So you found you’ve had mold exposure or you have “CIRS” (chronic inflammatory response syndrome”)…now what? The following steps are the best practice for eliminating mold and cleansing from your mold exposure symptoms:
Step 1. Remove Yourself from Exposure
Step 2. Identify & Reduce the Toxins in Your Environment
Step 3: Reduce the Toxins in Your Body
Step 4: Just Breathe (Clean Air)
Step 5: Be Present
Here are your 5 steps for treating mold exposure, play-by-play:
Step 1: Remove Yourself from ExposureFor everyone, the first and most crucial step in treatment, is to identify where the mold is located and to get away from it. For some this means temporarily moving out of their home in order to remediate it. For others this means completely leaving most everything contaminated behind (mostly porous, fiber containing items like upholstered furniture, rugs, books, clothes)—as if a fire had happened. While it may sound extreme, many anecdotal reports of CIRS sufferers claim it was the only thing that helped them recover. Every body will be different and react differently, and sometimes a short time away from the triggering environment, followed by a reintroduction to it once it is remediated first can be a good first step to deciphering your sensitivity.
Step 2: Reduce the Toxins in Your Environment
Out with the old (mold), in with the new. You have two primary options when it comes to reducing toxins in your environment:
Remediate (remove and repair) the Mold from Your Environment
This one is easier if you are renting your home, apartment or office space. Many states have no-contest laws in place where, if there is mold present, you may be able to get out of your lease. It essentially entails: uncovering the mold problem, then moving yourself to a non-moldy environment (with a prior mold inspection recommended). It also entails parting with some of your contaminated items.
Note on Ridding of Items: Mycotoxin removal is nearly impossible for many furnishings and personal items (especially books, linens, towels, etc.) made from soft and porous materials; however, it may be possible to store questionable contents elsewhere (some clothes, closed books) until your health has improved or until the client has become less sensitive enough to withstand exposure.See more on what to toss and what to clean below.
Remediate the Mold from Your Environment
Mold remediation begins with identifying the source of mold—visible, smell, testing, followed by “remediating” and cleaning—a complete removal of the mold.
Some restoration businesses advertise “mold removal” and even guarantee to remove all mold. This is a fallacy. They are not necessarily practicing “mold remediation.” Mold remediation focuses on getting mold levels back to normal, natural levels by both removing the issue (sometimes via demolition), then cleaning and purging the affected area.
You may be able to clean some of the mold yourself, but the process of remediation is best accomplished with professional help. It includes several steps:
Step 1: Inspect & Assess Mold Damage
Step 2: Contain the Mold
Step 3: Filter the Air
Step 4: Clean All Surfaces & HVAC’s
Step 5: Remove or Demolish Mold & Mold-Infested Materials
Step 6: Clean or Toss Belongings
Step 7: Final Cleaning & Fogging
Step 8: Restoration
Step 9: Ongoing Maintenance & Upkeep
Mold Remediation 101
Step 1: Inspect & Assess Mold DamageIdentify all sources of mold that require “remediation” through the assessment process (ERMI and inspection).
When checking for mold in your home, a few essentials to check include:
start with ceilings above showers and in bathrooms. Air conditioning systems and ductwork commonly accumulate mold. Attics are also a hotspot: Bathroom fans that work to draw moisture from the room are often vented to the attic instead of outside, or the vent may be leaking. This accumulation of moisture can cause black mold to grow in an attic.
If you have a front-loading washing machine, check it, too. The door’s rubber seal traps in moisture, creating the perfect environment for mold. Other unsuspecting spots include home water pipes, and mattresses.
Step 2: Contain Mold
Hire a “Remediation” specialist to address your mold issues. Typically, the mold will have to be “contained” with a containment before any construction or removal of the mold begins. A containment is a structure that closes off the affected area in order to clean the outside environment, as well as get rid of the mold. Rooms with demolition activities—such as knocking out a wall or ripping out paneling or carpeting—must be contained, with contaminated building material removed. All porous surfaces must be sealed since particles lingering in the air can attach to surfaces once disrupted. Protective clothing, negative air pressure, containment barriers and HEPA air scrubbers should be used by the professional remediators.
Step 3: Filter the AirThe professional should also use specialized filtration equipment for the home to capture microscopic mold spores out of the air. Powerful “air scrubbers” and HEPA vacuums to prevent the spread of these mold spores while the mold remediation is in process.
Step 4: Clean All Surfaces & HVAC’s
During the remediation process, in addition to removing any mold sources, all surfaces should be cleaned as well. Use HEPA vacuuming followed by damp wiping with a cleaning agent that does not leave a residue.
For most surfaces, terrycloth towels soaked with a cleaning agent that leaves no residue can be used to scrub off residues during pre-cleaning and before air cleaning. Surfaces should be visibly clean to the point there is no visible dust when viewing surfaces with a bright light or flashlight.
Here are some specific surface cleaning guidelines:
All porous or coarse surfaces should be HEPA vacuumed. A professional can help do this. Note: The HEPA vacuum should be used only for pre-cleaning. Most HEPA vacuums cannot remove all respirable particles, and because the leaked particles are small, they are difficult to remove from the air. A clear sign of HEPA vacuum failure is a strong musty odor when vacuuming.
Porous Surfaces (Wood, framing)
Unfinished wood surfaces (e.g., framing lumber) and concrete surfaces in areas with visible microbial contamination should be cleaned using highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide cleaner according to label directions. Once dry, wood surfaces should be HEPA vacuumed.
Concrete should be sealed with a clear penetrating encapsulant using an airless paint sprayer. (Sprayers can be rented from Sunbelt Rentals.) Concrete flooring can be encapsulated with other materials if flooring finishes like tile will be installed in an airtight manner. This exception does not apply for floating floor products.
Dry wood surfaces should be coated with an antifungal paint containing anionic silver if there is a moisture concern on external walls or crawlspaces. Unless an independent inspection will be performed, do not use paint with color pigmentation: You must be able to view the substrate to check for acceptable final conditions, including the removal of surface dust checked with a flashlight. Old wood floors must be sealed with a sandable primer or oils specific to wood flooring.
HVAC (heating, ventilation, air system)
Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system (HVAC) and air ducts must be cleaned as well. It should be cleaned according to National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) standards after all building materials are demolished and all surfaces are cleaned to the point of no visible dust. If the old HVAC units will be re-installed, the coils must be cleaned at the same time. Sheet metal ducting and porous wooden floor joists may need to be removed if they cannot be cleaned. Rusted ducting must be replaced. Openings into wall voids should be inspected to ensure they are not heavily impacted with dust build-up. Humidifiers should not be connected to HVAC fan-coil units.
Step 5: Remove or Demolish Mold & Mold-Infested MaterialsOnce the basic surface cleaning has been accomplished, it’s time to officially remove and/or demolish the mold.
The mold remediation process depends on the amount of mold growth and the types of surfaces on which the mold appears. Professionals use antifungal and antimicrobial treatments to eliminate mold colonies and to help prevent new colonies from forming. You can also use essential oils and probiotic treatments as well. Removing and disposing of mold-infested porous materials, like drywall and carpeting, may be necessary to remediate heavy mold growth.
Step 6: Clean or Toss Belongings
Should I get rid of everything?!
It’s a question most everyone who experiences “mycotoxin illness” or mold exposure asks, and it’s a topic that website forums and Facebook groups go crazy over—with many folks swearing up and down the only way to heal is to get rid of everything.
It’s vital to note that, while you do kill the mold source via remediation, myctoxins from the mold in your environment are what are “dangerous” and what make people very sick.
No One-Size-Fits-All Mold Detox
Depending on your personal sensitivities, some items may be salvageable. Some people find that, after initially cleaning items and storing them in a contained plastic box, eventually they can slowly introduce them into their new living space, one at a time, and discover what can and cannot stay. However, other patients report the “best” approach for them was to leave the majority of things behind and start afresh.
At the very least, everything must be cleaned properly, professionally sanitized, for mold and mycotoxins or be discarded, including: furniture, decorative items, kitchenware, curtains, clothing, pictures, frames, kitchenware and other restorable items.
That said, you must do what is best for you, while keeping in mind: When in doubt, throw it out!
Mycotoxin 101: The Invisible Health Issues
Even though you may not see “visible” mold on the clothing, books, or other contents of your home, this does NOT matter, nor does it mean that those items are safe. In fact, nold spores—especially those of mycotoxin-producing molds— are often invisible to the human eye—approximately 3-40 microns (note: a human hair is approximately 100 microns thick). Mold spores are so small that as many as 250,000 can fit on a pin head, and a person can breathe in as many as 750,000 spores in an hour. Mycotoxins provoke oxidative stress, neurological problems, DNA damage, and disease.
Mold spores—and the mycotoxins in them—are only visible to the unaided eye when mold colonies grow. These colonies can have billions of spores. So, if you are actually seeing the mold on a wall, flooring, or on objects inside your home, you are dealing with a huge health issue. The mycotoxin gasses emitted by the molds penetrate materials, are very sticky, and can attach to practically everything in your environment consequently making you sick.
If too many dead spores from mold remain (even after remediation), the space or item may be unsafe even though the mold is dead—especially porous materials including: furniture (wood, upholstered furniture), bedding, papers, books, insulation, carpeting, ceiling tiles, etc. Some of the items in your home with the highest mold counts may look perfectly clean and safe. Many items act as mold reservoirs and may need to be thrown out even if there is no visible mold on them.
Proper Cleaning Protocol for Mold Exposed Items You Want to Keep
Step 1: Stage Your Cleaning Area.
Set up a “staging area” in your garage, carport, or other covered area outside of your home where you can physically get things out of the home, assess them, and attempt to remediate the things you feel are worth it
Step 2: Use Cleaning Bins.
Purchase large plastic bins with lids that seal to put contents you wish to try to save inside. The lids must completely seal to keep things air tight. This will allow you to transport things inside the bins without the risk of cross contamination.
Step 3: Get a HEPA Vaccum.You will also need a HEPA vacuum with a hose and upholstery attachments and a handheld steamer. The vacuum and steamer are for cleaning upholstered items like furniture, curtains, etc.
Step 4: Fog the Area Before You Start.
Get a home Sanitizer Fogger machine and EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate to put in it. The fogger is a must if you are going to attempt to do any remediation or cleaning yourself. (You can also hire someone to come help you do the fogging).
Step 5: Remove Clothing & Other Items You Wish to Save from House.
Remove all clothing, linens and items from the house. Take it out of the closets and drawers and put it into the plastic bins. Close the bins and get them all outside into your staging area. Once in the garage, fog the outside of the bins, and keep them sealed. Allow them to air dry. (All of the fogging is to make sure you aren’t putting the mold into your car when you are trying to transport this stuff if you are going to take it elsewhere—like a laundry mat). For any other “contents,” suit up with plastic gloves, a dry mask and “scrub coat”, go inside, place it in a bin, seal the bins, and bring it into the staging area. Once there, remove it from your bin, fog it, and allow it to air dry.
Step 6: Use the Sun.After cleaning items, set them out in the sunlight—especially bedding and furniture if you are saving them. Sunlight destroys mycotoxins. Exposure to sunlight may in part explain why mold counts can be high outside and yet moldy people don’t get sick from being outdoors as the mycotoxins coating mold spores have been rendered inactive.
Mold Cleaning Hacks
Additional cleaning techniques to clean and sanitize your belongings may include:
Clothes: Use Borax, EC3 Laundry Additive (enzymes) and laundry detergent in a mold-free washer and dryer. In general, clothes are much less of a problem if they are laundered properly.
Linens & Blankets: Get rid of all pillows, comforters and duvets, loose cushions, area or throw rugs that are not washable, and mattresses. Discard lampshades as well. These items are extremely difficult to save.
Books: Books are difficult. If the books are on a shelf and not opened, HEPA vacuum each one. Throw out any you do not absolutely love or need. If possible, you can try removing the books and photos from the home as you have done before with other things, lay them out and fog them. Then, allow them to air dry. I would remove the outer cover of the books first, and possibly even remove the binding, so that the moisture can escape easier.
Household Items (lamps, clocks, etc.): Use hydrogen peroxide, EC3 and/or CitraSafe enzyme based cleaners plus a rag to wipe clean.
Leather (Furniture, bags, jackets, etc.): Use quaternary cleaners on leather. Vacuum the nooks and crannies of the piece of furniture and do the same thing again.
Dishes & Utensils. Dishwasher as normal. Dishes and kitchenware are some of the easiest things to clean.
Stuffed Animals: Place stuffed toy inside a clean pillowcase. Start washing machine on a regular wash cycle with a hot water wash selected. Add detergent and 2 oz. of the EC3 Laundry Additive to the machine while the water is filling up. Close the washing machine lid, and allow the machine to agitate and swish the water around with the toy in it. Turn off the machine after agitation to allow the stuffed animal to soak for at least 30 minutes. Turn the machine back on to allow it to complete its wash cycle. Remove the stuffed animal from the machine and pillowcase. Take it outside into the sunlight and allow it to dry completely, or leave it inside the pillowcase and toss both into the dryer to dry completely with gentle heat.
Furniture: For wood or non-porous furniture, remove it from the home and bring it to your staging area. Non-upholstered furniture can be wiped down with a spray made from the EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate and distilled water, or can be fogged. Just make certain to get every nook and cranny and underside. Note: Upholstered furniture is more difficult. You must HEPA vacuum it first. The dust that gets into the upholstery has lots of mold spores in it. Some items can be fogged. Remember, though, that upholstered items have “stuffing,” so not only is the mold in the fabric, but also in the insides of the item.
Above All Remember: When in doubt, throw it out
That should be the first pillar of your thinking throughout this process. No tangible item is worth losing your health nor all your new items and home. You don’t want to have to start all over again, because of some contaminated item.
Step 7: Final Home Cleaning (Final Wipe Down + Fogging)
Final cleaning procedures (wiping down surfaces) should follow in each area once demolition and remediation is completed and after the HVAC system has been cleaned. Line the floor with painter’s plastic to protect the floor from particles.
“Fogging” or “Air washing” the area and furniture or items in each room may also be integrated to remove these super small toxins.
Fogging is a technique using a machine (fogger) that blasts the air with an air cleaning solution to rid of fine and ultrafine particles. Treating mold with foggers will kill and remove mold spores, and slow the rate at which it returns. But remember after spores are dead the second part of remediation must take place: removal.
Mold fog regularly comes in two forms that are designed to work effectively in hard to reach places. For smaller spaces, prevention, and minor mold issues, an aerosol mold fogger is often sufficient. Concrobium aerosols are often used for less severe mold issues, and when mold is caught early. Larger spaces with more invasive mold problems may require a different method, like the use of cold fog machine. A plastic floor liner should be used when the process starts.
Involves using a large 2,000 cfm fan along with numerous box fans and sunlight/fresh air to dry out mycotoxins from items. portions of the house are flushed with outside air in a step-wise fashion. You want to make sure to exhaust dirty air out the leeward side of the house while opening windows for fresh air on the side where the breeze is coming from. The key is that you do not want to be drawing dirty air back in.
Step 8: Restoration
Restoration may involve minor repairs, such as replacing drywall, painting, and installing new carpet; or it may entail major repairs such as the reconstruction of various areas or rooms in a home or business.
Step 9: Ongoing Maintenance & Upkeep
Prevent future mold exposure with ongoing maintenance of your property:
Fix plumbing leaks, water problems, gutter and roof problems ASAP; Dry everything
Scrub mold off any surfaces with detergent and water; Dry completely.
Toss out absorbent or porous materials (tiles, carpet, upholstered furniture, linens, clothes, books, cardboard)
Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and drain lines unobstructed for proper flow.
Ensure the ground slopes away from the building foundation so water doesn’t enter or collect.
Keep indoor relative humidity at 30 to 50 percent. Vent bathrooms; install an inline dehumidifer connected to your HVAC system
Don’t install carpeting in areas moisture is present (like bathrooms)
Step 3: Reduce the Toxins in Your Body
The inside is just as important as the outside (i.e. getting rid of mold in your environment)—detoxification included.
It’s safe to assume that if you have mold exposure and you feel badly, you probably have mycotoxins in your system. Even healthy people have a certain amount of mycotoxins. Most people do not need elaborate protocols to purge mycotoxins from their system. With a nutrient-dense diet and eradication of mold from your environment, mycotoxins can gradually and naturally be removed from your system.
That said, mold can grow inside your body if you have a weaker immune system— especially inside body cavities like nasal passages and sinuses, the a perfect warm, moist environment. Those with suppressed immune systems (such as those with autoimmune disease, Lyme, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic illness, reoccurring infections or illness, etc.) are more susceptible to mycotoxin damage.
Boosting your immune system and detoxification pathways is imperative after mold exposure to boost recovery, and is best accomplished once you’ve removed yourself from the moldy environment. Recommendations for cleansing and detoxification, along with gut loving supports (a probiotic and digestive enzymes, include:
Binders (Coconut Charcoal, Modified Citrus Pectin, Pyrophyllite clay, or Chlorella)
What it does: Binders “bind” to toxins in the body to clear our build up, remove biofilm in the gut, and prevent further toxicity or poisoning. Fiber also helps create bulk in your stools t encourage elimination and healthy bacteria growth. Reach for partially hydrolyzed guar gum or glucomannan.
Dose: 1-2 capsules or doses (of binders), twice per day, with water, away from meals on an empty stomach. (Note: Do not use charcoal if you are more prone to constipation); For fiber, take ½-1 tsp. once per day with meals.
What it does: Helps create bulk in your stools to encourage elimination and healthy bacteria growth. Reach for an easily digestible source like partially hydrolyzed guar gum or glucomannan in powder form as a supplement.
Dose: Take ½-1 tsp. once per day with meals; Eat a variety of vegetables and some fruits—especially pre-biotics and soluble fibers like cooked and cooled sweet potatoes, roasted garlic, winter and summer squash, cruciferous veggies (cooked), leeks, onion, apples, blueberries, green tipped bananas
Liposomal Glutathione with N-Acetyl Cysteine.
What it does: Mycotoxins deplete the body of enzymes that make glutathione — a key antioxidant for fighting free radical damage and removing toxins from the body. Supplementing with glutathione can help with repletion. It supports the body’s detoxification system, provides antioxidant protection, and supports mitochondrial resistance to free radical damage.
Dose: 1 tsp. 2-3 times per day.
Liposomal Curcumin + Boswellia Akba
What it does: Eliminates inflammation and supports detoxification pathways as well.
Dose: 1 tsp. Cur cumin + 1 dose Boswellia AKBA 2-3 times per day
What it does: Supports your HPA Axis to combat the “stress” response. Try cordyceps, reishi, Relora, or ashwaganda, or a blend.
Dose: 1 capsule, 2-3 times per day.
Clear Your Sinuses
If you’ve been continuously inhaling mold in your environment, your body’s healing systems will not be able to function properly and mold may colonize your sinuses since your sinuses are a warm, moist environment with mucous and other organic material to feed on. (Even if you do not have obvious sinus symptoms, your nose is always a potential reservoir for fungal growth and colonization just by nature of how we breathe and because of the warm, moist nasal terrain). Recommendation: Try Daily Nasal Rinsing with a homemade saline-based irrigation system—Boil filtered water, cool it to a warm temperature and and pour in to a large sterilized salad bowl. Next, add salt; (about ½ teaspoon for every cup of water) along with a few drops of iodine, and/or xylitol—a sugar alcohol that inhibits the growth of nose bacteria.
To get the rinse in your nose, use a Netipot or simply place your bowl on a counter and bend forward with your spine parallel to the floor— don’t tip your head back or you’ll gag. Cloose your eyes, then “drink” through your nose. Note: The solution won’t go down your throat if you are at the proper angle; instead, it will collect in the back of your mouth. When your mouth is full, spit the water out in the sink, and repeat.
Sweat.Daily—a mix between exercise, warmed yoga and outdoors/fresh air.
Also do at least 2-3 times per week to help rid the body of mycotoxins through sweat.
Nourish Your Cells
When given the right tools your body innately wants to heal itself…starting in your gut. Steer clear of processed carbohydrates and sugars, while nourishing your cells with nutrient-dense, whole “gut loving” foods, including:
Fermented Foods (1-2 servings/day; sauerkraut, kefir, organic plain yogurt)
Apple Cider Vinegar (1 tbsp in water)
Meat broth & bone broth
Organ Meats (capsule or ground in food)
Cleansing Teas (especially: rooibos, honeybush, green, black teas)
Unsweetened Cocoa (polyphenol-enriched cocoa extract was able to reduce free radicals produced by mycotoxins)
Dark leafy greens
Fresh organic herbs (cilantro, dandelion, basil, oregano, peppermint)
Grass-fed ghee and butter (for butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that helps bacteria fight off toxins in the body, and supports the health and healing of cells in the small and large intestine)
Essential Oil Infusion
Essential oils have been around fro centuries, used medicinally and therapeutically to cleanse and heal. Get an oil diffuser for your home and diffuse: oregano, thyme, cinnamon, clove and tea tree oil.
Step 4: Just Breathe (Clean Air)
People spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors (upwards of 22 to 23 house per day) and the concentrations of air pollutants may be two-and-a-half times higher indoors than outdoors.
indoor air quality is influenced by a number of factors including:
Air pollutants (carbon monoxide, chemical compounds, lead, nitrogen dioxide etc.)
Air sources (heating and air units, and air purifiers)
Emissions (off gases) from those sources
Absorption of compounds by materials (furniture, clothes, upholstery, etc.)
Temperature and humidity
To help combat air pollutants, an indoor air filters and air sanitizer can be game changers. You can buy a large HEPA filter for your home and air sanitizers for individual rooms. However, be warned: Not all air filters and sanitizers are created equal. According to the EPA as well as Consumer Reports, many manufacturers falsely advertise that ozone cleaners are air cleaners. This is false. Ensure you get a quality machine.
Indoor Air Purifier/Filter
Air purifiers remove some or most of those pollutants from your indoor air. They work by drawing room air in and through a filter or combination of filters, then blowing out fresh, clean air. A good air purifier removes allergens, dust, gases, and other pollutants from the room air, leaving behind clean air for your lung’s benefit. A HEPA filter is the “gold standard” to have in the home for helping remove ultrafine particles and mycotoxins from the air. Look for air purifiers that are CARB certified (California Air Resource Board). CARB is the most stringent testing agency of consumer products, and if you’re unsure, just ask!
Recommendations: Austin Air, IQAirNote: HEPA filters will do a great job of capturing particles, but not the VOCs. To remove other VOCs, you’ll need an air sanitizer. Also, remember that regular filter replacement is key to getting to the most out of your HEPA purifier while minimizing wear on the motor.
Indoor Air Sanitizer or “Sterilizer”
An air sanitizer takes your air to the next level. Rather than simply block every single contaminant in the air like air filters do, air sanitizers destroy microorganisms and cause them to be ineffective—especially “VOC’s” (volatile organic compounds are carbon-based chemicals and “off gases” released by materials like carpets, vinyl flooring, paints, and upholstery fabrics that become more problematic when mold spores are also involved).
Air sanitizers kill viruses, bacteria and molds that can cause diseases or exacerbate illnesses, as well as break down volatile organic chemicals that affect the sinuses and lungs. Sanitizers are particularly great for putting in smaller rooms, in conjunction with your larger HEPA filter for your who home.
Recommendation: Air Oasis, UV4Life, Germ GuardianNote: Run your air sanitizer only when you’re not in the room and turn them off when you enter due to the small amounts of ozone that they release.
Step 5: Be Present
Face it, mold “recovery” can be overwhelming and it can also feel somewhat extreme, emotionally and financially draining.
The key to keep in mind, no matte the severity of your mycotoxin exposure: When given the right tools, your body innately wants to heal itself.
Removing yourself from the environmental exposure
Supporting your immune system and gut health
Being present to your life today—not caught up in endless social media scrolling, Dr. Google overwhelm, and living in fear, instead of peace. The sun will come out tomorrow.
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