Why the Dumpsters?

It is with a great sense of relief that we begin a new week, a new summer, and a new chapter in our lives.

Our home sale went through on Friday, the dumpsters arrived, and the disposal process began. Our neighbor, Brandi, captured some of the action for us.

Did we really need to leave everything behind on the day we vacated the home?

We were advised to treat the house as a fire and flee with the clothing on our backs. We were further advised to dispose of that clothing.

I now see the wisdom of this counsel. Not only for health reasons, but for sanity's sake. We were colonized with fungus when we left our home. We carried the fungus with us. It should have been no surprise to me, therefore, that we were symptomatic after we left. Still, I was shocked by the nosebleeds, recurring migraines, rashes, etc. We constantly worried about cross-contamination. If we brought anything with us, our already compromised sanity would be shaken further.

This is why I advise others who find themselves in a mold-infested environment to make a new start with new clothing and air mattresses. Make your decisions about your belongings later. Once you're settled and establish a fresh environment, you can consider them. Often the desire to bring things with you lessens. If stachybotrys is not involved, items may be successfully cleaned. Often professional cleaning is optimal. Other times, white vinegar and/or hydrogen peroxide can be used. With severe health issues it is always best to proceed with the utmost caution.

Toxicologist Dr. Jack Thrasher addresses the issue of cross-contamination this way:

The toxins produced by mold are basically free radicals, i.e. they have reactive oxygen radicals that bind to fabrics and can be released with time. Also, not only Stachybotrys, but other dangerous molds release fine particles as well as larger particles, e.g. spores. The fine particles (less than 1 micron) permeate fabrics and are not readily removed. In addition, the mold spores bind to fabrics and can lead to cross-contamination of the new environment.

Also, do not forget the presence of potentially pathogenic bacteria. They can be aerosolized and also contaminate furnishings and clothing.

Dr. Thrasher mentions the smaller particles. Smaller than mold spores. Let's first consider the size of mold spores. According to Minnesota State University Moorhead's Environmental Health and Safety link regarding mold spores:

Most fungal spores range from 1 to 100 microns in size with many types between 2 and 20 microns. People with good vision may see 80-100 micron particles unaided, but below that range, magnification is generally necessary.

To put things in perspective, you could place over 20 million five-micron spores on a postage stamp.

As for the smaller particles, a study conducted in 2005, and published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, demonstrates that "fungal fragments" may be deeply inhaled and cause significant problems. The study focuses on fragments and spores of three different fungal species (Aspergillus versicolor, Penicillium melinii, and Stachybotrys chartarum). All three were aerosolized by the fungal spore source strength tester. The conclusion:

Fungal fragments released from contaminated surfaces outnumber spores.


S. chartarum fragments demonstrated 230–250 fold higher respiratory deposition than spores, while the number of deposited fragments and spores of A. versicolor were comparable.

The conclusion of a second study published in the January 2009 edition of the Science of the Total Environment Journal:

The present study indicates that long-term mold damage in buildings may increase the contribution of submicrometer-sized fungal fragments to the overall mold exposure. The health impact of these particles may be even greater than that of spores, considering the strong association between numbers of fine particles and adverse health effects reported in other studies (Gold et al., 2000; Magari et al., 2001, 2002; Pekkanen et al., 2002).

These studies clearly suggest that there is more than meets the eye when toxic mold is involved.

When I consider the seizures, organ failure, brain damage, horrific rashes, endocrine disruption, and more that occurred in our home, I don't have to think twice about saving our new refrigerator.

Could we have saved some of our non-porous items? Perhaps. Do I regret not trying? Absolutely not.

Could someone else have used our possessions with little to no ill health effects? Perhaps. Do I regret the cautious action of dumping the items? No, because we’re sure no one's health will ever be compromised with these items.

I have learned the hard way to respect mold spores, and now fungal fragments, the way I respect lightning, icy roads, and hurricanes. It is my passion to help others do the same.


  1. Thank you, Andrea! Anything we did salvage from our moldy environment, I regret not destroying, especially after seeing your post. Things can have mold spores in them, but not appear to the naked eye like it is moldy. The spores can cause more health problems than the mold that is wet growing. Because it is the spores that can produce the mycotoxins. This scientific info Andrea posted will help others as they leave and choose what to do with their stuff. Maybe one someone want to throw out everything, but another family member disagrees and wants to save some things. This can create MUCH conflict - it did in our family. This factual information you posted may help sort things out. Better to get away from all the moldy stuff than to bring in those mold spores into your new environment. Can you put important things into storage while you decide? Warn the storage owner you have some moldy things. Warning:storage fees can get expensive...! Don't forget you may need to change out your car, glasses, wallet, keys, medications, etc. If you are unsure of whether to take your things, perhaps you can place a bag around your mattress or chair/couch. Have someone do an air test of the air inside that bag. Push on the cushion or mattress a bit during/before the air test. A qualified tester can help with this. I didn't want to pay for such a test - i would rather throw my mattress, etc. out to be on the safe side.

  2. WOW!!! Powerful post!

    Harry T

  3. Andrea, thanks for the post. others in our situation need to know this. WE only took our kids loved items with us, but now are replacing them I hope that we have not exposed to many things with them. It is scary to wrap your mind aroud all that is lost, but are health is so worth it. Thank you for your time and energy to help so many of us through this. Kelly Batic

  4. Kelly,
    You're doing great. It was so nice to meet you recently. Hope all is going as well as possible.

  5. I can see why they told you to treat it like a fire. It is stressful when you take things and always wonder if it cross contaminates and continues making you sick...I didn't know you continue to detox and it comes and goes. I do know my asthma hasn't acted up at all since leaving our home, even though we did take electronics and a few other things, we left ALL our wood furniture, picture frames or anything else we couldn't decontaminate behind...

  6. Regarding what Wade said...can electronics truely be adequately cleaned so as not to contaminate? What about all of the air spaces that little mold spores, fungus and microbacteria that can get inside? And what about computers...laptops? Can these be hepa vaccummed adequately? I am new to this journey...new to finding out what is going on.

  7. From what I understand, it's important to know the type of mold you're dealing with. Stachybotrys is very difficult to clean. It's best to leave electronics behind when stachy is involved. When aspergillus/pennicilium is involved, certain things can be HEPA'd. My husband was able to have his radio equipment professionally cleaned since we knew it was only exposed to aspergillus.

    I suggest creating a clean environment and waiting before bringing questionable items in the home. Even then, do them one at a time and see if you react to them.

    When it comes to toxic mold, you can never lose to be cautious.