Saturday, April 23, 2011

The realities of this toxic world

Just when I think we have gotten things back to running smoothly, WHACK up the side of the head with life's ugly lessons.....this time it's mold, and not just any mold, but toxic mold, yup, in OUR house!

I often feel like we can't catch a break, it's bad enough having our children exposed to this nastiness, but every circumstance that we find ourselves up against slips through the proverbial cracks.  Our health issues aren't covered by insurance and now our second mold issue, same thing.

The leak first made itself visible in our basement ceiling, by dripping on the floor next to where my husband works.  We noticed the ceiling (subfloor) contained a nice water stain and the water was running down the sheetrock eventually soaking it along the way.  It doesn't help that we are right smack in the middle of the wettest season either!  I can't seem to catch a break from rain after rain, after rain.  At first, we couldn't locate the water entry, because putting the hose along the deck (which is just above the leak) didn't reveal anything.  And it's not from ground moisture, because we have a walkout basement, so essentially the leak is at the floor of the second level, even though it's our basement.  We had THREE contractors come out and all were baffled, literally scratching their heads.  The first contractor thought the flashing could be it, so we had him add new no avail, the next rain resulted in even more water damage as the seeping water entered the building.  I can't even explain the feelings that come with watching water enter your house at lightening speeds while having NO idea where or how to stop it!  Hmmmm, sort of reminds me of another battle we contend with daily.

The third contractor had an inkling that it could be a small tiny spot where there was some rotted wood at the base of our mud room door trim.  Interesting, yup, there was a little finger-sized hole right there, could the next dry day we had, we stuck the hose on that little hole and sure enough, it was gobbled up like a thirsty mouth and where did it go?  Right into our basement, pouring down the walls.  What baffles me is how this spot was rotted so poorly when I just sanded and painted the trim in the fall!!  I later learned that the "new" prefab door trim kits which are put together before installation included unfinished ends to all the cut wood.  So no matter how much we might have maintained the wood, it was still capable of drinking up water that was so readily available.  In other words, this wood was rotting from the inside out, even though the exterior new paint gave us the warm and fuzzies as responsible homeowners.

SO....with the water pouring into our house by the boat-loads, we decided to be proactive and remove the wet sheet rock to make sure we didn't end up with some fast growing mold.  Sure enough, all underneath was wet, very wet!!  We kept the window open to air it out and allow for ventilation, then we put a heater and a fan on the wet walls, aiming up at the ceiling to help the subfloor dry too, since we couldn't get to the inside layers.  At this point, the inside of the subfloor was my biggest concern, the possibility that molds could be growing there since we couldn't air it out.  Little did I know that we had already uncovered a nice stash of stachybotrys, penicillium/aspergillis and chaetomium right beneath our noses, quite literally!!  We found out the next morning when we went down to see how the drying was progressing.  The areas that were soaked were drying up, but there was BLACK on the walls in the darkest spots.  Uh oh.....we had the fan on this, SHIT!!  Our next step was to contact a mold company to get the ball rolling ASAP.  I was referred to a company called Air Care where the President acts as a consultant.  He does air quality testing, inspects the sites, writes up a work order that is adhered to by whichever mold company is hired.  He personally sees the job through to completion and then he retests and issues a certificate confirming that the house is safe again.  This is essential when reselling the house.  During his inspection, I mentioned the work we had done in the front and I was concerned with the fact that our repair didn't hold up in that area after having the work done, although the additional repair was done as soon as we noticed the problem.  He used a moisture meter and found no moisture behind the wall, the basement, a very moldy, wet piece of structural lumber was LEFT in the house!!  I knew the company had been difficult, but seriously??

The next step was to monitor the levels of mold spores in the house to see what we were dealing with and how much of it.  This was highly recommended based on the issues we have with our kids' immune dysfunction.  Knowing what we are dealing with is essential.  I didn't expect the results we got.  When the first thing he said to me when I picked up the phone was not to panic until I heard him out completely, I knew I was in for it.  He said "the basement has significant issues and I recommend you close it up and stay out of it"....yikes.  What does that mean? Below are the levels found in our basement, I have been advised that the bold molds (hehehe) are mycotoxic in nature. 

  • Chaetomium - 27 spores per cubic meter (this would be a 3 foot cube of air space) this level is not concerning, however, the spore itself is considered a mycotoxin.
  • Cladosporium - 80 spores per cubic meter
  • Ascospores - 80 spores per cubic meter
  • Basidiospores - 350 spores per cubic meter
  • Penisillium/Aspergillis - ready for this? 1,500 spores per cubic meter!!! WOAH!
  • Scopulariopsis - 80 spores per cubic meter
  • Stachybotrys - 27 spores per cubic meter - again, not a very high number, but a VERY toxic spore known as the "killer mold" which will grow on just about EVERYTHING it finds.  
  • The total spore count for the basement was 2,144!
Now, for the rest of the house.  The HVAC was tested to have not only the Basidiospores and the Penisilium/Aspergillis, but a mold spore unique to the unit, called Epicoccum.  As if this wasn't enough, we also have fiberglass fibers coming from our HVAC which means we will also have to have a scope of the ducts done to find out the problem, as well as having the ducts cleaned.  The first floor mud room was tested as having Cladosporium, Penisillium/Aspergillis and Basidiospores and the latter was fairly high, although nothing upstairs was even close to the numbers seen down in the basement.

I guess if there is some good news in this mess, it's that the Stachybotrys isn't in the HVAC or throughout the house.

So the plan is to basically rip out the exterior walls that were wet, from the outside starting with removing the siding, etc.  Not sure how they plan to handle the subfloor yet and then I have to get a different contractor who does the repair work.  We plan to use the same guy who will do our leak repair on Tuesday.  I'm not sure what is going to be recommended for the area that already was repaired, but not properly remediated, but I have to imagine that in order for him to give us a completed mold remediation certificate, it will need to be addressed.  He told me during our meeting that it needs to be accessed from above - AKA - our newly repaired dining room walls/floor!!  We still don't even have a quote on all of this work, but what I can tell you is that even before starting the mold remediation, we have already spent $2,000 between the leak repair and mold testing (some of which gets paid with the final testing phase).

How has this effected our family....?  Aside from the emotional disturbances of dealing with mold AGAIN, having to deal with the previous mold company who screwed up their job exposing our family to continued mold spore toxicity, knowing that there is a very toxic mold residing right below our feet settling on all of our beloved belongings (which will need to be thrown out, if they are porous) and the sheer cost of all of this, we are also experiencing some physical symptoms.  Grayson seems to be the most effected with burning red eyes, a runny nose, a phlemy cough, and a very moody disposition, Gavin only has the runny nose and mood swings.  Hubby and I also have some mucus congestion and headaches.

This morning I made an inhalant on our stove with water, a touch of food grade hydrogen peroxide, grapefruit seed extract, eucalyptus and cinnamon oil, which we all took turns breathing into our lungs.  It definitely generated some coughing which felt like clearing the lungs.

I am a bit paranoid about the time span between exposure and remediation which will be at least a week and a half total, depending on when the mold company can do the work.  I immediately went out and bought a 3M filtrete HVAC filter to filter out 93% of the mold spores in the unit.  We've also researched Thieves oil which we can't find anywhere locally so I will be making it with the essential oils and a recipe I found online.  I will soak cotton balls and put them on our HVAC venting (especially the return vents), plus expose some to the air around us by dipping wood sticks into it to act as a reed diffuser.

We tried to call our doctor yesterday explaining the concerns we had and if he thought we should get out until the work is done, but I haven't heard back.  So now with the long holiday weekend, we are pretty much cornered into making it through the long weekend before speaking with any additional professionals.  I'm perturbed to say the least.  And now I am off to create my homemade thieves oil, wish me luck...

1 comment:

Anne said...

Oh NO I'm really sorry to hear of luck!