Controlling Mold and Mycotoxin Cross-Contamination in an Office Setting

by Dr. Donald Dennis, MD, FACS

As a practicing Ear, Nose, and Throat surgeon, I need to examine all patients in my office to determine how I can help them and if surgical intervention would be helpful for their symptoms. I love the ability to offer in-person care and feel that it is paramount to what I do. But, since I treat many mold-exposed patients, in-person care sometimes poses a problem for my health, the health of my staff, and the health of other patients coming to see me. Why? Because if a patient is currently being exposed to toxic mold and spends time in our medical office, there is a very real risk of cross-contamination from the three items that always come together in one “toxic soup” in every mold-sick environment: mold spores, mycotoxins, and MVOCs (volatile organic compounds made by molds that act like volatile chemicals). MVOCs are especially dangerous in a cross-contamination scenario because they cause damage to the respiratory, brain, and nervous systems the same way as chemical inhalants, like sniffing glue or ether, do. Additionally, MVOCs can penetrate from the nasal mucosa into the brain and lungs to create multisystem symptoms that, once present, are difficult to ameliorate.

Mold Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination literally means the transfer of microorganisms from one substance or place to another. When thinking about mold cross-contamination, the first thing to do is stop using the word “mold”. The word “mold” creates confusion and tends to make it almost impossible for people to instinctively do the correct thing. Instead, try using the word “lice”. When I change gears and ask my patients to think of mold the way they would if someone or something in their home was infested with lice, they instantly become an expert at knowing exactly what to do and how diligently to do it. This knowing creates confidence and empowers them to take control, rather than to be mired in more fear about mold, the often unseen assailant. For example, when it comes to lice, the first order of business is to clean and eradicate the lice from the main source(s). Then, you have to address everywhere, floor, walls ceiling, clothing, bedding, car, etc. that came into contact with the source.

After you washed something and cleaned it, where would you put it? If you add the word lice to the previous question, you would not put it back with the clothes or items that are unwashed and still full of lice, would you? No! You would keep it separate and would be methodical about cleaning each item thoroughly. The same thought process should be applied to mold for the most part. Anything that is exposed to the mold source is potentially also contaminated. Once contaminated, that item can then contaminate whatever space it is moved into. When this logic is applied, it is easy to understand why a medical office seeing large numbers of mold patients should address cross-contamination as a necessary piece of cleaning protocol. In my office, we fog with EC3 daily as a quick and easy way to decontaminate. More about that in a moment.

Our Mold Cross-Contamination Protocol

During pre-office interviews and education, we try to determine if the patient is still being exposed to mold knowingly or unknowingly. Then we guide them with steps to markedly reduce or eliminate the airborne fungal load PRIOR to their office visit. We do this for two reasons: First, unless this is accomplished, wellness will never occur and all treatment will fail because the patient is still breathing in 2,904 gallons of mold-, mycotoxin-, and MVOC-contaminated air per day. That volume cannot be overcome with any medical or surgical treatment, and the treatment failure rate is 100%. It is not helpful for patients to waste their time and money at that point. Second, I am mold sensitive and want to protect myself, my staff, and our other patients from more exposure. We cannot help others if we do not help ourselves and our office stay well.

As we talk with patients and understand more about their current living situations, we ask them to discard all items that came from the mold-contaminated place if they are no longer living there, or if they are still living in the mold, we ask that they set up the Environmental Treatment Protocol or ETP. The ETP consists of a HEPA air filter (we like IQ Air or Intellipure), EC3 Candles in all rooms they are in, EC3 fogging the entire house 3 times a week, EC3 Laundry Additive in all laundry loads, and to do simple mold plate testing in all rooms, car, washer, and office to monitor mold levels to ensure they are staying low. Getting excellent mold remediation people to remediate the house is the better choice, though, because it is a much more permanent solution. Or, if the home is very contaminated and symptoms are severe, the patient should get to a safe place where they know they are getting better, and not take ANYTHING with them from the moldy place or allow anyone from the moldy place to enter the safe place. This may sound extreme, but the BEST option and clearest path to health for someone who is very sick

Even with our best efforts in the screening and prepping process, patients still come into the office with mold contamination on their things and bodies. To work around this, we routinely fog them with an EC3 Sanitizer fogger, fog the gown and cap the patient wears, and do the same for me. Plus, I use a 100% oxygen mask to give me 100% protection from all mold contaminants. Finally, we fog the office after the visit so that it remains 100% mold-free.

TAP Testing and How it Fits In

Once in an exam room, we take the extra step to use a mold plate to TAP test the clothing and hair of each patient. We actually discovered TAP testing the patients’ clothing is helpful because many patients think they are in a safe place and that they have successfully removed the mold from their environment, yet they are still sick. Tapping their clothing and hair with the agar side of the mold plate picks up whatever they are being exposed to. Everyone has some mold on their clothing and hair, but shouldn’t have high levels of water-damage indicator molds.  The results of this type of testing give us some idea of the toxicity level, the organism, and its possible source so that we can show the patient if they still have a significant problem and must correct it in order to have any chance of regaining their health. Additionally, I need to know this information for their treatment, because, in my experience, the mold level and the kinds of mold present are the most important medical data points in determining patient outcomes. In other words, I can do all of the protocols and all of the interventions on the planet, but if the patient is leaving my office and returning to a moldy home, nothing I do is going to truly help.

Additional Information on Fogging, EC3, and Chemical Sensitivity

We fog the entire office each day with EC3 by walking around and misting not wetting everything, floor, walls, ceiling, exam chairs, etc. Many people notice that they feel much better after fogging. The most common response is that they feel clear-headed and less congested.  Those who begin fogging their homes note that the mold plate counts drop to safe levels when it is done correctly.

For a small group that is severely chemical sensitive, we test BEFORE we use EC3. The best way is to spray a small amount of EC3 on a tissue and to allow the patient to be with it for a short time, smell it, and touch it to their skin. If it bothers them in any way, we do not use it. Instead, we bag their belongings and use a gown and cap and fog when they leave.

It is my opinion that everyone who is seeing these patients should use this or a similar fogging protocol for the patients, office staff, and office space. And, if you are mold sensitive, you should consider using 100% oxygen while seeing a new patient until you know the patient has a normal TAP test and/or has no moldy or toxic odor. Mold causes loss of smell, and most patients do not notice it, because they are nose blind. One of the more profound things to occur is that when a patient leaves the moldy environment for any prolonged amount of time, often when they re-enter the environment, they can finally smell the mold. Then, they have a strong aversion and visceral reaction to it. The human body is truly amazing! While in the toxic exposure, it attempts to adapt and compensate to use all energy towards survival. But, when the exposure is gone, it heals and becomes acutely aware of and reactionary to the things it knows endanger its survival.

Moral of the story–protect and trust that smart body of yours! Those who you trust to treat you should be doing the same.

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