Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Diatomaceous Earth

We are currently living in an apartment, and every three months I have to stay home an entire day just to make sure that the pest control company doesn't enter the apartment unauthorized and spray pesticides under the cabinets and wherever else they think they might need to spray. The last time I refused this "service" I was told that I would be held responsible for any pest problems that might arise in the apartment. What pest problems!? Termites are the only pests that I can think of that could cause damage to the structure, and that has nothing to do with applying pesticides inside my apartment. If this shoddily built apartment has termites my guess would be the result of poor construction. Plus, the last time I checked, termite companies spray once a year, and they have never entered my house, so I don't see why it would be necessary for them to enter my apartment to spray for termites. I think the pest control people are just trying to scare me so they keep their job.

Anyway, we did have an ant problem right when the weather started warming up this year. I immediately got out the diatomaceous earth and liberally applied it to the grout in the kitchen and all around the hot water heater in the pantry where it seemed like the ants were somehow getting in. By the next afternoon there was not a sign of even a single ant. They absolutely hate the stuff!

When we lived at the house, we had an ant infestation in our mailbox. It was awful pulling out mail and knocking off little ants that had annoyingly attached themselves to our mail. So in went the DE and out went the ants.

A few tips:
-You can feed it to your pets.
-Be sure to buy food grade DE. I got mine at a health food store and they buy theirs in huge bags from a local oranic gardening store.
-Rain (or water) washes it away and then it needs to be reapplied.
-Don't breathe it in when applying. Be sure to wear a face mask or be very careful not to stand in the dust because it can irritate or hurt your lungs.
-Safest form of pest control, especially if you have babies or pets that come in close contact with the floor.

Now what does this have to do with mold? Not a whole lot but I can at least try to tie it together :) Mold affects indoor air quality as do harmful pesticides that many people use to eliminate ants. Also, an industrial hygienist once told me that if you have an ant problem then it is possible that you have a moisture problem as well. I don't know whether or not that theory is true, but definitely something to consider because moisture leads to mold. So if you have ants, it might just be worth your time to figure out why they have invaded your house. That's just my $.02.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Peanut Allergies and Aflatoxins

Here is a theory of mine. I don't know if there is anything to it, but there are definitely a few coincidences that I have observed that I think are worth mentioning.

I was pregnant with my little girl, B2, when we moved into the house. We found mold in the bathroom before B2 was born. We definitely know that we had stachy and aspergillus. Now at that time our entire house was not highly contaminated. That happened after the first "remediation." During the remediation of the bathrooms, the fiberglass tubs (with aspergillus underneath the tubs) were cut out by an incompetent construction company. This company did not do any containment of the area and also told me to leave the HVAC system in the ON position during the remediation, thus spreading mold throughout the entire house and contaminating the HVAC system. Not only did they fail to contain the mold, but they also failed to inform us that we needed to vacate the house, especially since B2 was under 1 year old (which I later found out is an age where you should be told to vacate the remediation area-really no one should be around, but especially not babies). SO we were sitting in our living room while particles of fiberglass and mold were floating around the house and getting into our bodies. As I write this I seriously wonder "What was I thinking?" How could I have been so foolish? Why didn't I take more pictures to prove the incompetence of the remediators?

Of course, there is a plain and simple answer: Lack of knowledge and lack of education. And as far as not taking more pictures, that was just bad advice from someone. At that time I had never even heard of mycotoxins and was very naive about mold.

Anyway, back to my theory. We had lab tests confirming the presence of aspergillus in our house. The counts were about 10X higher on the indoor samples than they were on the outdoor control sample. Aspergillus mold produces a mycotoxin called aflatoxin. After I started listening to Doug Kaufmann and read his books, I realized that peanuts are frequently contaminated with aflatoxin. It just seems to me like an interesting coincidence.

Of course, there are many arguments against this theory. Rather than waiting for people to point out some of the problems with my theory, I will point them out myself just to show that I don't just throw theories out there without first thinking of other possibilities. One might say that corn and other cereal grains are also frequently contaminated with aflatoxin, so why then does B2 not have a corn or cereal grain allergy? Or another argument might be that she is allergic to tree nuts and sesame, which are not as highly contaminated as peanuts, so if it is a reaction to aflatoxin then why is she allergic to other nuts as well? Also, there are many different types of aspergillus, so how do I know if the type of aspergillus that was in our house is the same type that contaminates peanuts (I really need to dig up our lab results to see if it says anything about the type of aspergillus we had)? I truly don't have the answers to any of these questions. I'm just giving my personal observations and theories of what (in my opinion) could be connected to B2's peanut allergy. I guess I just see some sort of connection between having a peanut allergic child and living in a house contaminated with aspergillus, both which are connected to aflatoxins.

The Fungus Link

Speaking of God placing just the right people into my life at just the right time, now I have to talk about Kristin.

God placed her into my life in April, 2009, a little more than one month before we left our house.

K and I went to a church that held a yearly women's retreat, and at the last minute Kristin's hotel roommate had to cancel and so Kristin invited me to take her place.

I went and had a wonderful time being refreshed by the speaker and fellowship, as well as getting to know Kristin better. We stayed up in our hotel room that night talking about life and her career. I learned that she had placed her faith in God and gone to a cooking school in Colorado to learn how to cook healthy foods. Since natural health is one of my passions, I told her about all of the wonderful natural things in my home medicine cabinet, and to my surprise she had heard of every single thing and actually seemed to know more about those things than I even did. I told her that when K or I get a sinus infection that we put 10 drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract along with 2-3 drops of Oregano Oil into one of those Neil Med bottles and use it to cleanse our sinuses. I told her that when anyone in our family gets sick, I put them on what I call the "sick person diet" where I blend up a fresh garlic drink and add 5-10 drops GSE. They also get spoonfuls of coconut oil and raw apple cider vinegar drinks. My natural concoctions always seemed to do the trick, but I had never actually made the connection between those supplements and mold.

But then, Kristin told me something that changed my life. She pointed out what all of those supplements have in common. They are all antifungals!

I had never even heard of that concept before, but she had definitely tweaked my interest.

I later learned that she is a consultant that people can call to get started on Doug Kaufmann's Phase 1 diet. She sets clients up on an eating plan and gives them healthy recipes that fit their lifestyles. She helps them do everything they need to get started on the diet, including help with ordering the antifungals and probiotics needed to do Phase 1 correctly.

Anyway, I went home and began watching Know the Cause on TV (you can also watch it online here). One thing I noticed was that in addition to warning people of mycotoxins in the food supply, Doug Kaufmann also frequently talked about the importance of indoor air quality. He would say that you can't live in a moldy environment and expect to get better.

So when I discovered a moldy smell in my house, rather than dismissing the smell as just a little mildew, I instead called someone to test the house. The results were a tough pill to swallow, but really could have saved us so many health and financial battles down the road. But if it hadn't been for Kristin or Doug Kaufmann, I might have ignored the moldy smell or just sprayed a little bleach on the carpet. Who knows...

God has a way of planting seeds in a person's life. He knows exactly when every good and bad thing is going to happen to each and every one of us. I guess it is just up to us to recognize the seeds that he plants. Sometimes we may not see it then, but hindsight is 20/20 and we can then give Him the all thanks and praise He so deserves.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Day We Left

Thinking back, I barely remember the day we left the house. We went to Terra Studios with some friends that morning. We had a lovely time enjoying the great outdoors. I remember talking to my friends about the mold problems that we were having, although I can't remember exactly what I said. Anyway, we left Terra Studios and drove home, and about the moment we got home J10 developed a fever that started out at 100.6 and then increased. He started feeling extremely dizzy to the point that he felt like he was going to fall. He had a headache and said that he thought he had an ear infection. His lymph nodes were swollen and he had a sore throat. He was extremely tired. His cheeks were both bright red. He even had blood blisters on his skin. I had never seen him that sick before, and he was in tears because he felt so terrible. I immediately got on the phone with the after hours clinic and K and I rushed him there before they closed. They took one look at his throat and said that he absolutely had strep throat. They were convinced. I wasn't. I asked them to take the culture of his throat and send it off to the lab to confirm their diagnosis. I also inquired about what else could be making him sick if it wasn't strep, and they said that the only other explanation was the flu. So I had them test him for flu to eliminate the possibility of giving him an unnecessary round of antibiotics. When the flu test came back negative, the doctor said that she was 99% sure that he had strep, and wrote him a prescription for antibiotics.

We went home that night without filling the prescription because I had every intention of waiting on the results of the culture because I just wasn't convinced by the doctor at the clinic that strep was what was making J10 so sick. So we put him to bed as soon as we got home and did our best to make him comfortable for the rest of the night.

Then, in the middle of the night, A4 woke up and vomited in the bathtub. Now on occasion my children will overeat to the point that they make themselves sick, but I knew exactly what A4 had eaten that day and I didn't think he had eaten to the point of making himself sick. It was puzzling.

The next morning A4 seemed to be feeling better but J10 was not. I had actually learned about mycotoxicosis just days before, and had researched many of the symptoms, which were very similar to the symptoms that J10 was having. This was June 6, 2009. On June 2 we had gotten our house tested by an industrial hygienist and had discovered stachybotrys (toxic black mold) in the bathroom, as well as other mold contamination throughout the entire house. Since we hadn't yet received the lab results from the testing, we didn't actually know just how bad the contamination really was. But since our industrial hygienist was a microbiologist, she was able to look at some of the samples under her microscope. While she couldn't tell us how badly our house was contaminated, she did let us know that the stachy was not the only mold present in our house and that the entire house was contaminated.

Anyway, K made us leave that day. All I can remember was him being annoyed that I was taking such a long time packing clothes and other things that we would need. We didn't have a plan. We just knew we had to get out of that house. We threw all of our clothes into plastic bags and sealed them as tightly as possible. We pretty much left everything else behind. We left a sink full of dirty dishes and a refrigerator full of food. We left laundry that had not yet been put away. It is always difficult for me to pack to go anywhere, even for a weekend, so you can only imagine how difficult it was for me to pack to be gone from the house for an indefinite period of time. And then to do all the packing and thinking with a husband who was insistent that we didn't spend one more second in the house than we had to. I am grateful to have such a concerned husband and he was right to make us leave, but it certainly wasn't easy.

I don't remember what happened after that. I know that at some point we drove 2 hours to stay at K's parent's house. I don't remember planning anything. Maybe K took care of everything. I would imagine that I was in an overwhelmed state of disfunction. I don't even remember where we slept that night.

The next memory I have is in the town where K's parents live. I know I should have been patient and waited for the strep culture, but my little boy was sick and I just wanted him to feel better. So we went to Target and filled the prescription and started him on the antibiotics that the doctor had prescribed. After all, the doctor did say that she was 99% sure that he had strep, and 99% is a pretty good chance.

Well, I guess I should have waited. A couple of days later I got a call from the doctor's office saying that the culture was negative for strep. So I asked to speak to the doctor. I asked her what could possibly be making J10 sick and she said that she had no idea. Then I asked her if she thought it could be the mold in our house, and she said that they didn't deal with mold and told me to call the health department.

So it was the mold after all. K and I both knew it and to this day are still convinced that J10 had symptoms of mycotoxicosis. In fact, we all had symptoms of mycotoxicosis, we just didn't realize it at the time.

Now that I am reflecting on this part of our life I can see how God timed everything perfectly and sent just the right people into our lives at just the right time. The industrial hygienist came out to test the house days before J10 got sick. If she hadn't come to the house when she did, we would have never known about mycotoxicosis. If I hadn't smelled the moldy odor on the carpet or hadn't had the instinct to have the industrial hygienist remove the sheetrock that was hiding the stachy that should have been remediated, we would have never known what was causing J10 to be sick. We could still be living in that house today, having more and more health problems without any clue as to what was causing them. Looking back, everyone in our family had various signs of mold toxicity, but J10's illness was the real eye opener. Even K was convinced that the mold was making us sick and had instinct to put his foot down to my protests about leaving and get our family out of that house.

"The Moldy House"

Since I would like to separate mold from other aspects of our life, even though it has penetrated every aspect of our life, I have decided to make a separate blog to chronicle our mold experience. It simplifies things and will hopefully be easier for people to find the help they need. This is the easiest blog title I have ever come up with, as I have appropriately titled it "The Moldy House" because that is what we came to call our little mold contaminated 1500 square foot house. Since we now have two homes (the apartment and the house), we specify that we are going to the "moldy house" or going "home." Yes, the moldy house no longer seems like home to us. While we shared many good memories there and while I am sure there will be more good memories to come if we ever move back in, I am still apprehensive about moving back in someday.

There are so many details involved in our mold experience that it will probably take me a very long time to compile everything. So it will definitely be a work in progress. But I really feel like I need compile everything that I can remember because mold is becoming such a huge problem and it is so easy to make life wrenching mistakes when mold problems are discovered. Hopefully this blog will help someone or at least fulfill the curiosity of people who seem to be in awe that we actually vacated our house as a result of mold contamination.