What to do Next After Finding Out That Your Home Has a Mold Problem

by Dr. Susan Tanner, MD

One of the hardest things I have to do as a practitioner of environmental medicine is to discuss the ramifications of living in a home found to be the cause, either entirely or in part, of a patient’s medical problems. Most people view their homes as sanctuaries or safe spaces away from the hustle and bustle of life and work and want to feel that being at home promotes health, rather than degrades it. It can feel pretty unsettling to find out that your home is, in fact, triggering and causing your health issues. Patients suffering from mycotoxin-related illnesses already are struggling with a multitude of symptoms and hearing that their home may be a major contributor to these can be a devastating blow.

In many articles here on Sinusitis Wellness, we have discussed the absolute necessity of clean air for recovery, and yet attaining that goal can be difficult and expensive. Depending on the severity of the mold problem and what is causing it to occur, it may require leaving the property altogether as well as getting rid of many belongings.

That being said, the processes of moving and/or remediation may not be in the immediate ability of the patient. And as physicians treating these patients already know, remaining in the moldy home only adds to the severity of the illness.  What I hope to lay out here is an alternative or a process that I have found to be effective for reducing the onslaught of mycotoxins on the body initially, knowing that it may not be complete, but may help mold sufferers buy some time as important decisions are being made. I also find that the mere knowledge of having an option helps an overwhelmed person to feel capable of moving forward and helping themselves to begin the healing process.

The first step, of course, is determining the source of mold in the house.  Whatever this is, a leak, high humidity, water intrusion, contaminated building materials, or HVAC contamination, it must be stopped.  It really is impossible to do successful remediation if the source continues to pour in. Having a thorough and in-depth investigation by a certified mold inspector or industrial hygienist is a necessary first step.  Just as in medicine, with a sick home, you cannot properly fix the problem if you have not identified and diagnosed it. In some cases, especially if you can tie a water issue to what is causing the mold growth, home insurance may help in the remediation cost if documented by a professional. Additionally, using a private adjustor to help you make your case can increase both the possibility and the amount that the insurance company will help you.

If you must remain in your house while decisions are being made or the financial piece of the equation is being figured out, then here are some steps that may help you begin healing:

1. Try to contain yourself in only one or two rooms that can be quarantined from the rest of the house. It is optimal to not use central HVAC and to seal off vents and returns from the central units. Invest in an inexpensive room air conditioner or heater temperature mitigation is a must.  Depending on location and pollution, keeping windows open may be an option as well. EC3 Air Purification Candles can be used in this space to reduce mold spores and to help purify the air. The suggestion from Micro Balance is to use 1 candle per 600 square feet of indoor space.

2. Keep your “oasis” as dust free as possible.  Mold spores ride around on dust particles like little magic carpets, so take away their transport systems and food material that mold uses to grow and proliferate. The use of a HEPA air filter and frequent HEPA vacuuming in your dedicated space will also help with this. Of course, air filtration and purification are only helpful if windows are closed. (Note: I do not recommend air filtration systems with an ozone generator, however. While ozone may kill some spores and help with musty smells, it is a respiratory irritant and can be extremely sensitizing for some patients. Ozone also takes a long time to dissipate and can off-gas after it is used for a very long time.)

3. Reduce your use and storage of papers, books, and magazines as much as possible. Paper is organic material in which mold loves to reside. You do not want to keep more “food” for mold inside an already compromised space.

4. Wash everything, clothing, sheets, and towels, with a mild, unscented detergent and EC3 Laundry Additive.  Do not use fabric softener. It provides an additional layer of organic material on washable items and promotes mold growth. Fabric softener also makes it harder for clothes to rinse clean in the wash cycle. If you have children, minimize the stuffed animals they keep while still in the moldy space and wash them as well.

5. Use an ultra-low volume or electrostatic cold mist fogger to fog your rooms and closets with a product like EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate. Never use a biocide. You do not want to introduce additional toxins into the indoor space. EC3 works by disrupting the chitin shell of the mold spore so that it is non-viable and cannot proliferate. Non-washable clothing, shoes, purses, etc. can hold and carry spores. Those should also be fogged.

6. If your HVAC system is found to have an issue, then having it cleaned, the ducts fogged, and otherwise professionally treated may help reduce its contribution to the problem. Shutting off the unit may not be the best option, as it does help keep humidity down in the house. That said if indoor humidity remains above 45%, then portable dehumidifiers can and should be used to control indoor moisture.

7. Irrigate your nasal passage daily with a rinse bottle, like Nasopure or similar, and add 5 drops of a natural antifungal, like CitriDrops Dietary Supplement to each irrigation.  Follow up with CitriDrops Nasal Spray.  This will help reduce the fungal load in your nasal and will prevent mold spores from reaching the sinus passages where they can take hold, release mycotoxins, and produce neurological issues.

8. Periodically check your surroundings to make sure you are properly controlling your fungal load with inexpensive mold plates. You may need to be doing more cleaning or fogging to help control it. Testing will help you know how you are doing. Even more telling, and helpful if you are also doing mold treatment would be conducting an Environmental Mold and Mycotoxin Assessment (EMMA testing) as per the previous article here can help you see if your efforts are successful. It will also help you to know just how systemic the mold issue is to help you make decisions about staying and remediating or moving.

Please remember, that no matter what the mold situation is, there is always something you can do to improve your circumstances. It is never hopeless. Bear in mind, however, that these methods and steps are still considered to be temporary solutions as you continue to navigate your path to wellness.  Clearer thinking due to a cleaner environment can help decision-making be less overwhelming. At the end of the day, you and your health are worth fighting for and no home or belongings are as valuable as your well-being and quality of life.