The state of Virginia does not require any education or licensing to conduct mold inspections. As a certified Mold Inspector, my first concern is the health of your family. ALC Mold Consultants is one of the few firms that understands toxic mold illness.
Know the difference between an allergy and toxicity
An allergy is a histamine response and produces hay fever-like symptoms. These can be sneezing, runny nose, itching, nasal stuffiness, watering eyes, wheezing, coughing and asthma. Allergies and asthma can significantly impact the quality of life and can be deadly.
Toxic mold illness is a toxicity, not an allergy. This refers an excess amount of toxins stored in the body causing damage to the body’s systems. Mold toxins suppress the immune system and cause major health issues.
The symptoms of toxic exposure are typically neurological and can include:
- Headaches (including stabbing feeling like ice picks)
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of balance
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle cramps
- Memory problems
- Slowed reaction time
- Joint pain
- Mood swings
- Respiratory difficulty
- Irregular heartbeat
- Skin rashes
- Nose bleeds
- Burning sensations in the nose and mouth
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Food sensitivities
- Chronic burning in the throat and nasal passages
- Vision changes
- Hair loss weight gain/loss
- Intolerance to fragrances or chemicals
- Urinary incontinence
Symptoms of many autoimmune-like conditions are sometimes caused, at least in part, by mold toxicity. Some examples are chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, MS and Parkinson’s.
Know the difference between Mold Spores and Mycotoxins
Mold spores are tiny structures produced by molds for the purpose of reproduction. Spores are common in our every day environment. They are often floating in the air both outdoors and indoors because of their light weight. However, some mold spores are heavy. This makes them non-detectible during air sampling. Inhaling mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by microfungi. They are capable of causing disease and death in humans and animals. Mycotoxins aren’t actually alive like mold spores and may take years for them to breakdown. They are as small as 0.1 microns and have also been linked to neurological diseases, cancer and used for biological warfare.
DIY Mold Testing Kits
Mold testing kits purchased from home improvement stores can be misleading and sometimes result in both false positive and false negative results. These kits only test for the mold that settles into the Petri dish in that given area for that given amount of time. Some mold spores are heavier or stickier than others and may not settle in the dish. This may result in a false negative result. It is true that mold is everywhere. You should always hire a mold inspector knowledgeable about home construction. They will conduct a visual inspection to determine what type of testing is appropriate. To make an accurate assessment regarding the health of your home, many types of testing must be performed.
Mold remediation is a delicate process similar to asbestos abatement. Mold spores will fragment into hundreds of toxic particles when killed. When inhaled these micro particles, and the toxins residing on them, trigger the immune system causing disease. Killing mold spores also causes them to produce more mycotoxins and other defense mechanisms such as microbial VOCs as they die. Disturbing and killing mold spores actually increases their toxicity. Proper precautions must be taken to limit the amount of toxins released during remediation. All contaminated materials must be contained and removed from the property. If you try to salvage certain items that are not able to be cleaned, they can contaminate the new or remediated space.
After the mold is removed, the mycotoxins must be neutralized. There are several ways that this can be accomplished. However, the safest methods include a solution of 50% clear ammonia/50% distilled water or Benefect.
The source of the moisture must be resolved before restoration may begin. This can not be stressed enough. Remediating the mold without addressing the moisture issue is counterproductive. At some point will find yourself in the same situation with a water damaged home and destructive mold growth.
After remediation, you may consider getting an air purifier to improve the air quality of your home. There are many great ones on the market. Keep in mind that mycotoxins and mold fragments can be as small as 0.1 microns. Choosing an air purifier that captures VOCs may also be beneficial.
Regular dusting will also help with the indoor air quality. There are some non-toxic products on the market that are recommended. One of them is PureBiotics all purpose cleaner.
Think twice before you have the HAVC ducts cleaned
When mold is found in the HVAC system, the air handler and all duct work should be replaced. While some people tolerate duct cleaning, it makes others extremely sick. After the ducts are cleaned, you are left with loose particles of dust, dead mold and increased mycotoxins. These dangerous particles are then recirculated into your home.
Risks of Fogging with Ozone
Fogging should never be used in lieu of removing mold and fixing the moisture issue. Remember that mold has to be completely removed, the moisture problem fixed, and the wet materials either dried or replaced. Ozone generators and other mold-killing measures can be more toxic than the mold itself. They don’t actually stop the mold at its source. Some say Ozone will kill most or all of the remaining mycotoxins after the remediation is complete. However, ozone is not safe for humans. Ozone is a tiny molecule which is composed of three oxygen atoms. It is highly reactive which makes it an unstable and potentially toxic gas. Not only is ozone potentially dangerous to your health, it may not even work at all.
Both, hydrogen peroxide and Ozone create free radicals and there in no way to know how long they linger in the air. The EPA has reported there is a variety of health effects associated with high levels of hydrogen peroxide and ozone. This may include decreased lung function, throat irritation, severe asthma symptoms, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, irritation of lung tissue, and the higher sensitivity to respiratory infection. Also, these gasses do not remove particulates such as dust or pollen from the air. This includes the particles which are primarily responsible for allergic reactions.
Mycotoxins are easily transferred to other items and locations. Cross contamination may occur when mold remediation is done incorrectly. Quite often, industry guidelines for mold remediation are not followed. Some “so-called mold remediators” that do not follow proper containment procedures will spread the mold spores and mycotoxins. By using fans, contaminants are blown throughout the structure and into the HVAC system. This cross contamination increases the harmful exposure to mycotoxins.