Mold 101 & Testing Info

File:Post-Katrina Mold in House on Dublin Street Carrollton New Orleans.jpg

If you work or live in a building with water damage and mold issues and are sick please read the posts on this blog. Staying can make you very sick and cause lifelong disabling conditions like ME/CFS.
For helpful information on finding a mold-free home click here. 

If you suspect that your home or place of business has toxic mold and you plan on getting coverage by your insurance or plan on taking legal action it is important that you have a proper inspection and adequate testing done by a qualified licensed hygienist, certified microbial investigator or an Indoor Air Quality Professional.
An inspection to find water damage and hidden mold issues is extremely important and should be done in conjunction with testing. This can help you when trying to break a lease, take legal action or get your insurance company to pay for remediation.

An important note – Please understand that standard air testing such as a “spore trap sample” can come back with a false negative result but there can still be a serious mold problem in your home, so a variety of testing methods are recommended. ERMi testing can also be problematic as it does not show where there are issues in a home. We shouldn’t hold on to one test as a savior because all tests have major and minor limitations. 

Before moving on I also must say that walking away and losing money and belongings is far better than staying and losing your health while trusting tests will give you all that you need. 

For home or office testing, many experts recommend using an ERMI home testing kit prior to hiring a professional. Dr. THRASHER. a toxicologist recommended using ERMI testing as the first course of action. Although Dr. Thrasher shares helpful information some of his ideas are flawed. That said, “Dr. Thrasher has specialized in Toxicology since 1966 and Immunotoxicology since 1986. He has been a consultant to toxicology laboratories and three human diagnostic laboratories. He has been an expert witness in government, defense, and plaintiff cases.” Source
You can purchase these types of testing kits at a moderate cost from EMSL Analytical.

In addition to a proper inspection, knowledgeable hygienists will use various methods of testing which include but are not limited to dust and air samples, drywall samples, mold swabs, etc. They also take samples from carpeting and can take wall cavity samples from inside of your walls which is important if elevated moisture is found during their inspection or if you suspect hidden mold.

There are a few companies that offer swab testing and who will analyze small pieces of material at a limited cost. This is especially important if you do not have the funds for more elaborate testing. Swab and material analysis are not meant to replace professional testing, they are simply an inexpensive way to immediately determine what types of mold you may have inside. Please note that swabs and material analysis will not tell you how much of a specific mold is present in your home. For that, you will need professional testing done.

To find a lab in your area that may offer swab testing and material analysis please click here.
All of the labs listed in the above link are accredited by the American Industrial Hygiene Association which offers one of the highest levels of certification for labs. Once you find a lab in your area ask them if they sell a swab kit which is basically a q-tip and ziplock bag. Also, ask them if they can analyze a (1”x1”) piece of your AC/furnace filter. This is done by carefully removing your filter, taking it outside and carefully cutting out a small piece then placing the sample inside of a ziplock bag, and lastly mailing it to the lab. If you suspect mold in your home please use appropriate protection such as a respirator, gloves, eye protection, clothing protection, etc.

For swab testing, I recommend swabbing the coils behind your refrigerator as this area often does not get cleaned and will give a good picture of what has been floating around in the air. You can also swab any questionable baseboards, walls, bathroom tiles, clothing, furnishings, or AC ducts. 

Now once you have results you can determine what your course of action should be and if you need to hire an IAQ professional to do more testing. Some molds produce mycotoxins which are referred to as secondary metabolites, think of them as mold babies. Some molds have babies others do not. Mycotoxins can really damage your health as they have been shown to affect every single organ and can even damage DNA and cause mitochondrial damage. Types of mycotoxins include ochratoxin, aflatoxins, sterigmatocystin, zearalenone, fumonisins just to name a few.

I have heard over the years how so many homes and buildings are deemed safe only because they contain molds like Aspergillus and Penicillium which can be found in many indoor air spaces especially inside water-damaged buildings. The problem with these molds is that they too produce mycotoxins. So if your home test shows these two molds or any other mycotoxin-producing mold, you have mycotoxins in your home too. You can verify this by having an ERMI test done.

Note that mycotoxins aren’t the only problem in water-damaged buildings. Endotoxins aka gram-negative bacteria will grow intertwined with mold inside of water-damaged buildings and are just as toxic to human health. “They are known to be synergistic to the toxic effects of mycotoxins. When Gram-negative bacteria die, the cell wall lysis releasing the endotoxins into the environment. These are inflammatory agents and can severely exacerbate lung disease if inhaled. Their presence can be tested in the dust samples.” Source

Mycotoxins and endotoxins should not be present in ANY amount. If you are dealing with Mold in your place of work please read my article entitled: How to Handle Mold/Mycotoxin Exposure at Home or at Work – Where To Get Help

Although hiring the services of an IAQ Professional is costly, it is a good route to take if you want to be certain of the presence of toxic mold in your home and or if you and your family are sick with unexplained symptoms. A qualified professional will do a thorough inspection which is paramount. Mold testing without a proper inspection is a waste of time and money. 

If you cannot do an inspection or testing but you are suffering from a wide range of medical conditions without rhyme or reason then I recommend that you take a sabbatical from your home, place of study, and or place of work. Stay away for 2 weeks if possible and see if there is a change in symptoms. The sabbatical is to see what could be happening in your body while you are away and once you get back to your home. This might give you a clue to what is going on.

Unfortunately, from personal experience, I can tell you that the presence of toxic mold can cause serious health issues and organ toxicity Some of the symptoms can be: headaches, migraines, vomiting, nose bleeds, irregular heartbeats, myalgia, memory loss, brain fog, extreme fatigue, respiratory complications, tumorous growths, nervous tics, rashes, constant congestion, chemical intolerances, and respiratory infections and many other issues. A child who lives in a home with toxic mold may have reddish dark circles under their eyes, constant colds, sniffles, neurological problems, ear infections, and a weakened immune system. They can also develop PANS.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to make a plan and take action if you suspect a toxic mold problem especially if you are sick. Don’t look at the cost because your health far outweighs any expense you may incur.

If you lose your health, all the money in the world won’t mean a thing.

Remember that molds that produce mycotoxins can cause serious harm to adults and children alike. If you work or live in a home with water damage and mold issues and are sick please leave and seek a safe place to live. Staying can make you very sick and cause lifelong disabling conditions like ME/CFS.

“Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by microfungi that are capable of causing disease and death in humans and other animals. Because of their pharmacological activity, some mycotoxins or mycotoxin derivatives have found use as antibiotics, growth promotants, and other kinds of drugs; still others have been implicated as chemical warfare agents.
Mycotoxins are not only hard to define, they are also challenging to classify. Due to their diverse chemical structures and biosynthetic origins, their myriad biological effects, and their production by a wide number of different fungal species, classification schemes tend to reflect the training of the person doing the categorizing. Clinicians often arrange them by the organ they affect. Thus, mycotoxins can be classified as hepatotoxins, nephrotoxins, neurotoxins, immunotoxins, and so forth.” Source

I hope this write-up will help you. Please feel free to share and spread awareness.
For info on cleaning AC ducts and mold in the HVAC unit please click here.
Chemical Free Gal

 

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