"...indoor mold exposures were associated with neurobehavioral and pulmonary impairments that likely resulted from the presence of mycotoxins, such as trichothecenes." (Dr. Kaye Kilburn M.D., Ralph Edgington Professor of Medicine, USC Keck School of Medicine, Environmental Sciences Laboratory (ret))
What do I do if I think I am sick from toxic mold?
The most important first action you (or others) can take is to avoid the building. If you can, try to document the evidence of dampness and mold, with video (important), photos, tests, inspections, identifying clearly where the mold or dampness is located (see photos in our Real Testimonies, by Annie Schilling). If you are too ill to do so, have others assist with this, but do it quickly. When taking the photos or video, film the approach to the building (important as evidence). Document the date, as well. A simple way is to film a current newspaper at the same time.
Experts, including physicians familiar with mold related illness, always recommend that sick people get out of the indoor dampness or moldy area and stay out of it, and those who aren't sick may well wish to do the same, to prevent illness. It may be in a part of the building or the whole building. Some schools have classrooms or faculty housed in their damp basements, or in leaky rooms. This is a major threat to the occupants' health, agreed upon by all credible authorities.
The more time spent exposed to mold, the more ill you can become, and the more likely you will have a difficult time recovering. Some people actually die from being exposed to mold. The sooner you get out of it - the better your chance of recovery. Some chronically sick people were exposed to high levels of mold for just one or several days - and in some cases, for less than one hour. Others have been exposed to continuous lower or unknown levels and have become ill over time.
It is imperative to remove oneself from where the dampness is and the mold is growing, until it is cleaned up and remediated - especially if you are ill from it already. Even afterward, if you have been "sensitized" you may not be able to tolerate even trace amounts of mold or other chemicals left behind in that particular, previously water-damaged building, nor may you be able to tolerate items from the building, unless they are properly cleaned (by someone else) and the porous items disposed of. Also, know that more than mold is in damp buildings - elevated levels of bacteria and viruses exist, as well. For more information see the WHO Guide to Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mold (2009) and Damp Indoor Spaces and Health (IOM, 2004), and read their health effects chapters. Over and over, we hear from people who have said, "Thank God I got out of that building when I did, I think I would be dead if I had stayed longer."
Then, learn about mold and its impact on humans - researching it with multiple sources - realizing that the general medical community has received little to no training on this fairly recent illness. Formerly, "Farmer's Lung" was commonly understood, coming from moldy hay - but building mold is a relatively new phenomenon, caused by recent construction practices - energy tight, sealed buildings, use of air conditioning and paper overlays with insulation and sheetrock that promote the growth of mold in a building when it becomes (and remains) damp. Visiting www.biotoxin.info, viewing the mold and health webcasts, and reading Mold Warriors (www.moldwarriors.com) will help you understand some features of the illnesses that develop, as well.
When school districts hire companies to test buildings, unfortunately, they may be building their case to protect their own liability. Read our District Testing article to learn more. When remediation is conducted, the companies may simply be contractors - and know nothing about true remediation. Thus, they may rip apart a moldy room or area to expose the moldy materials in hidden spaces, thus contaminating the entire building via the HVAC system or indoor air currents. Visit our Remediation pages to read how this should be safely conducted. Removing mold should be done under strict containment, by trained professionals who follow highest industry standards - not by school personnel or hired labor.