Mold in New Mexico?
Awareness is half the cure. Here’s a look at health risks and what you can to do to get help
by Wendy Bodin, BS, CPH, CKT C 2006
Here in our sunny dry climate of New Mexico, mold is not the first word that comes to mind. However, we are discovering increasing problems with mold in our homes, apartments and work environments.
Did you know that Arizona ranks 6th in the nation with mold issues according to the Greengard Environmental Institute, (GEI). The GEI states that “moisture intrusion, not climate, is the largest contributor to mold in U.S. residential and commercial properties.” This data is based on mold losses on insurance claims. Data for New Mexico is misleading since the situation is not being acknowledged or properly documented, however the problem exists and is increasing. Our mold issues in the Southwest are primarily due to the construction methods and materials being used. Many newer buildings are overly insulated and trap moisture in the walls where it cannot escape, leading to mold growth. Most of this moisture is coming from ordinary bathroom showers and leaks in pipes, faucets, toilets etc. Other sources are doors, windows and roofs that have not been sealed properly. In other words, the states that have the lowest construction standards have the highest rates of mold problems. New Mexico has not considered this to be important and consequently homeowners and particularly renters are at risk.
Since our record monsoon rainfall, many New Mexico roofs have leaks and seepage into walls and hidden areas. The source of roof leaks is often hard to find, and the water damage is not necessarily where you think it is. Once the water has entered a building you have about 2-3 days to get it dried out before mold starts growing!
Why is mold such a problem?
The effects of molds on our health can be devastating. Many common categories of molds produce mycotoxins that make us sick. Even if the mold is behind a wall, the spores become airborne and enter the body through the lungs, by ingestion in foods, and by contact with the skin. By inhaling spores, the molds gain an ideal environment inside our bodies to incubate and establish colonies. If the spores are from toxic strains, we are in further danger.
There is a common misperception that the reactions to molds are all allergic reactions. Not all molds are the same and our reactions to them are not the same. Some molds are very toxic and common such as stachybotrys. Stachybotrys is poisonous if inhaled, and can cause severe and sudden illness or shock. This is not an allergic reaction, but a physical response to real poisons. Aspergillus mold has over 200 strains which produce toxins that are classified as carcinogens. Aspergillus mold is commonly found in pillows, particularly synthetic pillows. The spores invade the lungs, the brain, the kidneys, liver and the heart valves. Aspergillus has been clearly linked to Leukemia. Other conditions that have been attributed to prolonged exposure to molds include Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Asthma, Lupus and others.
Let’s take a look at of some of the reactions to exposure to molds:
Difficulty breathing and concentrating, dizziness, memory loss, confusion and disorientation indoors (but the person feels better outdoors), tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, fever, inflammation, irritation to eyes, or severe allergic reactions such as Anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis presents with flushing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, swelling and reddening of affected tissues, sudden drop in blood pressure with anxiety, disorientation and more.
Many times, people with these symptoms from mold are not diagnosed or treated properly by medical professionals since most of them do not have a good understanding of toxic mold exposure.
If you think you are being exposed to mold in your environment, what do you do? First take care of yourself! Get out and into a clean environment and start detoxifying yourself immediately. If you are weak, or your brain is dizzy or foggy, you won’t be able think clearly enough to take proper action. When trying to discuss your situation with a medical, legal or other community professional when you are unclear, your credibility will likely be in question, so get better before you take any action.
When it comes to proving mold exists and is likely making you sick, you bear the burden of proof, which can be very costly. Renters have few legal options as there are no regulations on this issue in New Mexico. (The best I was able to do, was get out of a lease and recover my health.) Home owners have more rights and options, but these pale in comparison to the rights and options in other states.
Self Testing Kits: These can be useful for you to determine whether or not to hire a qualified mold inspector. Alone, they will not stand up to legal scrutiny.
Mold Inspector: Call a qualified, certified and insured mold inspector. Your inspector’s credentials, sampling methods and lab analysis will be evaluated (if you choose a legal course of action). Check your mold inspector’s references. One resource is Albuquerque Certified Mold Inspector Ron Rhoades, at 505-252-8435.
Remediation: Make sure your clean up professional removes 100% of all infected building materials and spores. Dead mold spores are just as toxic as living spores. Any remaining spores will become active again with moisture.
There are volumes of information available on mold issues. However, there is also an ocean of denial about this issue that permeates our city and state statutes, the medical community at large and insurance companies who lobby hard to exclude mold contamination from coverage.
Wendy Bodin is a Holistic Health Consultant with 13 years of clinical experience and 27 years of personal experience with mold-related health issues. She came to Albuquerque from Seattle, Washington where the mainstay of her clinical practice was helping people with mold related issues. She is a Certified Kinesiologist, Certified Professional Herbalist and Holistic Life Coach for individuals, teens, and families. Wendy's website offers references and household tips. http://www.luminaryhealth.com/ToxicMoldInfo.html