If you haven’t read our story yet, please check out part 1 and part 2. In the first part, I describe why we’re leaving our home. In the second part, I describe the symptoms that we had that finally led us to suspect a serious problem.
Today, I’ll be talking about the “what next.” That is — what we did after we moved out. Where we went and what the home testing process was like. Many of you have asked about testing our home because you suspect mold or know that you have it and don’t know what to do next. I understand — a couple of months ago, I was in your shoes, seeking out all the information I could find and still not getting answers to all my questions. I hope to give you the kind of information I wish I’d had.
I should note that I read Andrea Fabry’s story and many advice posts several times, and this was very helpful. I’m fortunate enough to “know” Andrea as a colleague and was also able to chat with her and ask some of my other questions. That was the most helpful for me — thanks, Andrea! We’re at the 4-week mark now. We have the testing process complete and we’re moving into a new place of our own now. The road to get here was longer than I’d anticipated it would be.
When We Left
We left on Aug. 16, 2014. We planned for it earlier in the week, and on that day, we packed up the kids in the car and we walked away. The kids are no longer allowed in the house at all and haven’t been back to it. We (Ben and I) have been back. We go once a week, typically on Friday, to try to get stuff happening — the mold testing, some cleaning, as well as looking in the area for a new place to live.
We had been thinking that it would only take a week or so to find a place to go and know what we would do with the house. We were wrong! The whole first couple of weeks we were so overwhelmed with our health issues and the stress of daily life in another location that almost nothing got done. We were very fortunate that my parents allowed us to come and stay with them. They are two hours away from where we live, so Ben has had to telecommute, except for being in the office every other Friday when we are back.
That’s been a bit stressful for both of us. Stressful for him because most of his time is spent in meetings, so he has to be on the phone a lot, and he’s really removed from the day-to-day happenings. He even missed one of his employees’ first day of work. It’s stressful for me because I have to keep the kids extremely quiet all the time so they don’t interrupt. It’s been a lot of give-and-take from both of us to make this work.
Last weekend, we moved into an apartment. We chose it online, after reading a bunch of reviews and looking at pictures. I know — maybe not the greatest way to choose a place, but there were some time limits on us at that point (my parents had guests coming) and we also needed to be back to our lives. We missed the first two weeks of the homeschool coop meetings. The coop that I started!
We’re starting to piece our lives back together now. I’m glad.
Ben wanted me to tell you this story, so I will. 🙂
When we moved out, we determined that the car that Ben was driving was no longer safe (not mold-related; its muffler is cracked in half, it shakes while driving, and it dies at random every 10 – 15 miles) and that we would need to get rid of it. We had needed to do this for awhile, but we figured if everything else was changing, we might as well do this too. Ben decided he wanted a truck. A big truck. It would help us move, and it would be nice down the road once we get a farm property (which is still our goal…in a few years).
He searched and searched for the perfect truck, did a lot of research, and decided that he wanted an old truck (10 years or so) that was kind of beat-up, but not crazy high miles, with an extended bed and bed liner. After several hours of searching online, he went to dealerships with my dad. They weren’t finding anything. Then, as they pulled into one dealership, another guy pulled in too — with the exact truck that Ben wanted.
As it turned out, the guy bought a brand new truck and traded in that old truck. The dealership didn’t want to keep it because it was so old, so they held it for a couple of days, knowing we wanted it. We came back with cash, checked it out and test drove it, and bought the truck then and there for a great deal. I am so thankful that we had some money saved up to be able to do this — it will make things a lot easier, knowing that Ben has a safe car to drive to work, and that we have been able to move things from the house (to keep or to the dump) when we need to, without having to pay to rent a truck or having someone else to do it. The truck is a 2000 GMC so it’s not exactly new, and there’s a decent amount of rust on some parts of the body, but it’s going to work for what we need. And the engine is solid.
The Testing Process
Although I knew that the mold problem in the house was bad, I couldn’t “prove” it. I only had our health issues, the musty smell, and the visible black mold in the basement to go on. Some people thought that the problem was most likely confined to the basement and that removing the soiled carpet would take care of it.
Of course — and this is really important — a lot of people don’t believe that mold is “really that bad.” That most forms aren’t toxic and won’t cause health problems. Oh, how wrong that is! Mold is some very serious stuff, especially when there’s a lot of it. It’s not that important what strain it is. Some are worse than others, but high amounts of any mold is bad.
We had an independent hygienist come in to do the testing. He did a visual inspection of the property, specifically the areas where we mentioned water damage or where we had seen visible mold. Then, we took swabs from areas with visible mold (4) and we did air-quality samples from several areas as well (7). We needed to see what types of mold were growing and where. They also took an outdoor air sample, on our porch, so that they could compare them as a “base result.” (i.e. if the indoor counts were higher than outdoor, we’d know it wasn’t just naturally occurring it was a real problem.)
We got the tests back and the results are bad. The outdoor air sample (the ‘control’) showed no aspergillus/penicillium mold (it’s not usual for counts to be 50 – 150 though in some areas). It also showed no Stachybotrys (that’s the really dangerous black mold). Also, stachy is generally not found in air samples at all, because it is a dense and sticky mold. It is usually found in dust tests (which we didn’t do). Here are the actual counts:
- Basement air (near mold in carpet): 42,300 aspergillus/penicillium; 221 Stachybotrys
- Basement air (other side): 29,300 asp/pen; 52 stachy
- Kitchen: 34,700 asp/pen
- Playroom: 26,600 asp/pen
- Upstairs hallway (outside bedrooms): 16,900 asp/pen
These counts are astronomical. And we were living with that for months. It’s in every part of the house. According to this source, a building is considered “mold contaminated” when spore counts reach 1300 per m cubed (which is how the counts above are measured). The lowest level was nearly 15x that. The same source also notes that to be considered “clean” that the counts of asp/pen must be below 700. And as I said, our rates were much, much higher. A “chronic indoor issue” is when the counts are between 10K and 500K — which ours were.
Even WHO and CDC agree that serious health effects are possible at counts over 1000 spores per m3. So. It’s bad. One of the very worst, according to some well-researched people. We had hoped to save the wood furniture, as well as our boys’ beds (which still were wrapped in the original factory plastic), but once we got in and started looking at stuff and once we got advice from the mold testing company, we ended up leaving it all. The only things we’ve been able to take are our pots and pans and glass items — basically anything metal, plastic, or glass that has a completely smooth, non-porous surface. Our clothes, blankets, beds, all furniture, etc. are gone. We’ve erred on the side of caution, but — yes, we’ve lost a lot.
How to Get Tests Done
You have a few options. Call an independent hygienist, not a remediation company. Remediation companies generally look at reports from hygienists to give you an estimate to clean it all up. They do not do the testing themselves. They may be able to recommend a hygienist in your area, or you can search on google for one.
A realtor that specializes in distressed properties may also know of a good hygienist, as well as good remediators (if needed). We used MIT Mold in central OH. You can also take dust samples yourself, using home kits. People vary on how effective they think these are.
A lab like Mycometrics can walk you through the process of taking samples (usually using Swiffer cloths) and sending them in for analysis. There are three main types of tests that are done:
- Air sample (to see what is floating around)
- Swab sample (swab of actual, visible mold to see what it is and how much)
- Dust sample (to see what spores are sitting in the dust — especially Stachybotrys)
If you suspect issues but haven’t seen any visible mold, I would recommend doing the dust samples first. This is a cheaper testing route and will give you a clue if further testing is required.
If you know there is mold because you have seen it or are having serious health problems, call a hygienist to come in and do the testing. This is not cheap. But it is necessary, because you can’t get a remediation quote until you know what you are dealing with, and you can’t figure out what to do next for your health, either.
If the problem is really bad — leave. Just go. We were told this multiple times and it took us weeks to listen. Now we know how bad it was, and that we should have left sooner. If the mold is confined to one small area and most of the house isn’t affected, then quarantine that room, call a professional, and make sure they use protective gear and that they seal off the room while they are cleaning it. Small areas can be successfully remediated.
What If There’s Mold?
Do NOT try to clean it up yourself, especially if it involves cutting into walls or ceilings or ripping out carpets. This will make spores airborne, and even with some protection, can make problems much worse. We made this mistake — we thought if we had a HEPA air purifier and Thieves oil that we could keep the problems to a minimum. It didn’t work. (And we were warned about this. We didn’t listen. So now I’m warning you — it really is serious.)
Call a professional remediation company with a good reputation (try looking at Angie’s List) and get some estimates. If the problem is really bad, LEAVE. This kind of thing seriously impacts your health on a daily basis. Our kids haven’t had stomachaches, fevers, headaches, or vomiting episodes since we left…and these were happening on a weekly basis when we were there.
I know it’s easier said than done, especially if your budget is really tight. We are having to pay our mortgage and for our apartment right now. Plus having to buy all of our new furniture, beds, clothes, and so on. We’ve been lucky to have items donated to us, but this is still going to be really expensive. But still…our health is worth it. I couldn’t live like that anymore, with the brain fog, chronic infections, and more. If you’re dealing with the same thing, you shouldn’t either.
Now, we’re in our new, safe apartment and starting to piece things back together. We’ve been organizing the items we have and are buying. I’ll talk more about that process, our physical healing, and what we end up doing with the house in a couple weeks.
I do want to let you know, though, about an awesome deal that is going on right now — but ends tonight. If you’ve been reading regularly then you probably already know. If you haven’t, then you’ve been missing out! It’s called the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. It’s an entire library of healthy living resources, which I am finding so helpful right now. At the top of my personal list:
- The Nourished Metabolism
- Natural Soap Making
- Smoothie Secrets Revealed
- Easy Homemade
- Oh Lardy’s Guide to Keeping Backyard Chickens (not exactly something I can do *now* but something I’ve always wanted to do!)
- DIY Natural Household Cleaners
There are definitely more excellent books in there — there are almost 80! — but those are the ones that I’m reading or want to read soon.
I’m hoping to try my hand at soap making in the next few months. I’m also revamping the way I do grocery shopping and food preparation now because I have a much smaller fridge/freezer and less pantry space. I also have different grocery stores that are close to me.
I’ll be using Tradishen to remind me of some excellent pantry-stable recipes (because I have *more* pantry than freezer) and help me do some meal planning. You can get this whole collection for only $29.97.
It also comes with three months of *free* premium membership to Tradishen, free herbal remedy, free amber bracelet, free sourdough or yogurt starter, store credit for glass straws, credit towards cloth diapers/mama cloth, and more…. There are 10 bonus items in all. They’re worth over $200. I can’t wait to use my sourdough starter!
The sale ends at midnight tonight (9/15). If you’re on the fence, now’s the time to decide. You should know that there’s a 100% money-back guarantee for a full year after purchase, so you really have nothing to lose here. And you have everything to gain by getting these resources and changing your life.
Plus, the proceeds of the bundles that *I* sell personally are going to benefit my family right now, as we are putting our lives back together. If it’s something you can benefit from, and you’re almost sure you want it, will you buy it to support us? It’s a great way for you to help, and get something in return. We so appreciate your support.
Please promise you’ll at least take a look at this sale. Even if you’re really unsure about the whole thing. Every time I participate in one of these sales, a handful of people are sorry that they missed it. Either they meant to buy it and forgot, or they didn’t read the details until after it was over. People get excited once they really look into it! I don’t want you to be one of the people who regrets not buying it. So just promise you’ll look, okay? And if you don’t want it, it’s okay.
If you’re ready, here’s where you can buy it.