Let’s Talk Mold: Fundamentals of Environmental Assessment

Let’s Talk Mold

Takeaways from the ISEAI 2019 Inaugural Conference May 2019.

Day 1 with Michael Schrantz CIEC, CMI, BPI-BA/EP

Fundamentals of Environmental Assessment

 

            This makes the second opportunity to hear Michael Schrantz speak on this topic of assessing our environments for health concerns.   The past Shoemaker conference in January and this ISEAI conference combined to provide a wealth of healthy home information.  With 22 years in the field of indoor environmental quality and building science, he had a lot to offer (and attempt to squeeze into his time slot).  His website is environmentalanalytics.net/abut-us and his radio show is iepradio.com.

            A few takeaway points:

  • The health of our homes connects with the health of our bodies.
  • Multiple sources of toxins must be considered beyond simple mold.
  • The environmental investigator therefore must carry a wide array of tools to assess this assortment of potential health threats.
  • General principles underlie every good approach to creating healthy homes.
  • Once assessments highlight problems areas, proper remediation must proceed.

 

For those willing to accept the obvious before their eyes, the health of our homes and environment connects with the health of our bodies.  Mr. Schrantz shared data from the World Health Organization 2009 assessment showing how Americans spend 87% of their time indoors and 6% in a closed vehicle.  Research continues to grow on the exact mechanisms of these connections.  With this in mind, caring for the chronically ill requires a careful examination of their environment.  Both the doctor and the environmental consultant should take a history to determine potential sources of exposure.

While the number of medical providers willing to test and treat mold toxicity grows, the work does not end there.  Even with mold, simple removal remains insufficient if the sources of moisture which permitted mold growth are not addressed.  Then the gasses produced with construction or daily living jump out as potential toxic exposures.  Growing in size from the microscopic into those visible by our own eyes, we are now recognizing how particulates like construction dust and dust from carpets may harm us.  Again we turn to the invisible EMF’s which bombard us left and right, providing another source of toxicity and symptom triggering.

Mr. Schrantz refuses to limit himself to a small toolkit in assessing patients’ homes and you should follow his lead. While individual tests have their pros and cons, none are so amazing that you can forget the rest.  Some can be purchased by homeowners but even those require wisdom and a full orbed approach. For fungi and mold, ERMI, air sampling, swabs, enzyme tests, and more each have a role at different times in different situations.  Chemical sampling for VOC’s or other toxins may require a little more expertise or assistance.  EMF sensors are however easily available to monitor home or work settings.  With these tools, a homeowner and/or their contracted home investigator can gather a picture of the home’s potential for toxicity.

            Mr. Schrantz encourages our goal to be this simple.  Restore a toxic home back to a natural level of healthy exposures.  This means rebuilding for “safety and comfort” rather than “chronic illness”.  One obstacle to this goal remains the lack of consensus regarding what levels of contaminants make for a safe home.  Beyond that, individual susceptibility to various toxins means that a safe level for one person may not be safe level for another.  With these obstacles in mind, the results of whichever environmental test must be consider in light of the history of the person.  Comparing results between areas which trigger symptoms and areas which do not may elucidate the source of toxicity.  As standards develop doctors and environmental specialists start with comparisons to what levels of chemicals are known to cause toxicity on average.  Then the individual’s tolerance of various chemicals is estimated from there.

            Just like treating a patient requires a personalized approach, remediating a house requires a different approach each time.  Even with that, certain general principles apply across the board.  The remediator must begin with a clear scope of what needs to be accomplished.  From there, the materials to be removed must be kept separate from personal belongings to remain.  Like with removing a tumor, adequate margins must be applied, removing the affected materials and a distance beyond.  Building structure or material left behind requires thorough cleaning followed by a deep cleaning of the work area.  Last, but not least, follow up testing with the same methods used to diagnose should indicate that the work was successful.

            Mr. Schrantz ended with a list of questions to ask a remediator prior to initiating the remediation process.  At Sanctuary we provide guidance to our patients on these choices.  Rather than risk that list being outdated by an update we add soon, look for our guidance in your patient portal or elsewhere on our website.  By keeping things in one place where we can update regularly, we will serve you better.  We want our patients and you to have the best experience with not only our clinic but with any remediator you may need along the way.  Detoxing our lives from mold is difficult enough without having a remediator fall short in restoring our homes to healthier homes.

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