House Hunting Guide for Mold Ill or High-Risk Occupants

We’ve had many requests for some type of guide to follow when trying to find a healthier home, or to use as a tool to determine if a current home may have vulnerabilities to moisture and other unhealthy environmental challenges. This document was created as a starting point but is in no way inclusive of all factors that may need to be considered.

Click on this link: House Hunting Guide

Hidden Mold Investigation Case Summary

This home was initially inspected primarily for molds with limited non-invasive methods. The family had lived in the home for several years but the husband was experiencing symptoms that his doctor diagnosed as mold-related. One particular area of the home where he felt almost immediate symptoms upon entering was the master bathroom and attached master closet. 

The lab analysis results from dust sampling taken at this time revealed some elevation of a water damage indicator mold called Chaetomium globosum, a mold associated with mycotoxin production. Additional molds of concern among the Aspergillus species were also significant.

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 A second-phase inspection was scheduled after noting an area of the master bathroom where some painted-over patching had been done. Suspected hidden mold from a previous leak needed to be found invasively. This was performed in conjunction with a remediation contractor so containment and engineering controls could be implemented. 

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After a small area of ceiling and upper wall was opened it was evident that the sheetrock backing was moldy. A surface sample was taken for lab ID and found to be Chaetomium, Aspergillus, Bispora and Alternaria. 

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The investigative holes were temporarily patched and the contained area cleaned of residual dust along with the use of a HEPA scrubber air filter while plans were made to have the area remediated. Once remediation commenced a much broader area of water damage and mold growth was found inside the ceiling and the wall cavity. 

Post-remediation testing passed set criteria. The openings into the attic and wall cavity were temporarily sealed with plastic and tape until build-back took place. The sensitized occupant noted he was no longer experiencing symptoms when in the master bathroom. 

The question that often comes up is how much can hidden mold inside the building envelope effect occupants? There is no simple answer because so many people have no observed reactions while others can have an immediate and profound response. We do know there is a genetic factor involved that makes about a quarter of the population especially susceptible to mold and bio-toxin exposures. 

Care should always be taken when performing an invasive mold investigation since even tiny amounts of released mold spores/fragments and toxins can cause sensitized occupants to become ill. We find it best to coordinate this with a mold remediation contractor as a second-phase of the assessment process so the area can be contained and put under proper engineering controls. At the most on a first visit we may do a cavity air sample which only requires a hole about 3/8” to insert the tube and use the same hole to view inside the cavity with an endoscope. This may not be as definitive as a larger opening, but could mean less risk of releasing the contaminants. Either way there will be some damage to the finished surfaces which will be sealed but not fully repaired.



Linda Eicher is co-owner of Environmental Services Group Carolinas LLC. She and her husband John have dedicated the past 23 years to the indoor environmental health field. They specialize in helping environmentally ill and sensitive people identify the contaminants in their homes and workplaces and guide them through the process of creating a healthier indoor environment. Linda is also an author and educator, providing course work in specialized areas of Advanced Assessment and Remediation for Mold and IAQ Professionals, serving in this role for NORMI (National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors) since 2008.




©2018 Linda Eicher All Rights Reserved

"I'll Just Have Water Please"

That's what we say to our waiters when we aren't ordering a beverage, right? Have you ever been served water at a restaurant and realize it tastes so bad you might have to order a beverage after all? Sometimes I think restaurants refrain from using water filters for that very purpose! Anyway, that's not really the point of this article, but I wanted to bring you to a realization that tap water isn't always very drinkable. Now, assuming you're a reader from the US where most drinking water is supplied through public systems, you've probably had this experience. Water can carry many components that create poor taste and odor, as well as not-so-detectable ones, that may have some harmful effects. Since 70% of our bodies are made up of water, and we can only survive without it a few short days, isn't it essential to make sure the water you drink is as clean as possible?

This article is going to give you a general overview of the challenges we face with our drinking water quality. 

First of all, where does water come from? Is it limitless and renewable? We have usable access to less than 1% of all the earth's water.  Water goes through a natural process of evaporation from ground sources, into the atmosphere and back. That's over-simplification, but most of us know our water resources get low when we haven't had enough rainfall.  As water concentrates in  lakes, rivers and waterways and underground, it can carry contamination from many sources. Chemicals, heavy metals, human and animal waste, mining and factory discharge, and living organisms such as bacteria and parasites are commonly found in the earth's water.


Let's take a look at this in relation to our use of the water and our health.

From the beginning of history, one of man's biggest threats has been biologically contaminated drinking water causing disease and death for millions. In first-world countries we have overcome that danger with various disinfection processes, the most common being the use of chlorine. Now, you may not know chlorine itself is dangerous to our health and linked to cancers, but it has become a "necessary evil" in our modern world. Since most public treatment systems use chlorine and the water often comes from surface water sources such as lakes and rivers, the chlorine mixes with organics in the water and creates what is called "disinfection by-products". These are a host of chemicals that can cause even more illness and cancer. One of the primary chemicals from disinfection is called Trihalomethanes. Just this week in our region of North Carolina they reported elevated levels of this in our drinking water. 

Toxic chemicals in drinking water are becoming so common now that public awareness is beginning to increase.  Another big chemical threat is the many pharmaceuticals that get dumped into our water supplies. How does this happen? Did you ever flush an expired drug prescription down the toilet? How about the instances where illegal drugs are flushed during a drug raid? Narcotics, contraceptives, hormones, antibiotics, anti-depressants, you name it, it's probably ended up in a water source near you. And, don't forget, any drugs you take can leave your body with your waste and flush into the sewer on a daily basis. You must be saying to yourself by now, HOW does that have anything to do with drinking water? Well, brace yourself! MANY of our municipal water treatment centers are downstream from sewer treatment centers. In our area we have sewer plants discharging water into the same lakes and river system that our water treatment plants are drawing the water supply from. The term "toilet to tap" is getting very real in many areas of the country. In fact, California is already converting sewage to drinking water in the midst of severe drought.

See this short excerpt video from 60 Minutes on CA Toilet to Tap Reality

Our public water treatment systems are often aging, as are the miles of water supply lines snaking through urban areas, sometimes laying within the same trenches as the sewer lines. So, even if the treatment plant succeeded in removing all targeted contaminants (except, of course, the disinfecting chemicals and added fluoride), you have no guarantee that what comes out of your faucet is safe. 

Well water users are also vulnerable to the many ground water pollutants that can travel from miles around through underground aquifers to reach and contaminate private or community wells. Gasoline products leaking from storage tanks, toxic chemical dumping and farming chemicals are just a few ways your well water could be compromised. Microbial contaminants are also a primary concern in well water as are heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. 

So, where does that leave you and your options for healthier water? You may be one of the millions that regularly purchase bottled water, thinking it's better than your tap water. Well, maybe not! Many bottled waters are simply bottled tap water with no filtering or treatment process. Others use some form of treatment, but storing water in a plastic bottle can leach chemicals from the bottle, especially in  warmer temperatures. The bottles themselves have become a landfill issue, even heavily polluting our lakes and streams. 

To ensure you are getting the safest and healthiest water to drink, you really need to consider your own "point-of-use" water treatment. It may be confusing to choose from the many options for water filtering or water purification. In order to know what treatment your water needs you should answer some simple questions: 

1) Is your water from a city source, community well or private well?

2) Have you had a water test to screen for specific contaminants or do you have a water report from your municipal services? You can request this if you have a public water supply and some areas offer free testing. Remember, though, you may not get a comprehensive test that shows all the varied contaminants, so be careful. 

There are testing options from simple and limited home kits starting at around $20 to full analysis at nationally certified labs at upwards of $300. Understanding your water quality is a valuable tool in deciding what water treatment system is going to serve your needs. 

Filtration options are varied from simple carbon refrigerator or pitcher-type filters to multi-stage processes either at one tap or on the whole house. Added media beyond carbon can help reduce some chemicals and metals that carbon can't remove, such as fluoride. Disinfecting is an added component for well water that could be infected with e-coli or other disease-causing microbes. Point of use options also include water ionizers or alkalizers, which are gaining popularity in the US. 

You can find water quality consultants who are trained to guide you through the process of water analysis and treatment options. Be aware though, some professionals are not without bias and may be sales reps for specific water treatment systems. 

If you'd like to participate in our NORMI National Water Screening Project short survey, it will allow you to request valuable free phone consultation with the author of this article. 


Linda Eicher is an Indoor Environmental Health Professional specializing in assessing indoor air quality, water quality and mold since 1995. She is the CEO of Environmental Services Group Carolinas, LLC.  Linda also serves as the National Training Director for Best Training School, a training provider for environmental professionals, NORMI certifications and state mold licensing requirements.

Bed Bugs? Is the Treatment WORSE than the bugs?

Bed Bugs? Is the Treatment WORSE than the bugs?

Many people are finding they have some extra guests they brought home with them after a trip. These little critters can wreak havoc on us while we sleep as they feed off our blood in bed! They might be hard to notice unless you really look for them so get a good flashlight and search in the crevices of your mattresses. Also look for tiny rust-like spots which they leave behind on the bedding. If you find them, DON'T call a fumigator! There are natural ways to rid them from your home.

Could You Have a Sick Home?

If you have symptoms of illness that seem to be worse or happen only when you are home, you may have a "sick" home!

  • If you have had water damage that has not been professionally mitigated, you may have some hidden molds, possibly toxic.
  • If you see moisture or water droplets on your Air Conditioner vents or any part of the system, you may have mold or bacteria in your ducts.
  • If you have a crawlspace and it has dampness you may be getting mold in your indoor air - about 40% of the air in your home comes from your crawlspace.
  • If you have poor attic ventilation, you may have mold growing on some surfaces
  • If you have a plugged up or loose dryer vent hose you may have some molds, dust and allergens in your home.
  • If your home is on a slab you may be getting moisture vapor coming from the ground into your carpet pad or flooring, causing hidden mold growth.
  • If you home is less than seven years old, or you have remodeled, you may have high chemical fumes that can cause sensitivities and illness.
  • These are only a FEW items that may be causing your home to be unhealthy.

So what can you do? Get professional counsel! We offer FREE on the phone consultations and we LISTEN to you and your concerns. 

Call us TODAY!