New Knowledge

We learned some valuable lessons through this latest mold experience. I wasn't looking to learn anything new about mold, nor was I eager to revisit our past trauma, but I'm grateful for the fresh knowledge.

1. Successful remediation is possible if the water damage is caught early enough and properly addressed.

The damage in our bathroom appeared minimal; however, once the company contained the area, established negative air flow, and opened up the wall, there was more mold than expected. I'm glad we didn't take matters into our own hands like we did three years ago.

2. Proper testing can be done by individuals.

We performed a dust sampling of the adjacent bedroom ourselves. We used a kit supplied by EMSL Analytical. ( EMLab P&K is another reputable lab.) The testing process was much easier than I expected. We attached a dust collection device to the vacuum hose and vacuumed for five minutes in an area near the bathroom. (If there is no carpeting, dust can be collected behind appliances, under beds, etc.)

We performed this test to determine if the stachybotrys cross-contaminated to the bedroom. Here is an abbreviated version of our test results:

(If litigation is a possibility it is always best to hire a certified hygienist to do the testing.)

3. Outdoor mold can affect the indoor environment.

While no toxic mold was found in our dust sample, our daughter's room showed low levels of the mold bipolaris, an outside mold common in climates like Arizona.

This proved to be good information, because the day we determined that the mold in our bathroom was stachybotrys, we opened the window in her room and used a couple of fans to cross-ventilate. Later in the night she experienced an allergic reaction complete with hives, itchiness, burning eyes, etc.

Another daughter woke up the next morning with an eye infection. Colin redeveloped a fungal rash on the backs on his knees.

When I read the following description of bipolaris, I became convinced the problem was the outdoor air rather than stachybotrys cross-contamination:

This fungus can grow as a mold in semi-dry environments. Dry spore distributed by wind. Bipolaris grows in plant debris, soil and acts as a plant pathogen towards numerous plants, particularly grasses. It can grow inside on a variety of materials.

Is Bipolaris Allergenic?

This fungus causes allergic fungal sinusitis, characterized by the presence of Bipolaris in the sinuses. In certain people with severe allergies, the large spores of this fungus can travel to the sinuses (upper respiratory tract), where they attach to the mucus and grow, producing an unrelenting allergic reaction that progressively and permanently damages the sinuses.

This mold is a potential allergen and is the leading cause of allergic fungal sinusitis. Some people may experience hay fever or asthma.

This fungus is associated with phaeohyphomycosis, a disease consisting of a group of mycotic infections characterized by the presence of demataceous septate hyphae. Infections of the eyes and skin by black fungi could also be classified as phaeohyphomycosis.

Why did we have such a strong reaction to the bipolaris? I'm guessing a recent windy day stirred up the mold. More than that, we have a condition known as fungal hypersensitivity. This often follows an extreme toxic mold exposure.

According to mold specialist, the late Dr. Vincent Marinkovich:

Once the patient has become hypersensitive to the mold in their environment, they have also become overly reactive to all molds in their life including those they breathe elsewhere, those they eat and those that may be colonizing their tissues. Relief of symptoms can only come with a significant reduction in exposure including a mold-free diet, avoidance of mold-ridden environments and treatment of mold colonization.

(For the full article on Fungal Hypersensitivity by Dr. Marinkovich, click here.)

In some ways this latest chapter feels like a bit of a setback. I'm encouraged by the words of athlete and author Dan Millman:

When we feel stuck, going nowhere--
even starting to slip backwards--
we may actually be backing up to get a running start.