A Hospital Bill and a Reminder

I met with the finance director of a hospital last week. The blood tests from last December weren't fully covered by insurance and our debt had grown.

A $3,000 dollar bill had become $4,500 dollars, and we felt it was unwarranted.

At the time of the first bill from this hospital we were fleeing from a rental home due to pesticide exposure. Medical bills were stacking up from across the country. Our minds were fogged and we struggled just to keep track of the mail being forwarded from Colorado.

Chris handled most of the bills. I set up a payment plan for this hospital and felt confident all was in place.

We were shocked when we heard from a collections agency this last summer. Our debt from this hospital had been turned over to them. "How would you like to pay?" For two people with a spotless credit history, this question felt surreal.

With no paperwork and only their word, we set up a payment schedule.

We continued to ask for a detailed list of charges and several months later received the bill.

There was a $1,500 charge in addition to the $3,000 we owed.

Why weren't we notified by the hospital that this was being transferred? What happened to the payment plan I set up originally?

We requested a meeting with the hospital's finance director and agreed I would represent us since I was the one to set up the plan.

I walked into the hospital last Monday morning with great trepidation. My composure easily gives way to tears anytime I discuss our story.

I gave her a little of our background. I talked about losing our home and the severity of our illnesses, but quickly moved to my point.

"I set up a payment plan with the hospital and heard nothing about other charges until the collections agency called."

"That payment plan involved only one charge. These other charges were not covered under that plan. Further, it is documented that messages were left on someone's phone." She had a demeaning tone of voice. I could tell arguing was not going to help.

"If I write you a check today for what we owe, will you consider reducing this charge?"

(Chris and I agreed, no matter how stretching, it's worth paying now, rather than stringing it out over more months.)

She responded positively. She took off some of the charges. And kept others.

The trip was worthwhile. We paid the hospital and our bill with the collections agency is now at zero.

I walked away with mixed emotions. Thankful for the compromise and release of the debt.

Pained by the reality that we're in rural Arizona fighting a hospital for charges that mark tragic, horrifying events. Pained by the fact that our insurance carrier willingly paid for the 30 doctors who knew nothing about mold illness, but refused payment for the one who did.

The pain trumped my relief until I arrived home and opened a card from a friend.

Who felt led to send a gift card to our favorite health food store.

A gentle reminder.

I don't "need" our insurance company. It would be foolish to believe that.

Fairness and Justice are not in my control.

I don't have to remain stuck in despondency when something bigger and better awaits.

The book of Isaiah tells me,

He gives "a crown of beauty instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

I'll take those health benefits any day.

Thanksgiving Menu

I stand amazed.

We actually cooked a yeast-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, wheat-free, sugar-free, casein-free Thanksgiving dinner. And loved it!

We have come to realize just how intolerant our bodies have become to processed foods in any form. The more we gravitate to a raw/whole foods diet, the better we feel.

This is our menu from yesterday:

Turkey (free-range, no antibiotics or hormones) with oil and spices. Cavity filled with onions, garlic, and celery.

Mashed red potatoes. We can't tolerate the starch in Russet potatoes, so we opted to try twice-baked red potatoes. We boiled the potatoes, mashed them with chicken broth, added stir-fried onions, garlic, and green pepper, and baked them for 20 minutes. We had no leftovers.

Yams slow-cooked with adzuki beans, tomatoes, and vegetables in a vegetable broth.

Cranberry sauce. Made with freshly juiced apples and stevia.

Our courageous friends, who graciously gave up the traditional fare, brought green beans flavored with lemon pepper, and squash with nothing added.

Cindy blazed the dessert trail by making all sorts of gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free pumpkin pies. She even made gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free pumpkin pudding with coconut milk in place of evaporated milk.

Two Thanksgivings ago we ate at our neighbors' home. We were in the midst of our son's battle with vertigo. Megan carried him home that night.

Last Thanksgiving we ate at a restaurant. Headaches, depression, and stomach pains prevailed.

This year we played Outburst with friends.

We're getting there. One gluten-free pumpkin pie at a time.

Thanksgiving Reflections

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."

Albert Schweitzer

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."


"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."

G.K. Chesterton

Rea Treatment Protocol

The Environmental Health Center in Dallas, Texas is one of the few facilities to offer environmentally safe housing in addition to medical services for toxic mold exposure. Founded in 1974 by Dr. William Rea, the Center treats a variety of issues such as allergies, chemical exposures, electrical sensitivities, and more.

Their temporary housing is a model for environmentally safe residences.

Dr. Rea recently published his treatment protocol in the magazine Toxicology and Industrial Health. The article focuses on 28 people who became incapacitated following an exposure to mold and mycotoxins.

These individuals, ranging in age from 12 to 70 (7 males, 21 females), "were studied and treated with a protocol of cleaning up or changing their environment to be mold free," according to the study.

Total environmental load was reduced by professional cleaning of the building involved. Mold cultures were taken before and after the cleaning.

"Forty percent of the patients had to leave the building permanently because even after the cleaning and negative mold plates, they still could not tolerate the building. This intolerance appeared to be due to residual mycotoxin and/or the patient’s inability to tolerate building repair and residual toxic chemicals that they could previously tolerate.

Total body load (Rea, 1997a,b,c) was reduced by having the patients drink less polluted glass bottled spring water and eat organic food with a rotary diet so that the patient would not eat the same food more than once in 4 days. The patients would avoid any food to which they were sensitive."

Treatment included sauna therapy, oral nutrients, oxygen therapy, and more.

The full protocol can be viewed in PDF format by clicking here.

This study serves as a reminder that clean air, clean food, and clean water are key components of recovery.

Determination is pretty important, too.

Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce

It's Thanksgiving week, and many of us are headed to the grocery store for yams, apples, berries, and all sorts of produce. Choosing organic is often daunting because of the price. The good news is we can buy selectively, thanks to a handy shopping guide offered by the Environmental Working Group.

The EWG is a watchdog organization seeking to protect human health and raise awareness on environmental issues such as pesticides. Its free Shopper's Guide, now in its 5th edition, shows which fruits and vegetables are most apt to have significant pesticides. According to the EWG, consumers can reduce their exposure by 80 percent by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables.

This, of course, is valuable information for those fighting a toxic exposure such as mold. But it's also valuable to anyone who wants to lighten their toxic load even if their health is strong.

According to the EWG, "If consumers get their USDA-recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables from the 15 most contaminated, they could consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest less than 2 pesticides daily."

Here are the 12 fruits and vegetables determined to be most contaminated. The EWG calls these the "Dirty Dozen":

· Peach
· Apple
· Bell Pepper
· Celery
· Nectarine
· Strawberries
· Cherries
· Kale
· Lettuce
· Grapes (imported)
· Carrot
· Pear

The "Clean 15" are as follows:

· Onion
· Avocado
· Sweet Corn
· Pineapple
· Mango
· Asparagus
· Sweet Peas
· Kiwi
· Cabbage
· Eggplant
· Papaya
· Watermelon
· Broccoli
· Tomato
· Sweet Potato

The Shopper's Guide can be downloaded free at this site.

Our Last Puppy

I couldn't find Brandon anywhere the other morning. He woke up, walked through the kitchen, and disappeared.

He was in our house. Just in an unusual spot. Unusual for a child who has hit the ground running since the day he learned he could climb out of his crib.

Brandon was our only child born in Colorado. He was a week early, in NICU for a few days, and only nursed for 6 weeks. Something was different about Brandon from the beginning.

He had trouble making eye contact. Even with me. He was easily distracted. Which made nursing difficult. As he grew older he was just plain difficult. He didn't listen well and was extremely independent. Dangerously independent.

I didn't realize how "undisciplined" he was until kindergarten. He was one of those uncontrollable little boys. A new experience for this veteran mother. Our older kids weren't angels but they were pretty compliant in school.

During his kindergarten year I picked up a book titled "The Last Puppy."

"I was the last of momma's nine puppies," the book begins. Each day the puppy waits for someone to pick him. All of his siblings get picked and he waits. "When will my turn come?" the puppy asks. Of course he gets picked at just the right time by just the right little girl.

Brandon's kindergarten "All About Me" poster looked like this:

"I am special because _______________"

"I'm the last puppy."

By first grade his PE teacher pulled me aside. He was about to pull his hair out because of Brandon. This was 4 months after our massive exposure and our world was beginning to unravel. Brandon's uncontrollable behavior was put on the back burner. I sympathized with the teacher. I had similar feelings.

Another teacher was shocked when I told her that Brandon came home one day in tears because the kids made fun of a little girl. "I'm so glad you told me that," she said. I know she had a hard time seeing past his behavior. I did too.

If we weren't so focused on the myriad of illnesses we were experiencing we might have pursued testing for ADD or ADHD. In my mind, Brandon was a classic case.

It wasn't until I read the book "Your Guide to Mold Toxins" by Dr. James Schaller that I connected Brandon's behavior to our mold exposure. Even then I was skeptical.

When I received my Mycotoxin 101 education from Dr. Gray 4 months after we left our home, I learned that mycotoxins create noise in the brain. One reason why exposed children have a hard time sitting still.

I had renewed hope that we didn't need a parenting class. We needed to de-tox our child.

Every time we've experienced a setback, like the severe pesticide exposure, or high amounts of sugar, we've noticed Brandon relapse into "wild" behavior. Inappropriate giggling, talking incessantly, misbehavior.

Little by little over the last 10 months we've watched him change. His tutor recently commented, "He's making eye contact!"

Last week when I couldn't find him after he woke up, the last place I checked was back in his bed.

There he was. Curled up reading Charlotte's Web. He had been reading for an hour.

I can't believe how different he is.

The Brandon who lurks behind those toxic chains is emerging.

(photo by Kristen Fabry)
Brandon has a ways to go. He still gets distracted. He still has trouble focusing.

That's okay. Because, even when life is hard, moments become years in the blink of an eye.

Last Puppies get picked. All too soon.

Mold Testimonies

I continue to hear from people all over the country who have battled mold. The following two stories demonstrate the range of experiences. From quick remediation, to undetected and massive exposure like ours. I share them both, with permission, knowing that each story will help others who find themselves confronted with water leaks and/or resulting mold.

Story 1
Last week we discovered mold in our crawl space because of a sump pump failure that left standing water for several days. Thankfully – I went right to your blog and read your recommendations. We were able to follow your instructions, and a quality mold remediation company has spent the last week drying, testing and remediating the crawl space. If I had not heard your story or read your blog, I would have probably ignored the mold or if I had pursued it, I would not have pursued a qualified company. The air and tape test showed coelomycetes and penicillium – in high concentrations in the crawl space with very little in the living space.

Story 2
By blood tests and history, I was diagnosed with environmental illness by an expert named Dr. Eckhardt Johanning in 1999. I was only 17 at the time my symptoms became debilitating (in 1998) and was profoundly affected by the mold spores circulating in our house - the levels being highest in my bedroom.

We do not know how long the mold had been growing in the walls of our house but had lived there 14 years. My mother, like you, found a small dark patch on the carpet in my room, near the leg of my wooden desk (which had been wicking water up the leg from under the carpet). We went through professional air testing, and my family was late in vacating because we had no idea how serious the situation was at the time.

I stayed with a friend, but eventually we ended up in temporary housing - first a hotel suite that had a kitchenette sprayed with pesticides, second an apartment with rental furniture that had been treated with pesticides, and third another apartment with a water leak and more mold.

Over the course of all of these moves, it was recognized that we all had multiple chemical sensitivity. We had a plastic patio table and airbeds for furniture. We carried our clothes around in garbage bags. At the time, we couldn't go to movies, the grocery store, or virtually any public place without having symptoms and feeling disoriented. My symptoms included profound fatigue, swollen glands, sore throats, flushing in my face, diarrhea, frequent urination, headaches, muscle twitching, constant dizziness, an inability to multitask, inability to concentrate, irritability, memory problems, nosebleeds, and severe muscle aches.

I had always had sinus problems as well. I had no energy and slept constantly. I ended up having many school absences in high school, losing a summer job I valued, and having to leave my first college due to their regular (and excessive) pesticide spraying.

My parents suffered from lung problems, fatigue, ringing in the ears, concentration problems, memory issues, and rash. We were extraordinarily damaged physically and traumatized emotionally. We were constantly trying to prevent cross-contamination. We lost our home, our belongings, and our sense of well-being and had to battle the insurance company on top of it, taking a big financial hit.

I had to write to share my story because reading about what you've gone through was like finally finding someone who understands what we endured. Telling your story through your blog is so powerful and important. At times, I feel as if what we went through wasn't real - simply a horrific nightmare - with no validation for our experience, no one who could possibly understand the devastation. It's always been such a battle just to have chemical sensitivity understood, believed, and accommodated.

As I read your story, I felt such overwhelming sorrow and compassion for what your family has suffered. The familiar details you posted triggered all the old emotions to come flooding back. We had people disregard and minimize our problems - doctors who told us we were overreacting to "odors" and insurance people who didn't wear any kind of protective masks when going through our house.

It was such a terrible time for us, and as someone who has survived 10 years after the trauma (in addition to my grandparents' home having the same problem in 2004), I'm writing to say that I have felt that extreme pain and that my faith in Christ is what has sustained me.

Shelter from the Storm

It's been a rough week at the "cactus compound and de-tox center" (the name for our rental home given by my husband). Lots of reminders of why we're in the middle of the desert away from civilization. A virus caught at the gym, a reaction to a perfume at a store, headaches from a used computer, etc.

I knew within a month of vacating our home that recovery would mean some major changes. I just didn't know how drastic. Our diet is so radically different I still can't believe my kids are satisfied with stir-fried brown rice and aduki beans as a main meal.

I really can't believe my kids are being taught at home by a tutor provided by the school district. I certainly would never have imagined that the highlight of my week would be my trip to the Farmer's Market around the corner.

That's our life now. For how long? I don't know. I do know that when we signed our 1-year lease in August we were committing to a season of voluntary "confinement" in order to heal from the vicious assault waged by toxic mold.

It's a risk for sure. One that I'm willing to take if there's any chance of giving my kids a second chance at life.

The Bible talks about the sparrow and assures me that I don't have to be afraid for our future, for I am "worth more than many sparrows."

I saw a sparrow not long ago. It was on our back porch during the final monsoon of the season.

We watched in silence. The bird stood so calmly. So confidently. So willingly.

Confident that the storm would pass. Certain that he was safest under our roof rather than the trees. Content to wait. Ready to fly.

I hate that my kids aren't at sleepovers and birthday parties. I miss our friends and community. I long for healthy interaction with the outside world.

But I'm confident that our bodies need this rest. Certain that our immune systems need the opportunity to heal. And I'm content to wait it out. Most days.

My greatest hope is that one day, sooner than I might expect, my children will fly again.

When they do, I hope and pray they witness the same signature we saw moments after our sparrow flew away.

(Photos by Kristen Fabry)

A Small Step, A Giant Leap

Your doctor may soon be telling you to back off on the use of plastics, eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in your home, and find natural alternatives for pesticides and herbicides. You may even be encouraged one day in the future to check your home for toxic mold.

The following press release was issued this week:

The American Medical Association's (AMA) House of Delegates adopted a resolution calling on the AMA to work with the federal government to enact new federal policies to decrease the public's exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

The resolution, introduced by The Endocrine Society, reflects the findings and recommendations of The Endocrine Society’s peer-reviewed Scientific Statement on EDCs released by the Society this past June. Adoption of this resolution means that it is now AMA policy and is wholly supported by the House of Medicine.

What are these EDCs?

An endocrine disrupter is a chemical that disrupts or interferes with the proper functioning of the endocrine system.

Examples of these agents include phthalates, PCBs and polychlorinated dibenzodioxins, brominated flame retardants, dioxins, DDT, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), organochlorine pesticides, bisphenol A, and some metals.

Where do you find these agents?

In common household pesticide and herbicide products, meat supplies, fish, household plastics, water bottles, and more.

What does all of this have to do with toxic mold?

The mycotoxins released by molds such as stachybotrys, aspergillus, penicillium, and others have the same impact on the body as the poisonous substances referred to in this statement.

I know this from personal experience. Our endocrine systems have still not recovered from our mold exposure. Here are some of the conditions we're still battling:

Adrenal fatigue, diabetes, excessive menstrual bleeding, halted menstrual cycles, endometriosis, chronic fatigue, gynecomastia (swelling of breast tissue in boys), thyroid dysfunction, and more.

Dr. Michael Gray was the first doctor to explain to me the effects of endocrine disrupters. He urged us to avoid plastics, buy organic, and explained why we were seeing so much hormonal imbalance in our family. He wrote this in the article titled Molds, Mycotoxins, and Human Health (italics are mine):

Mycotoxins produced by structural molds--meaning molds imported into the residences, workplaces, and public buildings on the paper covering the drywall, and other wood based composite materials--often represent some of the most toxic substances known to humankind.

The climate of "deregulation" that has prevailed since the early eighties has favored the proliferation of new construction in which building codes requiring pretreatment of building materials with anti-fungal agents have simply not been adequately enforced.

This in turn has led to circumstances, which when coupled with "corner-cutting" structural defects, have led to the conditions which favor water intrusion that has all too often allowed the appearance of truly toxic levels of mold spores and mycotoxins, which are, in turn, capable of inducing serious diseases resulting from the presence of agents with the potential for damaging the human immune system, inducing allergies, gastrointestinal disorders, skin disease, neurological disease, endocrine disruption, birth defects, cancer, pulmonary, renal, hepatic, and general metabolic disorders.

What does the AMA resolution mean for the average consumer?

The Natural Resources Defense Council offers these suggestions to reduce your exposure to EDCs:

- Educate yourself about endocrine disruptors, and educate your family and friends.

- Buy organic food whenever possible.

- Avoid using pesticides in your home or yard, or on your pet--use baits or traps instead, keeping your home especially clean to prevent ant or roach infestations.

- Find out if pesticides are used in your child's school or day care center and campaign for non-toxic alternatives.

- Avoid fatty foods such as cheese and meat whenever possible.

- If you eat fish from lakes, rivers, or bays, check with your state to see if they are contaminated.

- Avoid heating food in plastic containers, or storing fatty foods in plastic containers or plastic wrap.

- Do not give young children soft plastic teethers or toys, since these leach potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

- Support efforts to get strong government regulation of and increased research on endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

I am excited about this AMA statement. The tide continues to turn and there is hope for change.

In my opinion, it's one small step for the AMA, one potential giant leap for mankind.

Food Inc.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."

- Hosea 4:6

The prophet Hosea makes it clear that voluntary blindness is a lethal choice.

Knowledge is better than ignorance. Especially in terms of the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.

When our health fails us, self-education is a wise and often a necessary means of recovery.

A powerful documentary was released on DVD November 3rd. "Food Inc." shows us exactly what is behind the fast food we eat in restaurants and even what we buy at grocery stores.

Click here to see the trailer

When viewing this film it helps to understand that corn and peanuts are among the foods commonly contaminated with mycotoxins, including the known carcinogen aflatoxin. Those of us who have suffered a major mold exposure recognize this mycotoxin as one that comes from the mold type aspergillus. Knowledge about mycotoxins in food is critical to our recovery.

Doug Kaufmann says this in his book "The Fungus Link ":

". . . random testing results tell us that when we avoid eating corn, peanuts, and anything that contains them, we remove a major, potential source of mycotoxins from our diets."

Discernment is always a must, but from my perspective this film serves as a valuable tool for anyone eager to improve their health.

Haunting Question

"How could you not have known?"

Every once in a while this question haunts me. "How could you see so much sickness and not consider your environment?"

I remember the first time my friend, Lisa, suggested the possibility that our indoor air was a factor. It was December, 2007. Reagan had just returned home from his fourth ear surgery.

She used the phrase "sick building."

I didn't dismiss her. But it sure seemed unlikely if not impossible that our mold remediation had anything to do with Reagan's vertigo and hearing loss. Or Colin's diabetes. Or the fact that Kaitlyn was calling from school saying she was dizzy. Or the issues with our older children.

After all, we had been assured numerous times that mold is harmless.

Nonetheless I called an environmental hygienist to check it out.

"Do any of your children have respiratory illness?" he asked.

"No," I answered.

"Then I wouldn't waste your money on an air test," he assured me.

I was relieved. In retrospect I don't know why I was relieved. Maybe because the environment road would require something more of us. Maybe because deep down I knew the ramifications of discovering our home was making us sick.

We kept going to doctors. The kids kept getting sicker. And I kept denying my own declining health.

In all we saw 30 medical professionals. When possible I mentioned my other kids' illnesses. Quickly these would be minimized or dismissed as irrelevant. I kept hearing the word "stress" or "psychologist" or "enabling." Because of my desperation I began to think outside of the box. I began to think for myself. I was no longer willing to accept the prevailing "symptom management" mentality.

We found mold again. In an upstairs bathroom. We called the same remediation company but my awakening helped me question their remediation practices. Thanks to wise counsel we decided to test our home, something the remediator never suggested.

These are the medical issues we were experiencing at the time we tested our home in May of 2008.

Endometriosis, vertigo, hearing loss, frequent urination, shortness of breath, type 1 diabetes, severe rashes, headaches, seizures, hair loss, sleep disturbance, fits of rage, muscle pain, diarrhea, ADD, memory loss, brain fog, abdominal pain, ear ringing, convergence insufficiency, depression, anxiety disorders, personality alterations, numb hands, cold feet, chronic sore throat, food allergies, severe acne, nosebleeds, nail fungus, weight changes, metallic taste, vision disturbances, swollen adenoids, and migraines.

Our test results came back on May 22, 2008. High levels of stachybotrys. 400 times the amount of mold indoors compared with outdoors.

"How could we not have known?"


When I try to answer this question I spiral into a world of self-centeredness and self-pity.

I find myself asking a different question these days,

"What will we do with what we now know?"

Now this question leads to a world of endless possibilities, hope, and healing.

Call to Action

As our family continues to put our heart and soul into a long and extensive recovery from mold poisoning, I remain adamant that education is the key to awakening our country to the dangers of toxic mold.

The following paper was released more than 2 years ago by the University of Pittsburgh. Clearly a call to action, the authors offer stunning evidence that toxic mold is truly the lead and radon issue of our day.

For millennia, doctors and public health workers have understood the role of indoor environments in causing or exacerbating human diseases. For example, Hippocrates was aware of the adverse effects of polluted indoor air in crowded cities and mines, and Biblical Israelites understood the dangers of living in damp housing (Leviticus 14:34−57).

Indoor hazards include biological, chemical, and physical contaminants that cause or exacerbate a variety of adverse health effects in humans. In modern societies, people spend about 90% of their time indoors, and most of that time is spent in private homes (people in the United States, Canada, and Germany spend on average 15.6−15.8 h per day in their homes). Hence, indoor environmental quality (IEQ) may significantly affect public health and well-being.

Mold and moisture in indoor environments have been recognized as important public health concerns. Extensive water damage to buildings increases the likelihood of severe mold contamination. Mold can cause human illness through several mechanisms, including allergy, infection, and toxicity.

Longitudinal studies have shown that children exposed to high levels of indoor mold in their early years and adults who have lived in damp homes for a number of years have an increased probability of developing asthma. Infants with or without asthmatic mothers experience increased wheezing and coughing associated with mold exposure. There is sufficient evidence of association between indoor mold exposure and asthma symptoms in sensitized asthmatic persons, upper respiratory tract symptoms, hypersensitivity pneumonitis in susceptible persons, wheeze, and cough.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, mold was listed as one of the top nine health hazards in the Gulf Coast region.

Molds have been associated with superficial infections in humans, and with aggressive infections in immunocompromised or immunodeficient individuals. In addition, some molds can produce specific mycotoxins (secondary metabolites) under defined circumstances. These low-molecular-weight chemicals may cause toxic effects (mycotoxicosis) in humans. Toxicity of ingested mycotoxins has been reported in occupational settings. In non-occupational settings, considerable controversy exists regarding both the dose and route of exposure required for mycotoxicosis.

Extensive research is underway to understand the risk to human health from particular mycotoxins in indoor air. Importantly, recent findings may prove useful in developing a biomarker for exposure to the fungus Stachybotrys chartarum, which produces trichothecene mycotoxins.

Major barriers exist to developing policies to improve IEQ in general, and particularly in home environments in situations such as mold remediation. Due to privacy concerns, governments are reluctant to make regulations that affect individual homes. Second, indoor environmental quality (including moisture and mold prevalence), with its many contributing factors and complex interactions, is difficult to regulate. Third, little attention has been given to the health costs of living in mold-damaged homes and the health benefits of remediating such homes.

Nonetheless, there exist examples of successful policies that have resulted in reduced burdens of two indoor contaminants, radon and lead. (Although asbestos is another important case, it is more relevant to workplaces than to homes, and thus is not included in this analysis.) For lead, federal regulations have led to reduced lead exposure in U.S. homes, and to significant health benefits for children and adults. For radon, economic incentives are used; in many states, sellers are required to disclose home radon levels, although they are not required to reduce the levels. Rather, the incentive to remediate comes both from marketing the home to potential buyers, and from health concerns on the part of the home owners. Policy-driven campaigns to reduce home-based exposures to both radon and lead have included a significant public education component.

We suggest that these two cases provide valuable guidance for controlling mold in home environments. By identifying similarities and differences between the situation regarding indoor moisture and mold (e.g., health effects, socioeconomic considerations, interventions and their costs, and public concern) and those of radon and lead, we suggest policy approaches for control of moisture and mold in homes.

I have omitted the numerous references for readability. The entire article may be viewed here.

Pesticide Tragedy

A 10-month-old infant died earlier this week of pesticide exposure in his mobile home. The young mother had been trying for several weeks to eradicate roaches and other insects from using foggers. The 2-year-old brother was hospitalized, as well as the mother.

This story is agonizing on so many levels. A young mother trying desperately to stop the infestation using common household products. Unaware of the true hazards of the foggers.

I share the following fact sheet in honor of this family, in hopes that the more we understand the hazards of pesticides used commonly in our homes, schools, and workplaces, the more suffering and loss we can prevent.

Active Ingredients
The active ingredient, usually the only component of the formulation listed on the pesticide label, is by nature biologically and chemically active against a target pest, be it an insect, weed or fungus. By definition these chemicals kill living things.

Contaminants and Impurities
Contaminants and impurities are often a part of the pesticide product and responsible for product hazards. Dioxin and DDT have been identified as contaminants, which have not been purposefully added but are a function of the production process.

Metabolites are breakdown products that form when a pesticide is used in the environment and mixes with air, water, soil or living organisms. Often the metabolite is more hazardous than the parent pesticide.

Inert Ingredients
If you were to go to your local hardware store and take a look at the label on a can of ant and roach killer, the contents might read something like this, “5% Permethrin, 95% Inert Ingredients.” After reading the label, you may wonder what makes up the other 95%. The fact is, the manufacturer doesn’t have to tell you. Currently, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), pesticide manufacturers are only required to list the active ingredients in a pesticide, leaving consumers and applicators unaware of the possible toxics present in the inert ingredients of pesticide products they are using, unless the EPA administrator determines that the chemical poses a public health threat. Pesticide manufacturers argue they cannot release information on inert ingredients because they are trade secrets, and if released, their products could be duplicated. Quite often inert ingredients constitute over 95% of the pesticide product. Inert ingredients are mixed into pesticides products as a carrier or sticking agent, and are often as toxic as the active ingredient.

The Hazards of Inert Ingredients
Despite their name, these ingredients are neither chemically, biologically or toxicologically inert. In general, inert ingredients are minimally tested, however, many are known to state, federal and international agencies to be hazardous to human health. For example, the U.S. government lists creosols as a “Hazardous Waste” under Superfund regulations, yet allows these chemicals to be listed as inert ingredients in pesticide products. Creosols are known to produce skin and eye irritations, burns, inflammation, blindness, pneumonia, pancreatitis, central nervous system depression and kidney failure. Some inert ingredients are even more toxic than the active ingredients. One of the most hazardous ingredients in the commonly used herbicide RoundUp® is a surfactant, which is classified as an inert, and therefore not listed on the label. The pesticide naphthalene is an inert ingredient in some products and listed as an active ingredient in others. According to a 2000 report produced by the New York State Attorney General, The Secret Ingredients in Pesticides: Reducing the Risk, 72 percent of pesticide products available to consumers contain over 95 percent inert ingredients; fewer than 10 percent of pesticide products list any inert ingredients on their labels; more than 200 chemicals used as inert ingredients are hazardous pollutants in federal environmental statutes governing air and water quality; and, of a 1995 list of inert ingredients, 394 chemicals were listed as active ingredients in other pesticide products.

This fact sheet and many others are available at the website BeyondPesticides.org.

Book Review: Mold: the War Within

Kurt and Lee Ann Billings relocated to Louisiana in May of 2005. On August 29th Hurricane Katrina tore through the southern coast, affecting the lives of millions of people. The Billings' home in Lake Charles did not collapse nor was it engulfed in water. It did become infested with mold, however, and the Billings were relocated to Montana to a Red Cross shelter. Their health did not improve, and after numerous treatments, the Billings found their way back to health through a variety of natural methods.

They have documented their journey in the book Mold: The War Within. It is one of best books I have read on the subject. It is filled with scientific evidence that mold is indeed harmful and includes numerous interviews with leading experts in the field.

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter, titled "Mold can't hurt you - or can it?"

Battle preparation is crucial when it comes to fighting fungus. We must create an internal biological terrain resistant to fungal invasion to ensure, at worst, that we lose only a few battles, not The War Within.

Mold is an unwelcome guest in homes anywhere, anytime enough moisture accumulates. It can grow inside the walls of our homes from a leak or from current energy efficient building methods that create houses that can't adequately "breathe," which prevents built-up moisture from evaporating. When enough moisture accumulates, from whatever source, a sick building situation can occur. So even if we are not in the heart of New Orleans or a surrounding area, we all have a vested interest in obtaining a "mold education." We cannot rely on others to educate us, as it could cost us our health.

A prime example of the importance of self education was seen post-Katrina. Richard Lipsey, PhD, a toxicologist who performed fungal and bacterial sampling in St. Bernard Parish on February 11, 2006, states, "I was shocked to find out that the Habitat for Humanity volunteers that I toured with, and who were trained by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), had been told that mold cannot hurt you and you do not need any protective equipment."

That statement "Mold cannot hurt you" told to the Habitat for Humanity volunteers echoes what we heard from medical doctors. This type of ignorance and propagation of misinformation will perpetuate ignorance and complacency. Without accurate information regarding associated health risks from mold exposure, people will not take measures to protect themselves. The truth is that fungal exposure can lead to mycosis, which is an infection or disease caused by a fungus, and/or mycotoxicosis, which is the toxic effect of mycotoxins on animal and human health.