Today’s Mold Talks guest is Emily Rachal, owner of Texas Mold Inspectors, founder of Malachi's Message, and mold survivor. Emily’s heartbreaking experience shows just how much a family can be devastated by mold. From the loss of a child’s life to chronic health issues with every family member, including pets, this indoor contaminant completely changed Emily’s life.
Yet, even with the immense pain and suffering her family went through, Emily and her husband decided to use this experience to push for change. They created their own mold inspection company as well as a nonprofit foundation to help others get through similar situations. Continuing to advocate for change, she hopes that in the future, no one will have to go through the agony she and her family experienced.
Their chat touches on the wide-ranging and overwhelming impact mold exposure can have on every member of a family and how difficult it can be to find answers. Emily’s journey showcases the rampant problems with how mold is thought of and dealt with, as well as how little attention is paid to our indoor environments and how they impact our health.
"So I'll preface this by saying my family was in transition of making a big life change."
After the birth of their first child, Emily and her husband, Josh, decided that they wanted a change of scenery so they could spend as much time as possible with their son. Hoping for a slower pace of life, they moved away from their home in Austin, Texas, and into a smaller town where some of their family lived. Within the first week of living in their new townhome, they all immediately began experiencing a range of symptoms. "Even my dogs were sick," Emily said.
At first, Emily chalked up their issues to stress from the big move. A monumental transition such as that can cause some hiccups along the way. As their symptoms continued to compound as time went by, though, she started to suspect that something else was going on and causing their bodies harm. A client back in Austin suggested that they might have a mold problem in the home, but Emily was new to the mold world.
"I never believed mold could do anything other than maybe cause a sinus or allergic-type reaction. I was that type of person. So when this person back in Austin was telling me all these things I could do, I kind of thought she was crazy."
While her client continued to send her articles on all sorts of moldy information, Emily remained skeptical. Still, her son continued to feel unwell, so she decided to take him to a local doctor and see if mold could potentially be the triggering issue.
"I'll never forget that not only did he look at me, he looked at me straight in the eyes and told me, ‘No, mold can't do any of that and cannot be the culprit.’"
Instead, he suggested that the move caused their allergies to flare up because they were living in a new location and that they should purchase some local honey to help relieve the symptoms. Emily took him at his word and put the idea of mold out of her head. Unfortunately, their symptoms continued to get worse and worse as time went on. While she tried time and again to figure out what was going on, she just couldn't pinpoint why they kept feeling so unwell.
Slowly, her entire life shifted to just trying to get from one day to the next. The longer they stayed in the home, the worse and more frequent her symptoms became.
"I was kind of paralyzed in this house. I don't even know how to better explain it other than I was just doing everything I could every single day just to take care of my son and then get back to bed and take some Advil or something to just relieve the symptoms that I was experiencing."
Over a year later, Emily and her husband finally got the break they needed to put the puzzle pieces together. They left their home for an extended time to visit family and immediately started to feel some of their symptoms ease. The biggest change they noticed came in how their son responded to being out of the toxic home.
"He was so sick, like the light in his eyes just dimmed and it came back when we were out of this environment."
Another chance encounter solidified that their home must have been at fault and convinced them to hire a mold inspector. After looking at the results, he told them that their house was full of toxic mold and to leave immediately and not take any of their belongings. So, they did.
What followed was a battle on all sides between their landlord, the remediation company, and an assessment consultant. To combat the misinformation they kept receiving, Emily’s husband attended a course to become a certified mold inspector in Texas. While there, the instructor took a look at their situation and immediately told them that several laws had been broken while attempting to get their home remediated and dating back before they had even moved into the building. During this tumultuous time, they also lost their partners, who were supposed to work with them on taking over a restaurant.
"So here we were: sick, clueless about, you know, just learning about mold. Now we were without a job and we just found out that we were pregnant as well with our second son, and we decided that, you know what, we're going to learn everything we can about mold because we knew nothing. And then, we're going to turn around and educate people… and spread awareness so that we could prevent others from going through what we went through."
They decided then and there to open up their own mold inspection company so that they could give people the vital information they needed to determine whether or not their homes were safe. Crushingly, Emily began experiencing pregnancy complications during this time. While they were able to spend some time with their newborn son, Malachi, he passed away from a terminal birth defect due to Emily’s toxic mold exposure.
This heartbreaking experience led to Emily's founding of a nonprofit called Malachi's Message to help others who may be going through similar experiences but can’t afford to remediate their homes or leave their toxic environments.
For others who are living with indoor mold growth and suffering from adverse health effects of exposure, Emily encourages them to not lose hope.
"If you're going through your own mold nightmare or even a personal struggle with something, just remember that this is just a chapter in your life. It's not the rest of the story, and there's going to be a new chapter coming soon. Just never give up and always continue to utilize each day to move forward and get past whatever you're going through."