your bodys response to mold and mycotoxins. The HLA DR gene helps the immune system respond to environmental threats. It is estimated that 20-30% of people do not respond well to toxic exposures of mold from water damage and excessive mycotoxins found in food.
What Are The Symptoms Of Mold Sickness
If your Total Body Burden is high, or you are genetically predisposed to recycling toxins, regular exposure to mold can cause allergy symptoms, such as:
- Wheezing/shortness of breath
- Long standing or frequent sinusitis
And, serious pain and neurological symptoms, such as:
- Headaches and migraines
- Muscle cramping, aches and pains
- Persistent nerve pain
- Fatigue and weakness
- Poor memory, brain fog, difficulty with focus
In some cases, the spores from mold take root and grow in specific parts of the body, such as the lungs and sinuses. This can cause serious respiratory illnesses and infections.
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Why Some People Are Susceptible
As mentioned by Dr. Shoemaker, approximately 24 percent of the population is genetically vulnerable to mold toxicity they have a certain immune response gene . If youre one of those people with mold susceptibility genes, you are far more likely to have an adverse reaction to mold when exposed to a sufficient quantity. In fact, 95 percent of mold illness occurs in this subgroup. Additionally, theres 2 percent who are particularly susceptible with a sicker quicker variation of the genes. If you arent susceptible, your chances are lower but not zero.
People like me who are genetically mold susceptible arent able to recognize specific toxins as toxins, such as mold, and the toxins get recirculated in their bodies. As a result, the toxins, in this case mold, trigger a persistent inflammatory response. Most of these folks dont know that they have a genetic susceptibility.
Mold illness from water-damaged buildings is a serious health problem.4Dennis, D. P. Chronic sinusitis: Defective T-cells responding to superantigens, treated by reduction of fungi in the nose and Continue reading Its not an allergy its a state of chronic inflammation caused by the immune system becoming out of whack. The CIRS doesnt heal on its own, will not abate, and will continue to provoke illness unless its treated. Their illness is built into their DNA and once triggered, the inflammatory response and resulting symptoms can last for years.
Clean Black Mold And Get Rid Of It For Good
Once you know how bad your mold problem is , its time to get rid of the problem.
- Clean mold yourself. If your mold problem is small and visible, like caulking around your bathtub, you can get rid of it yourself. You just want to make sure you use the right cleaning solution. Bleach wont kill mold entirely, and as the chlorine in bleach dissipates, the bleach turns into water, which creates the perfect environment for new mold to grow. Cleaning vinegar will kill mold, as will industrial chemicals like Moldex. Always wear a P100 respirator so you dont inhale mold spores while you clean. Goggles are a good idea too, and a full body suit for larger mold infestations.
- Get rid of mold-contaminated items. Clothing, carpet, drapes, caulking, and paper goods like books and files will all absorb mold spores and can cause new mold growth. If theyve been in an area with black mold, get rid of them, or in the case of cloth goods, get them professionally dry-cleaned. Throwing out belongings is a bummer, but its better to be safe than to have to deal with a new mold problem all over again.
- Professional mold remediation. If you have water damage or major mold contamination in hard-to-reach places, hiring a professional is your best bet. Mold remediation can be expensive, but professionals have the tools to find and eliminate all the mold in your entire home.
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How Can You Detox From Mold
In addition to removing yourself from the environment where the mold is or having the mold removed, you can help your body detox the spores that have been inhaled and trapped inside. You can take supplements to build up your immune system, reestablish your gut health, and reduce inflammation:
Rather than trying to handle mold exposure on your own, you should consider seeing a physician. The situation may be more serious than you think.
Other Diagnoses That Influence Labs & Symptoms
In conclusion, mold illness can be frustratingly difficult to diagnose, but is refreshingly responsive to treatment, especially when a patient is willing to do what it takes to remove themselves from the exposure. Unfortunately, finding a doctor or medical practitioner who knows about mold and who will look to a patients environment for the cause of their symptoms is still the exception, rather than the rule. Wanting to help you close that gap is the main impetus for me writing this article today. If nothing else, you can print out this list of tests and take it to your primary care physician and ask that they run the labs necessary to begin compiling information from which to make a diagnosis. The abovementioned labs and proper testing of your environment can lead you to some pretty conclusive evidence that mold is or is not the cause of your symptoms. Should you wish to work with me directly, I currently offer phone consults. You can contact me through my site www.thebodynexus.com and by going to the Medical Consults section on the Services page.
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