We experienced a house fire 24 years ago just days after moving into a rental. Thankfully when the fire started, we were out of the house eating lunch with our grandparents. Afterward, we smelled smoke residue on everything. Items that looked okay, like books and furniture, still smelled like smoke. Likewise, we have found that our belongings exposed to penicillin mold looked ok, but smelled like an old, musty house. Surprisingly, penicillin mold damaged much more than our belongings. It damaged our health. What we are experiencing now is far worse than what we experienced 24 years ago in our house fire.
Just like smoke, microscopic penicillin mold spores in the air permeated all of our possessions. Equally frustrating, penicillin mold is white and typically unseen. Since mold is a living organism, if one spore survives, you will soon have more. Your only choices are to kill the mold or throw the item away. How and what could be saved? No one would definitely answer that question, which was our biggest frustration. At least with our house fire insurance representatives told us what to save, restore, and throw away.
How Penicillin Mold Enters a Home
Mold remediation is pointless if the cause remains. In our case, there were two causes: the crawl space and the air conditioner. Thus, I have two questions that may alarm some of you.
If you have a crawl space, when did you last inspect it?
In our rental, there was mold on top of the ground cover and underneath it. We were astonished to find no insulation or barrier under the floorboards of the house. Shockingly, white penicillin crystals grew thickly under the floorboards and on the joists. That means air full of mold spores from under the house flowed freely into the house.
Just like dust covers furniture, dust accumulated on top of the plastic on the ground under our rental home. While this is expected, it can quickly become a recipe for disaster when there is high humidity, moisture. Think about a loaf of bread. Heat forms condensation inside a perfectly good loaf of bread causing mold to grow in a matter of days. If your crawl space is not properly ventilated, humidity from the air or any other source of moisture creates a breeding ground for mold.
Of course, many of us need help with such a large task. To find a provider near you type in Google words, crawl space ventilation fan, or crawl space encapsulation. I found numerous videos explaining the importance of maintaining proper airflow under your home.
Do you have your air conditioner serviced and cleaned yearly?
When was the last time you cleaned the air conditioner coils and air intake (the area inside the unit where air enters your air conditioner) on your AC unit? I believe the answer for our rental home was never. Layers of dirt blocked the air intake. No wonder we had to empty our dehumidifier three times a day! After we turned on our radiator heat, we smelled mold under the air intake. Upon removal of the ductwork in the attic, we were astonished to see each insulated duct box look like it was covered in mud.
Even though penicillin mold is a natural part of the dirt, penicillin mold emits neurotoxins. Consequently, a health hazard exists when high levels of neurotoxins enter the air you breathe. Unfortunately despite cleaning wicker, leather, plastic, and our furniture, mold remediation failed to save most of our personal belongings. We even tried mold bombs, the Air Doctor, and an Air Scrubber. We ended up cross-contaminating the apartment. Our sore throats, coughing and hoarseness told us to throw them away. So discouraging, so much money and work only to lose almost everything.
When to Get an Air Quality Test
How do you know when to request an air quality test? Basically, listen to your body and educate yourself. If you smell a musty odor or see black or discolored spots anywhere, start investigating.
I personally started experiencing mild symptoms two months after moving into our rental home. At that time, my husband thought my body was simply over-reacting. I wondered if age on top of a serious injury at age 19 were to blame. I now know that my symptoms listed below are on the sick building syndrome list.
- Chronic headache despite medication
- Ear pressure and difficulty hearing
- Constipation, bloated
- Swollen hands and joint pain
- Increased use of inhaler for asthma
- Chronic fatigue
The House Was Making Me Sick Because of Penicillin Mold
After living in the rental home for around a year, there is only one word to describe how I felt: sick. Interestingly, I was so sick before going to a Wellness Clinic in Chicago that leaving home for a week or two failed to relieve my symptoms. However, hyperbaric chamber treatment, adrenal improvement work, and supplements helped me feel like my old self again. When I returned home, I felt better every time I left the house. For example, I woke up with a headache that left thirty minutes after leaving. Now I knew that the house was responsible for making me sick. We took action looking for the cause of my sickness. The pictures of the crawl space and closets speak louder than words.
After looking at the pictures of mold under the house, I began to wonder if the white line of penicillin mold seen on the bricks under the house were also outside the house. Were unsafe levels of mold in the air outside the house affecting plants? When I started to look at the shrubs and plants around the house, I saw mold spots on the foliage and bricks covered with white near ventilation holes.
Health Hazards of Penicillin Mold
Penicillin mold causes brain cancer, lung cancer, and kidney failure among other health issues. Therefore, the cost to our health was simply not worth the risk of moving back into the house. Even though the rental agency sprayed the underside of the floorboards, we believed the old air conditioner had spread mold throughout the house. What we found as we moved out of the house reassured us that we made the correct decision.
When clothes from my husband’s closet caused redness and itching on my hands and arms, my husband went back to investigate. He used the light on his phone and discovered that mold covered the ceiling of his closet. He also found mold in the cedar closet. This reassured us of our decision.
By the time we finished removing our personal possessions, we experienced additional symptoms of coughing, chest discomfort, and burning eyes.
Another Big Clue You Need to Look for Mold
Another big clue you need to look for mold is high humidity within your home. When your air conditioner fails to reduce humidity in your home, despite a freon charge and cleaning, you need to keep investigating. That might mean that you need to schedule inspections from two or more air conditioner companies to discover the root of the problem. Meanwhile, I recommend buying a dehumidifier from a hardware store that automatically empties into a sink or tub. Otherwise, someone must be home to empty the dehumidifier. When a dehumidifier’s tank is full, the machine automatically turns off until it is emptied manually.
During our thirty-two years of marriage and numerous moves, air conditioner repairmen discovered problems like the ones described below.
- Using a camera on the end of a wire, holes were found in the ductwork within the wall.
- A broken part within the air handler that is responsible for cooling air.
- One time we lacked enough ductwork causing the unit to freeze.
- An instruction booklet wrapped in plastic was blocking air flow from the unit to an air purifier.
- The intake and coils were so full of dirt the unit lacked proper air flow.
Where to Start and Insurance
In Virginia, renter’s insurance only covers mold damage from water damage due to a flood or an unknown plumbing leak. In our case, mold grew due to neglect of the house and air conditioning unit. Surprisingly, there was no financial compensation from our renter’s insurance for the items we lost.
An additional challenge was a lack of knowledge. Where to start? Fortunately, I learned about Immunolytics which provides affordable test kits and information. When our test kit confirmed there was mold somewhere in the house, we started looking.
Frustratingly, a quality air test with samples is required before anyone provides you with guidance and products. That makes sense because professionals need to know what types of mold affected your home and belongings. Unfortunately in August, the demand for help from mold remediation companies is very high. Thus, companies take on big jobs (house and personal effects). They also prefer guaranteed payments by insurance companies versus the risk of not receiving payment from individuals. Consequently, our job was too small for their interest. Thus, we were left on our own.
Penicillin Mold Recovery: Helpful Lessons
Never could I have anticipated the hard work involved in trying to save our personal belongings. I carried the smallest to largest belonging outside, soaked it in a solution of 30% industrial strength vinegar and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. After about thirty minutes, I placed items on the driveway to dry in the sun. Once wrapped and put in a box, I could finally load the box into the back of our RAV4 to take to a storage unit.
Sadly, I now know that mold becomes a part of plastic, leather, and furniture. Toxic vapors continue to leave the items feeling your environment with cancer-causing toxins. Thankfully, you can save your glassware, pots and pans, and clothes. We were also able to save formal clothes and my favorite couch pillow by taking them to the dry cleaners
I pre-sorted and bagged our everyday clothes. Then, I could take them from the trunk straight into the washing machine. I dared not bring them into our hotel room. We bought laundry products by Citrisafe to wash clothes and linen. I washed sixty loads consisting of clothes, sheets, blankets, bedspreads, and towels! I am thankful I had clothes and linen to wash. After a fire, there was nothing left to wash.
When in Doubt, Throw It Out
Thankfully, the company, Immunolytics, that completed our initial mold petri dish test helped us more than any other company or professional. They emphasized that penicillin mold is one of the hardest molds to kill; its long-term effects on our health; and to throw away anything cardboard.
They and several other mold remediation experts told us how to clean books. Most importantly, we were told to store any books we chose to keep in plastic totes indefinitely after cleaning. My husband spent hours vacuuming, spraying, and wiping solution off the covers of our books. A week later we checked the totes of books. We were astonished that the container of books reeked of that awful mold odor. We even saw a hazy film on the inside of one of the totes. Uggg! Sadly, we had to throw all our books away.
While raising our children, books were a very important part of our family teaching character, instilling self-acceptance, talking about grief, teaching history, and so much more. When we first married, I teased my husband that he reads a book for lunch. I was looking forward to reading our collection of Charles Dickens, a gift from a great uncle.
More Mold Cleaning Products
We used a micro-scrub mold-killing spray safe for furniture like CLR Mold and Mildew Clear and again with Bio Tech’s micro scrub solution. Later, we purchased additional products like mold bombs and an air scrubber from BioTech, the company that completed our air quality test. That also did not work. Everything kept emitting toxins back into the environment. Sadly, we only learned this after cross-contaminating the apartment.
In the end, we threw away all our laminated furniture. We took our solid wood furniture to a furniture restoration company with a dunk tank.
You are unable to clean and save shoes, even if you put new soles in them. We threw away our Christmas tree, ornaments, and wreaths. We ended up throwing away our printer, CD cases, VHS tapes, belts, and any kitchen appliances made out of plastic. The list was endless: coffee makers, blender, Tupperware containers, cooking utensils, measuring cups, and lids to glass storage containers.
I wished we had known what to do. I hope our life lessons and story will help others. We could have used the money spent to rent U-Haul trucks and storage units to replace what we lost. We could have used the past three months to heal instead of getting more sick.
Evaluate the Risk
Speaking of safe, we brought a new box spring and mattress. We also threw away our couch. Yes, we could have treated them with chemicals that may kill all the mold. The keyword being may. However, we decided to not breathe in chemicals or mold while sleeping or awake. Now, I know that was absolutely the right decision.
The first night we slept in our home I was so excited to unpack my pillow. I had washed it twice using CitriSafe mold-killing detergent. Sadly, I woke up with a headache, hoarseness, and extreme fatigue the next morning. Oh no! Was the cause my pillow or the furniture? I bought new pillows and pillowcase covers. Thankfully, the next morning I woke up feeling well with no headache and a normal voice.
Strangely, I am very thankful my illness made us take action. My husband mainly experienced fatigue and memory difficulties. He simply thought we were getting older. I wondered how many times middle-aged people accept new cognitive or physical challenges instead of looking for answers or improvements?
Turning Our Health Around After Living in a Rental with Penicillin Mold
Mold Affects Your Hearing
Over the years, I have learned much about the effects of mold found in food on one’s hearing. Did you know that environmental irritants, like mold, inflames the eustachian tubes and diminishes hearing? That is one reason I felt pressure in my ears and experienced hearing difficulties while living in the rental. Several of my young clients reacted so strongly to mold, that foods with molds contributed to sound intolerance and red, itchy hands. Avoiding the foods high in mold allowed their skin and eustachian tubes to heal.
- Blue Cheese (blue is mold), all fermented dairy products-cheeses, sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt, etc.
- Cured, pickled, and smoked meats and fish
- Prepackaged meats like lunch meats, salami, smoked fish, and sardines
- pickles, olives, capers (fermented foods)
- salad dressings
- Dried fruits like dates, figs, dried cranberries, raisins, etc.
- Wine and beer
- Soy sauce
- Yeast breads
Another issue contributing to eustachian tube inflammation was experienced by some of my clients with sound sensitivities. They experienced temporomandibular joint disorders, also known as TMJ joint pain. It caused so much inflammation that it was making it difficult for them to hear. Researchers found that hearing improves after reducing inflammation. However, prolonged inflammation blocking eustachian tubes can weaken the hearing system resulting in sound intolerance. Once clients experienced improved health, they began auditory integration training to improve their sound tolerance.
I share in my story, A Miracle in My Vision Loss Journey, how releasing the compression of my skull bones on the right side of my head, TMJ area, and face improved my ability to hear. It resolved the uncomfortable pressure in my ears. Today, if I eat food from the list above, then I feel an uncomfortable pressure in my ears. Thankfully, food restrictions are temporary.
Looking at the Whole Picture
I share all this to emphasize that working with me is a journey that includes your health. When I work with clients of all ages, I review past injuries such as concussions, your medical history, and your intervention history. This allows us, me and the client, to develop a plan that maximizes a client’s progress. Equally important, I work hard to minimize the risk of continued difficulties after auditory integration training. Do you have concerns or questions? If so, I encourage you to schedule a free 30 minute consult with me today by clicking here.