Taking our Homes Back from Mold
Why is it that our grandparents rarely had issues with mold toxicity? Our homes probably became more toxic after 1973 (oil embargo and energy crisis), due to building regulations aimed at saving energy. Reducing outside air exchanges with our home saves energy, but it seals toxins in and also increases mold growth due to moisture and humidity problems. In other words, energy-efficiency has caused many health issues! Also, according to Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, in 1969 fungicides began to be added to paints. These fungicides “created mutations in fungi such that the fungi that lived beyond the fungicide created toxins that made us sick, and the ones that were from non-mutants did not make us sick. We put the fungicide into the paint, we’re paying a price.” (moldymovie.com)
Our grandparents also did not have wireless technology, which exacerbates mold levels. Mold is a fungus that throws off spores into the air, particularly whenever it is about to die or is stressed and ‘thinks’ it’s going to die. Amazingly, mold can detect electromagnetic fields (EMF)–radiation from the frequencies emitted by WiFi, cell phones, and smart appliances– and it registers them as “unnatural”, throwing off more spores and mycotoxins in reaction to EMF! Here are two ways EMF affects mold (jillcarnahan.com):
- Inducing mold growth: Studies have found that mold growing in homes or buildings can actually be amplified by EMFs – causing mold to grow more rapidly and spread further.
- Stimulating the release of mycotoxins: EMFs may also trigger the mold spores floating around in your house or body to release more mycotoxins. (jillcarnahan.com) According to Dr. Klinghardt of the Sophia Institute in Seattle, when mold cultures were exposed to radio frequencies from a nearby cell tower, the mold increased its mycotoxin production by more than six hundred times. (shieldyourbody.com)
If you suspect a mold problem in your home, the best thing is to find the mold and remove it, but you may also consider limiting EMF exposure in your home to prevent mold from colonizing again.
The best way to find the mold is via the services of a professional mold inspector, and preferably one who uses forward-looking infrared radar (FLIR). FLIR is a type of thermographic camera that detects infrared radiation, and while it is used in military and spy applications(!), it is also extremely useful in locating areas behind walls where water intrusion may be present, making a hospitable area for mold.
Jeff Bookout is an environmental mold specialist and one of the top home inspectors in the US. He does in-person (in western US) and virtual home inspections to help homeowners find mold in their homes and workplaces. He describes his 3-step process for remediating a home after mold (mastcell360.com): “One is stopping moisture. Two is finding mold- damaged materials and making sure they’re removed or proper corrections made. Then number three treating the air. You miss one of those three steps, you have missed a big part of the equation and that’s any part of it, the humidity, the removing the damaged materials, or treating. All three must go hand in hand. If you do not remove and replace those damaged materials or make proper corrections mold will come back.”
Then, Jeff recommends a five step process to maintain a low-mold environment: “Dry fog (using HavenFog) once a year, that’s number one. Number two is using the HavenMist (maintenance program) once a month. Number three is using MERV rating 11 filters in my HVAC system. Number four is strategically using Austin Air air purifiers throughout the house. I’m not trying to cover my whole square footage, but I want to have them in the main areas that we’re spending the most time. Then I would say number five is good air change in the house. Depending on where you live, that would be an HRV or an ERV system, something to give you proper air exchange because … since 1973, the Arab oil embargo, we’ve energy efficiented everything. Well, dilution is the solution. If we can get good air exchange inside of our house, we’re going to help dilute those toxins. Those are the five things that I like to do to be able to safely maintain the property.”
Because mold often lurks behind walls and spews only a few spores into the air, inspecting with an experienced professional is our recommended way of finding mold. If you can’t hire a professional due to financial restraints, testing kits like those at gotmold.com are a good way of testing and interpretation by (remote) mold experts. Immunolytics.com has a agar plate (petri dish) method that is a good way of testing your pet’s fur for mold (called a tap test); this type of plate can also be used to test your home and vehicle.
Removing the moldy materials in walls, cabinets and furniture is one thing, but there are lots of other surfaces where mold can grow for years, until you take action!
- HVAC ductwork combines the perfect recipe for mold: moisture on or below the evaporator coils, dust in the air, and moderate temperatures. Check out our post on finding and eliminating mold in the HVAC system. Although pricey, HavenFog is a non-toxic citrus-based intensive treatment for such areas.
- Clothing: Front-loading washing machines are infamous for harboring mold around the door seal. This can transfer to clothing too. Beth O’Hara at mastcell360.com advises (for anyone with mold toxicity issues) replacing a front-loading machine with a top-loading one, and using a non-toxic mold killer like EC3 Laundry Additive to kill mold in clothing.
- Furniture and carpets: If you simply don’t want to get rid of your carpet (see our post on carpets and carpet care!), HavenClean is a non-toxic water-based treatment for carpet cleaners that will vastly reduce mold in your carpets and soft furniture.
- Pets: Dogs and cats love to lay outside in the sunshine, but when they come back indoors, they often carry mold spores with them in their fur. You don’t have to get rid of the pet, to get rid of the mold. CitriSafe shampoo is non-toxic to pets and humans and safely eliminates mold in pet fur. Their Mold Treatment Spray can even be used to lightly mist pet fur, to keep the mold down between washings!
Another professional mold remediation service is The Mold Pros (TMP), which have a proprietary treatment process that uses enzymes to degrade mycotoxins and mold, enabling them to do remediation in three days, making it much cheaper than a full tear-out without harmful chemicals like phenols (source: presentation by Dr. Matt Pratt-Hyatt).
Here are the steps (themoldpros.com):
- Discovery and Detection via sampling and inspection
- Pre-testing of the samples by an independent lab
- Treatment: TMP’s enzymatic treatments can be applied to surfaces, or atomized to reach spaces behind walls and in ducts. SurfaceGuard Mold Remover was the enzymatic treatment used in this test conducted by Realtime Labs. Mycotoxins were measured on three different samples, treated with SurfaceGuard for 24 hours, and measured again. No detectable mycotoxins were found on the samples after treatment. (issuu.com)
Also as part of treatment, TMP uses a state of the art filtration system that captures particulates down to 0.1 micron (twice as effective as HEPA).
4. Post-testing: this ensures that treatment was successful, and the building is at a “normal fungal ecology” (every building has some level of mold).
5. Prevention: TMP educates the home or business owner on steps to prevent the regrowth of excessive mold by using ventilation, humidity control, and preventative maintenance to prevent water damage.
We hope these recommendations give you positive ways to take control if you smell or see mold in your home, or are plagued by a mysterious illness. It’s vital for you and your family’s health (see our related post, Mold is on 90% of our customers’ minds! Is it on yours?)
Photo by Michael Schiffer on Unsplash