Moldy ceiling (C) Daniel Friedman Guide to Mold Related Illness & Other Indoor Air Quality Sickness Complaints

  • MOLD RELATED ILLNESS GUIDE - CONTENTS: Index to detailed articles aid in identifying illnesses that may be related to toxic or allergenic mold exposure. An atlas of mold related illness symptoms and complaints. A clinical atlas of mold toxicity. Finding and curing odors and gases in buildings. How to identify pollen and other allergens in buildings. Catalog of products to reduce mold and allergy problems. Bacterial hazards in buildings, sewer backups. Dog, cat, and other animal allergens, sources, testing, cleanup, prevention.
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about Actual or Suspected Mold Related Illness

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Mold related illness research & references:

Here we provide key articles on mold-related illness, including lists of mold related symptoms and complaints, a clinical atlas of mold toxicity, fiberglass hazards, odors and gases, pollen and other allergens, how to recognize allergens in buildings, and suggestions about possible bacterial hazards such as due to sewage backups.

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List of Articles Providing a Detailed Guide to Mold-Related Illnesses: Asthma, Allergies, Lung, Neurological, Other Complaints

This website provides information and procedures for finding, testing, cleaning and preventing indoor mold, toxic black mold, green mold, testing building indoor air quality, and other sick house / sick building investigations. We also offer detailed advice on mold prevention and mold-resistant construction resistant to indoor problem molds such as the Aspergillus sp., Penicillium sp. and Stachybotrys chartarum groups.

Keywords for topics addressed in these articles include: Sick House Investigations, Indoor Air Quality, Mold, Mildew, Dampness, Leaky Basements, Indoor Air Quality, Stachybotrys, Fleas, Dust Mites, Pets, Animal Hair, Dander, Allergens, Bioaerosols, Asthma, ASHI Home Inspections, ASHI Home Inspection, ASHI Home Inspector, ASHI Home Inspectors ASHI Soot Stains Fungus Fungi American Society of Home Inspectors mold testing services by an expert mold testing lab, mold sample testing, including bulk samples, air samples, vacuum samples for mold spores, spore identification, and mold health concerns, mold report of mold test results by the mold lab include written advice, photographs, mold species identification to help spot dangerous mold species and to guide mold remediation advice. Sick House Investigations, allergy, allergies, allergens, asthma, asthmatics, dust mites, mold, mildew, fungi, indoor air quality, heating system ventilation, soot, stains, combustion air, chimney defects, moisture, water entry, wet basements, surface and roof drainage, flooding, water damage, air quality measurements

For background on how and why molds can be toxic, see this World Health Organization Mold Bulletin. Our page top photo shows severe mold contamination on the ceiling of a building basement exposed to flooding.


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MOLD RELATED ILLNESS GUIDE at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Mold Exposure, Suspected Mold Related Illness, How to Proceed, How to find a Mold Doctor

Question: Chronic Cough and Post Nasal Drip - PND - What's a Reliable Mold Test Kit?

I have been bothered by chronic cough and post nasal drip for several years, and I am suspicious that the building in which I work is the cause. I know that I am allergic mainly to molds – eight different kinds. So, I tried a test kit that I ordered online. It was not conclusive. Not sure if it was any good either. Can you recommend reliable test kits? - K.H., Wilmington DE

Reply: Mold test kits have a useful role to play, but you may need a competent building inspection first

A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem, such as a source of irritating dust that you didn't recognize, a leak or moisture problem, or a hidden mold reservoir. That said, here are some things to consider:

While there is a use for testing as part of an expert building inspection, using any test kit to screen a building for mold is not reliable. See MOLD TESTING METHOD VALIDITY if you want a detailed exposition.

In particular, a "negative" result (a test that does not detect significant indoor mold contamination) used without an expert inspection is unreliable in that there is a significant risk of missing an existing mold problem.

Even a "positive" mold test kit result (the test says problem mold is present at a significant level) does not necessarily identify the actual mold problem in the building as opposed to the mold the kit happened to catch. For example, most molds won't grow in culture, so using a culture to screen for mold is a unreliable.

The use, accuracy, and reliability of mold culture test kits for screening buildings for mold contamination are discussed at MOLD CULTURE TEST KIT VALIDITY and MOLD CULTURE SAMPLING METHOD and see Mold Culture Plate Test Errors.

We recommend starting with a detailed case history of the home and your complaints, combined with a thorough visual inspection for conditions likely to cause an indoor mold problem - if mold's the focus. Don't forget there can be other irritants. I'd also ask the doctor for advice on the sorts of things that s/he thinks would be a particular problem in your environment.

Take a look also at MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ? for help in deciding if it's worth hiring an expert -

Question: where can I find similar advice about a water-damaged automobile?

Are there any good articles on DIY mold remediation for a water damaged automobile? Both my boyfriend and I have cars with long-term leaks in the trunks AND many symptoms of mold sickness. Once we fix the leaks, I would like to know how we can clean the carpets/ flooring/ surfaces and ventillation/ heating and A/C system. - Kate (8/17/2011)


Sure Kate, we've written quite a bit about mold and mold smells in cars. Start at CAR MOLD CONTAMINATION. Or take a look at CAR SMELL - Mold DEODORIZING where we discuss tracking down and curing mold in cars, boats, RVs, etc.

Question: We moved out of a moldy home but may have brought along mold or moved into a new one also moldy; my children appear to have serious mold-related illnesses. How can we find a suitable doctor? What else can we do?

We are a family of 8 who previously lived in a modular home built against code without vapor barriers or flashing around wooden windows frames. It was many years before we realized there was mold in between the walls and after many medical diagnosis of my family.

  • My eldest developed a severe allergy to her own estrogen that her allergist said is a cross sensitivity to an estrogen-mimicking mold, as she would have the same reaction to mold as she did premenstrually. It was a horrible reaction with flu-like symptoms and multiple blistering in her mouth. She'd need steroids, and even narcotics some times, to get through an episode. She now lives in Arizona and is totally symptom free except for visits out to the NE, and one episode during "monsoon season" in Az.
  • My second eldest developed bleeding in his kidneys. We monitor it through a urologist.
  • My fifth child, who was an infant when an extension was going on in our home, has tested (+) for severe memory problems and is a "special needs" child. We also have allergies, asthma, eczema and thyroid problems among members of my family.

We have since moved from that house, but my eldest will still react when she visits, and had vomiting and diarrhea along w/ her other usual allergy symptoms. So I'm guessing we have dragged some of our microtoxins with us and she is now more sensitive to them. Her allergist in Az had her tested for molds we found present in our home, and she did test (+) for some of them.

These were basic tests w/ basic molds identified. I do not believe they tested for microtoxins.

My quandry is that the new home we live in not only has the mold we apparently dragged with us, but with such high ground saturation in the NE area in the past 3 years, much of our possessions in the downstairs part of our split level ranch is now newly contaminated with mold.

We are considering moving to Az where we know through my eldest's experience, there's a resolution. However, I've yet to find a doctor beyond who my eldest has seen, to link (toxic?) mold to what the rest of us suffer from.

Could you please advise me of any doctors in the mid-Hudson NY State region that specialize in toxicology of mold? I am an RN and have done much research and realize from credible sources such as the US EPA or the Mayo Clinic that my children seem to suffer from toxic reactions of mold and not just allergy reactions, but I've yet to find a doctor to confirm this. Could you please help me?

Thank you so much - N.N. (2/29/12)


Thank you for mold/health question - it helps us realize where we need to work on making our text more clear or more complete. A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem with building leaks, high moisture, and both visible mold and potentially problematic hidden mold reservoirs. That said, here are some things to consider:

Did mold make someone in your home sick?

It is very difficult to prove absolutely that a potentially harmful building mold has actually caused or aggravated a medical complaint. Burge[6] lists criteria that are burdensome enough in cost and trouble that all of the steps she outlines are rarely followed. Instead most professionals agree on the position that if there is a large reservoir of problem mold in a building, professional cleaning, correction of the cause, and in cases such as you describe, consulting with a medical professional are all appropriate.

See our clinical mold references [7] below for authoritative citations of specific molds that are associated with specific illnesses.

Watch out: individual sensitivty to mold and other indoor contaminants varies widely and, as your own description suggests, individual sensitivty to mold, allergens, other indoor contaminants can be increased by exposure. Also, don't rule out other possible indoor contaminants (such as mis-applied chemicals, pesticides, paints, cleaners).

Do you need to look for harmful mold or other contaminants more carefully at your present environment?

From your description of your case, it is certainly plausible to suspect that

  • You imported dusty moldy contents from your old home into the new one. Even if mold was not actively growing on items that you brought to the new home you may have brought items that are thus contaminated.

    The good news is that most such items can be successfully cleaned: laundering or dry-cleaning clothes, curtains, bedding, even area rugs is often cheaper and smarter than doing a lot of mold-testing on those items.

    Hard goods (dishes, etc.) are surface cleaned using normal cleaning methods. If you had active mold growth on an upholstered couch, most likely it is not cost feasible to remove and reupholster the covering and padding.
  • If you believe or if your expert advises that you have a high level of moldy (or otherwise problematic) dust in your present home, additional cleaning (HEPA vacuuming, wiping) may be in order. But first it would make sense to be sure that any mold reservoirs in the present home are found, removed, and their cause cured - if there are any.

    At MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ? we list some criteria that can help decide if such an investigation is appropriate and justified in your present home.

    From your description it sounds as if indeed an expert, one who actually conducts an interview, inspects the entire building, and perhaps collects some screening samples, would be appropriate.

Watch out: Beware of a "mold consultant" who simply stops by to conduct a few "tests" - that alone is an unreliable approach and even if such a superficial test suggests that action is needed, it was not suffiiciently diagnostic - you would not know how to proceed without still another costly inspection.

How to find a mold doctor:

The right place to start in looking for a physican who has the expertise in mold and enviornmental hazards that you seek is with your own primary care doctor, one whom you trust. Ask his/her help in recommending a physician who specializes in environmental medicine and who has expertise in the mold, complaints, and conditions that you can describe.

Aso see MOLD DOCTORS - ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE and when you find a local physican who you find helpful, encourage him/her to submit a listing to us for that directory - there is no cost or fee to anyone for such listings.

Question: brain infection, meningitis; suspected moldy home, is mold on a nasal spray bottle diagnostic?

My husband, a Baptist evangelist, has been debilitated since last June with an illness that we believe is mold-related (our travel trailer, which was our only home, was severely infested, and we had to abandon it). He was hospitalized then for a brain infection, although the pathogen causing the infection was never uncovered.

Traditional doctors in our area refused to consider mold exposure, and he was released, being told he would recover from the meningitis within weeks. He has yet to recover to a point where he can preach (a few attempts have gone poorly), so we have been without income and home for quite a while. We have since been seeing a naturopath,who also cannot pinpoint the illness or the reason Ron is not healing.

Recently Ron believed that he felt the illness migrating to his sinuses. A day later, his nasal spray bottle grew spores. We believe that these came from his body, and we would like testing to determine what exactly they are, and if they could be the root of his ongoing problem. Perhaps if we have a clear-cut cause for his illness it will aid us in its treatment. I would like to request that you consider either pro-bono or reduced fees, but if not, then please advise me on what costs would be and on how to send you the sample on the nasal spray bottle. - A.A.


If someone in your home is seriously ill, in my opinion you and that person should consult a medical doctor, starting with your general practitioner who can refer you to a physician who specializes in envrionmental medicine if that is what's needed. If you are not comfortable with your local MD, ask him/her for a referral to another doctor - as one point in starting your own search for a physician in whom you have confidence.

While I respect your wish to consult with a naturopathic physician, there may be important differences between a naturopath (unregulated in some jurisdictions) and a naturopathic physician - an M.D. who also uses principles of naturopathy in his/her practice. In any event, you may be consulting someone who lacks the specific expertise and experience that you and your husband need.

Regarding conditions in your home, a competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem well beyond what a homeowner may observe.

That said, here are some things to consider:

  • there is no reliable correlation between mold that grows on a nasal spray bottle and environmental contamination
  • a more thorough building inspection, site interview, etc. would be required to form an accurate evaluation of mold risks in your home

Therefore, although you could collect a tape sample of what's on the nasal spray bottle, it's not, in my opinion, a reliable direction of investigation.

Take a look at MOLD APPEARANCE - WHAT MOLD LOOKS LIKE and if you find significant mold contamination in your home, you'll want to see MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD

If you want to collect one to four samples of suspect mold and perhaps some settled dust from a room where your husband spends a lot of time, we'll examine them in our lab - pro bono (no fee) and report to you. But keep in mind that your collected samples, as you're not an expert, are not by any means a thorough investigation. Follow the sampling procedure at MOLD TEST KITS for DIY MOLD TESTS and Include a copy of this email with your samples so I won't be looking for a check.

Take a look also at MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ? for help in deciding if your home conditions justify bringing in a professional.

Question: Salem Oregon Environmental Contamination Concerns, EPA studies, Recommendations

12/12/2014 - Email from K.M. in Salem OR: [our dogs ] ... just jumped off the couchand couldn't get up.

We have been trying to figure out what is going on since the beginning of summer in 2014. It started out we were planting new grass in the backyard. Suddenly it all died and would not grow. Then we noticed that our dogs were all \4/ were getting black "hair" on them and very dry or course. They started showing signs of a neurological disorder and or little one was even paralyzed for four days for unknown reasons.

Just jumped off couch as always, and couldn't get up, test show nothing after day 3 he started to walk but "drunk like" now back to normal. When thee dogs go outside, whatever is on them changes temp and the have a very strong "chemical" smell when they come in,giving us a headache and feeling anxious and short of breath. We are having a lot of medical problems that cannot be pin pointed to anything wrong. Can you help us figure out what the heck is going on. No one we call can help us and we are out of money due to testing and medical bills,but I feel that our lives are very much at risk here as I personally can't take much more of this. Please contact me at 503-856-8462 in Salem Oregon if you have any ideas for help.


Quoting from News & US EPA studies conducted in Salem Oregon,

In late 2012, residents of the West Salem, Oregon area submitted two petitions to the EPA citing their concerns about multiple cases of osteosarcoma in their community. The petitions asked EPA to look for environmental contaminants that could be causing people in their community to fall ill. - retrieved 12/12/2014, original source:

This was followed-up by

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigation into possible environmental causes for a string of childhood cancer cases in West Salem has turned up no contamination or other issues.

“It’s really odd for us to come in and see low or no levels of contamination,” Tony Barber, of EPA’s Portland office, told parents of the children in an emotional, two-hour private meeting Tuesday night.

EPA plans to publicly release its report on Wednesday.

The agency agreed to the study in December 2012, in response to a public petition, after 17-year-old West Salem High School student Lisa Harder died of osteosarcoma. - retrieved 12/12/2014, original source:

I also found other articles describing environmental worries in the area including complaints about soot and cinders dating to 1919 - "Salem's Pollution Problem (1929)", reporting that Spaulding and Oregon Pulp were the principal sources of the cinders. - retrieved 12/12/2014, original source:

We cannot pretend to diagnose environmental complaints nor possibly-environmentally-related health worries by e-text nor phonecall. But some general advice would include:

1. consult with your doctor as well as your veternarian, or if appropriate ask for a referral to an expert in environmental medicine

2. if there is compelling evidence of building or site environmental complaints some research about possible contaminant sources - industries, spills, etc. - can sometimes point the way to just what toxins or contaminants for which to look. Without that intelligence it is in my OPINION a bit too easy and glib to perform some more arbitrary tests and find no indications of anything worth attention.

At MOLD STANDARDS - and also MOLD RELATED ILLNESS SYMPTOMS [this article] we discuss circling disease in sheep - a mold-related illness that I have observed in dogs who live in a moldy environment (depending of course on animal sensitivity, exposure level, and particular mold genera/species present).

Keep me posted

References: Environmental Contamination / Health Studies re: Salem OR

  • Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, "Air Pollution Advisories", retrievedf 12/12/2014, original source:
  • Avery, Whitney. "Oregon’s Pesticide Right to Know Law: Re-enactment Necessary for Future Health." (2004).
  • Bardana, Emil J. "Office epidemics." The Sciences 26, no. 6 (1986): 38-44.
  • Caldwell, Richard S., and Donald R. Buhler. "Heavy metals in estuarine shellfish from Oregon." Archives of environmental contamination and toxicology 12, no. 1 (1983): 15-23.
  • Curtis, Lawrence R., and Brian W. Smith. "Heavy Metal in Fertilizers: Considerations for Setting Regulations In Oregon." (2002).
  • Cude, Curtis G. "Oregon Water Quality Index A Tool For Evaluating Water Quality Management Effectiveness1." (2001): 125-137.
  • Dahlberg, Jeff A., and Gary L. Peterson. "Quarantine issues arising from contamination of seed with ergot: an update." Sorghum and Millets Diseases (2008): 123.
  • Deinzer, M. L., P. A. Thomson, D. M. Burgett, and D. L. Isaacson. "Pyrrolizidine alkaloids: their occurrence in honey from tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaea L.)." Science 195, no. 4277 (1977): 497-499.
  • Dietz, David H. "Keynote Address - Politics of Pesticides." (1984).
  • Glass, Andrew. "The Oregon health plan." Cancer 82, no. S10 (1998): 1995-1999.
  • Gleeson, George Walter. "The return of a river: the Willamette River, Oregon." (1972).
  • Keely, Joseph F., and Kwasi Boateng. "Monitoring well installation, purging, and sampling techniques—part 2: case histories." Groundwater 25, no. 4 (1987): 427-439.
  • Keene, William E., Katrina Hedberg, Donald E. Herriott, Dale D. Hancock, Ronald W. McKay, Timothy J. Barrett, and David W. Fleming. "A prolonged outbreak of Escherichia coli O157: H7 infections caused by commercially distributed raw milk." Journal of Infectious Diseases 176, no. 3 (1997): 815-818.
  • Lowe, Ernest A. "Creating by-product resource exchanges: strategies for eco-industrial parks." Journal of Cleaner Production 5, no. 1 (1997): 57-65.
  • Morton, William. "Further investigation of housewife cancer mortality risk." Women & health 7, no. 2 (1982): 43-52.
  • Parsons, Elizabeth. "The waters of death: pesticides in the Willamette River." (2004).
  • Skeels, Michael R., Robert Sokolow, C. Vance Hubbard, Jon K. Andrus, and Joanne Baisch. "Cryptosporidium infection in Oregon public health clinic patients 1985-88: the value of statewide laboratory surveillance." American journal of public health 80, no. 3 (1990): 305-308.
  • Sweet, H. R., and R. H. Fetrow. "Ground‐Water Pollution by Wood Waste Disposal." Groundwater 13, no. 2 (1975): 227-231.
  • Weiss‐Penzias, Peter, Daniel A. Jaffe, Philip Swartzendruber, James B. Dennison, Duli Chand, William Hafner, and Eric Prestbo. "Observations of Asian air pollution in the free troposphere at Mount Bachelor Observatory during the spring of 2004." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012) 111, no. D10 (2006).


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