Home Healthy Home I Think My Home is Making Me Sick. Now What?

I Think My Home is Making Me Sick. Now What?

by Catherine

Learn How to Identify and Remediate Mold and Mycotoxin Exposure With the Mold Masterclass

If you are reading this post, you have probably wondered about or faced the health implications of living in a moldy environment at some point. Having to deal with the whole “mold question”—whether or not mold exists in your home and if it is dangerous to your health or not—can be daunting, to say the least. Most people know very little, if anything, about where to begin with a mold inspection or what they should even be looking for, other than obvious mold growth. So, when the decision is made to investigate a home for mold, the goal is usually to find a professional to guide the process with clear diagnostics and methodologies that will yield answers and solutions. Unfortunately, many times, the inspection procedure ends up being far from clear, and homeowners, including myself at one point, end up with a bunch of test results that are hard to interpret, but no definite answers, next steps, solutions, or piece of mind. In the end, questions remain and the home and people in it often remain sick, confused, and out the money that was spent on an inconclusive mold inspection.

The main breakdown here, in my opinion, is that not all mold inspectors are created equal, nor do all mold inspectors truly understand and respect the health concerns associated with mold. In addition, in some states there is little barrier to entry to the profession. Some mold inspectors are even allowed to perform both the inspection and the remediation—a clear conflict of interest. Within the profession, there is also no clearly established lens through which an inspector is required to view the definition of a healthy home or healthy levels of mold inside of a home. This is particularly important, because, depending on your method of mold evaluation and testing, it can be like comparing apples to oranges from one inspector’s point of view to another. For example, if one mold inspector bases her diagnosis of your home solely upon the airborne mold counts indoors in comparison to those outdoors, she may decide that the home is safe, while another inspector who employs thermography, moisture readings, and mycotoxin testing, in addition to airborne mold counts, might deem the exact same home as needing major remediation to be safe.

What is the solution, especially if you are mold-sensitive and already not in a state of good health?

Becoming Educated About Indoor Mold and Mycotoxins

The solution is for YOU, the person whose health lies in the balance, to learn “insider information” on all-things mold, mycotoxins, inspections, testing, and remediation, so that you can take control of the situation yourself.  Luckily, Brian Karr has designed and created the Mold Masterclass to help you get all of the knowledge and information necessary to do that.

Brian Karr is a 2nd-generation mold consultant with particular interest in mold and mycotoxins and how such toxins in an indoor environment affect the health of those that live there. (He didn’t start in the family business, but transitioned to it a little later in the game. Years working in advertising left him unsatisfied and not feeling like he was making a difference in the world, so he transitioned to helping people make their environments safe and healthy and has never looked back.) Rather than doing standard mold inspections, and helping people to check the box of whether or not their home “has mold,” which, really tells them no constructive information at all (we will get into that more later), Brian seeks to help people understand if and why mold, mycotoxins or other indoor pathogens exist in their homes in the first place.

The why piece of the investigation is what really sets Brian and his methodologies apart from most mold inspectors: locating the source and the reason for the mold growth, allows him to help his clients devise actionable and long-term solutions to fix their homes, or concrete reasons to leave, so that they can actually get better. In addition, Brian truly understands and acknowledges the health implications of living in a mold-sick home. Not only is his wife sensitive to mold, but he takes it upon himself to attend multiple international medical conferences and workshops every year that focus on how the environment impacts human health, most of which are specifically centered around chronic illness and individuals with biotoxin- or environmentally-acquired illness. A few examples of these include conferences and workshops organized by the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), Integrative Healthcare Symposium (IHS), and Environmental Health Symposium (EHS).

Brian joined the family business, because he saw the need to educate clients about the inspection process and about what his findings mean for their health, especially should they decide to continue living in the home. His unique knowledge of the “health piece” of the mold inspection business has established him as a go-to mold and mycotoxin resource for many medical practitioners across the country, and has enabled him to help more than 3,000 hypersensitive individuals create a healthier living environment.

How Do You Know So Much About Mold?

Brian is a Certified Microbial Investigator (CMI), accredited through the American Council for Accredited Certifications (ACAC), North America’s oldest and most prestigious certifying body dedicated to indoor air quality. He is an expert at identifying indoor sources of mold growth and the presence of mycotoxins and pathogens. He is also an expert at strategically sampling, validating, and developing remediation strategies for all areas of a home or building, including walls, floors, ceilings, crawl spaces, basements, attics, and HVAC systems. Once his investigation is complete, he then works with a vetted array of remediation and contract professionals to help his clients achieve the safe, mold and mycotoxin-free living spaces that they need for improved health.

We Inspect is the indoor environmental assessment company co-founded by Brian that specializes in mold and mycotoxin detection for hypersensitive individuals. Brian is a full and active member of the International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness (ISEAI) and a former member of the Indoor Air Quality Association subcommittee where he contributed to several published articles. (Note: Brian will be presenting at the next IAQA Annual Meeting Conference next February in Florida. His presentation title is Mold, Mycotoxins, Endotoxins: Remediation for Hypersensitive Individuals. The presentation will explore the methods and procedures of mold and biotoxin remediation specifically for hypersensitive clients. Approximately 25% of the population suffers from a genetic defect that does not allow them to detox mold and microbial toxins from their bodies.  That is roughly 80 million people in the United States alone. For these people, the mainstream approach to mold remediation will not suffice. The need for specialized remediation practices tailored for these individuals is paramount to overall health and wellness.)Most pertinent to us, though, and what I want to share with you today is my experience with the Mold Masterclass, a digital training program that Brian developed for hypersensitive individuals to provide all the information they need to help identify and reduce mold and mycotoxin exposure within their homes.

What Exactly is a Mold Masterclass?

Mold Masterclass is an online training course designed to teach best practices of how to identify and remediate mold and mycotoxin exposure. Anyone who completes the course then has the information necessary to oversee the inspection and remediation processes without having to rely solely on professionals for answers or to do the job correctly. Brian did not create the course to replace the need for professionals, but, rather, to close the gap between professional and consumer knowledge, so that anyone can take charge of their life and environment.

 

Why Bother Creating A Mold and Mycotoxin Course for Everyone?

Being out in the field, and helping health-compromised clients find answers about their homes, Brian became acutely aware of the false sense of security that bad mold testing and remediation practices were giving people. He had seen too many instances of families continuing to live in “sick” homes, because a mold inspector, who just took a few air samples, told them that it was safe. Brian was always the inspector who later had to come in, as the family continued to be sick, and tell them that the home was, in fact, not safe and needed major remediation. He felt like creating the course and a proper knowledge database would help people to be more in charge of their health. He believed that access to accurate information would help individuals know how to ask the right questions and to direct an inspector to get all of the data needed to make a proper diagnosis of what was really going on their home. Again, the goal of the course is not to replace an inspector. The goal is to give anyone who wants it, the information to properly guide an inspector to get more accurate and helpful results.

Side Note: I wish I had had access to this course a long time ago. The value of the information included in the course would’ve saved us thousands of dollars and months of sickness from continuing to live in a mold-sick home that “passed” an initial mold inspection. As a matter of fact, had I taken this course before our first mold inspection, I would’ve mapped out a series of additional steps for the inspector to take (testing our HVAC system), as well as included additional tests and diagnostics that would have definitely shown us the mold that first time. Also, I would’ve been able to look at our test and swab results myself and KNOWN that we had a problem. Sadly, for us, I didn’t know any of this information, and neither did the inspector, so we did not get answers that helped us until we were all very sick.

Why I Took the Mold Masterclass

Before I decided to write about and share the course here on the blog, I, of course, wanted to take it myself. I wanted to see exactly how the course is structured, how the information is presented, the usefulness and quality of the information presented, and whether or not I felt like it would be valuable for people suffering from mold and environmental illness. More information is not always better information. More is sometimes just more—more confusing, more overwhelming. Often with online courses, even if the information is valuable, when it is not presented in a clear way, it is unusable to the student. That doesn’t help anyone, especially those whose health is in danger. I also didn’t know much about Brian or his inspection business going in, so I didn’t want to lead anyone to someone whose philosophies on mold and health were different from mine. I will say that a naturopathic doctor who I really value and respect directed me to Brian, but, other than that, I had zero expectations. I honestly just wanted to see what I could learn that I didn’t already know at this point, and what of that information could I then bring to you here on the blog.

Spoiler Alert: It turns out, there is A LOT I didn’t know.

My Experience With the Mold Masterclass

(Note: I am going to start from the beginning and take you step-by-step through the key components of the course, giving my insights as I go. I hope that will help you to make the best decision about whether or not enrolling in the course is something that would be valuable for you. I have zero affiliation with Brian, We Inspect, or Mold Masterclass. I am giving my honest feedback and sharing this information purely to help others gain more access to the information that will help them to get well and to lead healthy lives.)

Once you officially pay for and enroll in the course, you are asked to create a login that, once set up, gives you unlimited, lifetime access to the 8-module video-training course and online course materials. This makes it easy to use your phone or computer to access modules and/or information whenever you need it.

Each module consists of a video that is designed around a specific topic. (The total video-watching time is about 2 hours and 30 minutes, but each video varies in length. The longest is about 45 minutes.) Each module is packed full with checklists, protocols, data, and even a review at the end to go over what was covered.

Pro Tip: I actually enjoyed watching the modules in order, and then listening to them again with my earbuds on my phone while out for a walk, run, or cleaning my home. Some of the concepts are more difficult than others, so it helps to go over the information more than once to fully grasp it. I think I am more of an auditory learner, so the second dose was always the kicker for me. I definitely recommend watching each module first, though, because you need to SEE what he is talking about, especially with learning to read and analyze test results, in order to understand.

Module 1: This is the welcome and introduction to the course. Brian touches on his background, qualifications, and his particular interest in health as it relates to mold and biotoxin illness. In this module, he gives the following course goals and knowledge map:

By the end of the course, you should expect to-

  • Have comprehensive knowledge of mold and mycotoxins,
  • Know what a through inspection should include,
  • Understand the different testing and sampling methods, and when each should be used,
  • Know how to interpret testing and sampling results,
  • Understand a remediation philosophy tailored to health-compromised individuals,
  • Understand how technology (air filtration and purification technologies) can support remediation efforts.

One thing I want to share that Brian mentions in this module that really stuck with me is that he has never gone into inspect a home where people were sick or their doctor suspected mold was making them sick that he didn’t find mold. In other words, 100% of the time, in Brian’s experience, if an individual suspected a home was making them sick or their doctor suspected it was making them sick, Brian found that mold was, in fact, a problem to some degree, in that home. That is a pretty powerful statement. More powerful is the data that Brian shares in both the course and on his We Inspect site that illustrates this point. The data was collected from homes where the occupant was referred by their physician due to clinical testing that led them to believe the patient was being exposed to mold. In short, the takeaways are:

  • The average ERMI score in both the Living Spaces and the HVAC Systems from all of the homes was well above the both the EPA’s top threshold of 5 and the threshold 2 that has been defined by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker as acceptable for someone who is susceptible to mold illness or an inflammatory response to mold.
  • Stachybotrys chartarum (commonly known as the black toxic mold) was detected in almost 80% of Living Spaces.
  • At least one mycotoxin was detected in over 50% of Living Spaces.
  • The Living Spaces tended to be the source of the contamination. However, HVAC Systems were also being significantly contaminated by both mold and mycotoxins. Thus, remediation of just the Living Spaces would not be enough to get these homes and the people living in them healthy again.
  • If you are sick because if mold, it is wise to employ a professional who knows what they are doing to test your home for mold and mycotoxins. You need to find the source and any cross contamination, so that a remediation plan can be designed to help you to recover your health.

Module 2: What is Mold and How Does it Grow?

This section is pretty self explanatory, but does offer insight about why indoor mold can be such a health catastrophe. If nothing else, knowing this information can help people explain to their “unbelieving” family and friends why they should care about mold when it is, in fact, everywhere and cannot be escaped. Brian also goes into explaining primary, secondary, and tertiary mold colonizers. This is information that not many people know, but that is incredibly helpful when trying to find out what the source of a mold problem is. I thought I would breeze through this section, but found it very insightful and helpful for laying the groundwork for the later modules on testing.

Module 3: Mold and Air Quality

This is where Brian covers what mold in your indoor environment, especially if that mold produces mycotoxins, does to your air quality and why. He covers particulate matter, and why just removing the water source that is feeding the mold is not enough for proper remediation.

Module 4: The Mold Inspection Process

This section is sort of where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. In it, Brian explains what SHOULD happen during the inspection process and why. He explains that an inspection should include a property history, visual inspection, sampling plan, and sampling collection. He takes an in-depth look at what each of those should include and how to guide this process with an inspector to get exactly what you need. He also explains the comprehensive reporting that are included with each of his inspections and why such reporting is helpful for later decisions about remediation, moving, etc. down the road. This report can also be very helpful for your doctor to have a copy of, especially as it will contain the mycotoxin testing for your property. The module is concluded with 10 Questions for Mold Inspectors when you are interviewing someone to do a job for you. This list would be great to print out and to have in front of you when making calls to various companies.

Module 5: Sample Methodologies

Brian starts this module with explaining why sampling is important: “Data allows you to see what is going on, and how to make the correct decisions to allow you to proceed. You want information, not to hide from it. Without data, you cannot understand your exposure.”

He then goes into all of the different sampling methodologies, how each is done, and why each is important for diagnosing a home in terms of source vs. cross contamination. He also explains the strengths and weaknesses of each methodology. The sampling methods covered are ambient air samples, source air samples, surface samples, Environmental Relative Moldiness Index Samples (ERMI), HERTSMI-2 samples (Dr. Shoemaker’s subset of the ERMI that has a scoring system focused on patients with CIRS), and mycotoxin samples.

This module is definitely dense and requires some review and notetaking. I found it helpful for justifying why you need to always combine sampling methods, because no one gives the full picture. For example, you need both ERMI and mycotoxin samples, because you can have high counts of mold that are not producing mycotoxins. If that is the case, the remediation protocol is different.

Module 6: Results Interpretation

If you have ever had a mold inspection of any kind, you will find this module helpful. Brian literally goes through each sampling methodology and shows an example of the raw lab reports for each. He walks you through those lab reports, column-by-column, explaining what everything means. Then, he shows you how to best interpret those reports. Everything he says is evidence-based and backed with examples and solid reasoning. I watched this particular section 3 times. It is a LOT of information, but is so valuable. The value I see here is that you could get your reports, turn on the video, and walk through your results with him. In the end, you may see things an inspector missed or interpret the data entirely differently.

Module 7: Remediation Philosophy

This is the longest module, but possibly the most valuable for anyone sensitive to mold. This module explains Brian’s philosophy towards and his entire remediation and cleaning procedures. He divides remediation into the source removal and cleaning phases. Then, he takes you step-by-step through each protocol. Each step is described in minute detail with what should occur and why. It orders all steps of remediation and cleaning for you. It even includes containment procedures and clearance testing protocols. He leaves no question unanswered and provides the reasoning for how and why everything is done. He also exposes the many holes and inadequacies in many other remediation guidelines. In addition, he goes deep into HVAC systems and cleaning and why it is so difficult to do it correctly without replacing the whole system.

If you have ever wondered how to remediate properly and in what order steps should be taken, this module is for you. You could literally print out sections of this module (he has created easily printed lists for you already) and give it to your remediator to make sure everything is done correctly. (Note: I felt really good about his cleaning procedures. Many are what I advise on my blog. Yay!)

Another area he touches on in the module is contents cleaning–the hardest part of the remediation process for many people. Included in this section, is the Contents Salvation Matrix. Brian created this to help individuals not be so overwhelmed with making decisions about what to clean and what to discard. It is a color-coded inventory system that weighs the content material type against its value. The matrix will also help with contents clearance testing. I am just scratching the surface here, but it truly is genius.

Module 8: Air Treatment Technology

This module really focuses on what you can do to ensure that your home retains healthy levels of dust and particulate matter once a remediation is complete. It covers air treatment technologies and how to properly clean your home and HVAC system to keep it healthy. Brian discusses the importance of dust removal from the air and surfaces of your home. He also includes his HVAC and duct cleaning protocol to ensure that whoever you hire to do this work will do it correctly and safely. He includes a printable cheat sheet for his Main Event, Deep, and Maintenance Cleaning guidelines and procedures. The module concludes with an explanation of air treatment and why it is important to employ filtration, purification, and sanitization in that strategy. Brian also gives you his personal contact email, so that you can reach out to him for his personal technology recommendations and advice. This is incredibly helpful as all technology changes constantly, so this section would otherwise need updating frequently.

I Am Not Sure I Want to Spend Money to Learn About Mold

If you are on the fence about whether or not taking the course would bring you value, you can get a taste for how Brian writes, teaches, and presents information on his We Inspect and Facebook sites, and Instagram page. There, he shares blog posts, videos, and inspection information from out in the field and from his home office. He considers it “continuing education” for the course. The information is much less detailed and brief, but really helps you to get an insider’s view of how he thinks and presents information. I highly recommend following Brian, as I have learned tips and tricks I didn’t know before just from a few recent video clips. AND, to make the course more accessible to those who need it most, Brian is offering a 50%-off discount for you until the end of August. Just enter MOLDFREEAUGUST at checkout, and it will be automatically applied.

Questions? Comments? Want to get in touch? Write to me below or email me at catherine@moldfreeliving.com.

 

 

 

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