Mold Health Hazards
Mold overgrowth is a serious hazard that can lead to a variety of debilitating health conditions. Many types of mold spores are toxic. You may not even realize that you have been exposed to mold. It is often hidden behind walls and floor coverings. The best thing you can do is to identify the mold source, if you suspect you are experiencing poor health due to its presence. The next step is to remediate the mold and treat the symptoms within your body.
Symptoms of Exposure or Sensitivity to Mold
Prolonged exposure to mold can cause sickness or an allergic reaction, especially if mold spores have entered your sinuses and lungs. It may also be problematic if it is present on your skin. Your symptoms might include:
- Feeling generally unwell as though you have the flu
- Inability to concentrate or think clearly
- Chronic colds
- Sore throat
- Bronchitis or a persistent cough
Identifying Toxic Mold
Toxic mold generally grows in the presence of moisture. Start looking for mold in areas where moisture is present, such as bathrooms, kitchens, washing machines, basements, and crawl spaces. You can see black and green mold growing around toilets and sinks, or on shower curtains, and on exposed surfaces in unfinished areas below grade. It is likely that you will smell mold if there is a good amount of it present. If you can see the mold, your chances of being able to get rid of it are good.
Mold can hide and flourish within wall cavities, on ceiling tiles, and under floor coverings. If you suspect hidden mold, it is best to hire a licensed inspector trained in the remediation of bio-hazards. An inspector will look for leaks and moisture behind surfaces with special detection equipment. He or she will also check your HVAC system, especially ductwork, for moisture and mold growth.
Dealing with Surface Mold
While removal of hidden mold is a big and potentially costly endeavor, it is best dealt with by a remediation specialist. You can do a number of things to deal with the mold that you can see and/or smell on your own.
The first thing you should consider is ventilating the space that has mold. You might also consider installing a dehumidifier if moisture is unavoidable. You will then want to clean all of the surfaces that have mold.
You can clean with bleach and other chemical products, but this method comes with a whole new set of health hazards. I recommend cleaning with natural products that have essential oils with anti-fungal properties. Essential oils can also be used to help clear the mold that has entered your body through the skin and various passages.
Treating Mold with Essential Oils
My recommendation when working with essential oils is to use high quality, pure, therapeutic grade oils. These are more expensive than what you can purchase at your local health food store. However, these oils have not been adulterated with additives, and most of them are food grade. If you have mold or other funguses inside your body it is unsafe to treat with inferior oils.
Surface cleaning solution: In a clean, dark colored, glass, spray or pump bottle, mix 1 cup of white vinegar + 1 cup of water + 5 drops thyme oil, 5 drops orange oil, and 5 drops eucalyptus oil. You can clean most bathroom and kitchen surfaces with this, and spray it on your shower curtains and unfinished basement wall surfaces.
Carpet freshener: One of my favorite ways to use essential oils is to take a pint size jar filled with 1-3/4 cups of baking soda + 1 TBS of food grade diatomaceous earth (optional) + 5 drops pine oil, 5 drops lavender oil, and 5 drops lemon oil. Make holes in the lid of the jar. Sprinkle this on your carpets and let it sit overnight. Vacuum the carpet in the morning. Not only will your carpets smell great, they will be free of mold spores and dust mites.
Natural air filter: It may be worth investing in a diffuser for aromatherapy. Diffusing essential oils into the air will help to keep airborne spores at bay. You can use lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, cloves, or any oil you choose that smells nice to help rid the air of spores.
Breathing remedy: Clearing your nasal passages and bronchial tubes of fungus can be achieved by filling a pot or bowl with steaming water and adding a few drop of eucalyptus or peppermint oil to the water. Place a towel over your head and breathe in the steam. Be sure it is not so hot that it will burn you.
Internal fungal infection remedies: If you suspect you have a yeast infection or other internal fungal infection, you can greatly benefit from tiny doses of pure essential oils. I have seen success with adding a single drop of oregano, peppermint, or lemongrass oil* to a 16 ounce bottle of filtered water that is sipped throughout the day. Start out slowly by testing the oils on a small patch of skin.** Oregano has powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Peppermint can be very stimulating. Lemongrass can cause irritation in some people, but it is highly anti-fungal.
Adding a few drops of essential oil into the soap dispensers of your washing machine and dishwasher can help with mold.
*Be sure to only use essential oils indicated for internal use.
**Always dilute and test as some oils can cause skin irritation or burning.
Sally Wong is a Manual Therapist, and trained by her Chinese grandmother in the healing properties of essential oils. She has been practicing natural therapies for 15 years. In addition to her profession as a therapist, she practices Yoga and Tai Chi for inner peace.