Headaches & Indoor Mold
One Family's Story
By Donna Smith
Mold is not an uncommon problem in most homes. We've all seen that icky black "stuff" growing between the tiles around the bathtub when we've put off cleaning for too long. But there's some mold that can hide inside your house and make your family sick: toxic mold.
A Hidden Danger
Susan and Michael Chick from Round Rock, Texas suffered from mild health problems since moving into their new home in 1998. Michael battled several cases of the flu, as well as sinus problems and migraines. Susan, who became pregnant right after moving into the house, suffered from the same, as well as some other aches and pains, but attributed them to pregnancy. In April 2001, after having a heat pump replaced, their symptoms got worse. Michael's headaches increased, he developed muscle aches, had a hard time concentrating, and suffered from short-term memory problems. Susan's problems increased as well.
"I started having a lot of muscle aches and very bad fatigue -- to the point of having trouble functioning," she says. "I had concentration problems and short-term memory problems." Susan could no longer concentrate enough to work on her Web development hobby, and had to carry a pen and pad of paper everywhere she went so she could write things down. Sometimes she would walk into a room and not know why she was there.
To what do the Chicks attribute the deterioration of their health? "When they pulled it (the heat pump) out, they showed us how it was clogged with mold," says Susan. Later Susan would find out what type of mold was growing in her home: Stachybotrys, plus 11 other types of dangerous mold.
Susan and Michael weren't the only ones affected. Their two children, Seth, 4 1/2, and William, 15 months, also developed severe health problems. Seth was 2 1/2 when the Chicks moved into the new house. Not long after, he developed pneumonia; echolalia, an autistic trait of repeating words; and had an allergic reaction to penicillin where he broke out in hives, ran a fever, and had joint swelling in the legs and arms so bad in the arms and legs that he couldn't walk. Two weeks after the reactions, the Chicks had to rush Seth to the emergency room. By the age of 3, Seth started having speech problems.
"It seems he had stopped developing and he was babbling a lot when he talked," says Susan. "Then by 3 1/2, his speech had not gotten any better and he was having trouble playing with other children." After more tests, it was determined that Seth would need "educational support" for a number of years from an occupational therapist. Seth's brother, William -- who was born in the house -- suffered from neurological problems from birth, including sensory planning and processing problems, low muscle tone, as well as reflux. Due to his low muscle tone, he was not doing age-appropriate skills -- at 9 months, he was still not rolling over.
Symptoms of Mold Exposure
According to Carolyn Gorman, a health educator for 20 years who is currently with Johnson Medical Associates in Richardson, Texas, eye, ear, nose and lung responses plus skin irritation and rash are the usual symptoms of mold exposure. "In some instances the memory is affected," she says. "Sinus infections, bronchitis, asthma and coughing could exist."
Harold Farber, M.D., pediatric pulmonologist, associate chief of pediatrics at Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center in Vallejo, Calif., and author of Cont rol Your Child's Asthma: A Breakthrough Program for the Treatment and Management of Childhood Asthma (Henry Holt), says that molds can cause "sick building syndrome." "Living, working or going to school in moldy buildings can cause headaches, nausea, flu-like symptoms and allergic symptoms," he says.
[Italics mine. From preschoolerstoday.com/resources/articles/toxicmold.htm]
Health Hazards Of Mold
Personal Testimonies on Mold Exposure Mold exposure can be hazardous to your health. There are many people who visit this site that have experienced health problems they believe have been caused by mold exposure… Here are a few excerpts of what people are sharing.
WCOLLIER2 - "I just recently found some mold in the bay window shutters in my office. I cleaned it all out and my migraines have disappeared. I don't react this way to other allergens. Now, I know if I get migraines, there's mold nearby."
Michelle - "I just moved out of my apartment after it was tested by the county health department and found to have high levels of 47 various molds. The women who did the testing said it is the worst case of mold infestation the county has ever seen. The molds found included Stachybotrys, Aspergillus Candidus, Aspergillus Fumigatus, Aspergillus Niger, Aspergillus Terreus, Squamous cells, Penicillium in many forms, and several other molds, all toxic."
DotCom1 - "I have been dealing with mold exposure for 1 1/2 years. It all started after my grandmother passed away and I moved into her (old) house. I always noticed a musty smell since the day I moved in. My symptoms started about 1 to 2 weeks after moving in -- headaches, sinus stuffiness, post nasal drip, nausea, tightness in the chest, and breathing difficulty."
Toxic molds are running rampant in our homes, offices and schools. Exposure to mycotoxins has been linked to the death of infants, as well as immune-compromised adults. Despite increasing reports of mold-induced illness and health problems associated with mold exposure, our public health agencies offer little, if any support or funding for research into this growing problem.
There is no one answer why toxic molds are on the rise since the early 1970's or why we seem to be seriously harmed by exposure. Mechanical ventilation, shoddy or defective building practices, use of drywall, poor inspections, and lack of maintenance, along with increased rain fall and/or increased flooding have all been blamed. Curiously, these fungi have been on earth for millions of years. Leviticus 14 gives detailed instructions on how to deal with this "plague."
Initially, illnesses resulting from exposure were labeled "sick building syndrome," but as data and research became available, the connection with mycotoxins became increasingly clear and definite patterns of building-related illnesses (BRI) connected with indoor exposures began to emerge. Symptoms of exposure vary according to the strength of the immune response, as well as type(s) of mold exposed to (not all mold/fungi are toxic), concentration of spores and length of exposure. When exposed you might experience symptoms similar to the common cold - sneezing, chest congestion, watery eyes, sinus discomfort and/or headaches. As exposure continues, headaches may intensify into migraines, nose bleeds and mucus production may occur, disorientation or other neurological symptoms might begin. Later, depending on the extent of immune system damage, symptoms like extreme fatigue, heart and lung damage, immune system disorders like fibromyalgia, CFS, MCS, lupus, etc. and asthma are being reported. Immune and/or neurological damage may be permanent.
My thanks to those who have shared their stories