(If you have ever wondered about car-buying tips for mold-sensitive individuals, this post is for you.)
Today, I want to share another reader Q & A to help anyone who may be going through mold issues with their current car, or who is looking to purchase a car, but is concerned about mold. This reader wrote to me with the following question:
I love your page! I need advice for purchasing a new car for my daughter. Her old car was from our toxic house and is still making her sick even after fogging it.
(Note: They fogged the car interior using the Sanitizer fogger with a solution of EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate and distilled water, proportioned per device instructions. They also did mold plate testing on the interior of the car, sending plates off too ImmunoLytics for laboratory analysis. The tests revealed mold colonies at levels that would cause reactions and inflammation for all individuals, even those who are not particularly mold sensitive. The mold species of particular concern that was identified as being present in the car was Penicillium. I was not given the information on the exact strain of Penicillium found. Many strains of Penicillium are toxic, although most found in indoor environments are not the most virulently toxic strains, but, even these strains are highly allergenic in nature and are respiratory irritants. Therefore, it is not a mold that is healthy for anyone to inhale in an enclosed space, like a car.)
I would love suggestions on cloth vs. leather seats, etc. Also, if we purchase another car, should I fog the new car right away and burn an EC3 candle in it? I have a friend that works at Hyundai and knows my situation and he is looking into pre-owned cars with low mileage. I am feeling confident a different car at this point is clearly going to make her feel better. Any and all advice would be very much appreciated!!
Well, this is a difficult one, because cars are their own, unique environments and can be tricky to clean, control and remediate. So, before I begin with my answer, I do want to say this for anyone reading, whether you are in the market for a new car or not: Consider how much time you spend in your car. For those who have a long commute, or those who spend hours in the car each day, the interior environment and air quality inside of a car is of paramount importance. You are spending enough time inside of it to make you really sick, if it is contaminated. For these types of folks, and those who are extremely mold sensitive, it is definitely worth doing more research and testing a car, especially a used car, for mold prior to purchase. For someone who drives 10 minutes to and from work and whose car is rarely used, it is probably not as important, unless you are extremely mold sensitive. For these folks, test driving a car and really seeing how you feel inside of the car may be enough to tell you if it is ok for you. If I have learned anything when it comes to mold, it is that your gut, instincts, and body’s visceral reaction to a space are the best indicators. For example, now that I know what happens to my body when it is exposed to mold or an otherwise toxic environment with chemical fumes or exposed fiberglass insulation, the minute I start to feel itchy, sick, or congested, I pretty much know that there is mold or another toxin present somewhere around me.
That being said, I told the reader that I definitely think purchasing her daughter a new car is the way to go, mostly on the basis that simply fogging or burning an EC3 Air Purification candle in a contaminated car will not always be enough to eliminate the mold problem. As long as it is burning, an EC3 candle will reduce all air mold counts to zero, but you cannot drive around with a burning candle in your car, now can you? Also, if the mold is within a cars AC system, or a fault in its drainage system, then fogging the car will not solve the issue. It will keep coming back.
In order to consult professionals who are familiar with this topic. I called on a mold remediation professional/Building Biologist and Dr. Dennis. I wanted them to weigh in to make sure that all of the advice I was going to give this reader was sound. (Note: A Building Biologist is a certified professional, skilled in identifying, assessing, and mitigating or eliminating toxic pollutants, including mold and bacterial threats, and electromagnetic emissions in homes, schools and offices. It is a relatively new field of building science that is particularly focused on how building practices and materials affect the health of the occupants.)
After lengthy consultations with both professionals, here is my response to the reader:
Hi! Here is all of the information I was able to gather. I have also included some information about properly treating cars for mold. I have been as detailed as I can be, but if there is anything that needs more explanation, please feel free to reach out to me.
Some cars, not all but many, have a problem with draining water out of the AC coil box. They tend to get high interior mold levels as a result. According to the mold/Building Biologist that I consulted, who knows a wealth of information about cars and the internal mechanics of cars, in the summer, if you park a car on a hill going up a driveway, when the car is moved, there will be a water trail under the car. This is the condensation from the AC (this should happen), but not in some makes. For whatever reason, in some cars, this condensation doesn’t drain from the coil, but sits on it. Thus, the sitting moisture can grow mold in the AC system, which then blows inside the car. Dr. Dennis has had several patients with homes that are fine, but their cars are making them sick. This drainage issue could occur with any car, and would be a problem. So, if I were you, when you test drive cars, see if you can do the hill parking test. This could yield very valuable information right out of the gate. I would also look online at car forums, specifically searching for mold issues. Put in the make and model you are interested in and see if anyone out there is complaining about mold issues in that particular car. If mold problems seem to be on the forums consistently for that make and model, I would avoid it.
In addition, when looking for a car, here is my best advice in a sort of step-by-step list:
- Get in the car and turn on the AC. If there is any noticeable musty smell, do not buy it.
- Inspect the car for dampness. Feel around the entire interior upholstery and carpet for moisture. If there is a leak, have it fixed.
- See how you feel in the car. Most folks can tell if they feel good, or there is an odor. If there is any odor inside the car, do not buy it.
- Test drive the car for at least 10 minutes, if possible. Talk to the dealer, if using a dealership, about your issues and see if you can take the car on some sort of approval-type basis to make sure that you do not react to it. I did this with my Honda. We purchased the car new from a local dealership, and when I explained my issues to them, they were incredibly amenable to working with me. In my opinion, if there is immediate push-back, this is valuable information. They may be difficult to deal with on other things as well, and it might be best to cut your losses early.
- Stay away from fabric interiors. Opt for leather or some version of leather instead. Fabric absorbs moisture, dirt, and mold, and serves as food for mold. It is also much more difficult to clean.
- Look inside the AC vent with very good flash light. If there is any fabric vs. smooth surface visible inside of the vent, do not buy the car. Non-smooth is an indication of some insulating material than can trap moisture and grow mold, or worst case, fiberglass.
- If the inside smell is good (in terms of mold and mustiness), and there are no chemical smells, Tap test with SDA agar mold plates—front seat, carpet, back seat and trunk. When you look at your results, you are looking for 0-4 or 5 total colonies after 5 days. Send the plates into a lab for accurate count. You can also bring a friend who has a very sensitive nose. Not everyone will identify subtle smells.
- If your daughter is diagnosed as chemically sensitive, new is not good. Not all mold sensitive people are chemically sensitive, unless they are ultra sensitive having reached their “toxic burden”. Cars usually need 1 year to give them enough time to off gas. If chemical sensitivity is slight or very mild, look at cars that have been sitting in a hot lot for a month or so. The intense heat will remove chemicals.
- If you need to fast-track the off-gasing process, there are ways to do it by running a car with the heater on full blast for 8 hours per day with the car windows cracked slightly to allow the escape of gases. Some of Dr. Dennis’s patients have even had success with adding an electric heater inside the car, and putting a remote temp gauge inside to keep temperature at about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. I am told it takes 2-4 weeks at 8 hrs per day for the severely chemically sensitive to remove enough new car chemicals for them to tolerate being in the car without a reaction. I think this may be a gamble, and it is best to start with car that does not seem to bother your daughter at all, rather than to bank on this working.
- You can fog the car with the EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate diluted per package instructions with the Sanitizer fogger. In theory, this should work if the mold is only present in the surface materials of the car. I don’t recommend doing this, though, unless you can be certain to completely dry the car out after fogging is complete. Any residual moisture can grow mold.
- You can use the EC3 Mold Solution Spray on all interior surfaces. I would do this with any car you purchase. Just mist the seats, dash, console, etc., and wipe everything down thoroughly.
- It is best to have the dealer’s service department clean the AC coils and treat the entire system prior to use. Also have them replace the cabin filter. The filter should be a carbon filter.
- If you have your car detailed, try doing it at a new and used car dealer. The price is slightly higher, but they make the car seem like brand new. Most use ozone to remove mold and smells. This does the trick but it should be done by someone experienced using ozone.
- You can also use EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate diluted per package instructions to spray into the outside windshield wiper vent where the air is being sucked into the cabin. Start the engine and AC to get the solution circulating through the air system, To know exactly where to spray, you can do a visual test by placing a tissue over the outside vent to see where the air is being sucked inside. That’s where you spray about 40 times on each side.
You can also use ¼ quarter of EC3 Laundry Additive in 1 quart of water in quart spray bottle to spray for this same application. (Note: ALWAYS remove cabin filter before spraying outside vent.). Here is an instructional video on doing so:
- This is the air purifier that can be used in a car: Vapor-Eze Clean Air 5100 HEPA Filtration System. I have not used this, but have heard great things about it from other mold sufferers.
Let me know if you need anything else. I hope I have helped.
Good luck and keep me updated.
Well, the reader was able to find a suitable car for her daughter—one that she does not react to—which is great news. The car is used, so she is following my advice and treating it with the EC3 Mold Solution Spray before her daughter starts using it on a regular basis. She has also done another round of mold testing in the new car. So far, all of the tests look good. She is pleased and promises to keep me updated. I’ll let you guys know if anything else comes up that may also help you.