by Gail Bowman
In the last article I told you that we got sick from the toxic mold in our home. What does it mean to get sick from mold poisoning? What doctor do you see?
The most important thing to remember is that: When possibly dealing with mold there is no such thing as paranoid.
When you are being affected by mold poisoning, it is like having the flu, or a mild cold, that just doesn’t quite clear up. It is not really bad enough to go to the doctor, but you just are not as well as you remember being. Many times, mold poisoning is accompanied by depression. This is because the mold is affecting your brain, but it also because you start feeling hopeless because you just can’t see how life can be better when you feel this way.
This is now my go-to article about mold poisoning, but there are lots of good ones out there: “A Review of the Mechanism of Injury and Treatment Approaches for Illness Resulting from Exposure to Water-Damaged Buildings, Mold, and Mycotoxins” by Janette Hope.
In her article, Ms Hope talks about the Symptoms of mold exposure:
1. Neurocognitive Symptoms: IQ deficits, depression, neurological cell damage, pain syndromes, movement disorders, delirium, dementia, balance and coordination problems, etc. Confusion and loss of memory are very common.
2. Oxidative Stress: The mold actually blocks your body’s ability to use antioxidants to correct free radical damage and your body “rusts” from the inside.
3. Respiratory Illnesses: “chronic rhinosinusitis, allergic rhinitis including allergic fungal rhinitis, and sinusitis, asthma (new onset and exacerbations), conjunctivitis, invasive, and allergic pulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA), hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and sarcoidosis. It has been estimated that 21% of asthma in the United States is attributable to dampness and mold exposure.”
4. Autoimmune Disorders
5. Fungal Infection and Colonization: “Fungal infections can occur throughout the body and can be a result of exposure to water-damaged indoor environments. Direct exposure to elevated levels of mold spores indoors can contribute to fungal disease, either directly by allowing seeding for fungal growth such as that occurring in nasal mucosa or by direct toxic effects and immune system alteration resulting from exposure. Additionally, some treatments received by patients due to illness resulting from their exposure, such as antibiotics and steroids, can contribute to fungal growth throughout the body including in nasal, sinus, and gastrointestinal tissue.”
In our (my husband and I) case, our symptoms included headaches, earaches, exhaustion, depression, confusion and listlessness. We also had continual sinus irritation that seemed to get worse, then a little better, then worse again. My eyes were burning and itchy. Toward the end, we could not tolerate having the windows closed because our sinuses would just close up. There would be no mucus or runny nose, but the sinuses would just swell shut. We developed a dry cough. Also, we would start sneezing when the air conditioner came on. I’m not exactly sure how the air conditioner interacted with the mold, but it did test positive for some mold, so I guess it just picked it up and spread it around.
My husband also started having bladder/kidney/prostate problems that the doctors just couldn’t pin down. The antibiotics didn’t seem to cure it and his doctor felt that it was a systemic infection, so he sent him to several specialists, but even after extensive testing and a CAT scan, no one could really say what it was. His PSA went up 24 points in 6 months.
Also, my husband, who has always had a very strong heart, was finding that his resting heart rate was always between 80 and 105, and his blood pressure was spiking up to 180 over 105! The doctors had absolutely no explanation for this.
If you think you have mold, I strongly suggest that you pay the $250 to have a CERTIFIED mold inspector out to test your environment. Ours used ambient air testing as well as cutting a hole in the most suspect wall so he could do a visual inspection, and infrared imagining to see where the temperature inside the walls was higher. (I guess, when something is growing inside your walls, it gives off heat.) Click Here for a website that lists certified Mold Inspectors.
We ended up at an attorney (because the landlord wouldn’t let us out of our lease) who sent us to a doctor. The doctor talked us into doing the very expensive tests by telling us this terrible story about a gal that lived in an apartment building. She was a single mom with a little boy. They started to have colds and bronchitis problems shortly after they moved in. They lived there for several years and continued to have declining health. It was finally discovered that her upstairs neighbors had moved out and not sold the apartment. It sat empty for years and it was filled with mold! So, the mold wasn’t in her apartment at all, but in her neighbor’s apartment. She died at a very young age from cancer, leaving behind a young man with an autoimmune disease. The doctor made it his mission to tell other patients about mold testing.
Next, you have to find a doctor that is willing to test you for mold. The correct lab to use is RealTime Laboratories. Here is a link, but some states require a prescription before they will do the testing, and the test costs $699. They are testing for the mycotoxins shed in your urine. They will give you an exact count of the mycotoxins in your urine, and which category they fall into, and they will tell you if your are normal or if the mycotoxin count comes in high.
For instance, for my test, in one of the 4 categories, normal is less than 1.8 ppb. High is over 2.0 ppb. My results came in at 2.643 ppb, so I was considered to be in the danger zone. However – listen to this – my husband’s test came in at 13.704! Whoa!! Hello!
I don’t know if you remember Part 1, but my husband’s office (he is a programmer) was in the room where the water entered the house. It flowed under the sliding glass door and under the tile in his office. The landlord caulked the leak, but did not lift the tile to dry out the floor. Apparently, the mold grew under the tile and up the walls in his office. He was surrounded by mold toxins for 12 hours out of every day! The mold was not discovered in his office. There was no sign of mold actually in his office except that found by the mold inspector with infrared imaging. The mold was discovered in the kitchen which was below my husband’s office because water flows downhill, and it pooled in the kitchen wall below that leaky sliding glass door.
When we first looked at the house it was smelly. We should have walked back out. When the rain came down in the wall and the landlord didn’t immediately take out the wall, we should have walked out. What is the cost for saying, “The landlord says there is no mold, and we can’t see any mold, so it is probably ok?”
Already, we have endured:
1. Moving Costs
2. The loss of our new couch, reclining loveseat, 3 Ekornes chairs, 2 upholstered accent chairs, and our bed.
3. The loss and replacement of all towels, sheets, pillows, blankets, quilts, etc.
4. ALL of our BOOKS are gone!
5. All of our clothes had to be soaked in Shockwave in scalding heat for 2 hours. Think about how many of your clothes would survive that kind of treatment! All we have left is an assortment of casual clothes and most of those have shrunk.
6. Pictures. Mold eats cellulose which is in paper and fabric. We have lost canvases, we have lost photos, wall hanging art work… (Old bills and such all had to go too, including most of the tax records.) The list goes on.
All because we were unwilling to be perceived as “fussy” or “paranoid” about the possibility of mold.
Also, our health has taken a huge hit. Especially my husband. It is too soon to tell what the long term effects will be. In Part 3 I will talk about what we can do (and are doing) to help our bodies heal from mold poisoning. Stay tuned.