John McBride, his wife, and their three children vacated their home due to toxic mold 21 months ago. The process of finding a home and healing has been a long one and continues to this day. The journey has led John to speak out on the issue of health and the environment.
He serves as the New Jersey State Representative for the MCS Beacon Of Hope Foundation. He has authored legislation, currently in process, that should be introduced this year. He is also a member of the Global Indoor Health Network.
1. How did you first connect your environment with your health?
Actually, two things happened simultaneously to alert us. I was barely able to talk, and I began losing weight rapidly (after a period of rapid weight gain). I was losing 5-9 lbs monthly. My youngest daughter was also suffering from swollen tonsils and recurring fevers. We had a contractor come to do work and refused to come back because he noticed mold. When I told my primary physician about the family's symptoms coupled with my own, he said, "I think you have a mold problem."
We took walks outside and we would feel a little better until we came back. We also experienced a lowered resistance to temperature. In April of 2008 we went to the boardwalk. We were wearing heavy winter jackets. Everyone around us had T-shirts and shorts. I realized we were always cold in the house due to mold toxicity. Our other symptoms included heart palpitations, tremors, headaches, nosebleeds, etc. These would dissipate when we left the structure for a period of time.
2. How did you know it was time to leave?
I knew it was time to leave right away, when I found out about the mold. However, lacking the finances and with nowhere to go, we were trapped. It was the day my middle child Samantha was throwing up violently that we evacuated.
She was vomiting pure bile and I rushed her to the ER. She stopped after being there about 30 minutes. We were there 8 hours. Then 3 to 5 minutes after arriving back home from the ER, Samantha started vomiting again. Our cat was vomiting as well. In fact, we were all wearing N95 masks just to try and get a little comfort. We were all suffering relentlessly. Anyway, after this occurrence with Samantha, I was able to call a social service agency and they finally agreed to evacuate us to a motel.
3. Did you bring anything with you?
We brought clothing and some possessions. However, this made us all ill. To date, we have the birth certificates in a sealed ziplock plastic bag. If we open it, the toxins make us ill. We could not go back and get our things as we were too sick and the house made us ill. In fact, I went back to get the cable boxes so we would not be penalized for them and I started vomiting in the driveway. As time progressed we would come across old clothing or an item that the children sneaked by that was from the house. When we came in contact with it, we became ill. Even our car is contaminated, as this is where we put our clothing when we evacuated.
4. What would you say to someone who isn't sure toxic mold can cause health issues?
This is one of the hardest gaps to bridge. First I try a common-sense approach. I explain that people are more ill during the winter months because they spend more time in the home. This is where the fungi are in high amounts in condensed versions due to bad building construction and neglect. Many experience flu symptoms when in fact it is not the flu.
Then, of course, I argue from a scientific perspective. Man has created havens which serve as Petrie dishes. No other mammal on earth lives inside structures made of materials like this. We use walls made of gypsum which come from the earth, which already has fungi and bacteria covered by unsanitized cellulose-containing paper. A fungal favorite. Just add a little water/humidity and you have a buffet for mold. Then add in all the resin and latex in which fungi feed, and voila!
Does it make sense that no other species on earth suffers from the variety of chronic illnesses that we do? Do we see bald deer or animals coughing chronically, limping, or with severe weight differences within the same species? Our health issues have to be connected to our diet and how we live.
Scientifically speaking we are just a bunch of cells working together. If we ingest or inhale enemies to these cells, since we are made of trillions of cells, over time we start to feel this damage. In a mold-infested home, this process is accelerated. Science is demonstrating, and some doctors are starting to recognize, that mold fungi cause a lot of the commonly seen illnesses.
I also point out that fungi harms trees, apples, bananas, crops, etc. What makes us think we are exempt from the ravages of this organism?
At this point I use even more in-depth scientific jargon if I'm not getting through. I discuss GSTM1 nulls and susceptibilities. Fungi, along with bacteria, are competing organisms that, over time, have made some of us more susceptible by tweaking out our DNA production of antibodies to fight the organisms. GSTM1 null genotypes have formed and therefore a large percentage of us cannot defend against these toxins.
Then of course there is the nuclear factor. These toxins penetrate the nucleus to the mitochondria where the DNA is found. Right then and there our immune system can be depressed because our DNA is altered.
It is also known that mycotoxins may serve as an Hapten. This is what creates ROS's (reactive oxygen species). This is what ages us over time. ROS's cause cellular apoptosis (death). When cells reproduce they divide. When this occurs a slither of our DNA is not duplicated. So over time we get wrinkles, bone issues, etc. We are no longer the same on a cellular DNA level as we were at birth and during our younger years. This is one reason why mold victims tend to age so much more quickly. The more fungi, the more ROS creation within. I can go on and on, but I think this answers your question.
5. What have you learned about diet and health?
In my opinion and experience there are specific dietary protocols that should be followed. Many mold specialty physicians as well as anti-fungal literature supports strict dieting. It is always best to seek the advice of a qualified mold specialist as each person's dietary needs are unique.
That said, it is difficult to find foods that kill the fungi/bacteria directly and quickly without hurting ourselves. Mold fungi have cellular walls, while we only have membranes. Therefore we must find something to penetrate their walls and not harm ours. We must eat low sugar (carb) foods. Research has shown that cereal grains cause intestinal damage and health issues. Most are high in sugar and therefore fungi. Corn, for instance, is very glycemic (high in sugar) and contains many of the mycotoxins that we inhaled in the mold-infested structures. Every time I ate corn I got a tremor. It turns out corn contains Deoxynivalenol (DON), among other mycotoxins.
Wheat is another dangerous food. Not only does it contain mycotoxins such as in the vomitoxin class, it contains the gluten molecule. It's interesting to note that Greeks in the first century starting having health issues in the abdomen after wheat made its way into their culture. The Greek doctors called it Koiliakos, after the Greek word for abdomen. I have interviewed a number of diagnosed celiac patients and many came down with this illness after an exposure to mold.
Clothing and hygiene products are also important. Natural safe ones that do not contain chemical toxins. Even water filters to filter out chlorine and other immunotoxic elements are needed. Every little bit matters. You cannot get better by constantly ingesting or exposing yourself to a variety of immuno/cyto/ or neurotoxic chemicals.
7. What would you like to see happen legislatively to help protect people like yourself and others?
I have authored legislation for the state of New Jersey. It is to be introduced this year. The legislation mandates rules for testing and remediation. It provides for emergency evacuation and housing. It also puts in place preventive measures, and will create a public information program so that all involved will get trained in a consistent manner on the health effects of mold-induced illness. I would also like to see this done on a national level.