Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

“Happy New Year” is a message brought to you by dozens of “start your diet” ads in every modern form of media. TV, radio, print and social media advertisers will endlessly pitch ways to slim down and get healthy by buying their programs.  

             Here is something to think about. We all eat maybe 3, 4, or 5 times a day. On the other hand, according to WebMD we breathe about 23,000 times a day. Going a little further, we can skip a day of eating. Things would not go as well if we skipped a day of breathing.   

We are keenly aware of the health risks of a bad diet.  On the other hand, we are often less aware that we have people with debilitating and often undiagnosed illnesses such as CIRS and MCS due to environmental illness. We are exposed to air borne contaminants that cause cancer, respiratory disease, asthma and countless other afflictions.

We look to the New Year for a fresh start and better times. Why not include our indoor air quality in that time of renewal? 

            Functional Medicine has evolved to help diagnose environmental illness, but we need to avoid those exposures in our homes. “Avoidance” is now considered an important medical treatment. The problem is that we need to know what to avoid in this world of more and more pollutants in everyday household items.    

            Indoor air health risks include dust, mold, bacteria, volatile compounds from fragrances and cleaners, formaldehyde, pet dander, dust mites, radon, carbon monoxide and a host of other exposures. Our energy saving technologies have reduced the fresh air in our homes while at the same time manufacturers have added toxins to thousands of consumer and construction products.     

                            Dust is a Major Culprit in Poor Indoor Air Quality

We often don’t realize that common house dust is home to mold, dust mites, bacteria, pollen and allergens. Accumulated dust just sneaks up on you day by day, year by year. It hides in carpet, cabinets, books and your furniture. When a person is ill, it’s more difficult to do regular cleaning which makes a bad dust and particle problem worse.  

The process of professionally cleaning a home is referred to as “deep cleaning” and is an important tool in mold remediation and reducing many environmental toxics including lead. It should be done using containment, specialized exhaust equipment, air filtration and personal protection for the people performing that work.

Many mold remediation firms shortcut proper treatment and simply spray or fog using toxic chemicals without first cleaning mold and allergens from surfaces. Failing to clean and remove the existing contamination is a primary cause of continued environmental illness after failed remediations.

Secrets to Reducing Dust, Mold and Allergens

  • Use a dampened cloth to dust
  • Use a Swifter with a spray on hard surface floors
  • Use vacuums with HEPA filters built in
  • Store items in plastic containers instead of cardboard boxes
  • Reduce clutter that can attract dust
  • Use HEPA room air filters, especially in bedrooms
  • Regularly change furnace filters
  • Clean items before bringing into living spaces from storage areas
  • Replace appliance filters
  • Run a dehumidifier in damp areas
  • Ventilate bathrooms, kitchens, attics and basements

    VOC’s and Other Indoor Air Toxins You Actually Buy and Bring Home

    We live in a world of chemicals. Some are products to clean, some to make things smell, some to make things work better and others to make our homes look pretty. Many of these thousands of chemicals can make some of us very ill.

    Synthetic fragrances are in almost every cleaning or laundry product, air fresheners or personal care product. They are often added to packaging to entice consumers to select a product. The organic chemicals are not tested for their effect on people or listed on the packages. Select any product that has an odor and look up the MSDS for that product. In almost all instances internet search will reveal a list of chemicals you will not be able to pronounce or know how they will affect your health.

    Furniture, cabinets, flooring and plastic materials usually have chemicals that off-gas in the home. Everything from plastic children’s toys to artificial Christmas trees can be a source of lead dust. Many cosmetics and personal care products have been found to have asbestos and almost all have VOCs.

    Secrets to Reducing VOC Contamination

  • Look for fragrance-free or naturally scented cleaning and laundry products.
  • Switch to mild cleaners that don't include artificial fragrances.
  • Stop using aerosol sprays such as deodorants, hair sprays, carpet cleaners, furniture polish, and air fresheners.
  • Avoid products manufactured overseas without environmental oversight
  • Identify and remove things and products with odors from you home
  • Ventilate the home, fresh air reduces indoor air pollutants
  • Remove paints, gasoline and pesticides from indoor storage in your home
              Check for Mold to Make your Home a Healthier Place

            Walk through your home and check for water leaks and mold. These can sneak up on any homeowner. A tiny leak can cause a big mold problem over time. The earlier leaks are found, the less damage they cause and the easier they are to correct.  

            The most susceptible areas for mold in the home include finished basements, crawl spaces, areas with dirt floors, interior french drains, attics, areas with any leaks and areas that are not heated in cold weather. Homes with foam insulation systems and energy star construction are also extremely likely to harbor hidden mold. Professional mold assessments are a good idea if you have any of these conditions and any family members with health issues.        

Improve Your Home's Environment in the New Year

            These suggestions will make you feel better in your home. It is your castle and should be the very best it can be. Take a couple of weekends and pick from the list of chores that can make your home healthier.

Posted by Dan Howard on December 28th, 2019 8:18 PM
               The science of selecting the correct type of mold testing is complicated and confusing, especially when sorting through the questions of whether a patient is sick from mold exposure or identifying the mold source.  Many of the people exposed to mold never get sick from it, for others, it can ruin their health. 

                Functional Medical Doctors often suggest initial testing in a home by using dust tests known as ERMI or HERTSMI.  When you visit the blogs and group Facebooks of mold sensitive patients, you will find long discussions with much confusion about these dust tests. 

                ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) is one test that is not often used or understood. ERMI is the product of the modern miracle of DNA technology. The EPA owns the patent on the process and limits its use to approved labs.  The EPA also states that their approval of the technology is only “experimental.” 

                HERTSMI is a related version of the test. The name is an acronym for “Health Effects Roster of Type Specific Formers of Mycotoxins and Inflammagens” For the purposes of this article, both tests are referred to as ERMI.

               However, there are many studies and anecdotal evidence of the benefit of the test results for patients with CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Respiratory Disease) There are also some very interesting, but limited studies that high ERMI scores correlate with high lactate in the brain. High lactate correlates with cognitive problems. It may be that identifying high ERMI score conditions may be useful in treating some diseases. These are still very preliminary studies and require more research. 

                   Let’s do the Pros and Cons before we talk about how this technology works.

Pro:

ERMI can give very targeted specific specialization for target molds that can have an influence on health

ERMI can give evidence of the historic (new or old mold contaminations) mold conditions in a building.

Historic evidence of long term exposure vs short term exposure can be useful for medical practitioners     

Con:

ERMI does not quantify all of the types of mold, it only identifies the 36 species of targeted molds originally specified in the DNA profile. There is no way to identify the age of the dust collected, making it impossible to actually know how long there was a mold issue. ERMI does not help to isolate the source of the mold contamination to aid in any required remediation or the success of a remediation. 

Overview of the process

                A sample of dust is taken using a specialized dirt trap. The dirt/dust/debris is to be collected by using a vacuum cleaner hose hooked up to a specialized air filter. An alternative system is a smaller cassette and a standard air sampling pump. The sample is supposed to be drawn from a roughly 2 square yard carpet area in either a living room or bedroom.   

                The sample is sent to an EPA licensed lab. The lab takes the dust from the dirt trap and puts it through a filter to isolate the small, mold size particles.  (Think spaghetti in a strainer, only microscopic in size)

                Those particles are put into a tube with a known amount of Geotrichum candidum

and the DNA is beat out of the mold spores with microscopic beads called “bead pellets.” That mush is then filtered and the sifted genetic stuff is mixed with a buffer solution. It is then dumped into a solution called “Master Mix” and put through a series of temperature controlled reactions.

                If you are wondering the technical name for the magic chemistry we are doing, it is MSQPCR  or Mold Specific Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction 

                Now remember that known quantity of Geotrichum candidum that was in the mix? That is the reference basis that can be used to compare the assays (checking process) for each of the target molds (molds that they are looking for).  The checking process is done with a “Sequence Detector” (which is identifying DNA sequences)

                Once the 36 target molds are identified, the 26 in the WDB (Water Damage Building) group are measured and are compared to the common or outdoor group of 10 molds. 

The reason for the look at the ratio of the two is that the exact quantity of each mold is not determined by this test. The size of a sample could be small or big, based upon the amount of dirt we swept up.  We can’t figure out by counting pieces of DNA if there is a little or a lot of mold in the building. You get the point. We don’t know how much mold is in the building from an ERMI test. 

What we do know is that if most of the mold DNA is the outdoor molds, then there is less mold growing in the house. If there is a whole bunch more of the indoor mold than the exterior, oops, there is a lot more mold growing IN the house than coming in from the OUTSIDE.

                Scoring is done on a scale of -10 to 20.  The higher the number, the more mold that is from growing inside the house in the tested building area.  That ERMI Score number is a “sort of number,” not an exact measure. It is based on a limited number of tests from a limited geographic area. Hence reference to it as a “Relative Score.”               

             That folks, is what this ERMI and HERTSMI testing is about. It is amazing technology but has a very limited application. It can’t quantify mold contaminations or the success of any remediation efforts. According to the EPA, ERMI is an “emerging technology”. They further state that ERMI is still in the experimental stages and is not approved for medical diagnostic use.  Then there are Mycotox tests such as those offered by Great Plains Laboratories that test a patient’s urine to diagnose mold toxins. That test can identify the types of mold creating a patient reaction, but not the source. Yep, you can see why there’s confusion.

Go to http://www.Envirospect.com/ERMI for links and sources of additional information.
Posted by Dan Howard on September 27th, 2019 10:15 PM

                In thousands of homes and on social media posts across the land, you saw the annual notice heralding the end of summer vacation: “Summer is over and the kids are back in school”. Some will cry, some will cheer, some will only shrug their shoulders. No matter what we do or say, every school year, the emotion, and the back to school sales come to an end and attention shifts to the students actually being in school.  

 Click Here to Download a Copy of Published Article

             That is “all as it should be” with each new school year. The sad news is that the “welcome back student” message has been accompanied with too many news stories about mold being found in our nation’s schools. It is not an accident that “National Mold Awareness Month” is September.

               The bottom line on this is that parents DO NOT want their child sick because they go to school. Our schools that have mold are like the “Jaws” movies. Just when you think it is safe to return, we find out that it is “not so safe.”

When we experience any school environmental issue such as mold, it can be front page headlines, TV, talk show fodder and Facebook news feed material. 

Environmental issues in schools are not “just another student health issue”. These problems are a public relations nightmare, a staff human relations mine field, a facility management challenge, a budget buster, a political fiasco and a liability time bomb.

Signs of Mold in School

               If a school is flooded or has leaks that are not quickly cleaned up, there will be mold. Whether it is a roof leak, plumbing leak or any other area of wet surfaces, you can count on mold growing. 

               Parents should take a look around their child’s school. Water stains are the target to look for. Fuzzy or splotchy areas are the bullseye in the search for suspected mold. These can be in almost any area of a building anywhere from the highest ceiling to the lowest floor. In addition to the visual indicators of mold presence, odor can be indicator. When the odor of mold is in the school or on a child’s clothes, books, papers or possessions, mold should be investigated as a source of the offensive smell.  

             Sewage backups, leaks and all floods also have a host of water borne diseases and contaminants. When these occur, a professionally conducted disinfection must be conducted even when mold is not visible. Even a little dust left in an obscure corner after the flood is gone can enter through a cut in a student’s hand or their lungs long after the water is gone if the areas has not been disinfected.   

Mold is a Science Project

           Though not part of the approved school curriculum, mold that is found in the school is really a science experiment. Anywhere on earth that there is food and water, something will grow.  It can be the deepest ocean or highest mountain. It can be the north pole or south pole or anywhere in between. That scientific fact is that books, paper, wood floors, drywall, dust, or any other material or any other substrate that can grow mold will grow mold within 48 hours of leaks or high moisture occurring.  

 The most common sources of mold problems in a school are:
  • Roof, wall foundation or other leaks from the exterior
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Malfunctioning or poorly designed HVAC Systems
  • Condensation issues caused by improper temperatures and humidity being maintained
  • Floods

           The first step in preventing recurrence of mold is determining the conditions that were mold conducive. If mold grew in a school over the summer because the air conditioning was not run, or there are roof leaks, or any other reason, it will return if the cause of mold is not corrected. 

            Failure to correct the underlying cause of environmental hazards as well as the hazard itself, is a waste of money, and serves to mislead parents, administration and faculty into believing that the school mold environment is safe. In school we learned to consider both cause and effect. The same applies in the process of creating healthy indoor air quality.          

Schools Can Get Help to Keep our Children Safe from Mold

            The EPA provides great online tools available to learn the issues and solutions to mold problems.  These are great general guidelines, but can’t address individual conditions. Mold problems are often complicated by being the result of several underlying conditions that require expertise in multiple construction fields. 

              Unfortunately, learning to use and to then implement these tools is often much tougher than obtaining them.  Professional assistance is a good option to get an environmental awareness and mold prevention program up and running properly. Once established, existing staff can usually keep the program running.

              Usually an indoor air quality (IAQ) program process starts with an initial site assessment, or information gathering session. The environmental risks are evaluated and appropriate tests then conducted. These could include mold and allergen testing. If there was flooding or sewage backups, testing for a number of common infectious diseases should be added. 

             An educational staff can’t be expected to have the full knowledge to implement a program, but often, once in place, the good health of school occupants can be maintained through the corrections and adjustments made in the facility. There are several companies that have assessment and monitoring programs that include a yearly Indoor Air Quality Certificate for posting after the assessment and completion of any appropriate testing and corrections.

               School district participation in an environmental awareness and preventive care program can pay for itself in lower medical costs, lower property repair costs and better long term health of students and staff. The other benefit is “peace of mind” for parents, particularly in schools that have had prior mold problems.
Posted by Dan Howard on September 26th, 2019 6:37 PM
This is a long video, but if you are or know someone who is environmentally ill, it is a "must watch."  It is what happens and how there can be hope and a way out.

Posted by Dan Howard on July 21st, 2019 8:22 PM

Imagine struggling with an unexplained illness that robs you of normal life. You go from traditional doctor to traditional doctor and still no answers other than it must be your imagination. This isn’t science fiction. It is real people, real life and may even be you or your loved one. 

For too long, people have unknowingly eaten, inhaled, drank and absorbed toxins that are often hidden in everyday products and the vary air and water we need to live.  

Big business and government have told us not to worry, they will keep us safe. We are told that we can trust the food, water and air. They tell us the multitude of energy waves they beam through our bodies won’t hurt us. They did the same with asbestos, lead paint, radon and the drinking water in Flint Michigan.      

There is new hope and healing for the millions of people affected with environmentally created health problems. CIRS, MCS, chemical toxicity, autoimmune disease and sensitivity to electro-magnetic forces are some of the illnesses. For many individuals, the health problems are the result of compromised health due to chemotherapy, organ transplants, and other illnesses that attack the bodies’ ability to heal.

Modern chemistry has brought us tens of thousands of untested new chemicals mixed in combinations to create hundreds of thousands of new exposures.   If the product doesn’t have a toxin as a key ingredient, manufacturers often add toxic chemicals to create a pleasant odor.    

What we have been doing is not enough to protect our health and the health of our children It is not OK to keep dosing environmentally ill individuals and ignore the source and causes. It is unacceptable to dismiss environmental illness as imagined or unimportant.  

People are the sum of their genetics, health history and exposures. We accept that some children can find a peanut deadly, but have a difficult time understanding that other exposures can be deadly.

It is time for qualified Functional Professionals to work together to identify the causes of environmental health, find ways to avoid the toxins and help the people affected by environmental hazards to heal.   

Functional Health Professionals

It is not enough to give people pills to treat the symptoms of environmental illness instead of the illness itself.  Functional Health Professionals identify the cause and source of illness. They prescribe testing that can confirm what is the cause of illness. The source of illness can range from the food we eat to the air we breathe.

 When food is the source of illness, they prescribe diets to improve health. When environmental factors are the issue, they refer patients to Functional Environmental Professionals to test and evaluate the source of toxins. Mold is the most common source of environmental illness.

 The Functional Health Professional’s next steps are to provide advice to avoid the risk and medical care detoxifying and healing patients.

Functional Environmental Professionals

Functional Environmental Professionals (FEPs) explore the wide range of sources of environmental health risks. Mold is the most common problem. Toxic exposures can be found in drinking water, building materials, construction defects, HVAC systems, or from the activities of every-day living. Health risks can be from daily or occupational activities, frequented buildings or even outdoor sources. Testing is done to confirm the source of an exposure and then it is important for the FEP to identify and report on the changes needed to remediate the risk and avoid its return. Educating the client in avoiding future exposures is important to recovery. All buildings and their exposures are a science experiment. We all know that if we do not change the conditions of the experiment, the results will be the same. Identifying the changes that are required to keep a building healthy is a critical part of the assessment that requires a qualified Functional Environmental Professional.           

Functional Remediators

 It is not enough to spray a chemical in a building and declare that everything is better. Functional Remediation Professionals (FRPs) understand that there is not a single magic spray or pixie dust that remediates every building. When you clean your kitchen counter, you wipe the food and debris that is the food of bacterial and viruses off the counter. Just picture if you sprayed Lysol on the kitchen counter without cleaning up the food debris for the next couple of weeks. Yep, Lysol has a 99.8% kill germ claim, but that is not enough to spray a house without cleaning up the bad stuff where the contaminants are living.  It is critical to test a patient’s reaction to treatment products before they are applied. This is especially true in one that is occupied by chemically sensitive or environmentally ill individuals. Functional Remediators follow the protocols of Functional Environmental Professionals that include containment, negative air and air scrubbing. Just as the dandelion will spread its white seeds when blown on, contaminants can be spread through a building during remediation. Improper remediation can make an unhealthy building even more toxic.           

The Healthy Infusion Program Brings Functional Professionals Together

It is not enough to treat symptoms of illness. We should have healing.

It is not enough to test for an environmental risk. We should strive to correct the cause or reduce the exposure and its return.

It is not enough to spray a “one size fits all” chemical and declare a building free of toxins. We must treat with sensitivity to the occupants and using methods to contain exposures during treatment. We must change the conditions that cause a toxic environment.

Functional Professionals are a team that is focused on identifying the underlying conditions and improving the causes and conditions that can be improved.     

Simply put, the Healthy Infusion Program is designed to bring the functional professionals together to address the source of environmental hazards and the path toward good health.

Where do we go From Here?

We know that our modern world has created many environmental risks that can affect each person differently. We need to understand the complexities of the life today and not dismiss the concerns of those that are affected by elements of our changing, complex and often toxic environment. We need to work together to provide the best outcomes for environmentally ill individuals.     

Posted by Dan Howard on May 31st, 2019 10:05 PM

There are several testing methods used for diagnosing mold issues. As in all things in the world, there are advantages and disadvantage to each type of testing.  That means that each type of testing is useful in its own way….and often not appropriate for other applications. 

                ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) is one test that is not often used or understood. ERMI is the product of the modern miracle of DNA technology. The EPA owns the patent on the process and limits its use to approved labs.  The EPA also states that their approval of the technology is only “experimental.”

However, there are many studies and anecdotal evidence of the benefit of the test results for patients with CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Respiratory Disease) There are also some very interesting, but limited studies that high ERMI scores correlate with high lactate in the brain. High lactate correlates with cognitive problems. It may be that identifying high ERMI score conditions may be useful in treating some diseases. These are still very preliminary studies and require more research. 

                   Let’s do the Pros and Cons before we talk about how this technology works.

Pro:

ERMI can give very targeted specific specialization for target molds that can have an influence on health

ERMI can give evidence of the historic (new or old mold contaminations) mold conditions in a building.

Historic evidence of long term exposure vs short term exposure can be useful for medical practitioners     

 Con:

ERMI does not quantify mold, it only identifies the 36 species of targeted molds

ERMI Originally specified old carpet that was not regularly cleaned to provide the source of dust to give that historic record. Now any dust from the home is acceptable. The age of dust is hard to know.  

ERMI is still an evolving science in terms of correlation of ERMI results and health implications

ERMI does not help to isolate the source of the mold contamination to aid in any required remediation

Overview of the process

                A sample of dust is taken using a specialized dirt trap. The dirt/dust/debris is to be collected by using a vacuum cleaner hooked up to a specialized air filter. An alternative system is a smaller cassette and a standard air sampling pump. The sample is supposed to be drawn from a roughly 2 square yard carpet area in either a living room or bedroom.   

                The sample is sent to an EPA licensed lab. The lab takes the dust from the dirt trap and puts it through a filter to isolate the small, mold size particles.  (Think spaghetti in a strainer, only microscopic in size)

                Those particles are put into a tube with a known amount of Geotrichum candidum

and the DNA is beat out of the mold spores with microscopic beads called “bead pellets.” That mush is then filtered and the sifted genetic stuff is mixed with a buffer solution. It is then dumped into a solution called “Master Mix” and put through a series of temperature controlled reactions.               

                If you are wondering the technical name for the magic chemistry we are doing, it is MSQPCR

Mold Specific Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction 

                Now remember that known quantity of Geotrichum candidum that was in the mix? That is the reference basis that can be used to compare the assays (checking process) for each of the target molds (molds that they are looking for).  The checking process is done with a “Sequence Detector” (which is identifying DNA sequences) 

                Once the 36 target molds are identified, the 26 in the WDB (Water Damage Building) group are measured and are compared to the common or outdoor group of 10 molds. 

The reason for the look at the ratio of the two is that the exact quantity of each mold is not determined by this test. That is the result of several factors. Our size of sample could be small or big, based upon the amount of dirt we swept up.  We can’t figure out by counting pieces of DNA if there is a little or a lot of mold in the building. You get the point. We do not know how much mold is in the building from an ERMI test.

What we do know is that if most of the mold DNA is the outdoor molds, then there is less mold growing in the house. If there is a whole bunch more of the indoor mold than the exterior, oops, there is a lot more mold growing IN the house than coming in from the OUTSIDE.  

                Scoring is done on a scale of -10 to 20.  The higher the number, the more mold that is from growing inside the house in the tested building area.  That ERMI Score number is a “sort of number,” not an exact measure. It is based on a limited number of tests from a limited geographic area. Hence reference to it as a “Relative Score.”

That folks, is what this ERMI and HERTSMI testing is about. It is amazing technology, but has a very limited application. It can’t quantify mold contaminations or the success of any remediation efforts. According to the EPA, ERMI is an “emerging technology”.
Posted by Dan Howard on April 21st, 2019 9:49 PM

Did you ever think that exposure to the environmental problems that make us sick is like hitting your thumb with a hammer……..but nobody can tell you what the hammer is?

We go and do so many different things and go so many places each day that it is often difficult to pinpoint what “is” or just as importantly what “is not” making us ill.

       Making all of this figuring out whether something in our environment is making us ill more of a puzzle is the fact that we react to environmental stresses in “time delay”. The difficulty is “time delay” is not how our brain usually works.

       Please let me explain: If we touch a burner on the stove, we feel pain. If we hit our thumb with hammer, we immediately feel the consequences of that action. Based upon that reaction, we each learn not to do those things. We learn in real time that for those actions there is a predictable, consistent and unpleasant reaction. We also figure out to not do those things again. However, I must admit that when I worked as a carpenter to get through college, that hitting fingers with a hammer happened a couple of times past the first. Before you judge that fact, I assure you that IT WAS NOT ON PURPOSE. Ouch.

        Environmental exposures are more complicated because they not only happen in time delay, but they also often occur in combinations of events. Our minds do not do well at processing the complex conditions and events that trigger environmental reactions.

       Keeping a diary of how you feel, where you are what you are doing and what you eat is probably the best tool for establishing health patterns that may predict sources of environmental reaction.

       As an example, a diary could show that you become ill 6 to 10 hours after a visit to a particular building, riding in and automobile, eating a particular food or a host of other events occurs. This can be a life changing tool.

      Based on that information, an assessment by a environmental specialist and testing of the area that appears to be the source of illness is the next step on the path to a return to good health

       Mold is one of the most common triggers for health issues. Allergens are another very common trigger. Testing for these issues is a prudent first step in the process of narrowing sources of environmental stressors
Posted by Dan Howard on May 12th, 2018 4:40 PM

January 15, 2018

Courtesy: Michael A. Pinto, CSP, SMS, CMP, CFO

Edited by Dan Howard, Envirospect  

 

Testing, Identifying and Remediating for Chemically Sensitive Patients

Patients are increasingly being faced with the challenge of situations where chemically sensitive individuals are sick in their homes and there are few individuals understanding their challenges or able to help with creating a less toxic environment  

While many professionals have some experience with individuals sensitive to specific contaminants like mold or spray-foam insulation, few are able to need the needs of people who may have a low tolerance for chemicals as well as specific contaminants.

There needs to be education and training of environmental professionals and medical practitioners on the specific cleaning techniques of source removal, neutralization, off-gassing, and oxidation.

Why Is This Subject Important?

One of confusing problems is that there are numerous terms used to identify the physical conditions associated with sensitivity. Two of the most common descriptors are “chemical intolerance” (CI) or “multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).

 

An interesting sidebar to the sensitization research was the realization that individuals who are sensitizable are more likely to be diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Chronic Fibromyalgia (CF), Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), and other previously mysterious maladies.

As the medical community continues research into this field, the focus has turned to the question about what role a person’s genetic make-upplays in their likelihood of becoming chemically sensitized.  Depending on which study is reviewed, the data indicates that 15-30% of the general population are highly “sensitizable”. The researchers come to these numbers by evaluating large groups of people and measuring their heart rate, blood pressure, and immune system allergic response markers.

There is a correlation of certain factors that may play a role in sensitization. These include a family history of sensitization, certain exposures and health history

Acute Or Chronic Exposures; It Is Still Chemicals

This research into susceptibility is starting to answer some lingering questions in the field of chemical sensitization. Many cases have demonstrated that a big “trigger event”, such as exposure to a chemical as a result of an accidental release, will cause chemical sensitization in a very large percentage of the exposed population.  But, even in that sort of scenario only a portion of the people exposed will develop any long-term sensitivity to the initial chemical or a broader range of chemicals. The distinctions in individuals developing a reaction are even more pronounced if the trigger event is a chronic situation, one where the exposure happens a little at a time over a period of weeks or months.

 

Of course, the primary cause of chemical sensitivity is exposure to chemicals.  However, controlling chemical exposure, especially for children, is increasingly difficult because more chemicals are being added to our lives every day. Some of the main sources of chemical exposure include off-gassing from building products, use of personal care items, building contents and furnishings, packaging supplies, food, and residual chemical contamination in our indoor and outdoor environment.

Compared to 40 or 50 years ago, most people have dramatically increased their exposure to chemicals. It is not just that people tend to spend more time indoors, a big factor is that buildings are constructed to be more air tight. In addition to increased energy efficiency, that trend of tighter buildings trap more of the chemicals that are off-gassed. It also means that there is less dilution of small particles that are created during daily life activities and cleaning.

Cleaning To Address All The Chemical Transport Mechanisms

The simple reality is that dust and chemicals are present in our buildings. Contractors wishing to help individuals with chemical sensitivities by conducting specialized cleaning, or those who want to avoid problems by properly cleaning after a restoration activity, need to address both the chemicals and the dust. Modern house dust has a significant percentage of chemical solids as part of its makeup. In addition, many of the other dust particles, particularly those that are fibrous, absorb vaporous chemicals. That is why source removal, including the removal of residual built up dust, is key to addressing the concerns of chemically sensitized building occupants.

 

We all need to recognize that the number of chemicals and chemically sensitized people found in buildings are both growing at a significant rate. This is not a good combination. The frequency with which individuals are experiencing adverse reactions to chemicals is obvious evidence that there is a growing group which cannot tolerate the “normal” chemical load in today’s modern buildings. In those situations, the contaminants must either be cleaned or neutralized in order to protect or facilitate recovery of their health.

Trained professionals in the assessment, testing, cleaning and restoration industry can certainly rise to this challenge if they just take a few minutes to understand the needs of these potential clients and review their work procedures with the goal to properly service all of their customers, even if they are chemically sensitizable.
Posted by Dan Howard on April 8th, 2018 9:20 PM

The Benefits and Limits of ERMI Testing

There are several testing methods used for diagnosing mold issues. As in all things in the world, there are advantages and disadvantage to each type of testing.  That means that each type of testing is useful in its own way….and often not appropriate for other applications.

                 ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) is one test that is not often used or understood. ERMI is the product of the modern miracle of DNA technology. The EPA owns the patent on the process and limits its use to approved labs.  The EPA also states that their approval of the technology is only “experimental.”

However, there are many studies and anecdotal evidence of the benefit of the test results for patients with CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Respiratory Disease) There are also some very interesting, but limited studies that high ERMI scores correlate with high lactate in the brain. High lactate correlates with cognitive problems. It may be that identifying high ERMI score conditions may be useful in treating some diseases. These are still very preliminary studies and require more research. 

                    Let’s do the Pros and Cons before we talk about how this technology works.

Pro:

ERMI can give very targeted specific specialization for target molds that can have an influence on health

ERMI can give evidence of the historic (new or old mold contaminations) mold conditions in a building.

Historic evidence of long term exposure vs short term exposure can be useful for medical practitioners     

Con:

ERMI does not quantify mold, it only identifies the 36 species of targeted molds

ERMI requires old carpet that was not regularly cleaned to provide the source of dust to give that historic record

ERMI is still an evolving science in terms of correlation of ERMI results and health implications

ERMI does not help to isolate the source of the mold contamination to aid in any required remediation

Overview of the process

                A sample of dust is taken using a specialized dirt trap. The dirt/dust/debris is to be collected by using a vacuum cleaner hooked up to a specialized air filter. An alternative system is a smaller cassette and a standard air sampling pump. The sample is supposed to be drawn from a roughly 2 square yard carpet area in either a living room or bedroom.   

                The sample is sent to an EPA licensed lab. The lab takes the dust from the dirt trap and puts it through a filter to isolate the small, mold size particles.  (Think spaghetti in a strainer, only microscopic in size)

                Those particles are put into a tube with a known amount of Geotrichum candidum

and the DNA is beat out of the mold spores with microscopic beads called “bead pellets.” That mush is then filtered and the sifted genetic stuff is mixed with a buffer solution. It is then dumped into a solution called “Master Mix” and put through a series of temperature controlled reactions.

                If you are wondering the technical name for the magic chemistry we are doing, it is MSQPCR

Mold Specific Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction  

                Now remember that known quantity of Geotrichum candidum that was in the mix? That is the reference basis that can be used to compare the assays (checking process) for each of the target molds (molds that they are looking for).  The checking process is done with a “Sequence Detector” (which is identifying DNA sequences)

                 

               Once the 36 target molds are identified, the 26 in the WDB (Water Damage Building) group are measured and are compared to the common or outdoor group of 10 molds. 

              The reason for the look at the ratio of the two is that the exact quantity of each mold is not determined by this test. That is the result of several factors. Our size of sample could be small or big, based upon the amount of dirt we swept up.  We can’t figure out by counting pieces of DNA if there is a little or a lot of mold in the building. You get the point. We do not know how much mold is in the building from an ERMI test.

              What we do know is that if most of the mold DNA is the outdoor molds, then there is less mold growing in the house. If there is a whole bunch more of the indoor mold than the exterior, oops, there is a lot more mold growing IN the house than coming in from the OUTSIDE.

                Scoring is done on a scale of -10 to 20.  The higher the number, the more mold that is from growing inside the house in the tested building area.  That ERMI Score number is a “sort of number,” not an exact measure. It is based on a limited number of tests from a limited geographic area. Hence reference to it as a “Relative Score.”  

               That folks, is what this ERMI testing is about. It is amazing technology, but has a very limited application. It can’t quantify mold contaminations or the success of any remediation efforts. According to the EPA, ERMI is an “emerging technology”. They further state that ERMI is still in the experimental stages and is not approved for medical diagnostic use.   

Posted in:Mold Testing and tagged: MoldtestingSBSMCSERMI
Posted by Dan Howard on September 26th, 2017 7:53 PM


The 
possible list of symptoms of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
a/k/a Sick Building Syndrome or Environmental Illness is almost endless - varies from one patient to the next. Also worthy of mention here is the fact that there is no sharp demarcation between the symptoms of MCS and those of ME/CFS/CFIDS/PVFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis - chronic fatigue), but that most sufferers of MCS complain of at least several of the following:

  • burning, stinging eyes
  • wheezing, breathlessness nausea
  • extreme fatigue/lethargy
  • headache/migraine/vertigo/dizziness
  • poor memory & concentration
  • runny nose (rhinitis)
  • sore throat, cough
  • sinus problems
  • skin rashes and/or itching skin
  • sensitivity to light & noise
  • sleeping problems
  • digestive upset
  • muscle & joint pain.
Posted by Dan Howard on April 12th, 2017 10:10 AM

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