What To Do If You Find Mold in Your House

The following is a document I wrote for one of the mold groups.  It’s long, but I thought it would be better to give it to you all in one chunk. 
Sadly, “A common misperception (sic) is that killing mold, which is a relatively easy task, eliminates risk from contaminated environments or items. Unfortunately, this does little to decrease the risk as nonviable fungal spores, fragments, and mycotoxins remain present and, due to their structure, such as with an epoxide ring, [117] they can be extremely difficult to destroy.” https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ts…
Since this article is a peer-reviewed, scientific article on mold with footnotes and scientific studies, it is one of the best sources of truth about mold.
Any company that claims to have a product which makes benign the nonviable fungal spores, fragments, and mycotoxins must prove this with independent testing to truly be safe. So far, none of us in any of the mold support groups have found a company that has. Most test only for viable spores following “remediation.” This proves nothing about safety, only that the mold is “dead.”
Some (including me) have experienced that spraying mold can temporarily increase the release of mold spores and toxins. The current hypothesis is that the mold tries to “fight back” when being killed.
Logic (and a knowledgeable rep who talked with me) says that as the spores die and break into smaller pieces, they become more easily inhaled. Just as a dead mouse gives off horrible smell, dead mold can give off toxins.
Further, even proper remediation of mold is sometimes not enough for a person who became ill. But sometimes it may be fine for others. Safe remediation also may be impossible and risky even for healthy people, such as in the case of a severely flooded home. Flooding increases the amount of spores and toxins very, very quickly. Mold begins to grow usually around 48 hours of moisture.
If you choose to remediate, these articles below describe how mold can be removed.




Other Options

If your state or county or country allows it, you can sell your house with full mold disclosure. Even if you take a loss, it is better (IMHO) than continuing to lose your health. Loss of health almost always means loss of income. Although gaining health can be difficult, it is usually not impossible.
If you need to get out NOW (for your health) but have not sold the house, you can request a forbearance on your mortgage. A forbearance means the lender will temporarily suspend payments on your loan, though you will still owe interest on this time period later. You can write your lender saying how the house is unlivable because of the type of mold found, severity of it, or your trouble with mold (CIRS, mold toxicity, etc.) A letter from your doctor may be helpful, although we were able to get forbearance with just letters from us.
You can then request a short sale if your house sells for too little to cover the remainder of your mortgage due to the discovery of mold. In some states, this “debt forgiveness” may result in a state “income” tax charge. Again by writing letters, we were able to get this “income tax” on our short sale exempted.


After Remediating or Leaving

Nothing about mold is easy. If you can get out (or remediate super well) before the mold triggers your body to begin reacting to chemicals also, you will have a much easier time finding new housing or recover.
Once Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) (also called Toxic Injury, Environmental Illness, other names possible) is triggered, it is a cumulative illness. It is a poisoning, not an allergy. The more chemicals you continue to be around, the sicker you may get. It is like having arsenic poisoning and continuing to eat arsenic every day.
Some come out of MCS rather easily “mostly” by getting out of mold, avoiding it, and possibly moving to a different state or country or place with lower mold and lower pollution.
Others struggle (like me) and have to work tremendously hard to avoid chemicals as well (all cleaning products except totally natural ones like vinegar, all carpets, most paints, towns because of pesticides & exhaust, crops in the country because of pesticides, etc. The list is unbelievably long.) I wash my clothes in ONLY vinegar or baking soda (alternating, leaning on baking soda when I need a scent to come out), which works amazingly well. Sometimes soaking and washing in natural peppermint tea helps my clothing and bedding.
Mold and chemical toxicity symptoms can feel exactly the same. This makes figuring out the puzzle tricky.
The easiest way is to take a sabbatical in a good location with NO possessions from the moldy house and the lowest-chemical things you can find, just enough “things” to survive. Camping in a semi-arid or arid climate often works well because it is easier to get away from mold (hidden mold in a house, even outdoor mold) and pollution. As your body begins to unmask, you may be surprised to find how much you notice bad places, pollution, and mold much more than you did before. This is a good sign, and can help you find a new place to live, although it can be hard to work around because your body is rightly “warning” you to get away, and it may be hard to find a place to “get away” to.
One solution is building a mold-resistant house from scratch (low-tox building materials if you are chemically sensitive), but of course that’s easier said than done.


Other Treatments

Other treatments are unlikely to work if you are still in mold. However, some can be helpful both in mold (mainly probiotics IMHO) and after leaving. Many in Facebook mold support groups have great ideas on helpful protocols, healthy practices, etc.


In Emergencies

Sometimes a mold source can be covered up with aluminum foil (and/or foil tape). One big risk is the mold finding its way around the foil and causing the person to slowly become sicker without the person realizing it.
With that in mind, here is my story:
I had no place to stay except one house. I could not camp because the wildfire smoke that year affected my weak body so much I had trouble breathing. Much of the Western USA was covered with wildfire smoke. I get very, very sick from the outdoor mold in the Eastern USA. It was too hot to sleep in my car. The house with a/c was the only place I could get enough protection from the smoke to breathe okay. We had less than zero money (not even enough money for our current needs, no usable credit cards, nothing) to find me a better place.
I came into the bedroom and sat on the bed. Within about 10 minutes, I started to pass out. I listened to my heart–sure enough, a mold-toxin heart symptom.
(I get this symptom from mold toxins and nothing but mold toxins. Every time I have this symptom, we find mold. Every time I breathe mold of any kind, I get this symptom. I also got it from objects brought from our moldy house.)
Pushing myself through the fatigue, I got up and began to smell everything to see where it was coming from. It was two walls. (Weeks later we found out those two walls had been open to the elements while being re-sided.)
My husband covered both walls with foil, and my heart and exhaustion symptoms stopped.
I’d start to get symptoms again and realize the cat tore a hole in the foil. Tape it up and I’d be fine again.
The wildfires did not last this long, but (long story) I ended up sleeping in that room about 12 months, with 3 months in the same house but a different bedroom downstairs (then back upstairs and still fine with the foil).
However, in another rental, there was mold in the “attic” of the mobile home. Every time the furnace would turn on, I’d get mold symptoms. We figured it must be pulling air from up there somehow. We didn’t even try to cover the entire ceiling with foil, and I’m not sure it would have worked anyhow. It was probably in the ducts as well. Because it was intermittent, I survived there a while. We also covered two problematic cupboards with foil which helped. But, I got very, very sick there, afraid for my life the week before we left when it was barely warm enough for me to camp again.
  • Do not store clothing or linens in or on foil. The ions can come off and apparently get “into” the clothing and affect your body. Also foil would stop airflow which may cause the clothes to mold.
  • Do not walk barefoot on foil. The aluminum can get in your skin and is not good for you.
  • Do not constantly rest an arm on foil or touch it more than necessary. (Same reason.)
  • Some may react to the foil apparently even through the air. If you feel worse after trying foil, probably should get rid of it.
  • Do not cover anything currently wet. You may even want to check the moisture content of the wood before covering it, especially if the wood has been wet in the recent past. There are meters to check this. Covering wet materials could cause some seriously bad mold to grow under it.
  • Do not cover anything that might get wet behind the foil, such as an entire sink cabinet. The sink could begin leaking inside the cabinet and cause major problems behind the foil. Instead, maybe cover the bottom of the cabinet and other visible mold while making it possible to still open the door of the cabinet to check the pipes.
  • Do not cover the inside of exterior walls if you have a reservoir siding like brick, as solar vapor drive could cause condensation and mold on the back of the cool foil. http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/…
  • Periodically check the back of the foil to make sure moisture is not accruing or mold is not getting worse. Re-tape holes.
  • I use kitchen foil. You can use foil tape to tape it–the foil on the top of the tape should block the adhesive smell. Some use Denny foil for a more sturdy option. I do not know about the chemical components of it, if any. Mylar contains plastic, which is a synthetic chemical. Some do okay with it anyhow; I do not.
  • As I said, this is not a foolproof fix. Please use caution. If you can get away from mold, that is better. If you cannot, I hope it helps you like it did me.

Moldy Basements

Moldy basements are so common.   However, especially if you are not already sick from mold, besides trying to block it there is one fairly major thing that can help–switching from a furnace in the basement to electric baseboard or cove heating. If you are not smoke-sensitive, a wood-burning stove works too.
The furnace will usually pull air from your basement and then blow it all over the house. It may depend on the set-up of the basement, if there are “rooms” in the basement, where the mold is, how much there is, etc. as to how much gets into the upstairs air.
You can take that, and the ducts (which can also get moldy), out of the equation by switching heat methods.
I was in a house once heated with baseboard heaters with mold in the basement, but it did not affect me at all upstairs (until we tried fogging with thieves oil–then the spores and toxins came upstairs and made me very sick. It went back to normal, good again after stopping the fogging.) I was surprised, I thought the air would still come up from there.
However, conditions may exist where the basement air WOULD come up even without a furnace, so use caution.
Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books    Edgemont, SD  57735

About Christa Upton

I am a wife and mother of three children ages 11, 14, and 18. I used to be a stay-at-home mom (teaching piano & dance, volunteering, etc). From 2007 to 2010, I suffered accidental Toxic Injury (also called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS). MCS has had major impact on our family, but the forced time in bed has given me time to write. So far, I have published 4 children's books (2 in e-book format on Kindle, one in Print-on-Demand at CreateSpace, and one printed by a local printer). Sometimes I miss my old life, but I love writing for children!
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