The Often Unspoken Relational Fallout with an Environmental Illness Diagnosis

These past few weeks, I have had many conversations with health care professionals and advocates of environmental illness diagnosis and treatment. I am always surprised to hear stories of patients who not only endure debilitating symptoms from mold; but, who also suffer the demise of relationships with family members as a significant part of their “crisis” and suffering.  Unfortunately, a family’s emotional wellbeing during a health crisis can suffer along with the suffering caused by the physical illness in many ways.  Family strife added to chronic illness makes it overwhelming for the patient and may cause them to make poor decisions about their health just to pacify others. I an effort to help those dealing with similar situations, I want to share a select few of these stories.

Keep in mind that once the body reaches its toxic load, it becomes ultrasensitive to ALL environmental toxins and allergens.  Thus, it is not uncommon for patients to also become chemically sensitive, where off-gassing of furniture and new furnishings can contribute to additional symptoms and illness.  Many patients have to move to a safe place, or completely different location away from their current home as the optimal solution that is often recommended, but difficult to contemplate or execute for many mold sufferers. This, as you will later see, is especially difficult for mold sufferers who are the only one in a home of many who have health issues because of the home’s environment.

A Moldy Home Comes Between a Husband and Wife

I was speaking to a semi-retired physician who has successfully treated environmental illness for decades.   I find that many of the Medical Doctors, MDs, who treat environmental illness have suffered themselves through treatment and battled the disease with the help of other physicians and professionals. (In my opinion, these physicians who either had environmental illness or who had a family member who suffered are the most empathetic and passionate practitioners of Environmental Medicine. If you listen to podcasts on environmental illness, you will hear many experts that fit this description while sharing their stories.)

The physician described the illness that was caused by a moldy home.  In this case, the family had their home custom built.   Once the patient and their physician identified that it was their home causing the illness, the patient moved out of the home and relocated to a safe place to get well.  Once wellness was achieved, her husband made it clear that he was not leaving their “dream home” that they had built with pride and a substantial investment. In this case, one spouse chose the home over the marriage.

Put another way, the other spouse chose wellness over the marriage. Unfortunately, divorce was the end solution.

First, and unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon. If only one person is sick, the person not affected doesn’t fully understand the urgency of having to leave, and the sick person is so desperate for health, that staying doesn’t even seem like a viable option. Then, if both people stand their ground and draw lines in the sand without understanding or compromise, there is no way to move in any direction, but apart.

It is also not uncommon for newer homes to vulnerable to mold.  The vast majority of builders do not have indoor air quality at the top of their minds. The materials that are used in new homes are just newer versions of the same materials in older homes, but sometimes cheaper.  Primary

Construction worker holding gypsum board.

materials used in new homes include gypsum and paper-based drywall and particle board. During building phase, that are exposed to the weather in certain instances.

In addition, there are two ways newer homes can be less safe as older homes. Cheaper plumbing materials can spring leaks and the speed, efficiency, and cost savings required for builders to keep up with their schedules also has an impact.  Timelines for developments do not include days off due to weather, and time is money.

Home leaks from the roof or plumbing can happen in any home. Since drywall absorbs water, slow leaks can go undetected for a long period of time.Homeowners may also ignore smaller leaks as inconsequential until it is visually disturbing. Several mycotoxin-producing molds such as Aspergillus and Stachybotrys often thrive in wet drywall in water-damaged homes.

Newer homes can also create unwanted moisture due to suboptimal HVAC and ductwork design and installation.Builders often use the same HVAC systems and ductwork for different floor plans.  For an optimally air-conditioned home, the HVAC should be carefully calculated and design. Suboptimal ventilation can result in high humidity due to inefficient circulation and condensation of water throughout the home.  Mold can also be distributed throughout the home if it gets into the HVAC system.

Condensation in windows

Air conditioning does exactly what it says.  It conditions the air.  The flow of the ventilation keeps humidity down in most cases.  In some cases, dehumidification in the HVAC system or in unventilated areas is a necessary and relatively inexpensive addition.

The Marriage Came First. Financial or Other Rationale Prevailed to Keep the Moldy Home in the Family

A colleague of mine receives numerous email correspondences about mold illness asking for advice and information. This week while discussing the time requirements needed to provide thoughtful answers to those who took the time to ask thoughtful questions, my colleague described several patients who have given up trying to convince their spouses to move or spend a substantial amount to remediate the home, even though they are very sick. The conversation always ends badly, so mold becomes a trigger for the spouse that is not affected by it and who feels that safeguarding against or treating mold has become the ultimate money pit. This is mostly the case when dealing with mold becomes very expensive, as a good remediator is costly, but to remove the cause (mold), the money must be spent.  Further, if a home requires an expertise beyond many remediators’ training, other experts in building science, mycology, and environmental health issues must be brought in too.

Sometimes patients in this predicament have been suffering for years and, in some cases, decades.  In one particular case, the patient had seen numerous physicians with no success and had taken numerous regimens of medicines.  Thus, the only option left is to fully remediate and spend the money on their environment, because until that is done, the person will not get well.

What was particularly striking in this case is that the spouse and child did not have the symptoms; and, the spouse regularly argued that the illness was in the patient’s head. Over time, the patient wrote numerous letters describing the emotional toll on the marriage and family caused by the moldy home.

We try to advise these patients to the best of our ability.  Unfortunately, following the doctor’s orders very specifically and removing the cause sometimes does not register with the spouse and corners are cut. In these situations, things can get unbearable for the patient. It is quite sad.  I do my best to help patients articulate and frame their issue when talking to other about it. Identifying the verifying the issues with the home can focus an emotional discussion on the facts and solutions. For the few times patients find wellness and treatment is successful, it is rewarding to everyone involved.  Unfortunately, there are fewer of these successes than not.

The School Dorms take their Place as a Member of the Family

A few weeks ago, at an unrelated conference, I befriended the family of a team member.  While describing the environmental illness “space” where I focus my work, the daughter insisted I meet her parents. The parents were initially very captive in learning about my efforts and reasons for why I focus on environmental illness, while being a former pharma executive and investor.

They went on to describe a 2-year journey where their son became extremely sick. They pursued every possible medical cause.  The son had to endure countless endoscopies, colonoscopies, medicine regimens, CTs, and MRIs, with no real success. After two years and a chance visit to his dorm, the wife discovered mold and further investigated.  They tested and identified toxic mold.  Their solution was to immediately move him out and find him an apartment without mold.  After a very long time (over a year) and the help of an “osteopath” who provided a strict diet and nutritional supplements, their son got better. Both parents then went into detail on the costs they incurred during the 2-year ordeal. While they had adequate insurance to cover medical costs, the family still paid for coinsurance costs, expensive medications ($2K/mo.), and an extra year and a half of college tuition and costs (>$50K).  The primary frustration was the misery her son endured and his inability to enjoy the “College Experience.”

During our discussion, they asked that I explain how I found myself in this unusual career change.  I explained that environmental illness is a true unmet medical need where traditional medicine has not been effective in either identifying the illness or treating the patients.  I also explained that diagnosing the home is not perceived as something normal primary care physicians should bother with, mostly because they do not have time to engage in pursuing it.  Further, it is perceived that finding solutions outside their scope of influence is not part of their medical training, so is not something that they should do. Most important to me, I could not envision how the pharmaceutical industry would pursue a treatment for environmental illness.  And, if big pharma did purse treatment options, pharmaceutical pricing may not make any true innovation easily available to patients.

My current work and personal relationships with the doctors and patients involved in my realm of work push me to empower patients and their families to consider their environment. The individual alone shoulders most of the responsibility in identifying environmental illness as the cause of chronic illness in today’s medical ecosystem.  If patients participate in identifying the cause, there are numerous avenues to take to pursue wellness with the help of a doctor or integrative medicine expert. These include:

  • Testing the home
  • A Physician-recommended diet and nutritional supplements
  • Proper home remediation by skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable professionals
  • Effective mold hygiene (nasal rinsing, medicine to address fungal overgrowth in the gut)
  • Practical avoidance of moldy places
  • The ability to fog, clean, and HEPA filter the air in the home to keep fungal loads to a minimum

How MicroBalance Health Products Is Helping This Mission

MicroBalance Health Products strives to provide safe, natural and cost-effective products for symptomatic relief of mold-related sinus symptoms. This includes environmental products for healthy surroundings for patients with hazardous mold in their living environments.

The company enables mold sufferers to decrease their fungal load and environmental toxins with products to treat the nose, clothes, living spaces and the circulating air.

In addition, Micro Balance Health Products provides homeopathic products designed to boost the immune system, promote cellular healing, and support the pituitary gland for balanced hormonal function.

Each week we do our best to research and provide original content for our customers, healthcare providers, and their patients. We believe that valuable information is required to achieve wellness when faced with environmental or mold illness.

In addition, the introduction of a fogger to use with EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate is a welcome addition to renters. It provides an alternative for patients to temporarily and affordably address the mold counts in their home air. This provides some needed relief to patients and families who are renting, cannot move, or are trying to weigh their options and figure out what path is best to take for their health. The fogger also provides substantial reduction in ambient mold counts for patients who are so sensitive that they must continually safeguard their indoor air just to stay well.  It is not a permanent solution for mold sufferers; but, it can be a life changer in terms of situational indoor air quality.