How to Practice Mould Avoidance as Outlined by Erik Johnson
"Mould Warriors" are those who advocate mould avoidance as a treatment for MCS and CFS (among other conditions). Richie Shoemaker, Lisa Petrison and Erik Johnson are a few of the biggest proponents. Lisa an Erik have been advocates for "extreme mould avoidance," a system that has cured them both of CFS.
|Toxic Mould Via www.ciriscience.org|
If you have CFS and you do not perceive any sensitivities to mould or other environmental toxins I would suggest that you have become too acclimatized to them and should at the very least conduct a short experiment by finding temporary safe accommodation in the cleanest environment you can afford. (For inspiration on others who have improved from moving to a cleaner environment check out The Locations Effect). Erik talks about a "Mobile Environmental Control Unit" which is a "safe house" trailer or RV totally devoid of mould. I have written a post on mobile safe homes and will be writing in much more detail how to procure a totally mould-free, VOC-free trailer.
Here I will summarise Erik Johnson's mould avoidance protocol based on the document "Role of Toxic Mold in CFS", which is available here. I will do my best to stay true to the text and present his version of the protocol. (Keep in mind that I diverge on the point of which toxins we should avoid - I think we should try to avoid all environmental toxins - not just mould toxins.)
Mould Avoidance, According to Erik Johnson
- Anxiety and depression
- Vague feelings of unease
- Heart palpitations; sense of cardio-distress
- Feeling like you can't breath
- Skin hypoperfusion
- "Sensation of extreme lethargy that inexplicably abates upon rising."
- A burning sensation in the nose
Locating the Toxins and Identifying Your Personal Response to Them:
- Keep in mind mycotoxins do not necessarily have an odour, and not all mould is toxic.
- To figure out your reaction: go into a contaminated place and note the symptoms, then go through a decontamination protocol and enter your safe house or pristine location (outdoors), and compare how you feel. (More on decontamination protocol below).
- To fine tune your ability to detect contaminated objects: take an object you know has been in a place contaminated with toxic mould, take it out to a really clean location and notice how you react to that object. (Do not bring it into your living space, test it outside).
- Note that reactions to objects are cumulative. It is not necessarily just the one that tipped you over the edge that is the culprit.
- Your own specific reaction is your best guide to figuring out the source of the the toxins.
- Anxiety and depression symptoms are better indicators than "physical" reactions.
- Insomnia is another really good indicator of exposure.
- Remember that symptoms can be delayed for about 4 hours.
- To test a house for mycotoxins, you have to sleep there for a number of nights. Changes in the wind and weather can realease toxins or bring in different toxins through the air.
- Note how changes in the weather and EMFs can affect the mould spores and toxicity of a place.
How to Practice Mould Avoidance:
Setting up shop:
- Put everything in storage (bringing your old possessions to a new safe house will reverse all your other efforts).
- Buy a safe trailer or tent which will be your new temporary home.
- Find a clean location. Somewhere as "pristine" as possible. The desert, the coast, islands etc.
- Asses every item before bringing it in. If not acceptable - wash, leave in sun and assess again. Some items hold on to toxins while others can easily be washed.
- Move your trailer as quickly as possible to another location if you detect that the outdoor air contains toxins - if the place where you sleep is being contaminated by outdoor toxins you must move; having a safe place to sleep is of utmost importance.
- If you go through an area contaminated with mould, shower and change your clothes. (You may be showering up to 10x per day).
- Leave contaminated clothes/items in an isolation area, preferably outside, bag them to be cleaned and re-assessed later. Don't bring anything contaminated into your safe house, especially the room where you sleep.
- Bag clothes, shower and change clothes as soon as you can after any exposure in the beginning. (until you have significantly improved).
- Thoroughly washing your hair is important after being somewhere significantly toxic.
- Shower before sleeping and make sure nothing contaminated comes near your sleeping area.
- Store or throw away anything you cannot remove toxins from with washing; remember that some items absorb the toxins and they cannot be washed off.
- It's difficult to avoid contaminating a mattress or pillow so a camping cot is recommented instead. A washable sleeping pad and blankets can be used for padding. A rolled-up towel can be used as a pillow. If you feel that any of your bedding has been contaminated, wash it, and put it out in the sun if the air is clean.
- After washing it is usually best to dry bedding and clothes inside the safe house. Keep extras bagged.
- In the daytime cover bedding with a plastic cover (a poncho even).
- Having layers of bedding is handy in that you can wash and replace top layers frequently, as they become contaminated easily.
- New furniture (or other items) need to be tested for your own sensitivities before bringing into the safe house. Many warehouses are mouldy and can contaminate items.
- Electronic devices are fine as long as kept in the safe zone. Once they pick up toxins they cannot be decontaminated.
Stages of Mould Avoidance:
- Prior to starting avoidance the body masks acute symptoms making it difficult to pinpoint exactly the source of the toxins. The patient usually gets incredibly sick before finding the impetus to move and start mould avoidance. (You don't have to wait until you hit rock bottom though!)
- The safe trailer and pristine location together form a baseline.
- Out in a clean environment the patient becomes much more sensitive and attuned to toxins and gains the ability to identify their source and therefore avoid them (here is where it may seem that it is getting worse before it gets better).
- After 6 months or more of following the protocol and detoxing, the person starts to recover and can then build up tolerance again.
Building up Tolerance/Re-integration:
- After following a strict protocol of avoidance and decontamination Erik was able to build up his tolerance to toxins. Erik was then able to go back to work in a place that had been problematic before. He can handle doses of toxins as long as he keeps the exposure within his limits.
- Continueing to have a safe, clean place to sleep is important as our bodies do significant healing at night.
- Items can be brought back out of storage. The worst items offgassed after 5 years (if the storage facility was not mouldy).
- Re-introduce items or problematic locations slowly so that you can stay within your tolerance level.
Erik adds that: "this strategy applies regardless of whether the nature of the chemical injury is - either mold or some other chemical, or perhaps even both." I agree; I think that this strategy can be used for sensitivities to all types of chemicals for those with MCS, CFS and Fibromyalgia. While this strategy may seem extreme at first, imagine the benefits of regaining your health after 6 months to one year! I wish you luck in your mould-free and chemical-free healing journey.
To read more about Dr. Shoemaker's mould detox protocol, get ahold of his book: Surviving Mold :Life in the Era of Dangerous Buildings.
If you have more questions about practicing mould avoidance, you can read Q&As here and ask your own question of Lisa and others who have recovered with this method.
To read more about Erik's recovery check out this book about him: Back from the Edge.