Mycotoxins (aka mold) is a particularly poignant topic for all of us who live in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Mold is of particular concern in regards to health because it is often an underlying piece of the puzzle, one that we can’t quite put our finger on until we have been addressing other aspects of health for quite a while. Mold can inhibit our immune surveillance, it can coexist in many cases of chronic GI dysfunction, it is problematic in adrenal and hormone dysregulation, a piece with chronic allergies, and so many other health concerns.
We have written on this topic in the past with some tips on ways to support one’s health through diet and glutathione supplementation. This month, we wanted to cover some of our most commonly asked questions about exposures, remediation, and long term health impacts. Patients can get nervous when we bring up mycotoxins because of the serious health implications. However, not everyone who has been exposed has issues. It often ends up being much more about your overall health terrain than specific exposure. Mold exposure cannot be completely avoided, so watching for early warning signs can save you years of frustration, trying to figure out the root cause of your health concerns.
One simple way to test for toxin presence, is to do the visual screening test through the Surviving Mold website. The cost is $15 and can easily be done in the comfort of your own home. This test is assessing your body’s ability to perceive visual contrast, which is compromised with mycotoxin or biotoxin related illnesses. If you “fail” the screening test, this indicates you have mold concerns. The test helps direct next steps (i.e. further analysis through urine testing) and can be used to track response to treatment protocols.
If you can see visible mold in your home, along window sills, under sinks, embedded in the bathroom tile, for example, then you definitely need to clean up and remove those spots. Even if mold is not visible to the naked eye, it still can be present and causing problems. There are several ways to assess if non-visible mold is growing in your home. One way that has been used for years is by placing petri dishes in various parts of your house and seeing what settles out. While I wish this was the best way to identify indoor mold spores, it has been shown to be very inaccurate. This test can be helpful to identify contamination to soft surfaces like your vehicle or your furniture, but it does not accurately assess the environment.
The other indoor testing options are through an ERMI or an EMMA test. The ERMI test is limited to mold species themselves, while the EMMA test also assesses mycotoxins in the environment which can be a very critical piece of the health picture. You can order an ERMI test through Mycometrics. The EMMA test is done through Real Time Labs. Both tests come to you for testing. This will be an important test to have when you move onto the remediation step, as a contractor will likely want to know what they’re dealing with.
Remediation is an important step to removing exposure and helping you on the path to recovery. This starts with removing any obvious mold with products that are known to kill spores (hint bleach is not one!). You can use 50/50 vinegar/water solution, any natural cleaning products that contain thymol, or ammonia “409″. We also recommend connecting with a professional contractor who is familiar with the process of home remediation, such as Kester Clear Environmental Solutions. Note, it is important to use a remediator that is also not your tester to avoid conflict of interest.
These tips will help you learn what to do to reduce your overall exposure to mold and get you back to feeling your healthiest self. If you’re concerned about mold exposure, symptoms of mycotoxins, or water damage in your home and the health related implications, please come talk with one of our providers to discuss further.