Dealing with indoor mold growth often results in heads spinning and stress levels skyrocketing. Chances are that until the moment you realized there was a problem, you had relatively little prior knowledge of this fungus among us. You are definitely not alone! This important yet overlooked topic is rarely discussed in modern society, meaning that when a problem pops up, it’s often a panic-filled mess. Learning how to build the perfect dream team is not only crucial for resolving your toxic situation but also for ensuring you have the opportunity to heal.
All your team members have different lanes that will come together to create a healthy and safe environment.
The issue is figuring out who you need on the team and the best professionals for the job. On top of the lack of awareness regarding this worldwide problem is the massive amount of misinformation out there. The truth is that not all professionals are built the same. Some may be well-versed in handling mold exposure and indoor contamination. Others may be there to take the easy route and collect a check. Many may be totally unfamiliar with actions such as proper processes to eliminate contaminants from homes or bodies. The end result of the latter options is homes remaining toxic spaces, money being wasted, and individuals continuing to suffer from toxicity and exposure.
Unfortunately, this negative outcome occurs far too often. Until the impact our indoor spaces have on health gains the attention it deserves, it's on our shoulders to navigate handling the situation properly. That way, you can rest assured that by the end of the process, you’ll be well on your way to healing.
Attempting to navigate this current minefield can leave you scratching your head and thinking, "Okay, so who the heck can I trust?" In short, you want individuals who are dedicated to listening to your concerns, have proven success in handling indoor contaminants, and place the health of you and your family as the number one priority.
This guide will get you started on choosing your all-star team.
Home Health Dream Team Member 1: Mold Inspector
A qualified mold inspector sets the foundation for success in properly handling a contamination situation. All of the data they collect will help create a comprehensive protocol needed by the remediation team to appropriately handle the toxic situation.
When looking for an inspector, don’t be afraid to ask questions about their experience.
What’s their track record?
What training have they had?
Are they skilled at helping hypersensitive individuals?
What’s their process?
What tests will they run?
Do they have any limitations?
Will they draft a protocol after assessing the data for the remediation team?
This will help shine a light on how seriously they take this issue and ensure that the process is thorough enough to resolve the contamination situation.
A qualified mold inspector should tick a few boxes when answering these questions. For example, a proper inspection should then take a few hours at a minimum and use a variety of methodologies.
Some of the testing data you should expect to see are:
Species of mold present
Quantities of each mold
Potential spore presence in the HVAC system
Presence of mycotoxins
Presence of bacteria
All of this information is needed to understand what’s actually existing in the home so that they can create the right protocol for the unique situation. If other contaminants such as mycotoxins and bacteria are present, the remediation protocol will need to address this. Should spores make their way into the HVAC, this will need to be remedied. Otherwise, those particles will blow all over the home and could turn into a new mold colony.
Successful remediation requires every piece of the puzzle to fit together correctly in order to decontaminate a home.
Pricing might also seem like a huge determinant factor, but going with the "cheaper option" often leads to gaps in the testing results. Lower pricing often means less testing, less time, and less consideration for finding the answers you need. Thoroughness is the name of the game when it comes to remediating mold from the home.
I personally have quite a few favorite professionals that my company and I have worked with over the years who provide excellent services. Here’s a list based on each state across the country.
Home Health Dream Team Member 2: Remediator
Knowing who to hire for a mold inspection sets up an excellent foundation for remediation that’s successful. After the inspector comes in and collects data, your next step is to find a remediation team to come in and get rid of that contamination. Like mold inspectors, though, not all remediation teams are built the same.
Again, you want a company that prioritizes your health, understands the importance of creating a safe environment, and is confident that they can properly remediate the space. Make sure to ask as many questions as possible to thoroughly assess whether or not they can do the job and do it correctly. Do they have experience helping hypersensitive individuals? Are they confident they can remove mycotoxins, a toxic byproduct of some mold species? What’s their success rate like? If post-testing shows high levels of contamination still, what’s their next move?
This will give you a baseline of what to expect from the company. Another point you should look for is how thorough their remediation process is.
At heart, a remediation team bent on success should always adhere to three pillars for success.
- Remediate the sources properly.
- Identify and address the problems that led to those sources in the first place.
- Eradicate all contamination created by those sources, including toxins and bacteria.
Failure to hit every point can lead to failed remediation. If the source that led to the contamination isn’t addressed, the conditions for growth are still there, allowing the problem to come right back. High levels of contamination left behind can lead to continued exposure. This includes mycotoxins and bacteria, which can be removed from the space. It requires a thorough decontamination process to deal with these hard-to-eliminate particles, but it is possible.
Once the remediation is complete, the mold inspector should then come back in and complete post-testing to ensure the job was done correctly. If a company does not agree with this, they are not the company for you.
Gathering this information will not only give you peace of mind knowing that they’ll do everything in their power to remediate your home, but you’ll also know that they’re in your corner fighting for a healthy home. When it comes to dealing with mold, that’s one of the most important things to winning the battle and getting rid of this fungus among us.
Home Health Dream Team Member 3: NADCA Duct Cleaner
As mold grows, it releases microscopic particles into the surrounding environment. As mentioned above, some species also produce microscopic toxins called mycotoxins as well. It’s inevitable that some of these particles will make their way into the ducts of the home while the mold is growing.
While you may have successfully removed the source, particles in the ducts can lead to continued contamination being blasted all over the house. This lowers indoor air quality, leads to continued exposure, and increases the chances that mold spores or bacteria will opportunistically land on habitable surfaces and start growing. They might even start to grow within the ducts and the HVAC system itself.
A duct cleaner can come in and remove the contamination in the system so that particles don’t re-enter the environment.
Not all cleaning services are created equal, though. Searching for a NADCA-certified company can ensure that they’re qualified to remove contaminants such as mold and bacteria from the unit. Again, if these microscopic particles are left behind, they can be blown straight back into the environment as soon as you turn the HVAC system back on.
When looking for a contractor, make sure to ask them questions, including:
- Can they show proof of NADCA membership and certification?
- Will they conduct a thorough inspection of your HVAC system and alert you to any problems?
- Will they clean all of the HVAC system components, including air ducts, coils, drains, registers, grills, air plenum, blower motor and assembly, heat exchanger, air filter, and air cleaner?
If they don’t answer yes to these, they are not professional for you.
Once they clean your ducts, you should immediately tackle deep cleaning the home. Not only did the existing mold growth release contamination all over the place, but the system is not hermetically sealed, so there’s at least 3% duct leakage at a minimum. That means that as they’re cleaning, some particles from the ducts will enter your indoor space.
Make sure to leave the system off and tackle the home before turning it back on.
Home Health Dream Team Member 4: Building Biologist
After the remediation team gets rid of the contamination, the next step is to start reconstructing the space. Before jumping into construction or hiring an architect to remodel the interior, consider hiring a building biologist to help guide you through crafting a healthy home environment.
One of the biggest hardships after an event is the emotional toll of ensuring this contamination situation does not occur again. Not only will that result in additional money spent, but also chronic health issues popping right back up. It’s a scary thought, which is why making the right decisions to avoid this scenario is crucial in the reconstruction phase of the process.
The issue is navigating the enormous amount of information out there and determining how to safeguard your home. That’s where a building biologist comes in!
This individual is trained in assessing potential issues in a home that can lead to health hazards down the line. To help you create a better indoor environment, they’ll assist in choosing building materials, list proper building processes to avoid issues, take steps to improve indoor air quality and work to reduce EMFs in the home.
They base each and every decision on a key principle: nature is the ultimate guide. Not only should the building be eco-friendly and "green," but it should also be healthy for the individuals living inside. This involves a total approach to building, not just choosing nontoxic materials.
These professionals are also often microbial literate designers who will help choose finishings and products for the home. That way, you can rest assured that they’re not adding toxins right back into the space or are prone to issues such as mold growth.
Qualified building biologists should base their plans for your home on the 25 Building Biology Principles. Make sure to take a look at the document before interviewing a professional for the job and ensure they’re following the principles inside. The individual you work with should also have experience in helping individuals post-remediation create a safe environment, understand the importance of making correct design decisions for hypersensitive individuals, and have your health as their utmost concern.
Home Health Dream Team Member 5: Architectural and Construction Professionals
The key here is finding an individual who hears your concerns and takes the extra steps necessary to construct a healthy environment. These additional measures may seem crazy, but only because they're a different way of doing things.
As we all know, being different doesn’t always mean bad. Growth and advancement are often accomplished by going against the status quo. Just think about all of the technological and human rights advances we’ve seen over the last century alone.
Just because things are done a certain way now does not mean that it’s the best route to take.
New construction is a great example. We’re finding that recently built homes are packed full of contaminants from the get-go before anyone even moves in. On top of this, many materials have potentially harmful components that can impact the health of those that are hypersensitive. The result is toxic spaces that begin to harm families as soon as they walk through the brand new door.
Change is needed at an industry level to prevent this issue from occurring and to protect individuals like you. Until this occurs, it’s up to you and your dream team to ensure that the construction phase does not wipe out all of the hard work you’ve done to create a healthy home environment. The professionals you choose should be aware of this issue and be on board with whatever strategies and protocols you throw at them to reduce opportunities for issues to arise
In short, architectural professionals should take all of the insights provided by your building biologist and incorporate them into their building plans. From there, the construction team you work with should implement all of the plans into their building phases so that the foundation of your home is set up for success.
Home Health Dream Team Member 6: Medical Professional
Healing your home is only one part of the process. To feel better from those chronic symptoms, you must also work on detoxifying your body of all the foreign particles introduced by the toxic environment.
Thanks to their small size, mold spores, mycotoxins, and bacteria are able to be absorbed, inhaled, and ingested into the body.¹ Some are small enough that they can zip straight into the bloodstream. The longer you or a loved one are in the environment, the more these particles will build up in the body. This is also on top of all of the other things we're exposed to every day, such as chemicals, which are constantly filling up our toxic bucket.
The tricky thing is that every experience with exposure is unique. One person may have the occasional headache, while another may develop over 30 symptoms. Treating mold toxicity is similarly unique.²’³’⁴’⁵’⁶ There’s not just a magic pill or formula to follow. You may respond well to a detox protocol while your loved one may require some back and forth to figure out what their body needs to release those toxins.
The medical professional you are working with should understand this issue. They should have experience treating clients dealing with environmental exposures and have a process in place to figure out exactly what your body needs to heal. If they suggest a single "fits-all" strategy, they’re not the professionals for you.
This individual should also listen to you, trust in your instincts, and be dedicated to doing whatever it takes to help you and your family heal. Unfortunately, getting through mold exposure can be a difficult and time-consuming process. They should be in it for the long haul and ready to face any obstacles that may pop up, as well as shape their protocol around wherever you are in the home health process.
Home Health Dream Team Member 7: Indoor Air Quality Experts
Organizations such as Change the Air Foundation are an integral piece of the puzzle to help you continue to increase your mold awareness after the job is done. Home health steps don’t stop after remediation. It’s a constant process, and industry knowledge is likewise constantly evolving.
Every day, new research and understandings are coming to light regarding home health and how to deal with issues such as mold exposure. Decontamination protocols are becoming more fine-tuned, experts are working to better understand indoor air quality’s effect on the body, and building biologists are coming up with inventive ways to better safeguard your home. It may seem daunting, but it’s actually incredibly exciting! The more we know and the more we’re enlightened, the better protected you and your family will be.
On the other hand, maintaining a healthy home is a constant process. It requires actively working to remove microscope particles as well as opportunities that can lead to growth. The more steps you take, the better off your home will be and the lower the chance of an issue such as mold growth occurring.
Staying up to date by following industry experts such as Change the Air will help guide you by offering tips and advice on what you should be doing to make your home a healthier and safer space. And if a contamination situation arises, they’ll provide you with a framework and expert knowledge on how to address the issue properly.
Becoming a member of these communities also helps push for much-needed change. As someone who suffered from a toxic environment, you probably know just how difficult the situation can be and the lack of support provided across industries. The insurance coverage and protective regulations regarding these events are perfect examples.
Adding your voice and joining in to advocate for change can help shift this dynamic and provide families like yours with much greater protection.
Remember That You’ll Be Okay
Dealing with indoor mold growth can be scary and exhausting, especially if you’re suffering from chronic illness due to exposure. Building your perfect dream team is a great step towards giving you the peace of mind you need to begin healing. That being said, it’s also important to keep in mind that you will get through this.
This process may take time, so celebrate each and every victory. Do not get caught up in trying to make everything perfect. Instead, envision how far you’ve come in your home health journey. Chances are, your home will be a much safer and healthier space than it was originally, and that’s what matters! It may have been a giant headache and you may have had a few people looking at you like you’re crazy for going "over the top," but when your health is on the line, the extra work is always worth it.
Finally, it’s okay to do what you can when you can. This process can be, and often is, expensive. If you’re not in a position to hire every single professional listed above, find experts with free resources or look for short consultations that can help you get started off on the right foot. Every little step you can take towards creating a healthier home is a step in the right direction.
You’re doing great and you’re going to get through this.
- Nchh. (n.d.). Mold. NCHH. Retrieved from https://nchh.org/information-and-evidence/learn-about-healthy-housing/health-hazards-prevention-and-solutions/mold/
- Environmental and Occupational Health Assessment Program, & Environmental and Occupational Health Assessment Program, & Health Science Section, Mold Basics for Primary Care Clinicians (2009). Hartford, CT; Connecticut Department of Public Health. , H. S. S., Mold Basics for Primary Care Clinicians 1–10 (2009). Hartford, CT; Connecticut Department of Public Health.
- Curtis, L., Lieberman, A., Stark, M., Rea, W., & Vetter, M. (2004). Adverse health effects of indoor molds. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, 14(3), 261-274.
- Bush, R. K., Portnoy, J. M., Saxon, A., Terr, A. I., & Wood, R. A. (2006). The medical effects of mold exposure. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 117(2), 326-333
- Fisk, W. J., Lei-Gomez, Q., & Mendell, M. J. (2007). Meta-analyses of the associations of respiratory health effects with dampness and mold in homes. Indoor air, 17(4), 284-296.
- Wild, C. P., & Gong, Y. Y. (2010). Mycotoxins and human disease: a largely ignored global health issue. Carcinogenesis, 31(1), 71-82.
- Bennett JW, Klich M. Mycotoxins. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2003 Jul;16(3):497-516. doi: 10.1128/CMR.16.3.497-516.2003. PMID: 12857779; PMCID: PMC164220.