Apparently I hit a nerve with a lot of you. A big one. Seems as though “leaving everything behind” isn’t seen as a necessity but rather a luxury. Ahem. Yes, leaving all our possessions behind is a luxury. Come on! There is nothing at all luxurious about walking away from your entire life!
Based on the questions, confusion, and accusations, I decided it was time to write a quick and dirty post on WHY we decided to take the advice of a respected toxicologist as well as a microbiologist and leave everything behind when we walked away from our toxic mold contaminated home.
First, this is the decision that was right for us. We didn’t walk away because we had some secret stash of money and could easily and quickly rebuild our lives. Quite the contrary. We walked away because we didn’t want mold to chase us for the rest of our lives. And that is what would have happened. Read on…
I don’t know if you have really studied mold spores. They are tiny. Really tiny. However the toxins they release (mycotoxins) are nanoparticle tiny. You can’t see a mold spore or their mycotoxins with the naked eye. The mold you see is made up of lots and lots of spores. The mycotoxins…they are actually free radicals so you can’t see them even if you tried.
Miniscule mold spores and mycotoxins can permeate porous surfaces (like fabric and paper) with ease. They can hide there, waiting for the right time to release their bad-ass selves. Even if you have remediated your home and possessions, these little particles will still be lingering.
Toxicologist Dr. Jack Thrasher clarifies this:
The toxins produced by mold are basically free radicals, i.e. they have reactive oxygen radicals that bind to fabrics and can be released with time. Also, not only Stachybotrys, but other dangerous molds release fine particles as well as larger particles, e.g. spores. The fine particles (less than 1 micron) permeate fabrics and are not readily removed. In addition, the mold spores bind to fabrics and can lead to cross-contamination of the new environment. Also, do not forget the presence of potentially pathogenic bacteria. They can be aerosolized and also contaminate furnishings and clothing.
Ok, so it is a bad idea to bring porous items. That makes sense right? The risk of contamination is too great. But what about non-porous items? Can’t they be cleaned and saved?
This is not a cut and dry answer. Honestly, I think it depends on a lot. If ANY stachybotrys is involved then I would err on the side of safety and improved health and NOT save a thing. However, I think it all depends on how contaminated your home is. If the mold is truly contained to one area and has NOT made its way into your air ducts, then possibly you could clean and save non-porous items. (More on cleaning protocols in a future post). If the mold infestation is very recent and was caught early, then yes, you might be able to safely clean and save non-porous items. But again, this all depends on your health. If you have any mold-related illness symptoms, then I personally would NOT risk my life to bring things with me.
This is the trouble with mold. It forces you to leave your belongings behind. You have to make the conscious decision to walk away. A fire makes that decision for you (which while still painful) is almost easier. You grieve and eventually move on. But looking around at your life and all the things you worked hard for and then just throwing it all out? That causes a lot of mental anguish. Deciding to leave your grandmother’s cookbook behind isn’t fun. Throwing away your daughter’s playdough handprints hurts. Bad. You know what would hurt worse? Rebuilding your life only to find out that you brought those mold spores and mycotoxins with you and now your life is on the line.
Stuff can be replaced. Memories can be written down. But human lives? Those are worth treating with the utmost care and that might mean leaving everything from your mold infested home behind.
Could I have bagged up sentimental items and saved them “just in case?” Of course I could have. A lot of people encouraged me to. But the toxicologist said don’t do it. Make a decision with your head and not your heart. Is anything worth eroding your health just when you get it back? The answer is obvious.
Also, if you try to save things, it becomes difficult to decide what is important enough to save. You start a mental cycle of second guessing. You begin to convince yourself that if it is ok to pack up this item then it most assuredly is fine to pack up that item. And pretty soon you haven’t thrown away anything and you are packing up every mold contaminated item.
As hard as it is to just throw it all out, it actually is easier than deciding what few precious items to save.
It has been almost three months since we kissed our moldy home goodbye. And even though I have been in and out of it, disposing of our lives, I honestly don’t miss anything. Sure, I am still angry and working through emotions about the entire situation but I really don’t miss our stuff. Even the sentimental stuff. I’m moving away from that. Our health and the improvements we are already seeing is worth so much more than our stuff.
I’m sure some of you are still wondering what is technically safe to clean and take or even clean and sell to someone who doesn’t react to mold. I will tell you but please, think twice before keeping or selling anything.
Items that MAY possibly be cleaned and saved
- Non-porous items include items made 100% of glass, porcelain, plastic, or metal.
- Pots and Pans
- Serving bowls and dishes
- Kitchen gadgets (without a motor)
- Jewelry (metal and gemstones only – no fabric or leathers)
- Cables, cords and chargers
- DVDs/CDs (discs only, not covers)
- New, unopened food items, personal care products, supplements, and medications (if they are not in a container that can be cleaned – like a box – transfer them to a new glass container)
- Cell phone
- Car keys
- Important paperwork (seal in large plastic bags placed in a plastic or metal storage tote. Store in a garage or storage shed)
Items that MAY possibly be cleaned and sold
- Anything made 100% of glass, porcelain, ceramic, plastic, or metal
- Wood furniture so long as it is real wood and not particle board
- Leather furniture
- Office chairs
- Picture frames
- Kitchen appliances with motor
- Washing Machine
- Anything from the list above
Items that need to be properly disposed of include
- Televisions, stereos, sound systems, receivers, DVD players, computers, laptops, etc… Anything with a FAN will have sucked up the spores and will constantly release them when in use.
- Refrigerator (mold gets into the coils)
- Blow dryers and other electric hair tools
- Particle board furniture
- Non leather couches/chairs
- Towels and linens
- Opened food
- Opened supplements, medications, tinctures, etc…
- Opened personal hygiene products
- Any paper or fiber product
- Plants – silk and real
- Pretty much anything else not on either of the above lists
I know that the decision about “stuff” is tough one. Trust me. I lived it. But trying to save you possessions is risky. If you try to bring any items into your new environment you WILL most likely cross contaminate the new home and it will be like you NEVER left the old moldy environment. You'll be chasing mold your whole life.