Tips for Finding Hidden Mold in a Building

I wrote this from the perspective of trying to find a new rental or house to purchase. But these might help find hidden mold in a current residence, too. 

Also thanks to my friend D. P. for helping me brainstorm and come up with these.

Besides normal things one would look for (roof damage, signs of water damage on drywall, musty smell, etc.), here are some things to check:

  • Ground slanting toward the house (it should slant away for drainage)
  • Dense landscaping near house that someone may have watered a lot near foundation
  • Too-short gutters that dump too close to house. If short, look for signs of “moss” etc. around/near gutter drop and on the foundation there.
  • Driveways that slant down toward attached garage
  • Many trees over house, causing too much shade, wet leaves, etc.
  • Mobile homes tend toward mold problems possibly more than stick built, because they may have insufficient insulation, insufficient ventilation, and cheaper materials. If they have been moved, it is possible this has compromised materials causing small leaks, too.
  • It may be a good idea to check into the flooding history for the town. Floods can cause major problems in MANY buildings and even in the outdoor air quality.

Maybe the two most important ones???  These mean a very serious, continuing problem.

  • Humidity above 60% in any room, area, basement, etc. Humidity should really be preferably below 50%. Any dirt anywhere and paper and other cellulose can start to grow mold around 67%, and you don’t want “pockets” of humidity close to this. You can carry a humidity monitor with you. It should register a new room within 5 minutes. Humidity above that or above 40% in winter usually indicates a hidden leak somewhere or a major construction mistake, especially if the house has been empty for a while (no showers & cooking recently). A moisture meter may be helpful, also, in case there is moisture within a wall that is not affecting room humidity for some reason.
  • Condensation in a house anywhere, any season.  This usually indicates too high of humidity, usually due to hidden leaks or construction mistakes causing high humidity. If a basement, it can be “naturally” higher in humidity even without a leak, but if a dehumidifier cannot keep up, THAT usually means a leak. The dehumidifier should be able to keep it below 50% humidity. There should be no condensation on windows unless someone has just taken a shower.

But also, old, dry mold can be a problem.  🙁 

  • Ask about prior leaks, which they may not know.
  • Under the bathroom and sink cabinets, look for dripping or evidence of someone putting something under the drain, or wrapping with a rag, etc.
  • Carefully inspect the corner of patio door windows and windowsills. Mold or water damage can indicate condensation in the wintertime, which is a sign of high humidity from something.
  • Check out corners in closets. Humidity can collect here.
  • Try to avoid fireplaces, skylights, and ice-makers in fridge if you can.  These all tend to leak. 🙁  
  • Avoid crawlspaces unless encapsulated but find out if it had ever NOT been encapsulated. If so, proceed with caution. Check subfloor if you can for any signs of mold, water damage, or discoloration.
  • Smell behind dishwasher and clothes washer. Try for a place with no carpet especially in these areas & bathroom.
  • Try to avoid tiled showers. They are notorious for getting water through the grout into walls or subfloor.
  • Be very careful with a brick-sided house, because brick holds water. Some other sidings do, too, like manufactured stone.
  • If caulk ANYWHERE looks bad or old or cracking, imagine water getting behind there. What would happen? If it seems like it could be bad, test humidity, smell, etc. It only takes 48 hours of a hidden material inside being wet before mold can take hold and grow.
  • All bathrooms and drier should have vents, with insulated ducts and vented OUTSIDE. If anything is vented in the attic, the attic will have mold. If no vents, the bathroom will have mold.
  • If new paint, especially a smaller area, check to see if there are pipes, etc. nearby. Also remember water from roof leaks can travel far and wide, going places I never thought possible. Un-insulated duct-work can also drip water in odd places.
  • Ask to have A/C and then heat turned on WHILE you are there, and smell, etc.
  • Run showers for a couple minutes & smell. Humidity in the bathroom can activate mold you might not smell right away.

Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books     Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Pretty Head Wrap for Health

Last month I broke my wrist, which has meant three doctor appointments so far. (It’s healing great, though! Not any slower than normal! 🙂 )

But the normal scents and unavoidable chemical cleaners/disinfectants at the hospital were really tough to get out of my hair.

So I decided to try a wrap after a friend suggested it.  I found a wonderful video and showed it to Steve so he could help me until my wrist is better.  For some reason, I can’t get the video to embed here, but there are many videos you can find on YouTube on head wraps that are very helpful.

Here’s how mine turned out:  🙂 

It really helped!! As soon as I got to the car after the hospital visit, it took it off (along with other outer layers of clothing with clothing underneath still not too contaminated). Then of course bath at home. I keep forgetting that you can also blow-dry (outside!) your dry hair even before washing, and that helps. too.

And I thought this looked much nicer than the time I tried an appointment with a towel on my head.  LOL

I cannot tolerate any masks (long story), but I can help protect my hair; hair is so absorbent of vocs.

When I get better and can go out more & more, I am thinking I will probably do this type of head wrap all the time. It would be fun to try different colors and styles and techniques.

 

Christa Upton     Black Hills Picture Books      Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in Caregivers, MCS/Chronic Illness, Mold/Mould | Leave a comment

Mystery Book Free on Kindle 4-18-17 Thru 4-22-17

Starting TOMORROW (4-18-17), my digital mystery book for kids is FREE!

Free promotion goes through Saturday (4-22-17).

Can be read on any device including laptops (just need the free Kindle app.)

For ages 5 – 10, can be read aloud or read independently by older kids. Summer reading fun?

Includes comprehension & discussion questions.

The Disappearing Snacks (Mysteries with the Willow Street Kids, Book 2)

Christa Upton    Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in Children, Homeschooling, Writing/My Writing/Children's Books | Leave a comment

A Great Surprise

 

We’d been camping for two months for my health. Someone had given us an old RV (somewhat offgassed but not moldy!  🙂 ) in addition to my aluminum camper (which was not big enough for all five of us). All of our stuff (that didn’t fit in the RV) was in storage until we figured out where we would live after the RV.

With three young children and the youngest in a wheelchair, it wasn’t terribly easy. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity brings daily challenges no matter where you are living. Special needs are a constant no matter what else is happening. But we were trying to enjoy the adventure, make the best of the situation.  But, we were weary.

One day we found the RV needed to have the brakes fixed. We’d have to take it to Rapid City (South Dakota). I couldn’t even go into the city limits without getting sick, so Steve set me up in my camper, in a quiet, hidden spot in National Forest that was open to camping. He arranged to have a friend bring me ice every day and be “on call” if I should need anything. I was pretty disabled at that time. He hitched the camper to the van should I have to drive out in an emergency like a forest fire. Then he and the kids headed up to the city.

Steve explained the situation to the RV repairmen, and they promised to get right on it so we could have our “house” back.  🙂   A relative graciously housed and fed Steve and the kids for the night and next day.

The next day around suppertime, Steve & the kids went to pick up the RV. Somehow a couple of the repairmen seemed to be acting funny, like schoolgirls with a secret, holding back smiles. Steve paid the bill and went to the RV and opened the door to help the kids inside.

There sat bags of groceries, canned goods, soda pop, napkins, and hot pizzas!!

This was 5 years ago, and it still touches my heart and brings tears to my eyes to think of it. How did those guys pull this off, and why did they go so out of their way to bless a little family? They might never know how much it meant to us, but I hope they did. A huge gesture of caring from strangers, a balm to our tired souls.

 

Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books    Edgemont, SD  57735

 

 

Posted in God's Grace/Encouragement, Homelessness, MCS/Chronic Illness | Leave a comment

Guest on Living Clean Blog

I’m honored to be on the Paradigm Change’s Living Clean blog today: http://paradigmchange.me/lc/upton/  

Their website has tons of great information on mold & biotoxin illness.

 

Christa Upton     Black Hills Picture Books    Edgemont, South Dakota  57735

Posted in Homelessness, Low-Tox House, MCS/Chronic Illness, Mold/Mould | Leave a comment

Video Tour–Overview of House

Here is the video of our mold-resistant, low-tox house. With great thankfulness to all who made this possible. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRhksJI28Aw

 

Christa Upton  Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in Low-Tox House, MCS/Chronic Illness, Mold/Mould | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tips for Surviving a Less-Than-Ideal Home for MCS

Disclaimer: the author does not hold any guarantee for these ideas nor any responsibility for monetary or health loss due to trying these ideas. It is the responsibility of each individual to test, monitor, and exercise due diligence in trying different ideas to see if they work.

When even choosing a place to live in the first place, many with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity have to try to choose the least of all evils.

I have two tips for you: 

First, generally, I recommend choosing “static” chemicals (such as new paint) over “active” chemicals (such as neighbors’ fabric softener or a complex that will be spraying pesticide). “Active” chemicals will keep coming on, more and more, while “static” chemicals will reduce over time, especially if open windows or air purifiers are used. Also, static chemicals are more controllable most of the time, meaning you might be able to cover some of them with foil or barrier cloth. 

Second, I would almost always pick chemicals over mold even though my MCS is off the charts!!!! 🙂   This is because mold will generally cross-contaminate possessions a lot more than chemicals will, except pesticides. Even worse, mold is “alive & active,” vs. chemicals which can be very dangerous, but at least they can’t infect sinuses, lungs, skin. There are those who may need to choose mold over chemicals, especially if they did not have mold as their trigger and do not seem to be sensitive to mold, especially if the mold is one of the “less toxic” ones. I believe all indoor mold is toxic to some extent, but some is much more toxic, including Stachybotrys and Chaetomium. Note: That does not mean other kinds of mold can’t make people very, very sick, because they can. It may depend on what the person has already been exposed to.

So, here are my tips for living in chemicals:

Foil over stuff. This has been to me the greatest help by far. Just be careful not to trap any moisture or condensation behind foil, especially an external wall. Double and triple-check this on external walls every season change. Summertime can have huge risks for condensation on the back of the foil on a foiled wall if the interior of the house is cooler than outside, especially with a reservoir cladding like brick or manufactured stone. http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/when-sunshine-drives-moisture-walls Use foil tape to block tape adhesive. Ours has always come up without leaving adhesive behind!!! Foil will even block mold spores and mold toxins if it can be covered thoroughly without causing condensation behind.

However, I do NOT recommend touching, walking on, or storing clothes on foil, because the ions can come off. Even on “solid” aluminum vs. flimsy foil, I got silver on the bottom of my feet from walking on it–aluminum floor in a camper. NOT a good idea. A friend had her clothes contaminate by aluminum foil.

Open windows if outside air is better. As much as possible.

Use VOC air purifiers.

Put cotton barrier cloths on mattresses, soft chairs. This really makes a huge difference for me!! And they are washable. You could even try some on the carpet…. Here is what I use: http://janices.com/index.cfm/action/catalog.browse/catid/6/Fabric-and-Notions

Don’t go barefoot on carpet. Chemicals can be absorbed straight through the skin. In one rental, I noticed a big difference if I wore sandals versus bare feet. I would never have guessed this could make that much difference. I suspect the carpet there was treated with antimicrobials, but I will never know.

Use dry rice on carpet to absorb chemicals, then vacuum. Baking soda would probably work, too.

Keep clean clothing in something metal (new, clean, metal trash can) so it does not sit there and absorb surrounding paint, carpet fumes, etc.

Wash bath towels after every use if the bathroom has new paint, leftover scents from other renters, mold, etc. This is because wet towels will quickly pick up whatever is around, and if you re-use them, you will be drying your body with all that yuck.

Sometimes it’s really, really difficult surviving tough places for MCS. I hope these ideas can help a little.

Christa Upton  Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

 

When even choosing a place to live in the first place, many with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity have to try to choose the least of all evils.

I have two tips for you: 

First, generally, I recommend choosing “static” chemicals (such as new paint) over “active” chemicals (such as neighbors’ fabric softener or a complex that will be spraying pesticide). “Active” chemicals will keep coming on, more and more, while “static” chemicals will reduce over time, especially if open windows or air purifiers are used. Also, static chemicals are more controllable most of the time, meaning you might be able to cover some of them with foil or barrier cloth. 

Second, I would almost always pick chemicals over mold even though my MCS is off the charts!!!! 🙂  This is because mold will generally cross-contaminate possessions a lot more than chemicals will (except pesticides). Even worse, mold is “alive & active,” vs. chemicals which can be very dangerous, but at least they can’t infect sinuses, lungs, skin. There are those who may need to choose mold over chemicals, especially if they did not have mold as their trigger and do not seem to be sensitive to mold, especially if the mold is one of the “less toxic” ones. I believe all indoor mold is toxic to some extent, but some is MUCH more toxic, including Stachybotrys and Chaetomium. (Note: that does not mean other kinds of mold can’t make people very, very sick, because they can.)

So, here are my tips for living in chemicals:

Foil over stuff. This has been to me the greatest help by far. Just be careful not to trap any moisture or condensation behind foil (especially like an external wall). Use foil tape to block tape adhesive. Ours has always come up without leaving adhesive behind!!! Foil will even block mold spores and mold toxins if it can be covered thoroughly without causing condensation behind.

(However, I do NOT recommend touching, walking on, or storing clothes on foil, because the ions can come off. Even on “solid” aluminum vs. flimsy foil, I got silver on the bottom of my feet from walking on it–aluminum floor in a camper. NOT a good idea.)

Open windows if outside air is better. As much as possible.

Use VOC air purifiers.

Put cotton barrier cloths on mattresses, soft chairs. This really makes a huge difference for me!! And they are washable. You could even try some on the carpet…. Here is what I use: http://janices.com/index.cfm/action/catalog.browse/catid/6/Fabric-and-Notions

Don’t go barefoot on carpet. Chemicals can be aborbed straight through the skin. In one rental, I noticed a big difference if I wore sandals versus bare feet. I would never have guessed this could make that much difference. I suspect the carpet there was treated with antimicrobials, but I will never know.

Use dry rice on carpet to absorb chemicals, then vacuum. Baking soda would probably work, too.

Keep clean clothing in something metal (new, clean, metal trash can) so it does not sit there and absorb surrounding paint, carpet fumes, etc.

Wash bath towels after every use if the bathroom has new paint, leftover scents from other renters, mold, etc. This is because wet towels will quickly pick up whatever is around, and if you re-use them, you will be drying your body with all that yuck.


I have two tips for you: First, generally, I recommend choosing “static” chemicals (such as new paint) over “active” chemicals (such as neighbors’ fabric softener or a complex that will be spraying pesticide). “Active” chemicals will keep coming on, more and more, while “static” chemicals will reduce over time, especially if open windows or air purifiers are used. Also, static chemicals are more controllable most of the time, meaning you might be able to cover some of them with foil or barrier cloth. Second, I would almost always pick chemicals over mold even though my MCS is off the charts!!!! 🙂  This is because mold will generally cross-contaminate possessions a lot more than chemicals will (except pesticides). Even worse, mold is “alive & active,” vs. chemicals which can be very dangerous, but at least they can’t infect sinuses, lungs, skin. There are those who may need to choose mold over chemicals, especially if they did not have mold as their trigger and do not seem to be sensitive to mold, especially if the mold is one of the “less toxic” ones. I believe all indoor mold is toxic to some extent, but some is MUCH more toxic, including Stachybotrys and Chaetomium. (Note: that does not mean other kinds of mold can’t make people very, very sick, because they can.)So, here are my tips for living in chemicals:Foil over stuff. This has been to me the greatest help by far. Just be careful not to trap any moisture or condensation behind foil (especially like an external wall). Use foil tape to block tape adhesive. Ours has always come up without leaving adhesive behind!!! Foil will even block mold spores and mold toxins if it can be covered thoroughly without causing condensation behind.(However, I do NOT recommend touching, walking on, or storing clothes on foil, because the ions can come off. Even on “solid” aluminum vs. flimsy foil, I got silver on the bottom of my feet from walking on it–aluminum floor in a camper. NOT a good idea.)Open windows if outside air is better. As much as possible.Use VOC air purifiers.Put cotton barrier cloths on mattresses, soft chairs. This really makes a huge difference for me!! And they are washable. You could even try some on the carpet…. Here is what I use: http://janices.com/index.cfm/action/catalog.browse/catid/6/Fabric-and-Notions
Don’t go barefoot on carpet. Chemicals can be aborbed straight through the skin. In one rental, I noticed a big difference if I wore sandals versus bare feet. I would never have guessed this could make that much difference. I suspect the carpet there was treated with antimicrobials, but I will never know.Use dry rice on carpet to absorb chemicals, then vacuum. Baking soda would probably work, too.Keep clean clothing in something metal (new, clean, metal trash can) so it does not sit there and absorb surrounding paint, carpet fumes, etc.Wash bath towels after every use if the bathroom has new paint, leftover scents from other renters, mold, etc. This is because wet towels will quickly pick up whatever is around, and if you re-use them, you will be drying your body with all that yuck.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Posted in Homelessness, MCS/Chronic Illness, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Sneak Peek of House

I’ve been working on a video of the house. Hopefully it will be done in the next two weeks. Just thought I’d give you a sneak peek.  🙂

 

Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in Low-Tox House, MCS/Chronic Illness, Mold/Mould | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why I Won’t Be Doing Brain Retraining

There is a “treatment” for chronic illness out there called Brain Retraining. I think it can have some benefits.

The biggest benefit I see is reduction of stress. In an illness like Biotoxin Illness (from toxic mold and/or bacteria) or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, there is a lot of stress. This is because, like few other illnesses besides severe allergies, environment affects the person dramatically. And oftentimes, we do not have control over the environment.

So, I feel that brain retraining might help calm a person who has been feeling attacked on all sides. It also might help if the person has mild PTSD related to the illness or finds themselves very anxious even if most substances around them are not harmful. And to be realistic, it is nearly impossible to avoid every single bit of chemical in our world today, so brain retraining might help for that particular fact.

On the other hand, there can be serious drawbacks, especially concerning Biotoxin Illness. Part of the brain re-training process usually includes desensitizing to the triggering stimuli. But, the body is trying to protect itself. Symptoms are the body’s warning system to get away. So, if one tried to desensitize to mold and ignore the warning sign the body provides, the mold can continue poisoning and even infect the person (fungal pneumonia or other fungal infection). This does not seem like a good idea at all.

I believe this is also true regarding chemicals, although less so. Chemicals do not infect, they only poison. Also small amounts of chemicals are not as dangerous overall as small amounts of mold, IMHO, mostly because mold spores replicate and are often active in producing toxins, whereas chemicals merely hang around (except in the case of combustion, which makes the chemicals more “active.”)

However, since MCS is a cumulative illness, I believe that every time a person avoids chemicals, they are saving their body the work of processing these chemicals. To circumvent this means to prolong illness overall, I believe.

So, while a person may enjoy “feeling better” at the moment, it may result in more fatigue later (which is truly impossible to measure because there is no way to know what it WOULD have been. 🙂 )

In some circumstances it may be worth it, because the person may have no choice but to be around chemicals, or they may want to live their life this way because their bodies are actually strong enough to detox and get through it anyway. The detox later may not be as bad as the symptom they have reduced or eliminated through brain retraining.

I am hoping to continue gaining strength against symptoms the “natural” way—reducing my toxic load so much that my body naturally lets go of the warning system little by little. I have already seen this in that I no longer get heart palpitations from a short exposure to fabric softener. But, I can see how others might choose a different path and want relief of symptoms more than they want overall energy (or whatever other benefits are reduced by reducing chemical avoidance).

Also, I am extremely truth oriented, so when I hear things like “low levels of chemicals aren’t going to hurt you,” I start getting angry, blood pressure rising, etc., which is not good for a program that is supposed to reduce one’s stress!!!!! LOL  So I’m definitely not a candidate the program might help.

Granted, a small amount of chemicals is not going to hurt anyone as much as a large amount of chemicals. However, a substance doesn’t lose its characteristic of toxicity (incompatibility with the human body) just because there’s less of it.

 

Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books  Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in MCS/Chronic Illness, Mold/Mould | 2 Comments

Interview about MCS Housing; Great Photography

About 4 minutes in begins a good interview with a friend of mine, Marie LeBlanc.

 My friend has the same struggles I did for years. The same struggles that an enormous amount of people with MCS and toxic mold illness have around the world.

She has a talent for photography, which helps her cope.

Check out her amazing photos here.

I absolutely LOVE this one!!! https://500px.com/photo/197129563/rocky-lake-veil-by-marie-leblanc If I had money, I would order a huge print from her for my living room wall.

You can subscribe to her Facebook page here.

 

Christa Upton   Black Hills Picture Books   Edgemont, SD  57735

Posted in Homelessness, MCS/Chronic Illness | Leave a comment