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Your House Has Been Flooded. Are You Doomed?

They say mold can grow in as little as 48 hours. ARE YOU DOOMED AFTER A FLOOD?

The implication that all molds are the same and that mold grows in 48 hours says yes. Reality says, “no.”

We know that after floods, not all buildings become sick buildings.

If the “mold is everywhere,” and “mold grows in 48 hours,” plus the “molds are all the same,” concepts were all true, then all flooded buildings would be bad and uninhabitable.

A complete write off. Don’t even try to save anything. Yet this is not the case.

This is the Mill Valley flood of 1982 in Marin County, California.

I was employed in that building on the left.

After the flood, I went right back to work and it wasn’t bad, even though virtually no remediation was done. It is notable that remediators didn’t even exist back then.

Toxic mold had not yet been discovered until a few years later so no one even conceived of mold remediation or the idea that personal protective gear and hazmat protocols might be warranted.

I knew of my own mold reactivity but it seemed like I was the only one. No doctors showed any awareness at all that mold could be anything more than just an allergy.

As told in Surviving Mold, the wife of my co-worker in this place began acting strangely. He would wake up in the morning and find her asleep out in the back yard of his house. She didn’t seem to have an explanation, just that she couldn’t sleep.

It got worse. She did this every night. They began to argue about this strange behavior and he wondered if their relationship was over. Yet she didn’t seem unhappy in their marriage.

Then the morning came when he woke up and she wasn’t there.

Panicked, he ran down the block and found her curled up in a neighbors doorway. She cried and could only say that the back yard no longer felt safe.

“But the neighbors doorway is?” He wondered if she was going crazy. She promised that at least she would stay in the back yard but then she did it again.

In desperation he began talking about it to friends, coworkers, and that’s when he told it to me. The night after we talked, she wasn’t even in the neighbor’s entry. She was sleeping on the grass in a public park. I explained to my friend that I had some experience with this phenomenon and would go to his house to see if I felt anything. They lived in an old carriage barn that had been converted into an apartment. It hadn’t flooded but there were some water leaks.

My heart started pounding. The badness was here.

His wife was dressed in a long black cloak, black wide brimmed hat. and dark glasses. As if he was making a style statement that she was a witch. Her appearance definitely added to the strange situation.

His friends had said she was utterly mad and he should get rid of her, have her committed, or just take his son and flee. Anything to get away, before she puts spell on them, uses poison, or hacks them up in a witchy ritual bloody ceremony.

He protested, “No, she’s not like that. She is very nice and we get along well, there is nothing weird about her except this.”

And so I found her to be well spoken, perfectly sensible, and had a totally reasonable explanation for it all.

She said that at night her heart pounded, she got headaches, nightmares, and felt so horrible that there was no choice but to get outside. This had helped for a while but the back yard hit a point where it wasn’t good enough hence, moving to the neighbor’s doorway was. Then, the area itself felt bad so she went to the park.

I asked why she hadn’t woken her husband in these times of desperation. “I tried but he sleeps as if he is in a coma. He groans and rolls around but doesn’t wake up, even if he opens his eyes and talks, he falls right back asleep and has no memory of me leaving.”

I asked her about dressing like a witch, as the attire did nothing to lend to her credibility.

“I dress this way because I am reactive to sunlight. My skin burns and I get a rash. The sun is too bright for my eyes. I need dark glasses and even then, cannot go out midday when it is sunny.”

Even her witchy wide brimmed hat was an attempt to keep the sun off her face and neck. Every word was clear and lucid. Not one bit of “crazy” about anything she did.

They had come from Boston and suspected she had Lyme disease.

I told them about my experience of being stationed in a moldy bunker in the Army and having to crawl out to sleep in the back of 5-ton Army trucks under camouflage nets to escape it.

I was the same way.

Hypersensitive to mold in a way that no doctors could understand. They were sad that they had to move out of their nice little carriage house, but relieved to hear that her night terrors are rational, sensible, and believable.

There was something they could do about it.

With that being said, I was still working with her husband in an area of town that had entirely flooded, and had even been similarly flooded in the past. Yet, I was not reactive to all buildings or the whole street where all of them had gone underwater.

Whatever this “bad stuff” was, it is not everywhere and it does not automatically grow just because a place has been flooded.

Since their house hadn’t flooded, this stuff doesn’t even correspond to a flooded location. So I don’t bother to look for one.

My perceptions tell me what I need to know, the same as the symptoms, and sleep deprivation had done for my friend’s witchy wife.

I have no doubt that the opportunist “mold experts” will be out in full force with their scare tactics that mold is everywhere, grows almost instantly, and all of it needs to be tested and professionally remediated using hazmat procedures…

As if that was even possible?

Test everything? Use moon suits at all times? Demolish and bag up the whole damned town? You may as well nuke the whole city.

It’s impossible, unreasonable, economically and physically out of the question and it doesn’t even fit the facts because we aren’t reacting to every wet place where mold is likely to have grown.

Now, I’m not proposing to ignore mold, but at the same time, we have to try and be sensible about this, regarding all of it as automatically toxic isn’t going to work.

Testing it all won’t either.

But what we can do is be like me and the witchy wife, rely on our perceptions and decide what we have to do. If our senses can isolate areas that can be remediated, then test, or just plain have it done.

If not, move if you have to.

Just be aware that many mold experts are greedy and use fear mongering to take advantage.

Writer: Erik Johnson, Education and Research Director, Exposing Mold Inc.

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