The blueprint to toxic mold

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what they don’t tell you.

If you are just beginning to head down into the rabbit hole of toxic mold, CIRS & environmentally acquired illness (EAI), or perhaps you are just curious, this is a blueprint made to help articulate what took me over 2.5 years to gather, and a truly fitting place to use as a resource.

All you need is an open mind and a new set of eyes to see behind the curtain. - PJ

i feel like a tourist now…

If you have heard my podcast The Tourist, or read my bio, I say repeatedly that our world isn’t the same. It’s not the same place I grew up in the 80’s & 90’s. Sometimes I can’t believe what’s happened, & then I look at my own life, my health & my family’s, then it really resonates. I feel like a tourist now, awakening to a different planet, in more ways than I want to accept.

What once was taught & thought as truth, now needs to be unpacked & re-examined to innerstand our self-made toxic environment, it’s role in the rise of chronic illness, & the future of our kids, our own body, mind & spirit. 

In my personal story, everything unfolded with a combination of toxic mold (being the main trigger) and a first time flu shot (I didn’t learn this until later), so while there are numerous toxins that can collectively affect your health & life, we put a specific focus on mold in this section.

This page is a guide to assist those through the most common wonderings that I wish we had answers to when we fell victim to the wrath of mycotoxins & mold. Even a few years ago, the amount of information on Mold Toxicity, EAI (Environmentally Acquired Illness) and CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) was largely scarce and still today the awareness lacks, hence why this is and was created. As you can see with numerous titles still floating around, the stage for this affliction is still largely new. Creating proper titles is still within a space that is changing. As with many practitioners & health coaches, we are finding it useful to use the term EAI (Environmentally Acquired Illness) as a better way to describe these conditions.

  • So, you might have mold in your home? Maybe you have Lyme Disease?

  • You’ve got multiple symptoms, your children, or partner/spouse may have them too… maybe you know someone who isn’t well?

  • What do you do? How do you know? Will I ever get better? How long will this take? What is all this? …

You’re in the right spot. Included on this site are sections with regards to your home and health, symptoms lists, articles, tests, instructions to read tests, links, podcast episodes, resources and support. I am working to build PJHW everyday, to help support people and to become aware. Even better, understand exactly what’s happening and to empower individuals by taking back their own health. Most importantly, you are not alone, and we too at one point had no idea about a majority of this world of toxins.

what is environmentally acquired illness?

Toxicity is the most un-talked about, unwritten about, primary cause of most chronic illness & disease today, so let’s first go over what exactly Environmentally Acquired Illness is:

EAI (Environmentally Acquired Illness is a newer term, that fully encompasses a grouping of serious chronic health problems triggered & caused by exposure to a number of different causes and variables such as:

  • Environmental toxins & pollution like mold, biotoxins, pesticides, glyphosate, heavy metals, air pollution, water pollution, EMF’s, & other irritants found in our homes and the environment

  • Pharmaceuticals and overuse of antibiotics, excessive vaccinations

  • Diet & nutrition-GMO’s, lack of minerals & nutrients, poor digestion

  • Bacterial infections, pathogens & viruses such as Lyme Disease, bartonella, babesia & mycoplasma

  • Epigenetics and genetics

  • Lifestyle: stress, trauma, overworking

Each of these collectively plays a role in the total body burden or toxic load an individual carries around. Everyone on the planet is bio-individually unique, so when we are trying to find the root cause of illness, all of those topics need to be evaluated, and addressed.

90% of disease is environmentally influenced. In 2018, the WHO (World Health Organization) stated that indoor air quality was one of the biggest health concerns we faced. Many buildings all over the world have Sick Building Syndrome, which is contamination from molds & bacteria due to water damage (plumbing or roofing leaks) or flooding. In the United States alone, at least half the homes have a mold problem. That’s 40 million people who are affected and have no idea.

HOw mold & mycotoxins affect your body.

Mold produces a toxic chemical, called a mycotoxin. Think of it like snake venom, it’s poisonous but not “alive” per se. Mycotoxins infect people through ingestion, inhalation and are absorbed through the skin. They get into your bloodstream & lymphatic system, inhibiting your protein synthesis, damage your macrophages and inhibit your particle clearance of the lungs.

Some mycotoxins disrupt cellular processes such as DNA & RNA synthesis, mimic the body’s production of estrogen, shuts down your aromatase pathways and in the process lowers testosterone. Mycotoxins can cause immense kidney damage. The mycotoxin can enter a cell and set off a severe inflammatory process. The toxins have the ability to dissolve into fats at one end and into water at the other, they essentially can move through any body tissue at will, as well as through all membranes, insidiously forcing a wide variety of tissues to react to their toxic qualities. These reactions & responses collectively dysregulate your innate immune response.

These along with other biotoxins, VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), endotoxins, fungal fragments, spores, and other microorganisms are commonly mixed together within indoor air and can cause many serious health symptoms and debilitating chronic illness, sometimes death.

There are over 300 species of fungi that can produce toxic compounds. Mold can cause both, toxicity and allergies, which I want to point out are two separate things. Because of the dysregulation of the immune system, molds reaction in the body stands as one of the larger factors in triggering other illnesses to “reactivate” or to become opportunistic. There are other instances where mold itself is growing inside the human body, usually caused by ingesting certain types of aspergillus. Outdoor toxins can also make people sick, but indoor exposures tend to be worse because the toxins are more concentrated in closed spaces, and simply asked, where do we spend the majority of our time? Inside.

mold in the bible

The way we build our homes today is a causation for the uprising in mold toxicity, however mold has been reported since ancient times of Moses.

Chapter 14 of the Book of Leviticus provides specific directions for toxic mold remediation. Described as a plague, mildew, contamination or disease dependent upon which bible you choose to read, the instructions are clear. Any stone in a house with a “defiling” mold on it needed to be removed from the home and taken far away from civilization, and the family who lived in the home as well as their guests were instructed to bathe thoroughly.

If mold continued to grow in the home, the Law required it to be torn down.

This clearly shows historically that even before modern science had linked mold exposure to specific human illnesses, the people of ancient times knew that it was deeply harmful.

how material & energy efficiency created a bigger problem with mold

By the late 1950's and 1960's, though plaster was still found in new construction, drywall was beginning to be used at an increasing rate. Drywall, while cheap & much easier to install, is a feeding ground for mold. The gypsum it contains absorbs water very easily, dries very slowly, and its paper layers further spreads the growth of toxic mold.

By the 1970’s the energy crisis required all new construction to be airtight. Ventilation suffered, causing the indoor air quality to degrade rapidly and the first records of sick building syndrome were first described.

Office workers had symptoms of headaches, mucous membrane irritation and difficulty concentrating while in their work buildings, which improved shortly after leaving the buildings. At that time environmental conditions that could lead to such symptoms were not at all understood & widespread complaints were often thought to be mass psychogenic illness. Wow, not much has changed.

That stigma is still happening throughout the world today, and it’s our hope to change that.

Pathogens & Viruses come into play

Another player in Environmental Illness is bacterial infections, pathogens and viruses that you may have had prior exposure to (and have not left your body). Some of these viruses & pathogens can lie dormant for years. I’ve had Lyme disease since I was a young girl and never knew until I was exposed to mold as an adult & mother of four. It was that tipping combination of toxic overload that ravaged my health.

The pathogens and viruses remain in persistent forms or are reactivated a second time. Similar to how the chickenpox virus can be reactivated and cause shingles, these infections, can flare when a person’s immune system is already suppressed by mold, the inflammation it causes and the other biotoxins found in water-damaged buildings. Just like my story, when a person is exposed to all of these things: the result is serious chronic illness.

ENVIRONMENTAL illnesses include:

  • Mold Toxicity, Chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS) (also called mold illness or biotoxin illness)

  • Persistent Lyme disease and other infections caused by Bartonella, Babesia, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), mycoplasma, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Rickettsia, Ehrlichiosis, and others.

  • Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)

  • Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), among many others.

You’ve got “fibromyalgia”

My first “diagnosis” if you want to call it that was Fibromyalgia. By no means am I demeaning the grouping of symptoms (which is actually the definition) or invalidating its very painful effects on the body, however for me, it was not a complete causation of my illness and I knew it in my gut. I was never content with knowing that was the only answer and “all they could do for me”. I felt strongly that my doctors did exactly what they were taught to do, eliminate other illnesses and slap me with the closest thing to I don’t know what’s wrong, without actually dropping their ego enough to admit it.

There are many people who have been diagnosed with the same or with Lyme Disease or CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome or ME myalgic encephalomyelitis) for example, who are unknowingly suffering from mold toxicity, biotoxin exposure or other environmental exposures.

Many fibromyalgia, Lyme, CFS/ME patients get better if they address their exposure to mold and other environmental toxins. Similarly, there are lots of patients who have stabilized their body and “recovered” from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, Asthma and other grave autoimmune illnesses after they discovered that environmental triggers were making them ill and reduced their exposure. It is not yet known how many illnesses may be caused by environmental exposure.

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How do environmental toxins make people sick?

As I talked about above, exposure to toxins act as a trigger and cause chronic systemic inflammation within multiple body systems. These triggers cause damage to the immune system, making it unable to do its job properly. They also cause damage to the brain, the heart, the lungs, your multiple microbiomes, mitochondria and many other body systems.

bio-individuality

Every single person is bio-individually different, meaning we all have differing variable factors. We have different genes & epigenetics, different diet and nutrition, different exposures throughout life (GMO’s, pesticides, heavy metals, viruses, pathogens, chemicals, electro-smog, EMF’s, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, pollution, toxins passed in utero, etc.) and therefore differing levels of toxicity. (Everyone, even infants have some degree of toxicity in the world we live in today.) We all have different allergies, as well as our microbiomes contain completely different strains of bacteria - both good and bad.

Our lifestyles are all complexly differing as well. I know for me, I have experienced a lot of deep trauma early in my life, whereas you may have grown up without ever getting exposed to such dark emotions. This equivocally plays a role in our immunity, our body burden and the way our body will heal in the future.

Each of our immune systems react individually different. Because of this concept it’s been much easier for us to understand why chronic illness presents so diversely, and equally why there is no one cure or answer in treating chronic illness. What may be harmless to me, may take down my husband and vice versa.

MICROBIOMES

I mentioned our microbiomes earlier, which the body actually has many. Most notable being your gut, but equally we have a skin microbiome, sinus microbiome, vaginal microbiome, eye microbiome, colon microbiome, etc. All of us have tiny microbes working within and on us, since the moment we were born.

The first microbes babies get, if delivered vaginally are a film of microbes as they pass through the birth canal. This is a critical part of our early life of which I was unaware when I had my kids. This would have changed my opinion of the 2 c-sections I had, and I would have fought harder to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean), about which I was told was “impossible” at my hospital.

It’s essential to understand that microbes/bacteria get a bad rap. There are good bacteria and bad bacteria. Much of my own life I spent thinking all bacteria was bad, and that it was healthy to constantly be dousing myself with anti-bacterial soaps, wipes and sprays. To me, bacteria was synonymous with sickness or infection, and I went to great lengths to keep my home and body practically surgically sterile. This has now been to my own detriment.

We are bacteria, more so than we are human in a sense. The body is so sophisticated, and contains thousands of differing ecology with 3.5 million microbial genes inside of us. The human body is coded with 90% of bacterial DNA. This means that only 10% of our own DNA is actually driving the ship. When you break this down, it helps to understand the design of our bodies, and how it all symbiotically plays a part.

epigenetics & genes

While it’s common in our medicalized system that many chronic illnesses seem to be blamed on genetics, research has clearly shown this is not the case we once thought. Genetics indeed play a part but they are not the inherited & unchangeable reasoning for all of our health problems. Factor in, Epigenetics.

Epigenetics simplified is the act of switching our genes on and off, if genes are the instructions, epigenetics is how those instructions are read, and subsequently what they produce as an outcome.

Genes are affected by our environment, and conversely respond to us. After reading Ben Lynch’s life changing book “Dirty Genes” these concepts were much easier to understand & I highly recommend it. We all have two types of these “dirty genes”. Some are born dirty which the scientific name is abbreviated as SNP’s. Some genes just act dirty and express a certain way. Both respond to our environment, which makes us susceptible, reactive or not active to different things. To generalize, I cannot detox easily due to my MTHFR SNP. My detoxification pathways are jammed and struggle hard, this puts extreme stress on my kidneys, liver and gallbladder, which synergistically affects everything else.

This simply helps us conceptualize how there are so many factors connecting together within the body, and why each of us needs to realize there is no one size fits all solution for anyone when it comes to health.

The HLA-DR Gene

With mold, Lyme and biotoxin illness it’s common that many sufferers have a particular gene or biomarker called the HLA-DR (Human Leukocyte Antigen) 4-3-53 genotype. This gene is in about 24% of the population, including myself, 3 of my children and my husband. The HLA-DR genotype makes anyone who has it especially vulnerable to mycotoxins & mold. The genes of the HLA system encode proteins that recognize antigens and present them to the immune system, allowing a reaction and consequent removal of the antigens from circulation. Genetic susceptibility means a lower ability to recognize mycotoxins, allowing them to accumulate in the body, in many cases, for years. The testing for this gene can be obtained through a simple blood test through your wellness team or practitioner.

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THe bucket analogy

I always like to simplify what happened to us by using a bucket as an analogy. When you take into consideration all of these factors that I have explained, our bio-individuality, and all of the toxins we are exposed to, medications, antibiotics, surgery, trauma, stress, nutrition deficiencies, sleep, exposure to EMF & electrosmog, your ability to “dump” is also being hindered, and then you add MOLD to the mix…what happens when you begin to fill to the brim and begin to overflow? BOOM. Your body can’t do its job anymore and you become chronically environmentally ill.

With Environmental illness, everything is connected. For example, a person like me who has mold toxicity (CIRS) and Lyme, I am now more sensitive to many things I once was not or things that I didn’t even know. If I eat gluten my stomach hurts, and is it the gluten or the glyphosate? If I hold my cell phone for too long my hands pulse, my wrists hurt and I am bothered by going into metropolitan areas with 5G installed. We have to use toxin-free everything because my body reacts to soaps, products, makeup, etc.

Similarly a person with existing Chronic Lyme Disease may not realize they react to mold and have become more sensitive to water damaged buildings and the toxins within them.

It is thought that many illnesses not mentioned above may be caused or exacerbated by a person’s exposure to environmental toxins. These include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

  • Epilepsy and other seizure disorders

  • Dysautonomias such as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Autism & Autistic spectrum disorders

  • Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Cancer

  • Diabetes (Type 2) and metabolic syndrome

  • Obesity

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Celiac disease, and other food sensitivities

  • Leaky gut syndrome (LGS) and dysbiosis

  • Asthma and allergies

  • PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome)

  • Pneumonia and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

  • Psoriasis and eczema

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

What causes environmentally illness?

Here are some of the common sources of exposure to triggers that cause EIs:

  • Mold and many other toxins present in buildings that have been damaged by water through flooding, roof leaks, plumbing leaks, etc.

  • Infections such as Lyme disease, Bartonella, Babesia, mycoplasma, Epstein-Barr virus, parasites, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), Candida

  • Asbestos, lead, fiberglass, and other toxic substances found in many buildings

  • Formaldehyde, flame retardants, and toxic chemicals often present in drywall, carpeting, flooring products, OSB board (used in construction), insulation, glues, sealants and other products used to build homes and offices. Many toxic chemicals also are found in mattresses, upholstered furniture, clothing and other products.

  • Glyphosate, pesticides, herbicides & chemicals used in fertilizers that also contain high amounts of heavy metals

  • Pesticides, hormones, mycotoxins, arsenic, and other irritants found in produce, grain, meat, fish and other foods

  • Phthalates and parabens found in cosmetics and personal care products

  • RF, EMF, and microwave radiation

  • Cyanobacteria and other biotoxins present in many lakes, rivers, ponds, and in soil

  • Amalgam dental fillings

  • Pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines, antacids & other prescriptions that contain: Aluminum, mercury, & other heavy metals

  • Industrial air pollution & vehicle exhaust

  • Cosmetics & beauty products that contain numerous heavy metals & toxic chemicals

  • Public water that contains lead, fluoride & other sediments, heavy metals & toxicity

References: 2019 ISEAI, International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness.

The stigma of mold toxicity

One of the biggest hardships we felt was isolation and disbelief from people. Unfortunately, it’s a huge part of the problem, and a common stigma associated with illnesses stemming from the environment. People seem to judge what they don’t understand. This topic is also complicated, and unless your in it, you aren’t going down the rabbit hole to understand it.

Many women and mothers are gaslit, and it is something I refuse to stand for. I have interviewed and been witness to hundreds of people who share in my own personal pain, and it is a reason why I talk about this so much. We get categorized as crazy, mental, attention seekers and hysterical, as a grouping of certain people who like to “make things up”.

This kind of fallacy continues to happen around the country daily. In my experience it’s not beneficial or constructive to spin your wheels explaining anymore than you have to with people. I give people a few leads and then move on. If your sick, the last thing you want is to add more stress to your life. Wasting energy trying to change someones mind can lead to more stress. Simply put, stress leads to more inflammation, which shuts down your detox pathways, it leads to issues in the gut, leading to imbalances hormonally and finally, immunosuppression. Stress can trigger the flaring of numerous symptoms.

The bottom of this page has links to scientific articles, medical papers, & tons of “proof” if that’s really what someone want’s to see to believe. Often, I think it’s beyond scientific literature with some people. It’s more like their belief in standardized medicine, which in many cases is regarding like religion in current society. That just may be something you will not be able to convince anyone of, no matter what kind of scientific pdf you have. People are righteous and stubborn in their ways. The indoctrination runs deep. I have honestly found that most people in 2019 will not believe unless it’s happening to them. It’s unfortunate but reality.

For the record though, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Unless this is your spouse, partner or caretaker.

Then, my heart goes out to you.

There is no such thing as a hypochondrial patient, just environmentally sick people that doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with them.
— Dr. Sherri A. Rogers
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how to test your Home

In some of the worst homes affected by mold, you cannot see any visible mold or smell dampness. We had no idea our home was toxic. Mold testing can be a complicated procedure, especially if you do not know the source. It may involve expensive professionals who may utilize moisture mapping to determine the extent of the water-damaged materials; thermal imagery, air, dust and/or surface sampling, all to identify hidden mold and moisture. That may be the route you must choose to go, however, we want to make this a simplified procedure and give everyone the most options out there. Discovering your home has mold and being sick is already stressful enough.

Because of that we have put together some of the best companies with the most affordable options for our clients and readers. We must remind everyone: if you suspect elevated levels of mold in your home, it's essential to test your environment prior to cutting into any drywall, attempting any construction or doing anything that would disturb the colony(s). Disruption can make the situation & your health much, much worse. If you so hire professionals make sure they are doing it at medical grade & read more about hiring someone below.

DIY mold & mycotoxin test options:

The ERMI Test

In our opinion, the ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) is the most detailed & effective way to assess the health of your home on your own. This method is recommended by renown mold doctor, Ritchie Shoemaker. It’s a highly recommended place to begin if you are experiencing symptoms. The ERMI test is a dust sampling analysis used to evaluate the health of a building. ERMI tests use a DNA-based method for identifying 36 different species of mold. Benefits & usefulness of the ERMI explained in detail by Dr. King-Teh Lin & Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker here.

HERTSMI Testing

A smaller version of the ERMI, the HERTSMI (also called the HERTSMI-2), uses similar technology to identify and quantify 5 of the more common and most toxic species of mold. This test is cheaper and offers is most frequently used to measure the health of a home.

Mycotoxin Testing

Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals that are present on spores and small fragments of mold that are released into the air and dust. This is the primary cause of your symptoms along with other VOC’s, Endotoxins, biotoxins and beta glucans in the air.

A newer option, and one I wish I had the option to use when we were sick, these companies offer testing that identify the most toxic mycotoxins. *Each company is VERY different in the results & testing, so please read each description carefully before you make your most informed decision.

air plate testing

We have teamed up with our great friends at Hypoallergenic Air to offer PJ Harlow Wellness readers and clients air plate testing at the lowest possible rate. One of the things that hit our family the hardest was our lack of finances to perform all this testing along with paying out of pocket for doctors and supplements for the four of us. It was not something we anticipated, and we know all too well how hard all of this can be on families. Because of the intense financial burden, Hypoallergenic Air agreed to offer our clients specifically, this fantastic deal on air plate testing.

Includes 1-5 Petri Dishes for Testing.  Test your home or office for: mold, bacteria, yeast, and more!  Air quality testing has various degrees of exactness and expense.  Hypo Air uses DIY petri dish kits that they purchase in bulk from a lab which allows our customers to conduct visual testing of biological contaminants like mold, bacteria and viruses.  It does not test for other pollutants like odors, chemical gases (VOCs), and physical particulates.  See the results yourself, but feel free to send HypoAir a picture of your test for additional analysis and advice. 

We work with Hypoallergenic Air to offer our clients options to clean their air as well. Contact us to purchase other products or link below for a selection of their stellar air filtration systems. Use our discount code PJ10 for 10% off Air filtration

Cleaning Mold

There’s a ton of misinformation about how to kill mold that makes it completely confusing for the reader as to what’s proper. In this section we cover the most common mistakes first and then offer our opinion on what we have found to be effective and useful.

  • Bleach: First and foremost, do not use bleach. Bleach is totally ineffective at killing mold. Primarily water, it only ‘bleaches’ the mold until the melanin compounds in the hyphae (the branching filamentous cells of the fungus) recover and grow back. While it looks clean and white, it’s not gone or eliminated. Bleach actually encourages more mold growth!

  • Essential Oils: As far as essential oils, I use them and I love them; additionally there are great studies that confirm thyme, clove and other oils are remarkably effective anti-fungal & antibacterial agents, but they shouldn’t be used for a remediation job and can also be a trigger for sensitive individuals and children. In testing against mold colonies it revealed essential oils leave behind numerous microbial spores.

  • Hydrogen Peroxide: Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizer and can harm wiring and metals (cabinet handles, etc.). We don’t recommend. It can disrupt the DNA of mold by breaking apart, but the broken pieces of DNA can regenerate given the appropriate conditions and regrow. It does not eradicate mycotoxins. Andrea Fabry writes about the top ten natural options here.

  • Borax: also known as sodium tetraborate, is a naturally occurring mineral composed of sodium, boron, oxygen, and water. It is a white powder is commonly found in most grocery stores. It dissolves in water and before using for mold, my kids used it to make homemade slime. Borax is an excellent anti-fungal agent and a natural, easily accessible option to clean your clothes and make a paste to clean up mold. To read about the brilliant effects of Borax check out this article:

  • Micro Balance Health Products: This company has everything you need to get started. EC3 Mold Solution Spray is an all-natural, botanical surfactant that treats indoor environments for mold and mycotoxins. Highly effective and read-to-use, EC3 Mold Solution Spray is safe for all materials, surfaces and fabrics, no harmful chemicals. Designed to treat mold and bacterial contamination on all of your hard and soft surfaces including, floors, walls, furnishings, clothes, shoes, car interiors, and even pets. The spray works on contact and thus, can only treat the areas where applied. It works best when used frequently to maintain healthy mold levels and to prevent a general build-up of mold in your home, office or car.

    Micro Balance Health has a range of cleaners, laundry additives, candles, and even supplements to help you get started. We have their products ourselves as you can see on our social media and love the botanical spray.

  • US Enzyme ToxinKlear® Mycotoxins Remover: I wish we knew about this company sooner and if we ever have another mold problem we will be using this stuff! The first product of its kind, ToxinKlear® completely removes and eliminates mycotoxin vapor molecules left behind after mold removal, including endotoxins. In 2008, US Enzyme began with an innovative mold removal and cleaning product – MoldKlear®– that did not leave behind harmful chemicals and was safe for use in areas with children and pets.

    In 2017, they added ToxinKlear® to address mycotoxin removal within indoor environments. (Mycotoxins are the small microscopic toxins that cause mold illness or sick building syndrome.) ToxinKlear is a cutting-edge cleaning solution to restore a safe indoor environment.

    US Enzyme’s offers numerous products to fog your home & belongings, your vehicle, attic or crawlspace, even your HVAC ducts & coils with guarantees to rid your home of mold spores & mycotoxins.

Note: If you have a serious mold problem that requires remediation, we recommend that you hire a professional first. The only other resource that we have used is the sun, however our testing on this has not been measured.

Tips on testing your home

Here is our number on recommendation if you are hiring someone. DO NOT DO AIR TESTING.

To help you understand, not all molds behave the same. All mold doesn’t normally tend to hang out in the air, some are heavy, some are sticky, some are light and fluffy. So when you hire a local mold inspector, the first thing they will do is come into your home and break out a little tripod that takes a 5 minute sample, it’s the industry go to for testing. Here’s the problem, it’s too limited to base your health on it. I will take a quote from late Dr. Jack Thrasher, a leader in the field of indoor air quality:

Air sampling is unreliable because the results are too variable, meaning - not consistent. Second, air sampling only identifies mold spores to the genus level. It is super important to know the species of mold when you’re dealing with health issues. Mold spores are present in the dust, and the dust can be examined for species of mold using PCR (ERMI) testing. For example, we tested a building in Bermuda. Initial air samples indicated low concentrations of mold spores. We then disturbed the indoor air with an aerosol of sterile fluoroethane. The spore counts went up as high as 250,000 spores per cubic meter. Thus the spores entrained in dust were redistributed into the indoor air.
— Dr. Jack Thrasher

*Another obvious weakness is that heavier spores, such as Stachybotrys, may be present but not aerosolized and therefore under-reported if only air sampling is performed. -Healthy Building Science, Air Quality Article

(This is reiterating that molds like stachybotrys are so heavy it’s unlikely to evaluate the exposure or counts with an air sample test. Heavier molds like this are normally carried through your shoes, construction materials, flooding, etc.)

If you still aren’t convinced at the best methods, check out this podcast interview with Chris Kresser and Mike Schrantz from Environmental Analytics where they discuss how to test your home for mold.

how to interpret mold tests

While air sampling, bulk sampling, and tape lifts all have their place, ERMI dust sampling remains our top choice when evaluating the health of a building in regards to water damage. It is the most valuable option for someone who has symptoms of mold toxicity. Here’s our example why:

PJ: When our home was tested, we had two tests. The first test was an air sample test, performed by an environmental company hired by our realtors. They told us, the house was “harmless and perfectly healthy”. The air testing, we were told, revealed the outside & inside air was “safe”. The second test, we ordered ourselves and was sampling directly from our drywall that showed high levels of stachybotrys (black mold). At the time, we had not been aware of all the resources available. Had we listened to the landlords and not our bodies, one can only imagine where we would be.

This is an important point illuminating how it’s important to take control of your own health.

After you send in your sample(s) the lab will email you a report for your ERMI test and they are quite complex, however our goal is to make things easier for you. Keep the following points in mind as you seek to interpret the test results of your test.

  1. Understand that all tests have limitations. 

  2. While settled dust is one of the best ways to get a picture of the air you’re breathing, there is no one test that can assess all areas of a given building.

The indoor environment is a complex mixture of microbes and toxins.

Including:

  • MVOCs (microbial volatile organic compounds)

  • β-1,3-glucans or fungal extracellular polysaccharides

  • endotoxins

  • pathogenic bacteria

All of these have the potential to impact health adversely.

Consider the species of mold, not just the count. On the ERMI - you will see spore counts of each 36 species of mold. When these counts are abnormally high, it may be assumed the building has the potential to harm health. Do not discount low counts of particularly hazardous molds, however one spore of stachybotrys chartarum can indicate a serious mold situation. Species of mold that are particularly dangerous include those evaluated in the ERMI & HERTSMI-2 dust tests:

  1. Stachybotrys chartarum

  2. Chaetomium globosum

  3. Aspergillus penicillioides

  4. Aspergillus versicolor

  5. Wallemia sebi

how to read an ermi or hertsmi-2 mold test

Use the HERTSMI-2 scoring systemDr. Ritchie Shoemaker developed the HERTSMI-2 Scoring System. This system is an efficient method to predict if a home will be safe for those with EAI, mold toxicity, &/or CIRS. Out of the 26 molds in Group I associated with water damage from ERMI, Dr. Shoemaker found that 5 of those 26 molds were particularly telling. The HERTSMI-2 score is determined by using a scoring system that assigns points based upon the level of each of these five molds.

HERTSMI-2 POINTS ASSIGNMENT:

  • Stachybotrys Chartarum

    • Spore Equivalent Value over 125 = 10 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value of 26 - 125 = 6 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value of 5 - 25 = 4 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value less than 5 = 0 points

  • Chaetomium Globosum

    • Spore Equivalent Value over 125 = 10 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value of 26 - 125 = 6 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value of 5 - 25 = 4 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value less than 5 = 0 points

  • Aspergillus Penicilloides

    • Spore Equivalent Value over 500 = 10 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value of 101 - 500 = 6 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value of 10 - 100 = 4 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value less than 10 = 0 points

  • Aspergillus Versicolor

    • Spore Equivalent Value over 500 = 10 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value of 101 - 500 = 6 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value of 10 - 100 = 4 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value less than 10 = 0 points

  • Wallemia Sebe

    • Spore Equivalent Value over 2500 = 10 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value of 501 - 2500 = 6 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value of 100 - 500 = 4 points

    • Spore Equivalent Value less than 100 = 0 points

This scoring system is designed to help individuals with chronic illness &/or whom have previously been affected by mold, mycotoxins & water-damaged buildings. This is a very useful test for sufferers and beginners. Check your test results for the five significant molds listed above. Calculate your results with the guide or with the HERTSIMI-2 Calculator. (Note I can not guarantee it’s accuracy). You can also find another graph outlined on Surviving Mold’s HERTSMI-2 page. Your results can be tallied and compared with the following interpretation:

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  • <11 Most likely Safe

  • 11-15 Borderline – clean and re-test

  • >15 Dangerous for those with EAI, mold toxicity, CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) *

* An acute and chronic, systemic inflammatory response syndrome acquired following exposure to the interior environment of a water-damaged building with resident toxigenic organisms, including but not limited to fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes, and mycobacteria as well as inflammagens such as endotoxins, beta glucans, hemolysins, proteinases, mannans and possibly spirocyclic drimanes; as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 

**See Surviving Mold’s article What is CIRS? for additional information. PJ-This is what all four of our family members were diagnosed with, CIRS aka Mold Toxicity, Biotoxin Illness, Mold Sickness.

Is my home safe? How do I know?

Consider your health. Are you experiencing health issues? Did these symptoms appear or escalate after moving into the home, school, or office? Are you or your family members experiencing sinus issues, fatigue, brain fog, chronic pain, food sensitivities, or digestive problems? (For a comprehensive list of symptoms, see bottom on this page).

Evaluating the health of your family, yourself, or coworkers is critical when trying to assess the health & safety of a building. If health issues are extreme, this must be taken into account when determining the safety of a building. For the record:

YOU cannot & will not heal in mold

You must either remediate safely or get out. I cannot express this enough. I understand some of you are saying, I have no choice PJ. I can’t leave. What do you expect me to do? Sell my house? Walk away?

I get it. I said all those things too. And ultimately, obstacles are present in everyone’s situation. I have yet to meet anyone who is prepared for this emotionally or financially, but it doesn’t mean we can change the reality of the circumstances. My family and I walked away from an entire house with everything in it. Why? Because I valued our health more than material things. Some people sell their homes. You can do a disclosure if you feel uncomfortable about the existing issues. Point being, there are always options, some are just more uncomfortable than others.

Without succumbing to all doom and gloom, I have heard success stories of people who remediated but, it came with strict diligence and an enormous amount of knowledge. Just remember, you can not get better in mold. You can try to ride it out, and at best hope that you won’t get worse. We bought an air purification system when we encountered mold at our second home. Our friends at Air Oasis/Hypoallergenic Air offer options as low as $159 with their mold guard. The unit we got helped us hold off until we could move to a safer home.

If you feel unsure about the safety of your home, ask yourself what is your gut feeling about the health of this building? Do you feel it’s unsafe? Don’t rule out the power of a mother’s intuition or your own “spidey senses” when trying to determine your next step. Listen to your body.

How to hire the right mold pro.

If you are experiencing the numerous symptoms listed below and your health practitioner is unable to identify the cause of your complaint, consider hiring a building biologist or IICRC accredited mold remediation company to investigate.

I did an in depth podcast with Joel Heiblum of Mr. Mold Inc. in Miami, Florida, a mold remediation company. Joel is seriously passionate and caring in his craft and has been working with Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker personally, to advocate & educate doctors in Florida with regards to mold and how to treat it.

During our interview, he expressed his dismay in the amount of denial he gets from clients, particularly from spouses & husbands who do not believe mold is toxic. With that said, it’s super important to find someone who understands this, you don’t want to confuse the situation even more. I asked Joel what he recommended for people who wish to hire a professional:

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Stay vigilant, and advocate for yourself. Since most of the population is not correctly educated w/ regards to mold dangers, 9 times out of 10, your mold inspector isn’t going to believe your symptoms have anything to do with your mold problem. At least right now, the knowledge in the field is very poor.

Interview the company that you hire & research their credentials.

Assert yourself with the knowledge & resources that are provided here. There is a wealth of scientifically backed evidence that proves not only that mold is highly dangerous, but it’s devastating effects on human health absolutely exist.

Look for licensing. In his home state of Florida, it was only 10 yrs ago that the state required licensing & testing to practice as a mold remediation company. Prior to that, “any guy off the street could “spray and pray” that bleach would hide the problem” as Joel put it.

Just because someone has a license or certificate doesn’t mean he or she is any good and can help you.

Consumers are very much on their own in many ways.
— Joel Heiblum, owner of Mr. Mold Inc. (Miami, florida)

According to Joel there are actually companies out there that DO understand the link between mold and health, it’s just a matter of finding them.

I have also researched the work of Greg Weatherman at AerobioLogical Solutions, Inc. who has similarly worked with Dr. Shoemaker’s patients for over a decade to remediate water-damaged homes for medically-sensitive patients. He has written a workup of “How customers can spot a bad or good consultant”, which is listed below. *Greg also lists how to spot a good and bad contractor which you can find here.

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They can't identify the moisture source(s) that lead to mold to be corrected.

They do a lot of testing without forming a theory to prove or disprove.

They don’t carry professional insurance for their professional opinions.

They only do consulting work with 1 mold remediation contractor

They don’t understand the limitations of each test method

They lack any scientific sources to support their opinions

They claim their certification or professional membership makes their opinion more important than others who may have solid scientific references.

They claim their asbestos background somehow makes them an expert in microbiology. You can only go so far with a lab report. Labs don’t know your property or circumstances.

They don’t pay attention to the history of the structure or complaint areas.

They claim they never made a mistake.

They don’t pay attention to microbial reservoirs not covered by insurance policies such as leaking windows.

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They can identify the moisture source(s) that lead to mold to be corrected.

They form a theory to prove or disprove and may or may not need testing.

They carry professional insurance for their professional opinions.

They do consulting work with more than one mold remediation contractor

They understand the limitations of each test method such as spore traps don’t test for particle not subject to gravity in normal indoor environments.

They use scientific sources to support their opinions

They claim their certification or professional membership is a measure of professionalism but, their opinions still need solid scientific references.

They may be knowledgeable with more than microbiology or other areas within environmental sciences. They know the labs don’t know your property or circumstances since you hired them to investigate.

They pay attention to the history of the structure and complaint areas.

They will admit mistakes are made as scientific knowledge progresses.

They pay attention to microbial reservoirs not covered by insurance policies. Addressing the mold from the pipe leak may be not as important as the leaking window getting chronic water damage and wind.

So what does mold toxicity feel like?

You are tired all the time. A kind of tired that you can’t get through the day anymore without feeling like you need a nap. If you work at a computer or in an office, your eyeballs want to close so badly you fight to keep them open. Sleep, no matter how much you get it’s never enough. You never wake feeling refreshed. In the morning you are stiff. You may have migrating pain in your hands, wrists, feet, knees, joints, muscles or back. You have temporary numbness in your hands, feet or limbs, maybe your face. Sometimes the pain is pulsing, throbbing, in and out. Sometimes it feels like little electric shocks or sparky bug bites. It comes and goes. You startle easy. You may have throat issues, and choke, stutter or mess up words. Your irritated, emotional, sometimes paranoid and you know something is wrong. Your body feels hypersensitive and you feel like you have suddenly turned 97.

You get frequent headaches, migraines. You may feel angry, irritable, or moody, maybe you even snap at people around you. Your clothes may even get on your nerves! Your bra hurts, burns or irritates your skin, so you can’t wait to take it off, or the tags in your shirt irritate you horribly, it may even feel like sunburn at times. After a shower or bath, you’re super hot, then an hour later you may be cold, hot flashes are now a part of your vocabulary.

The thought of doing mundane tasks is even tiring, everything can feel like too much for you to do after school, work or whatever you have to do today. Even worse, your memory seems to have disappeared. You lose things a lot, can’t remember what you were just doing or forget things. Appointments, where your car keys are or what did you do with your phone? You are distracted, can’t concentrate and feel like you don’t know where to start anymore. Math feels hard. You have trouble absorbing what you just read. Sometimes you get dizzy. The smells of fabric softener, perfume or gas are super intense to you now. You may get nosebleeds often.

Maybe you’ve been to the family doctor and they have told you that you have:

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Autoimmune illness

  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Maybe your kids have been diagnosed with:

  • Allergies

  • Asthma

  • ADHD

  • Childhood Obesity

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder

Maybe you’ve been to countless doctors, specialists and had a zillion tests, only to be told “everything is normal” or that you have allergies.  Even worse, that “you look fine”, so your symptoms must be all in your head.  You may have been told you are just stressed, depressed and that you have a psychological problem.

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All of these things are different signs of environmental illness or mold toxicity. You can have some or all or just a few.

40% of the population is experiencing symptoms but don’t realize it.

25% of the population genetically cannot get rid of the toxins they are exposed to on their own and susceptible to staying sick even when they are out of the exposure.

So, what’s the easiest, fastest, cheapest way to see if you’ve been exposed to mold from home?

the vcs test

biotoxin testing at home

An easy way to get some clarity is the VCS test. It’s a simple eye test that measures your contrast sensitivity that you can do at home from your own computer. All you need is a ruler, a computer and about 15 minutes to do the test. Kind of like a hearing test, but for your eyes. It will present a series of images, shapes, patterns or even things that you can’t identify. It’s simple enough for school age kids and will evaluate the inflammation in your optic nerve.

We recommend this to everyone who is experiencing symptoms. It’s commonly used by Functional health practitioners, naturopaths, alternative health doctors, Lyme literate doctors, health coaches and other professionals as a first step to measure mold or biotoxin exposure. The cost is a $10 donation for 3 tests. (We are not affiliated with testing at all) *Please NOTE! You can be affected/toxic with mold/mycotoxins/biotoxins and still have a negative VCS.

how to test for mold in your body

If you are interested in taking an accurate urine laboratory test on your own, the best test on the market is the mycotox profile through the Great Plains Laboratory, Inc. GPL is a world leader in providing diagnostics for metabolic, mitochondrial, and environmental factors in chronic illnesses.  The MycoTOX Profile, is the one which assesses mold exposure.

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The MycoTOX Profile screens for 11 different mycotoxins, from 40 species of mold, in one urine sample, here is the link:

The Great Plains Laboratory Mycotox Profile Test

Sweating, sauna, or hot bath may help liberate mycotoxins so that they come out in the urine. Anything positive is relevant and important in the urine mycotoxin testing. Please note: You will need a practitioner to sign for this test. Most allopathic doctors will not cooperate, understand or know how to read the results, or treat you.

CIRS Labs

There are also specific lab tests that measure inflammatory markers of CIRS, aka Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, mold illness or biotoxin illness. We just refer to them as CIRS labs. All the doctors we took them too after our diagnosis, did not know how to read, understand or decipher; so unless you are working with someone who is a trained, Shoemaker certified doctor or practitioner, or a person who is versed in these particular labs, you may be left considerably confused trying to decipher on your own.

For that reason, and due to the complexities of environmental illness, CIRS, mold toxicity & biotoxin illness, we sincerely recommend you get a functional practitioner or coach to help you. While we love and support taking back your own health, attempting to get rid of mold as a novice or even intermediate is not so easy. There is more to this than simply taking a urine test and taking a few dabs of charcoal & clay.

building your wellness team.

If you’ve gotten to this point and it fit’s what you are experiencing, first off, I am sorry. My heart goes out to you and all that you have suffered and endured getting here. I know firsthand exactly how you’re feeling.

Hopeless, tired, anxious, confused, worried, and often alone.

There are millions of people just like you, as this is a global issue. We have had visitors to the site from every country in the world: UK, Finland, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Australia, Canada, and more!

pj harlow’s tips:

  • Be prepared to pay out of pocket. Not covered by insurance, 99.9% of all physicians, doctors, practitioners, specialists & health coaches that actually treat mold toxicity, Lyme Disease or CIRS, cannot accept insurance, and that is if you actually find one capable of treating you. (It’s harder in non-metropolitan areas & outside of the US)

    It’s not by their choice, it’s because mold toxicity, environmentally acquired illness, CIRS, &/or biotoxin illness are not accepted or recognized as legitimate illnesses, and there are no ICD-10 health codes for mold related illnesses (health/insurance codes). This does not mean it does not exist or that you are not sick, it just means education is severely lacking, and to be frank, there is no ROI in mold. It’s not a financially viable investment for anyone to pay attention to.

  • You can absolutely go to an infectious disease doctor, a rheumatologist, or perhaps your family doctor, but I am 100% positive, you will not get the support or treatment you need there. You will most likely be gaslit and they will assure you it’s all in your head or something else. They simply are not trained nor educated in this field.

It’s a tragedy that some of the sickest people on the planet, who are already in the traumatic midst of realizing it’s their home that is making them sick, also have to fight to get their health care.
— PJ harlow
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It has been estimated that approximately 800,000 or every seventh Finnish citizen has been exposed to some extent and become sensitized to compounds present in poor quality indoor air. However, since there is no ICD-10 coding system for mold-related illness, its exact incidence is unknown. If one extrapolates from the above presented figures, one could argue that the incidence of mold-related illness may be much higher than the incidences for cardiovascular conditions, cancers, and accident-induced traumas. Despite (or perhaps due to its ubiquitousness and its all-too-frequent involvement in highly publicized litigation issues) there is no consensus by the medical authorities on how this disease should be recognized. Marginalization of patients with this disorder results inevitably in serious social welfare problems.

-(Tuuminen, Tamara, and Kyösti Sakari Rinne. “Severe Sequelae to Mold-Related Illness as Demonstrated in Two Finnish Cohorts.” Frontiers in immunology vol. 8 382. 3 Apr. 2017, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.00382 )

is there anybody out there?

finding the right person to help:

As far as who you should be looking for, we suggest finding a functional, integrative or naturopathic health coach or practitioner. Not sure what a health coach does?

  • Health Coaches empower and inspire clients and others to take control of their own health.

  • Health Coaches give you the knowledge to heal yourself and your families of chronic illness.

  • Health Coaches give you the tools to live a more vital and healthful life through education and support.

Read more about our coaching & book your free session. The link below is a full description of what we do, who we treat and how to start.

If you are in Europe, there may not be any options. We suggest obtaining a virtual health coach like us:)

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resources & Symptoms list

Top 25 more common Symptoms of Mold toxicity

  1. Fatigue and weakness

  2. Muscle Joint Pain-stabbing, aching, shooting, burning, nagging, migrating, sharp pains (arthritic type)

  3. Headaches, migraines, light sensitivity

  4. Brain Fog, Difficulty with concentration, comprehension, math, slow reaction time

  5. Poor memory, difficult word finding

  6. Unusual skin sensations, tingling and numbness

  7. Sore throat in mornings, chronic sinus congestion

  8. Shortness of breath, chronic cough, chest tightness, pain

  9. Body temperature dysregulation-abnormally hot or cold, hot flashes, after showers has a hard time cooling off

  10. Increased urinary frequency or excessive thirst

  11. Electric shock sensations, static shocks, strange electric zaps or stings throughout body

  12. Abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating

  13. Morning stiffness

  14. Sleep problems, night terrors, night sweats

  15. Vertigo, disequilibrium, feeling lightheaded, dizziness, loss of balance

  16. Skin Rashes

  17. Red eyes, blurred vision, eye floaters

  18. Muscle weakness

  19. Depression, severe anxiety, paranoia, mood swings, irritability, unexplained anger

  20. Gastrointestinal symptoms, appetite swings, weight gain

  21. Heightened sensitivity to foods, chemicals, heightened sense of smell to perfumes, gas, diesel, lotions-can taste on your tongue

  22. Skin sensitivity: Bras become too tight, tags in shirts, rolling sleeves becomes painful -anything restricting in clothing hurts or is uncomfortable, light to touch

  23. Reddened Face

  24. Dysautonomia

  25. Sinus congestion, nose bleeds

The Master List of mold symptoms

  • Acne (even on healthy diet)


References and websites we recommend:

  • ISEAI: A community of professionals collaborating to prevent and treat environmentally acquired illness (EAI) as a foundation of medical care.

  • Surviving Mold: The official website of Dr. Richie Shoemaker, the founder of CIRS, with resources, symptoms, testing & other applicable knowledge regarding all things CIRS.

  • Paradigm Change: This is Lisa Petrison’s brilliant website that provides basic information especially suitable to those new to the topics of mold-related illness and mold avoidance.

  • Better Health Guy: This site, maintained by EAI expert and patient Scott Forsgren, offers high-quality information about biotoxin illness, including blog posts and interviews with experts.

  • Mold Avoiders: Mold Avoiders provides information to those who are working to recover from ME/CFS or other chronic illness issues by using the mold avoidance approach developed by Erik Johnson.

  • Dave Asprey: The founder of Bulletproof, biohacker Dave Asprey is not only a mold sufferer himself but was one of the first people we found in the public eye to advocate for people like us. His site has a wealth of info.

  • Greg Weatherman: Surviving remediation-This website is dedicated to helping everyone involved in the process understand the nature of water, mold, buildings and remediation and move beyond the limitations of "remediation as usual".

  • Moms Aware: momsAWARE's mission is to provide practical assistance to families and individuals displaced by toxic mold, and to raise public awareness of the negative impact of toxic mold, chemicals, pesticides, and other environmental hazards on human health.

  • Dr. Jill Carnahan: Dr. Jill is a functional medicine doctor in Boulder, Co. who has been a leader in the movement to recognize mold toxicity. Her website is another resource of information to push you forward.

  • Weston A Price: This website is a must for nutrition and the lifestyle we follow. If you have not heard of Weston Price, I am honored to introduce you.

  • Matt Blackburn: Matt is not only a personal friend and mentor but a leader in truth when it comes to the optimization of health. He can be found here and he additionally has a podcast & youtube called Divine Super Conductor.

Podcasts we love

Click the links below & enjoy our favorites!

“A society that does not protect its children doesn’t have a future”.    

Most people don’t realize that the industry doing the harm is also often the one setting the standards and that many of the products they buy in stores have probably never been tested to determine their impact on human beings. The pharmaceutical, telecommunications, agricultural and chemical industry frequently introduce new technologies and products that have never been tested for their impact on human health. When one chemical is found to be toxic, it is frequently replaced with another chemical that maybe more toxic, Bisphenol-A and Bisphenol-S being one such example.

Furthermore, companies frequently employ scientists who cherry pick data, and fail to publish studies that may impact their bottom line. They chant “there’s no evidence of harm” because the burden of proof is not on them to prove their products or technologies are safe, whilst simultaneously they obtain licenses from government regulators so they can legally pollute our air, water, soil and poison every living creature on this planet in the name of “progress”.

Consequently the history of medicine is littered with numerous examples of missed opportunities, wasted resources and counter-productive policies due to the inability to act on available evidence. In 1857, the father of epidemiology Dr. John Snow demonstrated that ‘contagions’ in water were responsible for the cholera epidemic; in 1956, Dr. Alice Stewart proved that one foetal x-ray doubled the incidence of childhood leukemia; and in 1950, Dr. Richard Doll published his findings correlating smoking with lung cancer.

All of these clinicians were ostracized by their peers, the industry and the medical establishment at the time of their findings, and it took decades for their work to be validated.

These are just some of the many environmental health hazards like lead dust, mercury, asbestos, benzene, organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls that have had devastating consequences on human health.

The FOUR DOG DEFENSE explains the delay tactics employed by industry to keep their products in the marketplace:

  1. My dog doesn’t bite. Industry denies their product is harmful and actively discredit any study or researcher that says otherwise. Industry responds by chanting “more research is needed” because they know the delay means billions of dollars in revenue the longer the product is on the market. Common methods employed by industry to keep their products on the market is to discredit animal studies on the basis that it doesn’t reflect humans (but cite animal studies when it suits them as evidence that their product is safe), and insist that researchers provide the exact mechanism by which the hazard induces harm before action is taken like they did with cigarette smoking and asbestos.

  2. My dog bites, but it didn’t bite you. Industry concedes that their product may be harmful when the evidence becomes too great to deny, but don’t worry, the average person is not exposed. Corporations strategically use ‘bad’ science to validate and justify their actions and convince regulatory authorities, the media and the courts to delay action. To achieve this, they spend millions of dollars on public relations campaigns, or establish not-for-profit companies or scientific advisory boards that appear to be independent and unbiased, that involve ‘industry scientists’ who are skilled at manipulating the data.

  3. My dog bit you, but it didn’t hurt you. Industry admits people are exposed, but aren’t harmed by the product because the exposure is within the ‘exposure standards’ even though they are not health based standards, and they were developed in consultation with industry to determine what is ‘practicable’ in a workplace environment. Furthermore, these exposure standards fail to account for multiple routes of exposure, mixture effects, transgenerational effects or individual human risk factors.

  4. My dog bit you and it hurt you but it wasn’t my fault, it’s yours. Industry shifts the blame onto the consumer because they warned them about the dangers of their own product. Examples include the photos of diseases on cigarette packets, and the warnings embedded in cell phones (if you can find them). How can you enforce ‘personal responsibility’ and shift the blame onto the consumer when they don’t have the knowledge to make an informed decision or the financial resources to do anything about it?

Reference:  Bijlsma, N. (2018). Healthy Home, Healthy Family. (3rd ed). ACES. Melbourne