You’ve Found Mold – Now What? Six Steps to Return to Normal

You've Got Mold: Six Steps to Get Back to NormalYou may think that mold is simply an allergen that causes respiratory problems.

Unfortunately, it’s not just about sneezing.

In addition to sinus problems and wheezing, mold exposure can lead to a wide variety of other health issues. According to Dr. Mark Hyman in the Ultra Mind Solution, mold exposure can also cause immune system abnormalities, autonomic nervous system abnormalities and brain damage including short-term memory loss, impairment of executive function/judgment, concentration and hand-eye coordination.1

Symptoms of mold exposure vary but can include2:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Red Eyes and/or Blurred Vision
  • Sinus Problems
  • Focus/Concentration Issues
  • Recollection Issues
  • Decreased Learning of New Knowledge
  • Confusion
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Aches, Pains
  • Vertigo
  • Tremors
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath

Here are some steps you may want to take if you think you have been exposed to mold:

1. Test your space

Test one or more of your rooms for mold growth using an ISO certified lab like EMLAB P&K. The test is easy to perform. The lab provides collection kits that attach to your vacuum. After vacuuming and filling the collection kits, the kits are sent to the lab for an analysis.

The lab will provide a report using the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) to assess the risk of indoor mold growth. The ERMI will show the relative moldiness index value (from -10 to 20) and how this compares to a sample of US Homes. Homes with an index value of 5 or higher are in the upper 25% of homes tested and represent the highest risk of significant indoor mold growth.

Why is this important? Based on this test, you can determine if you need to remediation in order to live in a healthy environment.

2. Check yourself for mold exposure

You can check to see if the mold exposure has affected your health. Take the mold exposure screening test called the Visual Contrast Sensitivity Aptitude Test (VCS) which is available online.

A single test is $15 and takes only 15 minutes or so. Your results are available immediately. The online screening test is a measure of one of the neurologic functions of vision called contrast and is a good indicator of mold exposure.

Don’t panic if your test results are positive. You can recover!

3. See a physician trained to treat mold illness

If you believe your health has been impacted, find a physician trained in Functional Medicine at

Why Functional Medicine? Functional medicine focuses on finding the root cause of issues rather than simply treating symptoms and is ideal for treating health problems caused by mold exposure. Referred to as medicine for the 21st century, functional medicine will help you regain your health.

Sounds like just what you need, right?

4. Find a professional mold remediator

Depending on the extent of the mold growth and water damage, you may need to opt for professional mold remediation. According to Greg Weatherman, principal owner of Aerobiological Inc, you should look for the following when hiring a consultant:

  • Consultants should have “professional” or “errors and omissions” insurance with a “pollution” policy specifically stating “microbial investigations” on their certificate of insurance.
  • Best qualified consultants have PE, CIH, CIAQC or CMC certifications.
  • Check out the ACAC (American Council for Accredited Certification) website which has a listing for insured, certified companies.

5. Get immediate relief with the best air purifier

If you have concerns about airborne mold, you can get immediate relief by using an air cleaner to improve air quality. One of our favorites is the Austin Healthmate Plus™ and Healthmate Plus Junior™.

The Austin Air HealthMate™ Air Cleaner removes 99.97% of particles in the air – mold, dust, pollens and VOCs. The Healthmate Plus™ is cleans 1500 sq ft and the Healthmate Plus Junior™ is cleans 700 sq ft.

With the right air cleaner, you can breathe easier without worries.

6. Clean up with a HEPA vacuum

You can clean up mold spores using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. The HEPA filter will ensure that the mold and other particles remain trapped in the vacuum bag and do not re-circulate like standard vacuums.

You may also want to do some additional reading. The resources below should help!

Surviving Mold
Stories of people who’ve been made ill after they were exposed to water-damaged buildings. Great chapter on testing and remediation.

Moisture Control Handbook: Principles and Practices for Residential and Small Commercial Buildings
This reference is an up-to-date guide that touches on moisture control and treatment techniques in a problem/solution format.

My House is Killing Me!
This book shares experiences of others who can identify living with mold and the side effects that may occur. Also learn how to identify the source using a step-by-step approach to control and eliminate indoor pollutants.

What Every Home Owner Needs To Know About Mold (And What To Do About It)
In an easy to read format, a homeowner is given a helpful checklist to battle mold.

1. Mark Hyman MD, The Ultra Mind Solution (New York: Scribner, 2009)
2. Ritchie C. Shoemaker MD, Surviving Mold (Baltimore: Otter Bay Books, LLC, 2010)

The Facts About Your Indoor Air Quality May Surprise You

Indoor Air Quality

Since we spend so much time indoors, it is important to address indoor air quality. Here are some facts about your indoor air quality you may not know:

  • Indoor air typically has considerably more pollutants than outdoor air.
  • The most prevalent pollutants are Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs.
  • These VOCs come from many sources: carpets, plywood, perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning products, fabrics, mattresses, paint, solvents, lacquers, upholstered furniture, foam insulation, particle board, adhesives and more.
  • Aldehydes including formaldehyde are the most prevalent VOC pollutants in residences; since the 50’s, formaldehyde has been a basic material for many resins and glues used in particle boards and plywood. According to estimates, 85% of wood materials have adhesives containing formaldehyde.
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (the specialized cancer research agency of the World Health Organization) has designated formaldehyde as a carcinogen. In addition, formaldehyde can lead to “multiple chemical sensitivity” and “sick building syndrome”. The prevalence of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds is greater in new construction.
  • Results from a growing body of research suggest that VOCs from common indoor materials and finishes, cleaning products, personal care products and other consumer products result in increased risk of asthma, pulmonary infections, and allergies (Mendell 2007). Some chemicals may have health impacts at extremely low levels; studies have found that exposure to very small traces of VOCs in homes and schools can disrupt the endocrine system (hormones), gene activation, and brain development.

Before you despair, consider the following list of ways to improve your indoor air quality:

  1. Open the windows to improve the quality of your indoor air.
  2. Use plants to absorb VOCs. According to Dr. Bill Wolverton an Environmental Scientist, plants can be used effectively to reduce VOCs. You’ll need two plants in 10-12” pots per 100 sq ft. For more information check out his book “Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them”. Many studies support the ability of plants to reduce VOCs. Here are the top plants to buy based on the type of VOC you want to remove and the amount of sunlight required:
    • English Ivy
      • Thrives in low sunlight
      • Absorbs formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture and adhesives)
    • Peace Lily
      • Adapts well to low light but is poisonous to pets
      • Rids air of the VOC benzene (paints, furniture wax and polishes) and acetone (electronics, adhesives and some cleaners)
    • Lady Palm
      • Tree-like species
      • Targets ammonia (cleaners, textiles and dyes)
    • Boston Fern
      • One of the most efficient air purifying plants for formaldehyde according to study published in HortScience
      • Requires moisture and humidity to thrive
      • Removes formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture and adhesives)
    • Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
      • Thrives in low light
      • Lowers carbon dioxide and rids air of formaldehyde and benzene
    • Spider Plant
      • Easy to grow
      • Reduces formaldehyde and benzene
  3. Purchase air cleaners/purifiers specially designed to reduce VOCs like benzene and formaldehyde. Not all air cleaners are designed to eliminate VOCs so read our Air Purifier Ratings and Reviews before purchasing. One of our favorites, which we use in our home, is the Austin Healthmate Plus™ and Healthmate Plus Jr™. The Healthmate Plus™ removes 99.97% of particles in the air — dust, pollens, mold, VOCs including benzene and formaldehyde, viruses and bacteria. The Healthmate Plus™ costs $649 for the large size that cleans 1500 sq ft and the Healthmate Plus Jr is $419 and cleans 700 sq ft. The Junior versions are perfect for a nursery so your baby can sleep in a clean environment with reduced VOCs and other contaminants.
        I was initially worried about two things before I purchased: the background noise of the fan and the cleaner looking out-of-place in my home. My concerns were unfounded. The Austin is very quiet and has 3 speeds so you can turn it down to low at night. The black Austin blends in well against my dark living/dining room walls and the white version pretty much disappears against the lighter colored walls in the bedroom. My house smells great without

    air fresheners

      (another source of toxins) and I know that I’ve greatly reduced the VOCs.
  4. Install drywall that absorbs VOCs. AirRenew drywall absorbs VOCs for 75 years even when finished and painted with most paints up to 25 coats. It works by capturing the VOCs, converting the VOCs into inert compounds and safely storing the inert compounds within the drywall/gypsum board. It also provides enhanced moisture and mold resistance. The product has been validated by UL Environment and has been certified by Greenguard Indoor Air Quality. For more information, go to Unless you are renovating or building new, it may not be practical to redo your entire home, but it could make sense to do the bedrooms and nursery.
  5. Reduce the sources of the VOCs. There are many things you can do to reduce the sources of VOCs in your home. Please read upcoming post for the details.


NewScience UL – Indoor Air Pollution Overview 2014

Kim, Kwang Jin, Jeong, Myeong Il, Lee, Dong Woo, Song, Jeong Seob, Kim, Hyoung Deug, Yoo, Eun Ha, Jeong, Sun Jin, Han, Seung Won, Kays, Stanley J., Lim, Young-Wook, Kim, Ho-Hyun. Variation in Formaldehyde Removal Efficiency among Indoor Plant Species. HortScience, 2010; 45: 1489-1495

Birnbaum LS, Staskal DF. 2004. Brominated flame retardants: cause for concern? Environ Health Perspect 112(1): 9 – 17. January 2004.

Bornehag CG, Sundell J, Weschler CJ et al. 2004. The association between asthma and allergic symptoms in children and phthalates in house dust: a nested case-control study.Environ Health Perspect 112(14): 1393 – 1397. October 2004.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2005. Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals 2005. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atlanta, Georgia. 2005. Available online at Search for Exposure Report.

Mendell M. 2007. Indoor residential chemical emissions as risk factors for respiratory and allergic effects in children: a review.

Indoor Air Journal 17: 259 – 277. August 2007. Available online at abstract.00025549-200708000-00002.htm

Waldman, P. 2005. Levels of risk. Common industrial chemicals in tiny doses raise health issues.The Wall Street Journal. July 25, 2005. New York, New York. 2005.

Wilson PM, Chia DA and Ehlers BC. 2006. Green Chemistry in California: A Framework for Leadership in Chemicals Policy and Innovation. Prepared for The California Senate Environmental Quality Committee and The California Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials. California Policy Research Center. Berkeley, California. 2006. Available online at

Zajac L, Sprecher E, Landrigan P et al. 2009. A systemic review of US state environmental legislation and regulation with regards to the prevention of neurodevelopmental disabilities and asthma. Environmental Health. 8:9. March 26, 2009. Available online at

How to Rethink Dry Cleaning and Still Look Great

How to Rethink Dry Cleaning and Still Look Great

You probably know that most dry cleaners use Perchlorethylene (PERC). But did you know that PERC is a suspected carcinogen and neurotoxin?

It’s true.

It is classified as a probable human carcinogen. You can be exposed by breathing it or through your skin.

It’s probably a good idea to reduce your exposure. But how do you reduce dry cleanings and still look great?

Try these five ways to rethink dry cleaning.
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