How can couples stay together when confronted with serious illness due to a toxic exposure?
Dr. Lisa Nagy has a passion to educate doctors and medical professionals in the area of environmental medicine. Ten years ago Dr. Nagy became severely ill following a toxic exposure in her home. Trained in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Nagy searched long and hard to find help and hope. The following article on toxic mold and marriage appears on the Environmental Illness Resource website.
Household Mold and Marital Discord – Part 1
Do you have a toxic home and is it wreaking havoc in your relationship?
by Lisa Nagy, M.D.
Two factors that contribute to our overall health are genetics and our toxic load. Our toxic load is the totality of the environmental exposures any of us have encountered from the womb to the present day. Most diseases do not have a single cause, and the cumulative effect of our toxic load can create or exacerbate a long list of symptoms and disease processes. My personal experience and research have led me to believe that mold and mycotoxins at home or work (followed by pesticides and other chemicals) are the most unrecognized environmental exposures today.
As an emergency room physician, my training didn’t include any of the teachings of environmental medicine that would later save my own life. My chemical exposure began in a New York City Hell’s Kitchen apartment where I began waking up with headaches (a hallmark symptom of mold exposure), experienced rapid heartbeat and struggled to walk even to the car. Finally my hands were too weak to even massage my husband’s neck. After leaving that apartment, I felt better until buying a Southern California home with a huge aquarium built into the living room wall, surrounded by a wooden shed. The previous owner had been deathly ill with a mysterious pneumonia, but I didn’t see the potential connection between that illness and the imperceptible mold on those walls.
Depression, weight loss, confusion and psychiatrist visits followed by a diagnosis of adrenal failure led to cortisol hormone replacement; but still I had severe muscle weakness, an unrelenting rapid heart rate and a metabolic inability to produce cellular energy. I knew I was dying, but not why. Bill Rea MD, medical director at The Environmental Health Center of Dallas, determined the cause to be exposure to potentially lethal, toxigenic mold. Dr. Rea himself had developed chemical sensitivity from pesticides, leading him to study and treat, often successfully, more than 30,000 people over thirty years with environmental illnesses.
The National Academy of Sciences and others have reported that 15% of the population suffers from chemical sensitivity, 3% to 5% of whom cannot hold jobs due to their intolerance of substances like perfume, chemicals and carpeting. Spinal fluid analysis by Dr. Baraniuk in 2005 has linked chemical sensitivity to Gulf War Syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
Men vs. Women and Chemical Sensitivity
Environmental illnesses (chemical sensitivity, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia) occur four times more often in women than men. Women are often dismissed because they simply ‘look crazy’ while in reality, they are toxic. The mental changes are related to: a lack of oxygen to the brain from inflamed vessels due to the poison they have absorbed, high adrenaline and low cortisol, a severely damaged autonomic nervous system and direct toxicity from whatever toxin is the cause (such as mold, mercury or toluene).
When a male-female couple has been exposed to toxigenic mold, pesticides from tenting or spraying, or other chemicals such as formaldehyde in new kitchen cabinets, women often experience symptoms first and often different symptoms than men. They have classic chemical sensitivity symptoms: “I am exhausted, depressed and sometimes frantic. But my husband does not find perfume, air fresheners and the detergent aisle of the grocery store offensive. Yet he is mean and belligerent, is losing his memory, his balance and has skin problems, but people think he is fine and that I am the fruitcake.” For this they often separate.
Studies done by the military may suggest the reason for the inequality among the sexes in the chemical response. In a 1998 study, trichothecene exposure in female rats led to adrenal necrosis or death. Interestingly, giving females or neutered male rats testosterone prevented adrenal damage. This illustrates why men, with ten-fold higher levels of testosterone than women, have less incidence of fatigue, stress intolerance, allergy, inflammation and chemical sensitivity. It also points to the possible benefit of hormones, such as testosterone, being given to women with chemical exposure.
Why Horse Women are Crazy
In a pilot study, I found that horses, because they eat mold-containing hay and grain, have measurable amounts of trichothecene in their urine. When tested, the horses’ sweat, as well as the horse dust also have measurable levels of this dangerous poison. I presumed that people who wash horse clothing (saddle pads and blankets) at home contaminate the laundry system because the dryer drum cannot be cleaned once contaminated by mold toxins. When I measured urine from women and members of their family who ride, I found cross-contamination occurs only if horse blankets and saddle pads are washed in the home laundry system. Many women who ride have mycotoxicosis to a mild degree, and they inadvertently poison their family members through putting their household and horse laundry through the same machines.
Part 2 of this article can be found here.
- 49Perhaps you’re reading this because a family member has tried to convince you that your bizarre reactions to environmental triggers are psychological. Perhaps you’re the person who feels crazy while everyone around you is frustrated and perplexed. By far the best explanation of this illness is found in the book…
- 39Did you know you can help prevent breast cancer by avoiding certain environmental triggers? A study released in May 2014 lists 17 groups of chemicals women should avoid if trying to minimize their risk of breast cancer. Published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the study notes that environment…
wow that whole laundry paragraph is crazy. Not even using vinegar or baking soda can rid the machines?
this is amazing… too much to think about especially since I live in a county with lots of horse shows. a number of my students own and train horses.
Such a helpful article – Thank you, Andrea!
five boros mold removal says
Toxic molds can cause havoc to lives.Cause diseases whose symptoms are nothing very specific and usually there is a delay in availing the right medication and sometimes even death.
J P Town says
I might have a solution to the contaminated dryer drum problem.
I was horrified to read this article about toxic horse sweat and urine….especially since my daughter has washed some of her saddle pads, etc. in our home washer & dryer (I was upset that she had done this even before I read this article…just because of hair and odor residue which seems to linger on the next load of human clothing that follows.) I’m pretty dismayed about the horse toxicity because I have two horses of my own and work with them alot. I usually do wear a mask in the barn, but now I see I must be really vigilant about wearing masks even around the horses,since I realize now it is more than just hay & straw dust and mold that are toxic to me. I am also going to start throwing my horse pads, etc immediately into a stock tank of water + disinfectant (biocide) down at the barn.
I suffer from toxic mold damage to my lungs. It is horrible and has ruined my life. My first deadly exposure unknown to me at the time was the office where I worked 5 days a week for several years. This is a very old historic building which had an ongoing roof leak for many years. It had never been properly repaired. After I began working there for a few months, I developed a nagging cough, and lots of phlegm in my chest. Finally, my boss said he thought I had walking pneumonia and should go see a doctor. The doctor told me I was living in the worst county in the nation for asthma and allergies because of extremely high mold counts in the air (Shelby county, KY, near Louisville) He recommended I quit my job, sell my house (we were still in the process of building it), and move out of Kentucky (we had just moved there a year ago).
I didn’t fully believe him at the time…but now, several years later, and considerably sicker, I believe him 100%. The air here is very toxic…especially inside many buildings.
As far as the dryer drum is concerned…I hope that I may have a solution to that.
After moving into a new log home we had just built, we had discovered that black mold had been growing all over our crawl space/basement ceiling. All the rafters and plywood subfloor that was the floor to rooms above were covered in black mold. Remediators wanted several thousands of dollars to remove it.
I looked on the internet and found biocide and mold bombs. We treated first all surfaces with the biocide solution to kill and clean off the mold, then sprayed the basement and all the rooms of the house with the aerosol mold bombs. It worked.
I also found and bought 2 air purifiers which were developed by NASA scientists to destroy (not just filter, but destroy) all mold spores, bacteria and viruses in the air, in order to keep the inside air clean.
Now the dryer drum…I am thinking that maybe I could spray the mold bomb aerosol into the drum and run the dryer on the lowest air setting (no heat). I know that the mold bomb kills the mold spores, so I think this might work.
If anyone else wants to try this stuff also, let me know and I can get quantity discounts because we have used so much of it and have gotten it for alot of other people.
It may seem expensive, but it is very cheap compared to remediation companies and medical bills.
Thank you so much for posting this article, or I would have remained ignorant about my horses toxic sweat & urine adding to my problems. Cleaning stalls is obviously something I can no longer do, since masks do not filter out 100% of everything.
Thank you for the info! I am struggling with what i am beginning to think is mold toxicity. I. Have been diagnosed with allergies to everyold started taking charcoal to detox. I now have severe joint pain. What air purifier do u have?
Andrea Fabry says
We don’t use an air purifier since our home is clean. At one point we used the Austin Health Mate. Good job making this connection.
Nichole Sawatzky says
Is there a part two?? The link to part two is not working!
Andrea Fabry says
Hi Nicole. I just fixed the link. Sorry about that. Thanks for pointing it out.
My marriage has been slowly falling apart. I know its caused from the higher than 1 million spore count found in the home we have been renting. We moved in just 3 days before we wed. We were married just last April 12th 2014.
The first sign something was terribly wrong was a rash which appeared on my wife’s hands. She has had sporadic rashes since child hood so she quickly dismissed it as just another flare up. Over the next 7 months her rash continued to spread as well as I was experiencing migraines and an unrelenting muscle pain in my mid left back. December is just around the corner and we are scheduled to fly to KY to be with my fathers side of the family. All of our holidays had not been what they should have been. Always a quarrel or irritability was present. Even being away from the home this holiday played out the same as all the prior ones, and just as the next few would. We finally fled the home on May 15th for the first time, after I uncovered a brownish spee spotted and hairy substance behind the base board in our kitchen. When we left my wife was pale gray in color,lips a purplish blue, and litterally covered from head to toe in a horrible rash. My head was pounding so bad it was hard to even hear myself speak, I would continually forget what I was doing, even just after beginning the task. We went to our nearest hospital and were told by the Er MD mold would not make us sick with rash or headache.
We spent almost 10 days away from the home. On the 3rd day out air was tested. No one seemed to realize that when we left we opened every single window in the home to a full degree, as well as shut off our hvac system because we were in fear for our animals whom we could not take with us. The test result showed no elevated levels of anything. The most bizzar aspect was everything that showed on the air quality test registered a 10 count. Even with being told the home was not toxic I was strong standing in us not returning to f2f home (yet). The next 4 days past making a total of one week and my wife was getting extremely antsy. Who wouldn’t living in a 14×14 garage with none of your belongings our pets (our only children). The evening of day 7 she returned to the home. By the afternoon of day 10 the relative was losing patience as well as my losing the ability to remain away from my family and I returned to the home. This was May 25th and by evening we were both living back in our home with our pets trying to resume something normal, yet none of the last entire year had been anything of a truly normal state for us. I slept nearly 3 full days and had no energy to even void to the restroom or be awake to eat. On the 28th I woke around 4pm hungrier than ever and with my mind on a mission. I called the company which had done our air test and explained how dissatisfied I was with the conduct of the gentleman and the quality of standards to which the test did not follow. After being reassured the test was done just as every other home test was and the phone call ending I received a call back offering a retest free of charge. I agreed without hesitation. It would be another 4 days before he could make it. During this time I informed my property manager the possibility of presence of mold in the home and that we had been ill. He had no positive response and relented to telling us move out as quick as we can. On the 29th I sent out a certified letter with registered mail and return recipt requsted to the address listed for the owner of the property on our lease agreement. On June 2nd we had our second chance test done. On June 3rd my wife sent our our rent check even with my continued disagreement on doing so. The evening of June 3rd we recieved our test results. Kitchen area spore counts were 100206000 asperigillus/penicillium, and 78000 cladosporium. The hallway centralized was 600 a/p, 130 clad, 200 maxomytes, and 30 unidentifiable spores. The complete shock of the tester (the same person who conducted the initial test) was near the same level of shock that struck us upon these findings. The process began on trying to find help in our state of Arizona. The first etter/email I sent out was to landlord/tenant services in Phoenix, 200 w washingon 4th floor. The website stated they only take walk ins as well as repond to email. I sent out nemerous other emails and made phone calls, left voicemail when able and reasearched until my eyeballs were numb from staring at the screen. On June 6th after another quarell between my wife and I, I was able to talk her into stayin a few nights in a hotel in Scottsdale. This was probably one of the best decisions we could have made, because our 2 night initial booking stay would eventually extened until the 7th of July. Yes, for more than 30 days we were in a hotel and paying out of pocket. On June 8th upon returning to the moldy house (our name for identifing locations to one another) there was an orange certified notice for pick up at the post office. Completly curious we immediately headed down the road to retrieve it. When we obtained the letter our shock might have been at a higher level than the spores in our home; it was a letter to vacate the premise in 30 days or face legal action. I without a doubt knew this was in responce to our request for help. There was no other reason, not even the one stated in this notice “so that your landlord can sell the house” that we would be being asked to leave. We were nothing short of amazing tenants always paying our rent on time, never casuing a disturbance, and always having notified the property manager or the maintenance man directly of any leaks or repairs needing attention or repair. Over the years time in the rental house the leaks and repairs that were attended to were in order as follows; washer water hookup, garbage disposal and faucet, HVAC unit, water heater (entier unit replaced, repair and deduct procedure), refrigeratior drip pan, master bathroom rubber seal at toilet connection, HVAC unit second time. Repairs that were neglected during he time in the rental, leak in carport around light fixture, leak in carprot along cracked seam in center, hall bathroom ventilation fan never in working order, wood panneling on east side of house missing and part damaged due to ac leaks.
Fast forward to today July 23rd and we recieved a summons for court on July 28th. July 28th will be my 26th birthday and what a gift it will be if the judge presiding over our case rules in favor of the tenants for damages and see that it was the willingful neglect of the owner/propertymanager which led to constant rashes and irrelenting discomfort in the home. Arizona has no laws on mold, nor is there any Federal standard set for the level of mold safe/unfsafe in homes. I will not rest until this is changed, state and country wide. People deserve a better, healthier, more comforting place to live, a place that is each individuals sactuary, a place for relaxation and for a love/bond and memories to be bulit. This counrtry has long forgotten what it means to care, to truly CARE for its citizens.
I want everyone who is experiencing anything that could be and most likely is related to an exposer to mold YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We are all out here fighting the fungi kingdom which is evergrowing and so extreamly unreasearch intirely. This will change. There are people who care and who will make a difference even if it seems the progress is slow going.
Some of the best things my wife and I have found through trial and error for use on skin and immune system are as follows;
Tea Tree soap
Tea tree shampoo
Dial antibacterial Goldbar
Tea tree oil concentrated
Neem capsule supplements
Garlic capsules (and fresh garlic)
Probiotics 50billion CFU an higher
winter well respitory health
Lemon water (fresh lemons)
Im sure ive missed a few details and a few supplements, my memory is stll recovering and i have my good and bad days still, mostly attributed to still having to spend time at the moldy house discarding items and cleaning that which we can (i dont believe we should have brought anything to the new house but my wife is very attached to some material things so i have to do my best at keeping quiet at times because I want so badly for our marriage to have a chance outside of that toxic place).
Thank you so much for your articals and your posts. I’m truly sorry your family and your children had to suffer for so long with everyone turning a blind eye to what is really consuming the world slowly. Stay happy and healthy, you are the glue that keeps your family strong and moving forward, keep on your path you’re absolutly right about having the most self insight rather than doctor diagsnosis.
sincere in the greatest of ways,
Andrea Fabry says
I certainly hope the best for you and your wife as you approach this court date. I’m glad you made this connection and are seeing progress. I also appreciate your encouragement. Let me know if I can help along the way. It’s not a journey any one would wish for.
I am currently waiting for my mold test results, I do own the home, I’ve been in tears wondering what I[m going to do, When the elder missionaries came by I was frantic, he made a comment about if I let epa know the house would be worth nothing, I sat on this for a day or two, I would never sell this house to anyone without telling them, I would never forgive myself if I put somebody through all this . I think I would have it torn down,
Andrea Fabry says
I would never lie about a home’s history, but you need to take care of yourself and find safe ground. As long as you disclose you can sell “as is” and they may be able to make it healthy enough for them to live in. I’ll be happy to look over any results with you. email@example.com
Have you also looked at the website “surviving mold” by chance? I will send the link below. Hope you are your wife are feeling better and doing well:)
Andria Morrissette says
We remediated black mold after living with it for 8 or more years but i am still having symptoms even though 2 tests showed it was gone. I believe its from the leftover toxins but I cant find any info on getting rid of them besides ec3 spray which helps but doesnt completely rid me of my symptoms. Are theyre any professionals or other things I can do to make my home livable? I have no way of moving right now.
Andrea Fabry says
Remediation does not eradicate the issue as you have experienced. It can improve things but the history of the home remains. You can ventilate and add air purifiers to your sleeping area perhaps. Ideally a home without a history of mold is optimal for those injured by mold.