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Mold Illness: What It Is, 5 Common Misconceptions, and Prevention

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Reviewed by Sunjya Schweig, MD

Mold illness

Awareness of toxic mold’s effect on human health has increased dramatically over the past few years. But mold is only one of the many biotoxins found in water-damaged buildings, and the illness caused by exposure to these toxins is much more complex than most clinicians and patients assume.

Over the last several years, I’ve written extensively about the importance of nutrition, physical activity, stress management, sleep, social connection, pleasure, and spending time outdoors. There’s no doubt that these factors are vital for all of us.

But it’s also true that other factors are just as important to our health, yet far less often considered. One of these is toxic burden.

Toxic burden is determined by two factors: the levels of toxic chemicals and microorganisms that we’re exposed to, and the function of our innate detoxification system. If our exposure to toxins is high and our detoxification system is compromised—due to genetic predisposition, environmental factors, or both—then our toxic burden will be high.

The toxins that adversely affect our health include chemicals (e.g., bisphenol A, or BPA, phthalates, and pesticides), heavy metals (e.g., mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium), and biotoxins (toxins produced by living organisms like mold, bacteria, dinoflagellates, and blue-green algae).

Toxic mold illness has received a lot of attention recently, including a documentary created by Dave Asprey of Bulletproof.

While this is surely a positive development, there are a number of misconceptions and misunderstandings about mold illness that I’d like to address in this article. So let’s get to it!

Is the air quality in your home or workplace making you sick? If harmful biotoxins are present, it could be. Find out more about mold illness and learn how to prevent exposure. #environmentaltoxins #toxins #mold

What Is Mold Illness?

First, I’d like to explain more about what this condition is. What we often refer to as “mold illness” or “mold toxicity” is actually a comprehensive and multifaceted syndrome known as chronic inflammatory response syndrome, or CIRS.

CIRS was originally defined by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, a former family physician in Maryland. (Dr. Shoemaker is now retired, but he is still actively involved in raising awareness and advancing the understanding of CIRS.)

In the late 1990s, Dr. Shoemaker discovered a connection between a mysterious illness that some of his patients were experiencing and a toxin produced by a fish-killing dinoflagellate called Pfiesteria. Since then, Dr. Shoemaker has linked a similar kind of illness to toxins from a wide variety of microorganisms and chemicals.

Mold in the Human Body

Nearly everyone becomes ill when exposed to sufficient levels of biotoxins, but most people recover once they are removed from exposure. Their detoxification system is able to recognize the biotoxins in their bodies as toxins and eliminate them via the normal mechanisms.

However, a minority of people have human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes that prevent their bodies from being able to recognize and thus eliminate biotoxins. The biotoxins remain in the body and trigger a chronic, systemic inflammatory response. These are the people who are at a higher risk of developing CIRS.

Symptoms of Mold Illness

Patients with CIRS present with a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Post-exertional malaise
  • Memory problems, difficulties with concentration, and problems with executive function
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Headaches
  • Vertigo and lightheadedness
  • Muscle aches, cramping, and joint pains without inflammatory arthritis
  • Hypersensitivity to bright light, blurred vision, burning or red eyes, and tearing
  • Cough, asthma-like illness, shortness of breath, and chronic sinus congestion
  • Air hunger or unusual shortness of breath at rest
  • Chronic abdominal problems including nausea, cramping, and secretory diarrhea
  • A propensity to experience static shocks

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How Do Doctors Test for Mold Exposure?

If you suspect that your surrounding environment has mold present, tests like the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) can confirm it. An experienced mold inspector can perform this test (and ensure it’s done correctly).

Diagnosing CIRS can be difficult (especially given the fact that many physicians aren’t aware of the condition or actively looking for it in their patients, but I’ll discuss that further below). Dr. Keith Berndtson, a physician in Park Ridge, Illinois, has written a thorough summary of CIRS that I highly recommend reading. In it, he highlights the following criteria that a patient must meet to be diagnosed with CIRS:

  1. History, signs, and symptoms consistent with biotoxin exposure. In cases of mold toxicity, history should include exposure to toxin-producing molds as documented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved ERMI test. In other cases (microcystin, ciguatera, etc.), history should include likely exposure or laboratory evidence of exposure.
  2. A genetic predisposition to biotoxin-related illness based on identification of an HLA-susceptible haplotype.
  3. Abnormalities documented by visual contrast sensitivity (VCS) testing. VCS testing measures your ability to see details at low contrast levels. Dr. Shoemaker and Dr. Kenneth Hudnell—a principal investigator for the U.S. EPA’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Lab and an expert on how neurotoxins affect the physiology of vision—discovered that the biotoxins affect the optic nerve and decrease the ability to detect visual contrast.
  4. Biomarkers consistent with the neuroimmune, vascular, and endocrine abnormalities that characterize CIRS. If you have a history consistent with biotoxin exposure, a susceptible genotype, and an abnormal VCS test, you are very likely to show the laboratory abnormalities seen in CIRS. Major and minor criteria are a work in progress.

Now, let’s break down five common misconceptions about mold illness. 

#1: Mold Illness Is Not Just Caused by Mold

Yes, I know this doesn’t make sense. Of course mold illness is caused by mold. That’s why it’s called mold illness! However, the biotoxins that can lead to this condition aren’t limited to those produced by mold. They can also include: (1)

  • Fungi
  • Actinomycetes (gram-positive bacteria from the order Actinomycetales)
  • Mycobacteria
  • Mold
  • Mold spores
  • Endotoxins (aka lipopolysaccharides, or LPS; cell wall components of gram-negative bacteria)
  • Inflammagens (irritants that cause inflammation and edema)
  • Beta-glucans (a diverse group of polysaccharides)
  • Hemolysins (exotoxins produced by bacteria capable of destroying cells)
  • Microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs; organic compounds released by microorganisms when there is adequate food supply for such “secondary metabolite production”)

In addition, certain bacteria (possibly including Borrelia, Babesia, and other organisms transmitted by tick bites) can also secrete biotoxin-like compounds that can have adverse health effects.

For those who are susceptible, CIRS could develop from exposure to any one of these biotoxins.

#2: CIRS Is Much More Common Than You Might Think

According to Dr. Shoemaker’s research, roughly 25 percent of the population is genetically prone to develop CIRS if two conditions are met: (2)

  1. Sufficient exposure to biotoxins
  2. A “priming” inflammatory event (something that triggers and activates the immune system, such as a serious upper respiratory tract infection or a tick-borne illness like Lyme disease)

Dr. Shoemaker also estimates that 2 percent of the population has genes that render them highly susceptible to developing a multisystem, multisymptom illness after prolonged or repeated exposure to biotoxins. (Side note: unfortunately, I am part of that 2 percent, which could explain a lot about my past history with chronic illness!)

This suggests that roughly one in four people have the potential of developing CIRS when exposed to biotoxins. But how common is exposure to biotoxins?

Unfortunately, the answer is: extremely common.

According to a report entitled Implementing Health-Protective Features and Practices in Buildings issued by the Federal Facilities Council, 43 percent of buildings they examined had current water damage and 85 percent had past water damage. When water damage occurs, mold can grow in as little as 24 to 48 hours.

As alarming as these numbers are, they don’t tell the whole story. Although water damage is probably the biggest concern, mold and other biotoxins can also develop in buildings that are not water-damaged but have indoor humidity levels above 50 to 60 percent. In fact, many experts recommend maintaining indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent for preventing the growth of mold and other biotoxins.

#3: CIRS Is Frequently Missed or Misdiagnosed

As I mentioned in misconception #2, up to 25 percent of the population is susceptible to CIRS, and perhaps a majority of buildings are either water-damaged or have conditions that make mold growth possible. Combine these factors with the increase in inflammatory diseases (which can serve as priming events) that has occurred over the past few decades and you have an environment that is ripe for CIRS.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of patients with this condition have not been properly diagnosed or treated because conventional doctors—and even many Functional and integrative medicine specialists—simply aren’t looking for it. The fact that patients with CIRS also typically meet the criteria for other syndromes and diseases like fibromyalgia, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, post-treatment Lyme syndrome, and multiple sclerosis compounds the problem. The symptoms of CIRS are “non-specific,” which means that they don’t conclusively identify CIRS (or any other disease) by their mere presence.

Testing for CIRS

The VCS test is best performed in the office of a CIRS-aware clinician. However, there are two online versions that can be used as a starting place.

The first VCS test is available on Dr. Shoemaker’s website, Surviving Mold, at a cost of $15. This is a Functional Visual Acuity Test (FACT) that uses a scoring algorithm developed by Drs. Shoemaker and Hudnell to determine the likelihood that a patient is being adversely affected by biotoxin exposure.

The second VCS test is available at VCSTest.com. The raw (unconverted) scores and the contrast sensitivity curve are provided for free, and a $10 donation is requested (but not required) for the upgraded results with detailed analysis and interpretation and a PDF that can be downloaded and shared. VCSTest.com now offers what they call an Online Contrast Sensitivity Test (OCST), which addresses one of the primary shortcomings of online VCS testing: the variability in how different computer monitors and displays handle visual contrast. The OCST features full display calibration, which adapts the test images to each user by taking into account both their display size and individual display characteristics/properties, like their video card, video drivers, operating system, and display settings, including contrast, brightness, gamma, etc. As far as I know, this is the only FACT-based online VCS test that controls for display calibration.

In practice, I think both of these tests can be used successfully as screening tools, but the OCST offered by VCSTest.com has the advantage of full display calibration, which allows for accurate results across any device (helpful in retesting and tracking progress if the patient is retaking the test on an iPad, for example, if the original test was done on a laptop computer).

The VCS test is so accurate that, if it is positive, there is a 92 percent chance that the patient has CIRS. That said, it’s important to note that a positive VCS test cannot be used to rule CIRS in or out on its own, and I have had patients who passed the VCS test who went on to be positive for CIRS, and vice versa.

A list of the biomarkers that constitute a CIRS diagnosis can be found on Dr. Shoemaker’s website. However, if you fail the VCS test, and/or suspect you may have CIRS, I strongly recommend finding a CIRS-aware clinician in your area. You can start with the list of clinicians that have been certified by Dr. Shoemaker on his website. There are other clinicians who are familiar with CIRS and are actively diagnosing and treating patients for it, but are not yet certified.

Diagnosing and treating CIRS is not a “DIY proposition,” as it involves a lot of nuance and complexity that isn’t always apparent to clinicians and patients who are new to the condition. For example, Complement C4a has to be sent out on dry ice to a specialized lab called National Jewish Health Advanced Diagnostic Laboratories in order to get an accurate result. I can’t tell you how many times patients have come to me with a C4a result run through LabCorp or another lab. It’s painful to have to tell them that we need to run these (sometimes expensive) labs again because they weren’t done properly in the first place.

For much more on CIRS diagnosis and pathology, check out my interview of Dr. Shoemaker on my podcast, Revolution Health Radio.

#4: Removal from Exposure Is the First Step in Successful Treatment …

Dr. Shoemaker has developed a multistep protocol for treating CIRS (it ranges from 11 to 14 steps, depending on how you count or combine the steps).

The first step in the protocol is removing the patient from exposure to biotoxins. This involves testing all environments (home, workplace, and recreational) that the patient spends significant amounts of time in throughout the course of their daily life. If mold or other biotoxins are identified, those environments must be successfully remediated (followed by taking adequate measures to prevent recurrence), or the patient must relocate to another home or workplace.

As both a clinician and someone dealing with CIRS myself, I have found step one to be by far the most difficult step in the protocol. Here’s why.

Many mold inspectors do not use comprehensive, accurate testing methods. If you call a local mold inspector and ask them to come assess your property, chances are they will do a visual inspection and take some air samples. Both of these methods can yield useful information, but on their own, they are not enough.

Air sampling does not allow identification of particular species of Penicillium, Aspergillus, Wallemia, etc., which is important because different species have different health effects. In addition, air sampling devices collect only a small sample of air from directly around the device. This matters because mold spores have different molecular weights, and some do not remain airborne for long.

A better method of initially screening a building for mold is the ERMI test. The ERMI test uses mold-specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction (MSQPCR) technology to identify mold in dust that has settled in buildings.

The ERMI test was developed by the EPA as a means of determining the relative “moldiness” of a home compared to a group of reference homes that do not have mold. Thirty-six species were divided into 26 species/clusters of molds associated with water-damaged buildings (Group 1) and 10 common species not associated with water-damaged buildings (Group 2). The mold index is the sum of the logs of Group 1 minus the sum of the logs of Group 2 in a building. The ERMI has been validated in several peer-reviewed studies. (3, 4, 5, 6)

Dr. Shoemaker further refined the relevance of ERMI testing to patients with CIRS by creating the HERTSMI-2 scoring system. This is a weighted score that takes the relative levels and danger of particular mold species into account.

The advantage of the ERMI is that it can identify the exact species of various molds present, and it will identify spores that are not airborne. However, it is crucial to understand that not all labs that perform the ERMI test use the correct methodology.

In order to ensure reliable and accurate results, labs that perform ERMI testing must follow the EPA patent and laboratory procedures exactly. Otherwise, whatever results the test returns will not be validated.

The lab that I recommend for ERMI testing is Mycometrics. It follows the procedures established in the EPA patent by the letter, and it has excellent quality-control procedures in place.

It’s worth noting that no single test—including ERMI—is reliable as a means of assessing whether biotoxins are present in a building. There is no substitute for an experienced mold inspector who uses evidence-based methodology. (I just wish they were easier to find!)

#5: … But Removal from Exposure Isn’t Enough for Most Patients with CIRS

While removal from exposure is an important first step, as I mentioned above, there are at least 10 other steps in the protocol.

People with CIRS have genetic mutations that make them unable to remove the biotoxins that have accumulated in their bodies. This means that getting away from the biotoxins may stop them from building up further, but it will not remove them.

Removal of biotoxins in patients with CIRS usually begins with binders like cholestyramine or colesevelam (brand name: Welchol). Other steps include eradicating biofilm-forming staph colonizations that tend to develop in the nasal passages of patients with CIRS and correcting high/low metallopeptidase 9, antidiuretic hormone/osmolality, C4a, transforming growth factor beta 1, vascular endothelial growth factor, and vasoactive intestinal peptide.

In an ideal world, we’d have CIRS-aware physicians in every city and town who could help patients with this recovery process. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are currently only a few Dr. Shoemaker-certified practitioners, and perhaps several others who are not certified but are actively treating CIRS.

Working with a Functional Medicine-based care team can also help when you’re dealing with such a complex condition. The California Center for Functional Medicine is a private clinic that offers a virtual, membership-based functional health transformation program that provides you with the tools, team, and support you need to heal from chronic illnesses like CIRS. Find out more about our program.
Mold illness
Cleaning mold off of surfaces where it appears can help prevent mold illness. iStock/yavdat

How to Prevent Exposure to Toxic Mold

Here are steps that you can take to minimize biotoxins in your home and improve indoor air quality: (7)

  • Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely.
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely.
  • Discard absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, if they become moldy. Don’t paint or caulk moldy surfaces.
  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
  • Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.
  • Make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation so that water does not enter or collect around the foundation.
  • Keep indoor humidity between 30 and 50 percent. Relative humidity can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter, a small, inexpensive ($10 to $50) instrument available at many hardware stores. Venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and dehumidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans when cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning can all help to reduce indoor humidity.
  • Do not install carpeting in areas where perpetual moisture problems may develop (i.e., in a bathroom).

Another helpful intervention is to use air filters and purifiers/sanitizers. Here’s what I use and recommend to my patients:

  1. A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter that is capable of removing ultrafine particles (less than 0.1 microns) like mold, dust, pet dander, VOCs, and even viruses from the air. These ultrafine particles represent 90 percent of all airborne pollution that you breathe.
  2. An air sanitizer that eliminates allergens, odors, mold, and germs.

The number and range of devices on the market in both of these categories is mind-boggling, and I’ve spent countless hours figuring out the best options for our home. My research is ongoing, but currently, this is what we are using.

IQAir HealthPro Plus

IQAir makes HEPA filters that employ a four-stage filtration process (which includes activated carbon) to filter particles all the way down to 0.003 microns—the smallest particles that exist—with a guaranteed efficacy of more than 99.5 percent. We have one of these in the main living area of our home and one in the basement. Important note: Amazon.com is not an authorized reseller of IQAir, so if you purchase a device from there, the warranty won’t be valid. I recommend purchasing it directly from IQAir or from one of their authorized resellers.

Blueair Sense Filters

Blueair filters use “HEPASilent Technology,” which combines electrostatic and mechanical filtration to capture 99.97 percent of airborne particles down to 0.1 microns in size. We use these in the bedrooms and my home office because they are smaller, quieter, and more energy efficient than the IQAir HealthPro Plus units.

Air Oasis Air Sanitizers

Air Oasis (AO) air sanitizers work differently than HEPA filters. They use a technology developed by NASA called advanced hydration photocatalytic oxidation (AHPCO) to destroy mold, bacteria, and other microorganisms with ultraviolet light and a catalyst. We have a few of the Air Angel units in smaller rooms, as well as an AO3000 in the main living area. Important note: I currently recommend running the AO units only when you are not in the rooms, and turning them off when you enter. This is due to the small amounts of ozone that they release. Though these levels are well below the recommended limit according to AO’s website, I prefer to be cautious. I also recommend using a HEPA/charcoal filter along with the AO devices, rather than using them on their own.

Molekule Air Purifier

Molekule Air purifiers use photoelectrochemical oxidation (PECO) to break down pollutants at the molecular level. PECO works by using free radicals to destroy mold, bacteria, allergens, VOCs, and viruses—without releasing an ozone byproduct. These products are able to reduce concentrations of mold by up to 99.9991 percent. (8)

These devices are not cheap, but given what I’ve come to understand about the importance of indoor air quality to health, and given that my wife, my daughter, and I are all genetically susceptible to CIRS, I think they’re worth the expense. As an added benefit, the air in your home will smell like it does outside! It’s an incredible difference.

I hope this article has helped explain a frequently misunderstood illness. Please share this with those you think may be interested so we can help to spread awareness of this debilitating yet under-recognized condition.

229 Comments

Join the conversation

  1. Chris: what were your daughter’s symptoms? My 1,5 year old daughter has some issues that are too mild for normal physicians to take seriously, but bad enough that Ive been reading and reading for months, trying to figure things out, going crazy, you must know the feeling. Wonder what the symptoms could be like in a toddler.
    And how often do you run the IQAir? I got the machine but was never sure how much and how often to run it.
    Thanks for all your help and the wealth of information.

  2. Cant all the biotoxin tests TGF- Beta, MSH etc be low with lyme or heavy metals etc?? since all are neurotoxins etc? any way to tell the difference since symptoms are a lot of the same??

  3. You have really shared an informative post of 5 Things we must know about toxic mold illness. Water damage is the main problem which grows mold if we didnt care and resolve the leakage as soon as possible it will grows mold. Mold creates a bad impact on daily life.

  4. Is anybody aware of water utility workers having contracted boop as a result of mold exposure? They often work in damp conditions, both in underground vaults and in water-damaged homes?

    Are there any pulmonologists who have expertise with this occupational risk?

    Thank you!!!

  5. I had 2 flood/water leaks in my finished basement in 2011-2012. The company my insurance co sent out both times didn’t do the proper procedures either time and at that time I knew nothing about mold. The 1st time the dishwasher hose split and was pouring onto the couch, carpet etc they just sucked what water they could up and put 2 dehumidifies down there for 2 days and said everything was fine and left. That’s when a musty smell started. Then a year later the front spigot burst and was pouring down the wall of the basement behind the Sheetrock, flooding out all over the carpet. Th same company came out the next morning with insurance adjuster and again sucked the water out of the carpet, put dehumidifies and left. By the next day the mold smell started and I had to keep calling them back and they piece meal “remediated” the basement over 6 weeks time, never removing the soaked Sheetrock tea and just DOUSED the walls and floor with Microban (triclosan) which nearly the gases) killed me and my 11 cats who vomited all over the house til the sun came up and I was soooo dizzy, nauseous, headache and my slight asthma that hadn’t bothered me for 20yrs hit me like e ton of bricks!!! That was 4yrs ago and I can’t go without my inhaler. I suffered a SEVERE bout of depression leading up to the summer of 2013 (just found out that triclosan causes depression among other things). I’ve lost 3 cats to cancer since and I had cancer Oct 2014 and surgery/chemo ended March 31, 2015. I ‘ve been sick for yrs with weird symptoms and dr’s say nothing is wrong. Then I just in Jan went to a MD/naturopath for something else and he questioned me about if I’d been exposed to any water problems and I told him so he sent me out with a lab slip a mile long and 2 1/2 weeks later (I’m a nurse and got the results sent to myself as well) had me come in. I’m missing the HLA gene, have hypothyroid, Hashimoto’s and tested positive for 4 types of mold (3 of which the air quality specialists I hired after 6 weeks of smelling HORRENDOUS MOLD, and being yelled at by Restorecore that there was nothing wrong and that they know what their doing because THEY ARE THE PROFESSonals and I’m nobody and making things up, found with samples and air testing and she saw and smelled the mold as soon as she entered the house) as well as candida and all the other mycotoxin/CIRS labs are of the wall! I feel validated but now I have to move because I’m still symptomatic even though I had a full remediation 2 mths after the flood. My insurance that I’m fighting with does not want to cover the naturopath because he’s not in network (he was just certified by Dr Shoemaker and is the only one in the state of NJ). I’ve tried to explain the complexities of the treatment, but there are no codes for CIRS/mycotoxin illness so they say if they have no codes they can’t charge. I told them they had better make up some because I pay $1,100 a mth for insurance and can’t afford treatment and will continue to get more sick and end up un the hospital and THAT will cost them even more money, so don’t be stupid! So we will see. Mean time I’m trying to get my condo together and on the market to sell but as these weeks go by, I’m at this time unable to eat -more then 2 bites of any food just 2x’s a day and I’m very anemic (ferritin was 9 and now after 6nths of trying to eat iron rich foods is only 23 and should be around
    100-150). Is suing the company for all I’ve lost and the cost of the move feasible? I’ve been here in this place for 19yrs and now have to start with a new mortgage and the cost of moving is crippling to me!!! Any advice or comments would be appreciated.

    • Hi .. I am also suffering from toxic mold exposure.. Seek out an environmental specialist or facility. Unfortunately the main stream medical docs are ignorant to environmental exposures. I am also a nurse and let me say .. Thank god I know how to advocate for myself. I am still so so sick however just located an doc who specializes in This field. If this doesn’t detox, I’m off to Dallas or Fla for treatment, insurance does not recognize this illness. It is ridiculous .
      Reading the book by the “billings family, mold the war within” will be helpful, I’m drowning with this illness. My family had to leave everything and move . Good luck and keep pushing for help ,

      • My very best wishes for a full recovery to you.

        Would you be willing to share the name of the Doctor who specializes in this???

        • Hi Maureen…I didn’t know if you were asking me or Lauren for the name of a dr, so I’ll give you mine. His name is Michael Rothman, MD a naturopath that I went to by chance for something else and if I hadn’t I NEVER would have known. He was recently certified by Dr Rithchie Shoemaker in the treatment protocol and he is in Spring Lake, NJ. If you’re interested, he’s listed as MD Wellness or by his name. Hope this helps! Good luck…

          • I have various symptoms starting with vertiago after being exposed 20 years ago to mold . I was diagnosed a month ago by testing and history
            I do have mycotoxicois.. my question.. does anyone know of a treatment center .. will go anywhere but prefer Florida, Maryland or
            Costa Rico

            • Dr shoemaker who is the one who is training these other drs is inMaryland…i think Potomac but he’s not practicing anymore and is concentrating on training drs. Im sure you could look him up and ask who you can see and where. Hope this helps!

      • I just read the war within and it was very informative. I just found the correct and currant codes for SIRS….ICD code R65.10 and that’s for 2016. I’m not going to let BCBS NOT pay for my care! I’m going to keep fighting and refuse to cancel my insurance so that I can pay for the care…I can’t afford $1,100 a mth AND pay out of pocket for the treatment. What are we paying insurance for if they don’t cover anything you need?!!!!

    • Hi can you tell me the holistic doctor that Dr Shoemaker certified in NJ??? I have been sick for 8 months

      • Hi Christina! His name is Dr Michael Rothman and he’s in Springlake, NJ. Address 1325 Warren Ave, 07762. His phone is listed as MD wellness and his phone is (732)268-7663. Brenda his nurse is very nice as is he and I don’t think he’s actually a naturopath but he believes firmly in finding out WHY you have problems and them wants to correct them…which is the only way to get well, right? He’s into nutrition, clean way of living and will prescribe meds only if absolutely necessary and appropriate which all Drs should be doing. He doesn’t take any insurance but when other stupid un informed Drs have destroyed your health, it a blessing to pay someone who actually knows what to look for, knows what labs to test, spends an 1 1/2 hrs for the first visit so you have plenty of time to talk uninterrupted and then gets it right. I’m not trying to paint him as a God, but right now in my book….he’s close! I had been suffering for close to 4yrs, was operated on 3x’s for nothing, many, many meds, labeled as a complainer with phychiatric problems who they just wanted to medicate with anti depressants and then to hear your not crazy and to see the lab results..IT MADE MY DAY and I’ve contacted a few of those “other Drs” to TELL them how far off the mark with what they did to me they were and it’s satisfying to see their faces when they look at the lab reports and I tell them what they should have done instead. I really think God I ended up in his office because I still wouldn’t have any answers and I’d still be living in this sick house not knowing any better. I’m trying now to find a clean place to rent, at least for a yr but I have money problems and also 8 cats…so it’s not easy but somehow it will work out…I hope! Good luck and if you have any questions for me, don’t hesitate to ask!

      • Dr Michael Rothman on Warren Ave, Springlake, Nj. You can look him up and it comes as MD wellness. I thought he was a naturopath but he isn’t. He believes in natural medicine 1st and if needed then he’ll prescribe meds but likes to stay with natural substances rather then synthetic. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t know why I’m so sick for the past 4yrs and I wouldn’t know I had to vacate the house….which I’m working on now but with limited money it’s been hard. Hope this helps!

  6. I believe that a birth defect that was caused by exposure to mold could have been the result of old technology under the toilet and the pregnant woman would be exposed to it every day of her pregnancy. Every home has them and up till now what is out of sight is out of mind. I am sure there are cases where the moms did not know how they were exposed. I believe I have found the answer.
    The toilet flange is the piece of plumbing that connects the toilet to the sewer. They all have open slots where the toilet bolts go and holes where the flange is screwed to the floor. These openings expose the bathroom sub floor which is food for mold to the inherent moisture that is always there.
    I believe that the open slot toilet flange is the secret killer.

  7. I have a question. My daughter has lyme and the “dreaded” HLA gene. We have done the ERMI test as well. We are moving her out of the house because our crawl space will have to be sealed, etc… We have a chance to move into a relative’s attached apartment. However, it did flood in the past. The ducts have been replaced as have the walls and floors. Would that be safe?

    • Kelli – In my opinion I would invest the money to do an ERMI or at least a HERTSMI-2 via mycometrics in the room(s) she will be staying in. Even though it sounds like remediation was done there is no guarantee.

  8. Hi Chris. Thanks so much for shining a light on the subject of mold. I’m just checking in to see if you have any further information from Dr. Ghosh about the safety of using the air oasis units while in the room or are you still just using them when not in the room? If so, I’m considering some programmable wifi outlets where I could set up a schedule for them to run when I’m not home. Thanks.

    • I hope your get an answer as I’m still eager to know, too! I want to run mine much more while I’m at home and while I’m out, but am not sure if it’s safe for my pets. Now I only run it in one room at a time and have to lock the pets out.

  9. Our family of 11 lost our home to toxic mold. It took us 8 years to make the connection. We vacated the home in 2008 and slowly got our lives back thanks to radical lifestyle changes. Thanks for spreading the word.

    • Chris’ podcasts were one of the things that led me to test in the first place Andrea. As much as I hate this mold fiasco, I’m glad I got to meet you in the process as well. 🙂

      • How long did it take to feel normal again? We have a mold issue and are trying to find a new home now. It hasn’t been easy finding a new place. We own our home.

        • Hi Stacie! Thanks for the encouragement. I let go of “normal” eventually and found that things slowly improved to the point where I wasn’t thinking about mold or chemical exposures much. You’re on a good path and will get to the other side no doubt.

  10. Chris good article. You mentioned “… identification of particular species of Penicillium, Aspergillus, Wallemia, etc., which is important because different species have different health effects.”

    I’d be interested to know what health effects are known about Wallemia mold. Thanks.

  11. Chris, I’m curious what your thoughts are on how extreme we need to take “getting rid of our belongings.” Literally, just last week we found out we’re dealing with a great deal of mold which likely explains our entire family’s health issues despite following a functional medicine lifestyle for years. We’re going to have the remediation done and have opted to also have all of our carpeting removed and flooring replaced. Do we truly need to consider getting rid of most of our personal belongings as well? I realize you may not want to make a blanket statement but would love any comments you do have to share. Thank you!

    • Terra…Google “paradigm change me.com” what do I do with my stuff? This will explain everything to you and what should go and why. It also has other good articals you can click on. I’m throwing everything out except my clothes and you have to wash all of them in ammonia in the washing machine. I’m bath9ing my cats in ammonia/water as well cuz it’s the only substance known to kill both mold and mycotoxins and is even safe to bath infants in. I’ll be bathing in it as well every night for 20mins once I move out of this sick house. Good luck!

  12. Chris, thank you for all the great work you do and especially the recent posts about CIRS.

    Now, I am asking that you read this with compassion. I think you touch the lives of many and could continue to do so, with increased awareness.

    I was reading this article and intrigued by the air filter mentions: you said they were pricey, and pricey indeed: I looked up the items and from what you said it appears you have invested at least $4000 in air filtration/sanitizers in your own home, which is, as you say, worth it. I believe it is for you and your family.

    I have been following your blog for nearly 5 years now and it’s been an invaluable resource through my own journey to better health, I traveled to Berkeley from Oregon on my own to your book release, you are my first resource for nearly anything health related.

    I am a supplements clerk, I make $10/hr, but I can only work 3-4 days a week because of yet-undiagnosed health issues. I have state health care and foods stamps. I devote a large amount of my resources to quality food and do the best I can.

    I say this because I am a huge fan of you: remember that much of your readership are not the Bay Area upper-middle class folks you often cater to. While you may say that it was worth it to you to spend so much on air filters, its a punch in the gut to us whom $4000 is a small fortune, to assume that there’s any way in hell we can beg borrow or steal an $800 air filter, much less even more than a months supply of probiotics. It’s hard to hear you call it “worth it”: as if suggesting that all your readers can just shift our budgets around a bit to accommodate the extra expense, or work a little harder. To put it in perspective, $800 is how much I make per month, total. $4000 is how much I make in 4- 5 months. And I have it pretty good compared to many.

    I don’t ask you to dramatically change what you’re doing, what you’re doing is great: and no, it’s not your fault that the “healthcare” system in this country is effed, or that access to healthy food, water, air, housing is heavily stratified among class and race lines…I merely ask that you lower your blinders just a little, to give a little nod to the masses that aren’t in your economic class, because some of us DO follow you. this could mean simply acknowledging the relatively inaccessibility of many of your suggestions, or even the occasional suggestion of lower-cost alternatives, or links to resources. Otherwise your efforts merely benefit the upper classes.

    Thank you very much, keep up the good work and thanks for reading my short novel.

    • Yep, Chris has a following of little rich brats who are the ones following his every suggestion and buying these items. See how he doesn’t answer the questions of the great unwashed suckers w real health problems? That is while he and his family splurge on preventives, at the expense of the suckers who are truly sick and who also have come to see him (oh, IN THE BAY AREA) after a blood soaking rigid protocol of getting thru his henchmen at the front end not to mention the 2k for a lousy needle pricker.

      I’ve come to not really believe anything anymore as it’s all about the greenbacks. This mold thing, btw, although real, is also a cash cow. Shoemaker is Mr Chaching and Chris is panting, all along for the dough.

      Not good manners to ignore the people, dude!

    • Just a reminder that Chris doesn’t determine the price of the air filters he recommends. His only job is to tell the truth as he knows it. Don’t shoot the messenger or you will no longer receive the message.

  13. What exactly is the mold-Lyme connection? If one has Lyme&co-infect. (Bab Dunc, Bab Fishe, Anaplasma), is mold often also an issue?
    We had the Hertzmi done & was “moderately elevated”…(have had condensation in attic…) ; (
    any thoughts?
    many thx!!

  14. I believe that the first thing you need to do if you suspect you have mold (of any kind) in your home or place of work, is to get rid of it. In order to know the correct method to remove it so it doesn’t come back and without risking further exposure you will need to get a mold testing specialist. companies like AirMD.com provide nation wide mold testings and other air quality testing. They’ve save my house from mold infestation.

  15. I have been diagnosed with BOOP, interstitial lung disease, Mycobacterium abscesses, Aspergillus fumigata, and other lung diseases by an infectious disease doctor and pulmonologist at national Jewish Hospital in Denver Colorado. Throughout the last 25 years I have lived in homes and worked in buildings that have had mold in them. My husband and I purchased a home recently in Hendersonville North Carolina. After the home inspection during which time there was no mold found, I began to have symptoms. I have hired an environmental scientist to do mold inspection/testing. Your article has been very helpful and I will use some of your texts for discussion when he comes back with his results. Do you happen to have a doctor in the Asheville/Hendersonville area? in 2011 they found the above referenced infections/molds. I was in the hospital for 30 days and on IV treatments for three months. Currently, I am on three antibiotics and will be for the rest of my life. I take amoxicillin, minicyclin, chlofasamine. Thank you for your work. Patricia

    • Hi .. Can I ask how they concluded your dx? Meaning what testing?
      I am getting treated for mold exposure however I feel lost and I feel like my body is failing , all that is being done is confusing blood work
      Thank you

      • Would you please send me the name of the Doctor who diagnosed you with boop??

        My husband had it, it was vicious. I sincerely hope you get well soon.

        What type of occupation were you in?

  16. The owner of the house that I moved into last year started treatment for Lyme disease with a local doctor trained in Dr. Shoemaker’s protocols. At the initial appointment, her doctor advised that a HERTSMI mold test be done to make sure she was not having mold exposures that would interfere with Lyme treatment. The HERTSMI tests for the 5 worst mold species associated with human illness. It’s a subset of the 36 species ERMI test and what doctors usually order. Since I had the ‘dreaded’ haplotype and had been diagnosed with CIRS from living in two water damaged homes, I paid the extra to get the more comprehensive ERMI test ($290). The results came back with a low mold index score, and both my doctor and the home owner’s doctor said we were safe! However, Mycometrics staff explained to me that though the score was low, the fact that so many species showed up—particularly ones that can produce mycotoxins and that require a a lot of water over a long period of time—was an indication of a past or current water issue in the house. My symptoms worsened over the next months, and finally an inspection was done by a knowledgeable Industrial Hygienist. High levels of mold were discovered under carpet in the garage and behind the kitchen sink wall due to a pipe leak. He explained to me that the HERTSMI is usually ordered by doctors to detect risk for illness, while the ERMI provides more comprehensive info to Industrial Hygienists about what’s happening in the building. Doctors aren’t trained to analyze this info. So a cautionary warning: always speak with the lab when you get your ERMI results. (I only use Mycometrics and they are very helpful). They can give you info about which molds in your results produce mycotoxins and how much moisture they need to grow, which can help you identify a long standing hidden leak and guide you in doing remediation properly. Your doctor is probably not knowledgeable enough to interpret the results and may tell you there’s not a problem, when in fact there is a dangerous mold issue.

  17. Funny timing on this article Chris. I just had my breast implants removed due to suspicion of Breast Implant Illness. I was going to search your site to see if you’d ever done an article on it. Although this article is not specific to that, the biotoxin concern is a great point of interest in the breast implant illness community.

    I think it would be great for you to do an article o implant illness to spread the word on how they are making people sick!

    • I am wondering if the removal of your implants made you any better? I have been contemplating the same

  18. 15 years wading through chronic conditions the best I can. What are some better-than-nothing air purifier options for the majority of us that have limited budgets? Say under $200? I appreciate the functional medicine approach, but it would be great if practioners included cheaper alternatives, acknowledging many of us don’t have the choice to choose expensive tests and gadgets.

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<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/5-things-you-should-know-about-toxic-mold-illness/comment-page-3/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_1"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_4"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='9915' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_5"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Skin' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=Skin' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_4" name="ak_js" value="116"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_4" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>
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