This article will teach you what bio-toxins are, so you understand mold is just the beginning of the story of the hazards that result from a water damaged building. By understanding this you will understand how to make your air healthier to breathe.
It is VERY IMPORTANT to know that with active growth, toxins will NEVER be eliminated. They have to be REDUCED by REMOVAL. See our related article here about how difficult toxins are to eliminate once established.
What Biotoxins Are
When people think of water damaged buildings (WDB), they think of mold, but what they don’t realize is that with excessive water and mold comes many other biologically active substances.
Typically there are over thirty different kinds of biotoxins found in WDBs that fall into one of these categories:
- Fungi (Mycotoxins and Fungal Fragments) Molds produce mycotoxins which vary in their level of known toxicity and can cause serious health issues. A single fungi/mold can produce multiple types of mycotoxins.
- Bacteria & Bacterial Fragments (Gram-negative and Gram-positive Bacteria, Endotoxins, Actinomycetes, Mycobacteria) These substances are proving more important to the development of chronic inflammation than mold or mycotoxins.
- Inflammagens (Siderophores, beta glucans, cell wall components, cell fragments, proteinases, and lipopolysaccharides)
- Volatile Organic Compounds: Mold, bacteria, and actinomycetes produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as waste products during consumption of substrate.
I found it frustrating not having a science background to understand this level of detail. This source has more detail if desired.
These organisms mentioned above, like any other, including you, are looking for a “sweet spot” for food and water. When the colonies of organisms get established can multiply. When these organisms are threatened or under stress they produce toxins to out compete each other by KILLING other living organisms.
Pause for a second….
Is that something that sounds healthy for you?
Of course not.
Many, but not all bio-toxins are immune suppressants and some are extremely toxic to your nerves and brain. In fact, some of these toxins are so effective that they are used in biological warfare. (Stachybotrys (black mold) was used in Vietnam and in the Gulf War.)
What is Normal or Abnormal Fungal Ecology?
Mold and bacteria are EVERYWHERE and there is no such thing as an environment that exists without it. There are 3 conditions that gives us a starting point for assessment and remediation as defined by the IICRC (This association provides the gold standard for this topic. THIS LINK is for the 2008 edition. 2021 was just published, but viewable by paid subscription only.)
- Condition 1 (The good): Normal fungi ecology: Normal mold presence based on the identity, location and quantity of a reflective ecology for similar indoor environments.
- Condition 2 (The bad): Settled spores: An indoor environment which is confirmed to have excessive microbial spores and are dispersed directly or indirectly from a condition 3 area, also known as cross contamination.
- Condition 3 (The ugly): Actual Growth: Worst case scenario, mold growth that is visible and air contamination is confirmed.
To restore normal fungal ecology:
- The source of water and contamination must be eliminated. The fungus must be contained and carefully removed, so as to avoid spreading it throughout the home. Typically drywall will be removed 2 feet beyond the water line. Guidelines for this process can be found with the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). Members of this organization set the health and safety standards for remediation. (The person doing the remediation may be found here, but please don’t confuse them with Indoor Environmental Professional who evaluates the home condition before and after the remediator has done their work.)
- The contents of the home must be dealt with. All possessions made of cellulose that can’t be washed or are greater than 1/2 an inch thick must be disposed of. (A qualified Indoor Environmental Professional, such as a member of The International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness” (ISEAI) can help you decide, based on your test results.)
The reason why significant removal of biotoxins is important is because mold colonies in your building materials, bed, couch, books and papers are waiting for water to begin feeding in the material they have settled into. Any time mold colonies get established in your home or contents and humidity goes above 55%, they become active again… even after the event causing water damage is fixed!
You cannot eliminate all mold spores, but the idea is to drastically reduce the count and eliminate the largest sources completely.
If you wish to read more on what biotoxins are, this is an excellent reference:The biocontaminants and complexity of damp indoor spaces. A publication by highly respected toxicologist. This goes into the weeds specifically on biotoxins in water damaged buildings.
I will include information in the future about how I sought medical treatment for recovery. Please know that it DOES NOT MATTER what medical treatments are available if you continue to live or work in a toxic environment. Step one to recovery is getting out and taking nothing contaminated with you.
Getting out is VERY HARD and there will be days when you feel like you can’t do it. I’m going through that soul-wrenching process right now, but I am taking steps toward that goal.
It is my hope by sharing my journey, I can give you or someone you know the roadmap you need to give you the courage and strength you need for your own recovery.
Stay Tuned for Future Lessons
Future newsletters will explain why the longer the water damage festers the worse the outcome. I will also share how to look for signs of a water damaged building, health tips, improving indoor air quality, digitizing documents, and more.
These are lessons that will help anyone wishing to live their best life possible without brain fog or other symptoms from toxins in your environment and body.
Here is an index of topics on this subject that will be updated with each new series of lessons offered.
If you have feedback for improvement or want to share some related wisdom, your words are very welcome! (CONTACT LINK)