This applies to everybody, but especially for those who suffer from Mould Illness/Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).

 

Don’t kill mould, safely remove it instead.

 

Why don’t you want to kill mould?

Mould spores and hyphae (roots) will fragment into hundreds of toxic particles when killed. When inhaled these ultrafine and nano particles, and the toxins residing on them, trigger the innate immune system which sees them as Pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMPs) and Damage-associated molecular pattern (DAMPs) (Source: Berndtson, K. (2016). Biotoxin Pathway 2.0). Killing mould spores can also make them produce more mycotoxins and other defense mechanisms such as microbial VOCs as they die.

So in all respects you actual increase the toxin and inflammagen load when you kill, rather than remove, mould.

Substances that kill mould and other microbes are known as antimicrobials or biocides.

There’s a huge disconnect between Indoor Environmental Professionals (IEPs) and mould remediators who follow best practice industry standards and most news or blog articles on the internet and many government agencies, even those quoting mycologists and other “experts”.

What is a water-damaged building?

According to Dr. Shoemaker’s studies a building is considered water-damaged when it has any one of the following:

  • A musty odour
  • Visible mould growth
  • HERTSMI-2 score > 11 (derived from the ERMI test which is qPCR test based on household dust co-developed by the EPA)

I would add the following

  • An Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP) has inspected the building and indicated there is mould overgrowth/the building is water-damaged
  • There’s an increase in symptoms when in the building compared to outside, or another mould free location. Read The Beginners Guide to Mold Avoidance by Lisa Petrison and Erik Johnson
  • There’s an increase in fails on VCS testing when exposed to the building
  • There’s an increase in C4a when exposed to the building (see Dr. Shoemaker’s SAIIE protocol/FAQ, or Dr. Patel’s serial C4a testing)

What should you do instead?

The caveat here is that if you have more than a small amount of surface only mould growth then you should consult with an IEP and if required a professional remediator. An IEP will write up a remediation scope of works for the remediator to follow.

Make sure the IEP/remediator follow the IICRC S520 at a minimum and give them the Surviving Mold IEP consensus statement for them to follow. See the References section for where I’ve sourced my information.

From Mold Illness Made Simple © Dr. Gupta 2016

Click the plus sign to expand each section

Step 1. Stop the moisture
Step 2. Remove porous building materials safely
Step 3. Clean and dry all surfaces
Step 4. Re-test to see if it's safe for re-occupancy
Don't Believe the Hype - Antimicrobial and anti-mould sprays

There are several problems with biocide sprays or solutions, such as Exit Mould, chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide and more. The main one of course is that they kill mould which we don’t want. Additionally they can be toxic when inhaled and add moisture to the building materials which itself feeds mould growth. Bleach/Exit Mould  (Sodium hypochlorite) only superficially strip away the colour of mould and consumer grade products are rarely in a high enough concentration to actually kill it. None of these will work on porous materials.

Exit Mould received a Choice Shonky award in 2012 for its unsubstantiated claims that it “Kills ingrained mould” and “penetrates porous surfaces to attack mould at the source.”

Vinegar

Ah yes everybody’s favourite. It’s natural so it must be good, right? The use of vinegar, usually diluted to 80% white vinegar / 20% is controversial. The Australian Mould guidelines (2010) and many remediators support its use, and it is at least non toxic compared to bleach. The bottom line is that it’s still an antimicrobial that kills mould.

Essential Oils

Clove oil, thieves oil and tea tree oil are popular in the mould community but they are generally not recommended as not only do they kill mould the oil can provide food for future mould growth.

Quats

Quaternary ammonium compounds, such as diluted Windex, are recommended by Dr. Shoemaker in his books Surviving Mold and State of the art answers to 500 mold questions. They may have the ability to bind toxins but are considered antimicrobials.

Gassing and Fogging

There’s fierce debate in the mould testing, remediation and patient community on the role, if any, of biocides whether hydrogen peroxide, ozone gas, chlorine dioxide, concrobium or any other magic mixture. If they have a place, it’s after mould removal and in place of, or addition to, antimicrobial wiping. Be extremely wary of any remediator who tries to sell a fog or gas as the sole means remediation. From the IICRC 520:

12.2.1 Remediators should not mist or fog disinfectants or sanitizers in an attempt to kill mold in lieu of source removal.

Protecting Yourself

If you’re an CIRS patient, any mould removal should done by someone else, ideally a professional. In fact be out of the house/building while remediation is taking place.

Everyone, patient or not, should use protective gear when removing mould. The CDC recommends at a minimum:

Wear personal protective equipment. Wear an N-95 respirator at a minimum, goggles, and protective gloves. …AFTER YOU LEAVE A MOLD SITE: Protect yourself and loved ones. Shower and change your clothes. This will help you avoid carrying mold and other hazards back to your current living quarters.

A heavily contaminated building may require full Personal protective equipment (PPE)

References

The main documents I’ve drawn from are the industry standard ANSI/IICRC S520 Mold Remediation Standard/Reference Guide (2015) and the Surviving Mold IEP Panel Consensus Statement (2016) .

IICRC 520
Surviving Mold IEP Panel
Peer Review
EPA
OSHA
NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

 So there you have it, let’s get the right information out in the mould community. Once more with feeling:

 

Don’t kill mould, safely remove it instead.

 

Stay tuned for the next part: Remove, Don’t Kill Mould – Part 2 – Possessions

Caleb Rudd

Images: Bigstock.com

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