What do I do with my (moldy) stuff?
By Alexis Perry
One of the most difficult areas of concern for the mold compromised is what to do about their belongings that have been contaminated. This topic is fraught with confusion and frustration as mold sufferers try to decide what to do next. Anyone venturing online into the mold community immediately encounters conflicting advice. Even the most well-meaning and knowledgeable mold specialists have yet to reach consensus. As a result, some patients say that they wish that their doctors had warned them more vigorously about the dangers of keeping contaminated possessions while it leaves others wondering if it was really necessary to be as extreme.
Despite the varying opinions from mold remediation professionals, there is one idea that has been generally accepted. You should discard highly contaminated items when moving into a clean environment. However, starting over from nothing is a daunting and traumatic task and is impractical for most people. The question is then what should one done with their belongings.
There are two things you can do to sort out that dilemma. First you must gain an understanding of your problem. You can be affected by mold in two ways. First, people and even pets can have mold allergies that cause inflammation in the body allowing other allergies or disease symptoms to manifest themselves.
The second problem is one of Mycotoxin poisoning. Mycotoxins are microscopic drops of oils produced in 10% of all molds. These oils attach themselves to dust particles and become airborne. This is how you can breathe them in and get them on your skin. The reaction to mycotoxins can as minor as skin rashes to as servere as loss of motor function.
In both of these issues, these microscopic particles mix with other dust and are blown or carried all over the house, potentially cross-contaminating all of the belongings in the environment. It’s most important to note that 1) items can be contaminated even if there is no visible mold growing on them, 2) killing all of the mold in the environment will not necessarily solve an existing toxicity problem.
If your problem is just garden variety mold that is easier to clean up and keep the item. If the problem is Mycotoxin related, discarding the item is often a better option. But that is a value judgment based on how severe the contamination is and how sensitive a sufferer you are.
This brings us to the second step: Mold Tap Testing. This test gives you critical information on the level and type of contamination of your belongings. It also allows you to benchmark the safety of your belongings by testing before and after their cleaning.
Having the information on the severity of the problem allows you to make an educated decision on what to keep and what to discard. If your favorite couch is highly contaminated, you know, if you want to keep it, you will need to do a thorough cleaning and retest to assure safety.
It is important to remember that to eliminate mold spores or mycotoxins a mold cleaner must come in contact with the antigen. There will be a residue of dead spores and denatured oils that is cleaned up by wiping, vacuuming, or using a HEPA filter in contaminated areas. In practice, because these spores are so small, their removal is more difficult than it seems, because mold and mold dust hide in the crevices of items, the walls and air ducts. That is why the use of mold cleaners that can be aerosolized like the EC3 Air Purification Candles or a fogger type product are so powerful.
Making the decision to discard or not is about your family’s safety. That decision depends on the family’s most susceptible person. Each patient’s reaction is different, which is why one family member can live symptom free in the same home as someone with severe symptoms. Understanding sufferer’s reaction type and the level of severity of the home will give you some important information in making those decisions.