A collaborative article written with, and thanks to, Brian Turner, toxic substance safety and health advocate.  You can visit his blog at www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/brian .  In light of the devastation of coastal properties from Superstorm Sandy, which hit the east coast of America on October 31, 2012, we wish to share this critical information with our viewers.  August 2013: We were contacted by Susan Vento who’s husband, Bruce, was a member of the US House of Representatives until October 10th, 2000 when he died of pleural mesothelioma, with a request to add their website to ours:  www.cancervictimsrights.org/safety-starts-with-me-home-improvement-and-diy-tip

Home renovations can transform a house from the inside out, but they often pose significant health risks. Every Do It Yourself-er and home remodeler should consider the dangerous substances they may encounter during a home remodeling project. Asbestos is the most common toxic material in older structures, and it is also most deadly. Mold and mildew are also a serious problem, as is odorless radon gas.

Asbestos Exposure

Homeowners and building contractors may come into contact with asbestos when they renovate older homes. Asbestos was used extensively for much of the twentieth century since it was notable for its fire- and heat- resistant properties. Industry found it was a popular additive in wall and ceiling insulation, plaster for walls, flooring tiles, exterior siding, roofing shingles and other materials.

The public learned of the health hazards of asbestos in the late 1970s, when the federal government began regulating its use. Solid, intact asbestos is generally less dangerous. Cutting, sanding, tearing or otherwise disturbing it will cause asbestos fibers to become airborne.

Once these microscopic particles are inhaled, they become embedded in the lung tissue known as the mesothelium. (This is what protects and lubricates the chest cavity). Asbestos fibers cause inflammation of these cells, creating scar tissue which is the foundation in which cancerous cells develop. Eventually, this causes severe, often fatal diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses.

When asbestos is expected, a certified asbestos testing company needs to be consulted.  If removal is required, certified asbestos abatement professionals are licensed to remove asbestos in a safe and secure method and in accordance to government rules and guidelines.  Following these procedures ensure safety for both the homeowners and remodeling contractors.

In absolutely NO EVENT should any homeowner or remodeler/construction professional attempt to work with asbestos!  If there’s a possibility any of your construction materials contain asbestos, remember: the best principle to always follow is “when in doubt, call a certified asbestos professional” – there is NO EXCEPTION to this rule!

 

Mold Exposure

Mold and mildew are a problem wherever moisture is found. It is often found in dark, damp locations like a bathroom or basement.  Recent years has seen a marked increase in mold- related diseases due to such climactic events as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.  Prompt removal is necessary to avoid its growth and spread, and to prevent illness.

Learning about identifying symptoms and effective treatment for Mycotoxicosis (the toxic infection you get from exposure to from mold spores) is important since the average doctor is inexperienced in this field. We also refer to mold disease as “Biotoxin Illness”.

Mold is a fungus which has long been known to impact humans such as causing disease of our food crops, decaying our foods, and infecting us with Pneumonitis and Toxic Pneumonitis, while some fungus mold spore infections can cause death. They also may contain significant amounts of mycotoxins.

According to the National Institute of Health (Clinical Microbiology Rev. July 2003; 16(3):497-516. Mycotoxins. By J.W.Bennett and M. Klich), “Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by microfungi that are capable of causing disease and death in humans and other animals.  Mycoses range from merely annoying (e.g., Athlete’s Foot) to life-threatening (e.g., invasive Aspergillosis). Primary pathogens affect otherwise healthy individuals with normal immune systems. Opportunistic pathogens produce illness by taking advantage of debilitated or immune-compromised hosts……  The majority of human mycoses are caused by opportunistic fungi.”

“Mycoses are frequently acquired via inhalation of spores from an environmental reservoir. Skin contact with mold-infested substrates and inhalation of spore-borne toxins are also important sources of exposure.” (Bennett and Klich, ibid).

Diseases associated with inhalation of spores include toxic pneumonia, hypersensitivity pneumonia (characterized by inflammation of the lungs which can lead to scarring of the lungs, an irreversible condition that decreases lung capacity), sinusitis, tremors, chronic fatigue syndrome, kidney failure, biofilm, hair loss, skin conditions, vision disturbances, neurologic disturbances, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, internal hemorrhaging, and abnormal liver levels. Exposure to mold, according to the Florida Department of Health, can cause cognitive problems such as memory loss and mood swings. In some individuals, these can lead to depression, fatigue and loss of interest in everyday activities. Mycotoxins can cause sleep disturbances and if left untreated, can lead to neurological problems such as impaired balance and difficulty walking.

In recent years, an increasing number of mold- induced diseases has been reported from mold contaminated water- damaged buildings.  At a World Health Organization (WHO) convention, Dr. A.V. Costantini (retired head of the organization) listed 14 diseases where fungal forms have been found: Atherosclerosis (plaque in your arteries), Cancer, AIDS, Diabetes Mellitus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Systemic Lupus, Gout, Chrohn’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Hyperactivity Syndrome, infertility, Psoriasis, Cirrhosis of the liver, Alzheimers Disease, Scleroderma, Raynaud’s Disease, Sarcoidosis, Kidney Stones, Amyloidosis, Vasculitis and Cushing’s Disease.  Dr. Costantini states that the concept of “Auto- Immune” Disease contains a fatal flaw, because no successful species can develop a system of defense which attacks itself. Measuring antibodies in the blood stream which imply an autoimmune condition are actually antibodies against ubiquitin, a substance that is present in fungi.

According to Dr. Costantini, “antifungal treatments for so- called Auto- Immune diseases (i.e. Systemic Lupus, etc.) can possibly halt the diseases. However, many species are so virulent that treatment may often have to be combined with diet, vitamin/enzymes, and other non- traditional treatments.”

Most important is to diagnose the effects of mold exposure and understand your symptoms so you can obtain the correct treatments. Be aware the majority of American doctors are “Pharmadocs” (those naïve doctors influenced by the drug industry) who hold delusions that mold is merely fixed by general property cleaning or antifungal drugs for patients. The pharmaceutical industry has profound financial influence on physicians; these chemical producers (pharma drugs) offer to “temporarily treat” symptoms to keep patients buying their drugs, which do not effectively cure the diseases – simply reducing or masking symptoms with no cures. So mold- induced Biotoxin Disease lingers. Who wins? Big Pharma, not you.

Biotoxin illnesses are difficult to diagnose and treat; however it is possible with the correct physician and treatment protocols.  Two scientists, Maryland physician Ritchie C. Shoemaker and the EPA’s Neurotoxicologist H. Kenneth Hudnell, developed a “Neurotoxin-mediated illness” theory explaining why many illnesses like Fibromyalgia (FM), Sick Building Syndrome (SBS),  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) are making people sick and why illnesses like Lyme Disease are so difficult to manage.   Shoemaker and Hudnell believe they have both the biomarker for Neurotoxic illness AND the effective treatments for Biotoxin illness.

These scientists agree there are certain tests which must be done to confirm Biotoxin illness, such as measuring the levels of an enzyme called MMP-9.  The MMP-9 levels are increased by your immune system’s response to Biotoxins, which it then delivers inflammatory elements into joints, lungs, heart and brain.  Obviously, the more Biotoxins you have, the higher your MMP-9 levels are and the more serious symptoms you have from your inflammations.  They also conduct a number of other confirming blood tests along with the MMP-9 test for biological markers.

In addition, toxins left over from pathogens such as those for Lyme Disease and Babesia remain even after the infectious elements have been killed by antibiotics and malarial medicines, so those toxins create the ongoing chronic symptoms. Many people who do not naturally eliminate Biotoxins develop chronic (lingering) illness.  After a substantial and thorough treatment for the diseases (antibiotics for Lyme, for example), the toxins can then be eliminated by using certain treatments to enhance Biotoxin elimination, which will result in good health again.

However, you can’t rid yourself of Biotoxin illness if you don’t mediate (remove) the cause: in this case, we’re talking about molds.  You can treat for the diseases and eliminate the Biotoxins, yet re- exposing yourself to mold in your home or building will cause immediate relapse.

In order to correctly identify and safely correct mold related conditions, you must contact a certified mold remediation environmental company.

The important factors to consider when selecting a remediation group should include the following:

1)    Do they perform detailed inspections of the building, including both occupied and unoccupied spaces?  This includes HVAC systems, intake registers, return air plenums, basements, roofs, attics, crawl spaces, building drainage, sump systems, window wells, wall interiors, and false floors.

2)    Do they perform testing of the air for microorganisms to identify molds or bacteria, and quantify them with comparison to outdoors and reference levels?

 

3)    Do they take samples of surfaces using wipe tests, vacuum samples, bulk materials, or air tests in closed walls/floors/ceilings?

4)    Do they send their samples to be analyzed by nationally accredited microbiological laboratories using such methods as incubation, culturing, microscopic examination, GC/MS, and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)?

5)    Do they compare the identified organisms to symptoms that the building occupants are having?

 

After they assess the mold situation, remediation (the process of removing mold contaminants) is performed.  Make sure your company isolates the contaminate areas from other portions of your property so there’s no chance of cross- contamination.  Remember, mold spores are also air- borne and easily transport.  Professionals with specialized equipment and tools are used to decontaminate the areas and special processes are used to prevent future growth.

Does the remediation company perform a Clearance Test after the remediation work is done? This test will to ensure that the remediation work they did was successful. Make sure they compare the results of the Clearance Tests to those results taken from the initial inspection performed prior to the remediation (removal) process.

Radon Exposure

Radon is an odorless gas that has no color or taste. This air pollutant is sometimes called a “silent killer.” According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Radon test is the only way to discover the presence of Radon in a home.

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from Uranium, a chemical that is found in most soils. Radon generally enters the home through cracks in the floors, walls, construction joints, pipes or in the water supply. Radon exposure poses serious health risks, including Lung Cancer and other respiratory conditions.

Again, a quality Radon test kit is always used to confirm analysis of the presence of Radon in your property.  The instructions for these test kits must be closely followed in order to procure an accurate reading.

Radon mitigation firms are available to fix your Radon problem.  You can easily contract with them just as you would for any other home repair. You may want to get more than one estimate and always check their references to make sure the person is qualified to install a mitigation system. Some states regulate or certify Radon mitigation services providers, so contact your state Radon office or health department for more information.

Be aware that a potential conflict of interest exists if the same person/firm performs the testing and also installs the mitigation system.  Selecting these professionals are as important as selecting mold inspection/remediation companies.

Preventing Exposure

Homeowners and the contractors they hire to renovate their houses can take a number of precautions to prevent exposure to dangerous substances. Awareness and education, home inspections and protective clothing are good ways to minimize exposure and prevent illness.

Investigating a home’s history and hiring a professional to perform an inspection can cut down on asbestos exposure. Test kits can help homeowners determine the presence of Radon. Gloves, face masks and other protective gear can protect renovators from mold, mildew and other harmful substances.

In all cases, remember that your health safety is the number one concern: these substances can cause serious and often fatal diseases.  Please use qualified professionals and experts in their fields, including physicians who specialize in treating these diseases.