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In this episode, you will learn about ImmunoLytics and gravity plate testing.
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About My Guest
My guest for this episode is JW Biava. JW Biava is the Owner and CEO of ImmunoLytics, an environmental laboratory that specializes in assessing indoor environments for mold contamination and provides consultations with clients over how best to reduce any contamination found. JW's interest in environmental mold exposure grew tremendously after determining that high levels of mold in his own home were a major contributor to his various illnesses, as well as those of his family members. JW was introduced to Dr. Walter Hayhurst R.Ph. in the early 2000s, at which time he began working on the development of natural botanical products aimed at improving mold contaminated environments. These products were taken to market though CitriSafe, BioBalance, and Micro Balance Health Products. JW created ImmunoLytics Laboratory to address indoor air quality issues related to mold. ImmunoLytics began by assisting a few doctors who wanted to determine if mold exposure in their patients’ homes could be contributing to their health issues. ImmunoLytics has since grown to service hundreds of doctors and tens of thousands of patients around the world on a yearly basis. JW holds several certifications including Certified Mold Inspector, Certified Mold Remediation Contractor, AHERA Inspector, Lead Inspector, Radiation Safety Officer, Shipper of Hazardous Materials including Radioactive Materials, Thermography, and more. JW currently spends his days running a suite of businesses aimed at providing solutions for those with environmentally acquired illnesses. JW has been a featured speaker to hundreds of thousands through events such as The Toxic Mold Summit, The Candida Summit, The Toxic Mold Masterclass, as well as numerous podcast appearances.
- What are the various types of testing available?
- How does one break the tie when multiple methods paint different pictures?
- How is sampling with gravity plates performed?
- Do gravity plates have the ability to identify all relevant molds in biotoxin illness?
- What are the colony counts and how are they interpreted?
- What does bacteria showing up on a plate tell us?
- What does it mean if Candida appears on a gravity plate?
- What are some of the unexpected environments where mold might be found?
- Can swab testing identify molds that gravity plates may not?
- How important is source removal?
- What is the role of fogging or misting?
- How can the health of a car be improved?
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August 31, 2023
Transcript Disclaimer: Transcripts are intended to provide optimized access to information contained in the podcast. They are not a full replacement for the discussion. Timestamps are provided to facilitate finding portions of the conversation. Errors and omissions may be present as the transcript is not created by someone familiar with the topics being discussed. Please Contact Me with any corrections.
[0:00:00] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to BetterHealthGuy Blogcasts, empowering your better health. Now, here's Scott, Your BetterHealthGuy.
[0:00:14] ANNOUNCER: The content of this show is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness, or medical condition. Nothing in today's discussion is meant to serve as medical advice, or is information to facilitate self-treatment. As always, please discuss any potential health-related decisions with your own personal medical authority.
[0:00:34] SCOTT: Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode number 189 of the BetterHealthGuy Blogcasts series. Today's guest is JW Biava. The topic of the show is ImmunoLytics. JW Biava is the owner and CEO of ImmunoLytics, an environmental laboratory that specializes in assessing indoor environments for mold contamination and provides consultations with clients over how best to reduce any contamination found.
JW's interest in environmental mold exposure grew tremendously after determining that high levels of mold in his own home were a major contributor to his various illnesses, as well as those of his family members. JW created ImmunoLytics Laboratory to address indoor air quality issues related to mold. ImmunoLytics began by assisting a few doctors who wanted to determine if mold exposure in their patients' homes could be contributing to their health issues.
ImmunoLytics has since grown to service hundreds of doctors and tens of thousands of patients around the world on a yearly basis. JW was introduced to Walter Hayhurst in the early 2000s, at which time he began working on the development of natural botanical products aimed at improving mold-contaminated environments. These products were taken to market through CitriSafe, BioBalance, and Micro Balance Health Products.
JW holds several certifications, including Certified Mold Inspector, Certified Mold Remediation Contractor, Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act Inspector, Lead Inspector, Radiation Safety Officer, Shipper of Hazardous Materials, including radioactive materials, Thermography, and more. JW currently spends his days running a suite of businesses aimed at providing solutions for those with environmentally-acquired illnesses.
JW has been a featured speaker to hundreds of thousands, through events such as the Toxic Mold Summit, the Candida Summit, the Toxic Mold Masterclass, as well as numerous podcast appearances. And now, my interview with JW Biava.
[0:02:36] SCOTT: My mentor, Dr. Neil Nathan, has talked about the value of using ImmunoLytics plates as part of an exploration for mold in a water-damaged building. In part, that the benefit is the ability to really visualize the organisms growing on the plate, and thus, we can see something and thus know that we need to take some action. I'm excited today to have JW Biava here to talk with us about all things ImmunoLytics. Thanks for being here, JW.
[0:03:02] JW: Thank you, Scott. I’m glad to be here.
[0:03:04] SCOTT: First, talk to us about your personal journey and why mold has become such a passion, such a focus for you. How have you been personally impacted by mold exposure?
[0:03:15] JW: That's an interesting question, and I have been thinking about it, because I get asked that a lot. Let me start with this. Mold follows moldies, right? All of us at one point, we've had some born-again experience where we go, “Whoa, that's why I'm sick.” But then, if you've been in this business long enough, or you've been aware of this long enough, you've had numerous exposures. You've had numerous family members, you've had numerous friends have all been sick from it.
When I look at this, I've had so many, it's like, where do I start? I guess, I go back to the beginning. I was in the business for a long time. I grew up in a laboratory. In about 1995, we started doing mold analyses for indoor air quality. But it wasn't until I met Walter Hayhurst in 2002 that the pieces got put together on how it was affecting me in my own personal health. Then you look back and you're like, “Whoa. That's why I missed six weeks in eighth grade from a chronic sinus infection. That's why every time I went to my grandma's house in Santa Fe with the flat roof and water down the walls that I got sick. I got viruses or whatever.” You look at it and you go, “Okay, now I can see where it all was.”
I often tell the story about my oldest daughter, because it's the most dramatic. When she was five years old, she's actually my wife's daughter. I adopted her once we got married, but when she was five years old, she was getting flu-like symptoms, 105-degree fever, blue lips, low oxygen, and it would last for about two weeks. Then she would be fine for three to five days and then she would get sick again. It was reoccurring. You go to 10, 12 doctors and none of them can figure out why.
I told my wife, and again, it was this was after meeting Walter, I said, “You guys are living in mold. You got to get out of there.” We didn't even test her house. She moved out the next day and moved in with her parents and my daughter’s symptoms resolved. I mean, not completely. She's still sensitive to this day, but she stopped having the cycle of symptoms that made her so sick. I've got hundreds of stories like that. Hundreds of stories. That's just the tip of the iceberg.
[0:05:10] SCOTT: On your website and recently, also, from ISEAI, or the International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness, there's a comparison of five different testing methods, the pros and cons of each. I wonder if you can walk us through how one might determine the best testing options for their situation. Do you see ImmunoLytics testing as a standalone tool, or is it best to combine it with other methods, like maybe an ERMI, or HERTSMI-2?
[0:05:36] JW: That's a great question, Scott. As you know, this can be very, very complex. What we try to do is make it as simple as possible so that it's accessible for general public, right? Each method has its limitations and it has its benefits. What we try to do is really open people's eyes that that's true, right? Science isn't perfect. Everything has its limitations, so what's best for your situation?
We've really started to look at it, and we do this a lot in ISEAI. We use a tiered approach, whether it's recommendations for remediation, or recommendations for testing. Most of our clients are not willing to spend $3,000 to $10,000 on inspection, okay? That's the best. You hire an IEP, they come in, you're paying for their expertise, you're paying for their knowledge and everything that they bring with them, totally understandable. But there are people that aren't willing to do that. What do we do with them? Do we not have a solution?
A lot of times, ImmunoLytics is that tier 1 type solution, where people can come to us and one of my objectives in business and in life is to have a solution for everybody. They can come to us and buy samples, just the petri dishes for $3 apiece, and they can set them out, they can test, put them in their cabinets and see if they potentially have a problem. We're actually working on a whole webpage right now devoted to do-it-yourself interpretation of plates. We're not going to tell them how to read it so they know what mold it is, but just so they know whether or not there potentially is a problem.
We want a solution. They can send it into us then for analysis, where we look at the type of mold that's there, the amount of mold that's there after proper incubation, provide them with a full report with some health scale, and some characteristics on the mold. Then the other 50% of what we do is really in a consultation. We're not ever trying to say, “Here's results. Good luck to you.” We're trying to guide them forward, just as an IEP would within the budget that they have.
Is ImmunoLytics stand alone? For some people, yes. It's all they can afford. It's all they can do. For some people, it's just an eye opener. We've had a lot of wives that have tested the plates for 3 bucks a piece. They show them their husbands and then the husband goes, “Wow, we're breathing that?” Then they take more active steps. Now, say they meet with our IEP after doing testing with us and they have their 15-minute consult, the result of that consult may be, “Hey, guys. You're going to have to hire an IEP to come in and really fine tune the remediation protocol for you.” I mean, that could be part of the process.
Yes, sometimes we're stand alone. Yes, sometimes we're part of the process. It's just a tool. ERMI is a tool. HERTSMI is tool. Spore traps are a tool. Bulk sampling, tape lift, swabs, they're all tools. We want to make them accessible and used properly, but I'm not against any of them. Does that help?
[0:08:21] SCOTT: No, that's great. I'll put the link to that comparison, that the ISEAI group and also on your website as well, highlights the pros and cons and when they should be used. That talks about the gravity plates, the swabs and tape lifts, the spore trap, or air testing, the ERMI and the HERTSMI-2 as well, so we'll make that available for people.
How do we rationalize the scenario where different testing methods paint a very different picture? For example, what if you have a really concerning ERMI or HERTSMI-2, but gravity plates look quite good? Or, what if you've done air samples and PCR testing and mycotoxin dust testing? Actually, had a client recently where this was the case, and those all looked very, very good, but gravity plates raised a very significant concern around Penicillium in that specific scenario. When these different tests point a very different picture, how do we break the tie, so to speak? How do we determine the path forward?
[0:09:19] JW: Well, and that's the million-dollar question, isn't it? Let me give you a little bit of a narrative, because it's a very big discussion, and see if we can narrow it down a little bit. The mold is most often, the problems are in interstitial spaces. If we didn't have light frame construction where mold's growing in wall spaces, ceiling spaces, sub floor, it would be a lot easier. We always hear throughout the industry, then talk about Leviticus 14 in the Bible, where they knew about leprous growth on the wall, and what would you do? You'd inspect it, clean it. If that didn't work, you'd tear it out and throw it in the dump.
It would still be that simple, if we didn't have these hidden spaces, these hidden HVAC compartments, and so on. What are we trying to do? We're trying to get a best representation of anything that we're being exposed to. Within our world, most common is biotoxin illness. That's what everybody looks at. They don't really necessarily consider the mold acts as an allergen, as an infectious agent, as a super antigen in a lot of cases, and as a toxin. There's multiple routes in which mold can affect the human body.
In the biotoxin illness world, which I agree is probably the most traumatic and a very large portion of the mold problem, they may ignore some of these infections, and some of these antigen responses that we're really looking at. We're not just concerned with biotoxin illness, we're concerned with mold hygiene. Why I bring that up is because we're looking at things like Candida, Nocardia. Even on our plates, we'll even report the bacteria we see, not because it's necessarily good bacteria or bad bacteria, but it shows you the biologic picture.
See, in our world, we know biologics are a problem, but mold is what gets all the attention. In our purpose of keeping things simple and clear, we do a mold test, but what we're really doing as IEPs is looking at the biologic condition of the house. What we're using is indicator organisms to try and indicate if there's a problem and find the problem. We look at the different testing technologies, gravity plates only test viable, or living mold. We're looking at yeast and mold. For a certain number of genus of mold, some don't grow real well, like Stachybotrys, Chaetomium don't grow real well in our agar plates. But they don't almost never grow alone.
What we're doing is we're looking at and saying, if you have Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Cladosporium, any of these, that indicates a water event, whether it's high humidity, leak, whatever it may be, you have a biologic problem that needs to be addressed. If you just see Aspergillus, or if you just saw Stachybotrys, does that mean there's no bacteria present? I mean, certainly none of us would make that claim.
What we're trying to do is find the mold, fix the mold. In the world of gravity plates, it's very much a litmus test, okay. That's dipping the chlorine strip in the pool to see if there's a problem. In the world of ERMI or HERTSMI, you're looking at very specific three, six molds that they say are associated with water damage. Fine. I mean, that's one way to do it, but you're going to miss some of the infectious agents. Why is this important? 60% or more of our clients have Candida infections that they have mold exposure. That's important to know.
There's numerous studies now that are linking Alzheimer's to mold infections from candida, Cladosporium, Alternaria, and Malassezia. That's the other one. There's a lot to it. How do you break the tie? Well, shoot, man, that's a million-dollar question. The important part is we're all working to find the source of biologic contamination and eliminate it. I'm not a big fan of ERMI and HERTSMI, but a lot of my good friends are. I think swabs and tape lifts do a good job at identifying potential contamination. I think, my cross compete methods are really great, because if it has a cell wall, you see it.
If you look at a lot of these old-time inspectors, they'll show up with a microscope and some microscope slides and they can find those problems, just with old techniques. That's a long narrative that I'm hoping answers your question, but hit me with another one and we'll see if we can fine tune it.
[0:13:06] SCOTT: No, I think that's great. I mean, what I took away from that is the gravity plates are giving us some indications of the home’s, or the building’s microbiome, essentially, to draw some conclusions that maybe there's an issue there. Even though none of these tests paint the full picture. I mean, I think we know that air samples are not ideal as the single-testing method either.
Let's talk a little bit more about the gravity plates. I've heard some practitioners suggest putting them out for an hour, which is, I believe, what you guys suggest. I've seen others suggest two hours. I mean, does the duration matter? I also understood that windows should be closed, that the air conditioning should not be used, unless it's used pretty consistently, or commonly and that we don't want to do anything that's going to really stir things up, like sweeping, or vacuuming right before the testing. Talk to us a little bit about the right way to do gravity plate testing.
[0:13:57] JW: Sure. Well, we have a health scale. It was supplied to us by some doctors in the beginning. We're using gravity plates. That health scale is based on a one-hour exposure. That's what we suggest to our clients. We do have doctors who say, their patients are so sensitive, they need to look at mold levels below two colonies per one hour gravity plate. To get more of that sensitivity if their environments are fairly clean, they just double the sampling time. Essentially, you're collecting twice the amount of settled mold.
That's fine. It's just, you have to realize that the health scale then has to be doubled as well, right? For our criteria. If the doctor says, “Hey, I want you less than two colonies per two-hour gravity plate,” so be it. That's how they want to use it, fine. The gravity plates themselves, I mean, it's been the gold standard of testing forever, as far as clinical use, and environmental use. It’s been around since the 1800s. It's just that quite often, they're not used properly.
We talk about the tap testing. I know that's a big thing that we're pushing. That's great for identifying sources of potential mold contamination. You can tap test your carpeting. You can tap test a piece of furniture and see if it's potentially what's making you sick. Because you could have had a nice, clean house and then you brought in a used piece of furniture from an estate sale, the next thing you know, you're having symptoms, you're having a flare up, which is literally happened to one of our clients here in Albuquerque.
The best way to test, we have instructions that we provide with the test kit. It's a one hour settling plate. You have to decide if you want to best represent what you're currently being exposed to, or if you're trying to find a problem. Most people, they're going to start with exactly what you said. Run the AC, if it's what you normally do. Keep the window shut at least six hours prior. If you have HEPA filters, probably want to shut them off, just because they can bias the results a little low. If you come back later and you're saying, “Hey, I want to see if my HVAC is a problem.” Well, you're going to run your HVAC, you may put a plate at the start of it. I prefer to use swabs for HVAC, but you can fine tune the testing according to what your objective is. I mean, you're looking for mold in an attic, or crawl space. It's a little different than just what you're being exposed to in breathable air. There is a little bit of variability, but I think we've done pretty good at making instructions pretty simple.
[0:16:03] SCOTT: With air testing, commonly people do indoor and then an outdoor control sample, is there ever a scenario where we would use a gravity plate outdoors?
[0:16:13] JW: They do. It's a little bit rare for this reason. If you're doing it inside, outside, you're controlling the airflow, the amount of air, like it goes through a spore trap. That makes sense. With the settling plate and with the amount of wind that varies so much outside, it's hard to get a more consistent representation. Where we use outside for gravity plates is if you want to know if there's a tremendous amount of a certain mold outside, that could be the problem inside, right? If you have high levels of Cladosporium outside and low levels inside, it's pretty reasonable to think that just the outside communication of air is a potential source. It's not often used that way.
[0:16:51] SCOTT: Let's talk a little bit about how we optimize the use of this gravity plate technology. Where should we place them, let's say, relative to walls, or to the floor? Should they be close to the walls, away from the walls, up on a desk, on the floor itself? Are there specific locations that are maybe good, or not good to test? I know, some people say, test the kitchen, test the bathroom, other techniques, say, maybe don't look at those areas. Give us a little bit of insight about how we can optimize these plates to find an accurate picture of a specific environment.
[0:17:23] JW: Sure. Well, the first is obviously, there's always a balance between cost and information. Budget always drives at least a portion of this. If we're going without any real budget considerations, you're going to sample every single room, because you're more likely to find a problem that way. For the majority of people, though, we tell them to sample the areas in which they know, or suspect they had a water leak, as well as the areas in which they spend the most time, because we're trying to get an idea of what they're being exposed to and if it's potentially high levels.
As far as testing areas, of course, any area in which there is a water source is more likely to have mold contamination than without a water source. Yeah, absolutely. You can test your master bathroom, your guest bathroom, your laundry room, your kitchen, those areas that have mold, but you don't want to dismiss areas like your living room and master bedroom, where you spend the most time, because that's where you're getting the majority of your exposure just timewise. Yeah, it's a balance between those.
When I do my own house, yeah, I test every single room. We also have clients that will test every single room with the $3 plates, look for the areas that are high, and then retest those areas and send the samples into the laboratory. That's minimizing the cost while trying to maximize the information. Then of course, we like to supplement with swabs with anything that's potentially visible contamination, or that's dusty to see if the dust contains high levels of mold.
[0:18:38] SCOTT: Why are they in that scenario where they used lots of plates and then were retesting to then send it in? Is it not the case that if you get the $3 plates, that you can then purchase the analysis for any of those? What's the reason you'd want to retest?
[0:18:51] JW: That's an excellent question. The only reason being that we want to receive the plates at the laboratory within 10 days of sampling, so that we don't get second generation growth. Because if we get that second-generation growth, it's going to bias the results high. If people keep them for seven days and aren't willing to ship them overnight, well then, let's just resample and send them in right away.
[0:19:10] SCOTT: Then how about relative location to walls and let's say, floor versus up on surfaces?
[0:19:18] JW: Yeah. It's dependent on what the objective is, but our objective as far as exposure is to put them in a breathable range and a little bit away from the walls, because you don't want the airflow currents to really affect them. Most common is to set them on the bed, or set them on a coffee table, or a countertop, at least a couple feet away from the wall to represent what you're being exposed to in a relative, breathable area. That's what we typically do.
You can put them on the floor, but you're very likely to either stir up dust and bias them high, or step in them, or have a pet come by and lick them. That's why we avoid putting them on the floor.
[0:19:53] SCOTT: Then, if we're thinking about ducting, or HVAC, it sounds like, you prefer the swabs. I've heard of some people taking the ImmunoLytics plates and trying to suspend them close to vents, or something along those lines. Sounds like for that application, that swabbing is probably going to be more appropriate.
[0:20:10] JW: Yeah. I'd say, swabbing is better, because the swabs we use are like little microfiber cloths on a Q-tip, basically. They grab so much dust so easily. Then they're so easy for our laboratory to prep and re-prep if we really have a problem looking at them. It's a real easy way for us to get a good sample. We certainly have had people tape, like mold plates to HVAC registers to sample, and it works. It's fine. It's either method, if you have plates do it that way, if you have swabs, do it the other way.
[0:20:38] SCOTT: Yeah. One of the things that I really like about how you guys approach this is the $3 per plate. Most people can afford that and you don't have to then purchase the analysis in advance. You can visualize it, and as long as it hasn't been too long, as you mentioned just a moment ago, then you can send it in, get the analysis done. I mean, that's tremendous that we can do that for such a low cost.
Let's talk a little bit about after collecting the samples, while we're incubating, trying to watch it ourselves. Is it better to have them in a warm area, a dark area? How do we want to handle that environment to maybe accelerate, or support the growth of any potential fungal organisms?
[0:21:20] JW: Sure. Room temperature is fine. A little warmer is better. If we were going to incubate them here at our laboratory, it's about 80 degrees Fahrenheit and about 90% or more humidity. That's ideal. If you had just a decent cabinet that was at a room temperature, it's going to work fine. If you have a water heater closet that maybe is a little warmer, sure, you could put them in there as well, but certainly, don't reduce the temperature, because that does retard the growth.
[0:21:45] SCOTT: When we think about CIRS, or Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, or biotoxin illness, we're usually thinking about Aspergillus, Chaetomium, Stachybotrys and Wallemia, particularly the ones that we then use to calculate the HERSTMI-2 score. Those are more toxigenic molds, or the mycotoxins that are more toxigenic, versus allergenic that you talked about earlier. We know that there are some molds that gravity plates don't commonly identify. You mentioned Stachybotrys and Chaetomium. Can you talk to us a little about what we need to consider in terms of what the plates might be able to identify, versus not? What are the limitations of this approach, and then do the same limitations exist with the swab testing, or are we essentially able to identify any of those toxigenic potential molds?
[0:22:33] JW: Yeah, the swabs identify anything, right? That's the beauty of microscopic analysis, is if it has a cell wall and it's a decent size, then we can see it. You're not going to see bacteria and really not going to see yeast if you use a swab, but you're going to see everything else. Stachybotrys looks like watermelon seeds. It's super easy to see. You take a swab and you're going to get all those things that potentially, the criticism of the gravity plate, any criticism there, you see it with the swab.
If you supplement with swabs, especially on dust, or areas in which you suspect that maybe that's mole growth, you're going to get a very, very good picture. Because yeah, a lot of those molds, they don't get airborne real easy and it's easy to miss them with just air samples. That's why we developed that quick start kit, is just to essentially guide people to say, “Hey, consider a swab for those molds that maybe you're not going to pick up in gravity plates.”
[0:23:21] SCOTT: When we think about Stachybotrys, we know it's a heavier mold. It doesn't generally float around in the air for long. But if it were to land on a gravity plate, would the agar, or the medium for growth in the plate actually support its growth? Or is it still not likely to grow in the gravity plate itself?
[0:23:39] JW: Well, the science answer would be yes, that it will grow. The practical “rubber meets the road” is not really, for a few reasons. One is because it grows a little slow and it gets out competed by other molds. You'll just get other molds grow and overrun the Stachybotrys. The other is just the agar that's used, Stachy just doesn't really like it. What's interesting is Stachy loves cardboard, right? It loves drywall back. It loves insulation backing. It loves those things, probably even more than it loves our agar. It's astounding, but that's where it really loves to grow. Stachy is one of those extreme cases where it just doesn't grow well on a plate. I wouldn't say, you're real likely to see it. It's fairly unlikely for us to see it.
[0:24:23] SCOTT: What are some scenarios where gravity plates maybe lead us to some false negatives, make us feel like the environment is good, when in fact, there could be an issue? For example, if the mold is behind a wall and releasing mycotoxins into our breathing space and thus, those mycotoxins are making us sick, could we then have what looks like a low mold environment? But in reality, the mold is more hidden and the mycotoxins are what's driving the CIRS, or the biotoxin illness?
[0:24:52] JW: Well, that's a great question. The answer is yes, that absolutely can occur and it can occur with any testing technology, right? If you have active growth, quite often, those spores aren't in the air. Spores aren't in the air. Hyphal fragments aren't in the air. All those things that they say that even ERMI will pick up. The molds when they're growing, they'll produce the MVOCs, they’re producing the mycotoxins, and those organic compounds travel very easily around the house. Whereas, the spores, or the actual physical fragments of the mold won't travel as easy.
I can tell you that every sampling technology that you use, the majority of the error that you're going to encounter is on the sampling, not on the laboratory side. Where you collect the sample and how you collect the sample is extremely important. Can gravity plates miss it and have a false negative? Yes, that's why we tell people, believe your symptoms and believe the plates. Because if the plates come back and they're fairly clean, but you know your symptoms are related to mold, well, then we need to do further investigation.
Sometimes that investigation is just one of our consultants asking the right questions. Do you have a bad smell? Is there an area in which you spend time that you feel worse than another area? Do you have any history of water damage? Here's some examples. Just something like that may trigger them to say, “Oh, yeah. I think it may be this room.” Okay. Well, then let's have you go hire a local IEP and collect a wall check sample using a spore trap, because that's by far the best way to test wall cavities is spore traps.
Even the inspectors that are totally against spore traps will tell you, that's the only way they use them. What we're doing is we're guiding to maybe a phase two inspection, where we're really trying to find those problems for them. That consultation is key. Like our clients, I'd say a third of them use our consultation. That's absurd. It's free, and 100% should be using that consultation.
[0:26:38] SCOTT: When we think about wall cavity samples, which extending on what we just talked about, I think, can be very important. We can poke a hole in the wall, take an air sample, essentially, oftentimes agitating inside the wall first to stir things up, take an air sample. Is there a scenario where using the swab in a similar fashion, small hole and sticking the swab in and taking a sample that way, is that potentially helpful?
[0:27:03] JW: That's an interesting question. We haven't done a lot of that. I guess, you could, if you had outlets, wall switches in which the air is communicating, you could swab along there. But actually, getting a swab inside of the wall, I don't think is the most prudent way to do it. Yeah, I don't know that I would do that regularly.
[0:27:19] SCOTT: When we look at the criteria, this health score for the plates that you then report, where we talk about zero to four colonies being normal, five to eight is a cause for concern, nine or more is potentially hazardous, is that definition really more specific to biotoxin illness? Was it based more on the perspective of mold allergy? As I understand it, many of the molds are yeasts that aren't contributors to CIRS are going to come up in the gravity plate. Talk to us a little about the colony counts. I have seen some where the counts were very high, but they weren't necessarily indicators of biotoxin type mold. Then would we say, well, maybe you're going to have allergy in that environment, not biotoxins. Or is it still an indication that there is likely an issue that could be contributing to CIRS in that environment?
[0:28:10] JW: Yeah, that's a great question. The health scale itself was developed by several doctors and actually, several independently from each other 30, 40 years ago and given to us. It was based entirely on empirical data of people who were not well and improved their environments and got well. They developed these ranges really that way. It's very litmus testy in the way it was put together. Is it just specific to biotoxin illness? No, not at all.
If you look at the work of Dr. Donald Dennis out of Atlanta, Georgia, what he's done with the ear, nose, and throat, sinus problems, the molds that create the chronic fungal sinusitis and some of the problems associated with that are very much antigenistic, where there's an overproduction of T--cells and not like an autoimmune reaction that I would not necessarily entirely classify as biotoxin illness, right?
I think the way that the health scale was put together, again, was really to try and find a biologic indication of a problem in an environment that would adversely affect health. Is that health affect just CIRS? No. Is it just allergies? No. It's just looking at the hygiene of the environment to try and improve health. Does that could answer your question there?
[0:29:23] SCOTT: Yeah. Let's extend on that and think about from a health perspective, when we get back, let's say, Cladosporium, or Epicoccum, or Microsporum, or Pithomyces, or Rhodotorula that are molds, or organisms that will show up on these gravity plates fairly commonly, how clinically important are those?
[0:29:44] JW: In my opinion, anything that is above normal is clinically important. Now what you're seeing is that, you're seeing the Shoemaker group, the CIRSX group talk about the Actinomyces a lot more. We've always known those are problems. Our gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Which ones? There's some debate there. What are the synergistic effects? I mean, if you got Alternaria and Bipolaris together, we know that our clients are very, very sick. Why? I don't know. Something synergistically with that.
Again, what we're trying to do is look for biologic problems and then positively affect those problems. Whether if it's Actinomyces and it's coming from the drain, you can just pour peroxide down the drain, or something like that, measure your gravity plates and see if the levels improve on whatever your indicator organisms are. I just saw a Facebook post, actually the other day, somebody used our plates in a car. They took a plate in the car, it looked nasty, they changed their cabin filter and it looked better. It's just such an easy, practical way to see if the improvements you're doing are having a positive effect on the biologics in your environment. I would say, everything is important for some reason, even if it's just an indication of a different problem.
[0:30:52] SCOTT: I want to talk a little bit more about Candida, or Candida. My observation over the years has been that if someone is living in a water damaged building and has exposure to fungal organisms, that the likelihood they're ever going to get rid of their Candida is relatively small. Even though they're different, they seem to interact, such that if you don't get to both of them, the other one is probably going to continue to be an issue. When the plates are showing Candida, do we think that's from the inhabitants of the home, or the pets that are then shedding Candida into the home environment? Do we have any thoughts on whether or not high levels of environmental, or external Candida could also potentially lead to ongoing exposure, or reinfection, maybe with even other people in the home? Then, if someone has high colony counts due to Candida, might that environment still be healthy from a perspective of water intrusion and biotoxin illness?
[0:31:51] JW: Boy, a lot of great questions there. Yeah, Candida is super interesting for a lot of reasons. One is because scientifically, it absolutely can come from water damage and it absolutely comes from people and pets. All three are true. Us as an organization that's been doing this for over 20 years, we just know when we look at gravity plates, the majority of the Candida we see is coming from people or pets in the environment that are essentially shedding it. Coming off their breath, coming off their skin. That's just practically, that's the majority of what we see. Often in those cases, it's very much a maintenance issue where you can lower the counts by just doing some practical cleaning, or treatment, more than just removing wet damage building materials, right?
The other is true, too. It absolutely could be because of wet damage building materials. I mean, the majority of the people we see with Candida infections have been exposed to a biotoxin, right? That's most commonly in mold. The presence of Candida in the body is an indication of their previous exposure to mycotoxins. They all go hand in hand. They're very much synergistic, right? Then as far as people shedding it and potential reinfection, I can tell you numerous examples, one closest to me is my wife. She couldn't be around one of her family members, because when she was the most sensitive in relation to mold, she had that mold sensitivity, her family member, I'm trying not to say, would shed enough Candida that it would make her ill. It would set off her sensitivities. She couldn't be in the same room with her during that time.
I've seen numerous examples of that, too, which just indicate, some people you'll hear this all the time in these mold groups. They say, “Oh, that person is just toxic,” right? I think a lot of that toxicity is they're shedding, essentially, these things in which we're sensitive to it.
[0:33:32] SCOTT: No, that's great. The piece that maybe I didn't realize and probably should have is that the Candida could still be related to water intrusion, wet building materials, that it's not necessarily always, even though maybe more likely to be from shedding from humans or pets, that that can still be a participant in water intrusion.
I want to talk a little bit more about the bacterial piece. I think historically, in the CIRS world, we really thought mold and mycotoxins were the primary triggers of CIRS, even though we've known that's the soup of many different toxins and organisms that play a role in water damage buildings.
I would say, in the past few years, my understanding at least is that Dr. Shoemaker has now put the focus more on Actinos and endotoxins, where I believe, Actinos maybe are 42% of the contributor to CIRS, endotoxins in the 30-ish percent range, and maybe mold and mycotoxins now as low as I've heard, 7% in some conversations. I'm interested, when we see bacteria reported on the gravity plates, do we know if that would include Actinos? Would it give us any indication about the potential for endotoxins? How much can we correlate bacteria in terms of the gravity plate results to actinomycetes in an environment potentially?
[0:34:51] JW: Man, very loosely. Very loosely. The Sabouraud dextrose agar that we use, it's meant to not grow bacteria as well as mold. We don't add anything to it to inhibit the bacterial growth, because there's some antibiotics you can add to it. What we're saying is that when we see bacteria on a plate, it shouldn't necessarily be there. You have enough of it that it's breaking through and growing on this media that doesn't necessarily like. What you're doing is you're getting a broader picture of the biologic condition of the environment.
What we're saying is there's a little more of a toxic soup here, right? That's why the bacteria, we report it, because we don't normally see it there, but we don't include it in our mold counts, because it isn't mold and it's not something we can necessarily comment on. Now, we talk about bacteria. Bacteria just like mold. There's so many species and there's so many types. For us to say, like certain Actinomyces or a group of Actinomyces are guaranteed to grow on our plates, would be so disingenuous. We don't really know. We'd have to do a big study on bacteria. We just know that it shouldn't typically be there, and it indicates a biologic problem.
[0:35:57] SCOTT: I want to talk a little bit about temperature and humidity. I know on the reports, there's a median temperature, a median humidity. I've seen a few clients where those showed humidity greater than 90%, but didn't seem to match up with that client sampled environment. I'm curious, how is that information collected and then building on that, have we been able to correlate gravity plate test results with humidity levels in a home and what humidity levels do you consider to be ideal?
[0:36:23] JW: Well, so that's a very interesting question, because what that means is we're not clear on our report, because the median temperature of humidity listed on there are incubation conditions for growing the testing, performing the testing. Those are conditions that we incubate on prior to analysis. All we're doing there is saying, this is what we did so other people can reproduce it, and so that there's consistency. It's not at all data that has anything to do with the sampled environment, their homes. That's that. First of all, I'm sorry, because I guess, we need to make that a little clearer on the reports.
The second is the correlation between humidity and gravity plates. I mean, there's always a correlation between humidity and mold growth, right? Once you get above 50% humidity, it's very likely to start seeing mold. Really, 60 though is where you really take off. Then it's almost exponential. You get to 70% and 90%, you're going to start having Dalmatian spots on the wall. There is correlation there. But then, we get back to, if the mold is fat, dumb and happy and growing, a lot of times it doesn't put off spores. A real high humidity may not necessarily indicate that you get a proper representation on any air sample. That always has to be considered.
[0:37:30] SCOTT: One of the questions that I get a lot is how can I check for a potential new living environment? House? Apartment? How can I check to see if that's going to be healthy? Would we think that the gravity plates are a reasonable way to test to see if an environment might be worth passing on, or might appear to be relatively healthy for someone that's dealing with a biotoxin illness?
[0:37:52] JW: Sure. Again, we deal on practicality, right? Most of the people who are doing a real estate transaction in their current housing market do not have time to do gravity plates. It's very fast. If they allow you to do it easier, you're just putting in a bed and taking it as is. I mean, that just seems to be most common now. But let's just say, you have time for an inspection period, that time for the inspection period is often only seven to 10 days right now. You're really looking more in the spore trap world, where you can get results a little faster. That's just the practicality of it.
Now, let's say, you have a perfect world in which you're able to make an offer on a home, specify a decent inspection period, then absolutely, gravity plates are a great way to do it. Because if you're looking for a house, you may not want to spend $3,000 on 10 different houses, hire an inspector to come out and do a full inspection. You can use gravity plates as a quick way to indicate potential problem areas, so that you're not just buying something side unseen.
The worst scenario is when somebody spends $400,000 or $500,000 on a house and then they have to do $50,000 to a $100,000 of remediation. That's a nightmare scenario. You certainly want to do something, but in this housing market, it's very difficult on what you can do.
[0:38:59] SCOTT: In that scenario, if somebody's maybe exploring eight or 10 potential environments and we're thinking maybe spore trap testing might be a better way to explore that, are there companies that will do that where people can self-test, or is that then getting into the realm of getting an IEP, or an inspector to come in and do that exploration?
[0:39:19] JW: Yeah. I mean, you're really into the inspector ranging type if you talk spore traps, in my opinion. The key there are that people don’t like spore traps, because it's an air test. I understand, that's the gravity plates. If you collect enough samples, you get rid of a lot of the air. Really, that's the problem I have with the MSQPCR world, right? The ERMI and HERTSMI is that there's not enough samples collected. There is zero statistical significance, or confidence, I should say, if you have less than three samples. But three ERMI, HERTSMI samples are what? $1,300, $1,400 in samples?
That's the problem with it. It's not that the tool necessarily is bad. It's that the application of the tool is inappropriate. The same is true with spore traps. If you're going to have a house, one of your home inspectors come in and as an added service, they say, “Hey, we'll collect some spore trap mold samples for you.” They take one sample in the middle of the house and one sample outside and tell you don't have a problem. Again, your statistical confidence is zero. You could have had a big mold problem in the master bedroom, or bathroom and it's just far enough away from where the sample was collected that you never detected.
[0:40:21] SCOTT: Then you have the same issue that Stachy still isn't super common to pick up in the air sample test either. Yeah, I totally agree when we need a combination of different methodologies to try to paint the most clear picture.
How often does plate testing reveal that maybe the source of mold, or mycotoxin exposure, may not have been what we thought, may not be your home, or your workplace, or your school, but maybe it's your car, as you talked about, or maybe it's your church, or your gym, or something that's a little more obscure? Is it common that you find the mold exposure is from an unexpected source?
[0:40:58] JW: Yes, is the short answer. I will say though, that people, we're pretty good at picking up problems, especially if it's repeated. People, a lot of times, they have an indication by the way they feel of where the problem is. It absolutely does occur. The car is the most common source that people don't consider after that. Certainly, their offices are a big one. But then, you get into the church where they spend time, or their gym, where there could be, if the mold problem is big enough, when I was my most sensitive, it would only take five to 10 minutes of exposure to set off a cascade of symptoms.
If you're getting into a bad place, like your church that's only opened up once a week, you get in there and you're getting a heavy enough exposure, it absolutely can create symptoms that extend beyond that, that you don't necessarily tie it back to the church. My wife, when she was at her worst, we walked into a bookstore in San Francisco, and by the time we got to the back of the bookstore, which was probably 15 to 20 seconds of walking, she was already having bowel problems, getting doubled over from her exposure.
Whereas me, I never had an exposure where it occurred that fast. It was three days later that I would get sick. If I was sick, I would go, “Okay, where was I three days ago?” Sometimes it's difficult to tie your exact exposure to your symptoms. For other people, it's real simple.
[0:42:15] SCOTT: Let's talk a little bit about a little-known technique with the plates that can be just incredibly powerful. That is the tap testing that you mentioned earlier. I had one client that was for the longest time, trying to figure out where is this exposure in my environment and all of the testing that was done looked relatively good and ultimately, did tap testing with the plate on the pillow that this person was sleeping around every night. If I remember correctly, I think it was Penicillium that was too numerous to count. Obviously, that wasn't a good thing to be sleeping around. Let's talk a little bit about how we can use tap testing to test maybe a mattress, or a pillow, or a sofa, or maybe our clothing, or maybe our pets, or wondering if we could even use it potentially to test soil and indoor plants, for example. Talk to us about the applications of tap testing. How do we perform a tap test? Then what happens if the agar itself actually touches the surface that you're testing?
[0:43:14] JW: Sure. Yeah, the tap testing is a lot of fun, I think, because you get to be a detective, right? You put the plate in the center of your hand with your fingers extended past, and then you're going to just tap the object four times. It's an aggressive sample where you're hitting an object, mold spores are put into the air, they hit the agar and that's what's going to grow, right?
It's fabulous, because just like you said, that pillow, how else would you identify that as a source? You certainly, you do it for $3. Let me give you some others that are real big for us, right? Animal mounts. People, the hunters that have the deer on their walls, take a tap test of one of those and see what's growing in that fur. You mentioned pets, right? Those who are super, super sensitive, they can be set off by the mold that's in their pets. Whether that comes from growing in the pets fur, or from them rolling around in the compost in the back. None of us will ever get rid of our pets. We love our pets, right?
You got to find ways to deal with that, to figure out a washing schedule in which you keep the mold to a minimum. You can tap test your dog, for instance, wash your dog and then tap test once every couple of days thereafter and figure out how long it is before your dog gets moldy again. Then you just set your washing schedule based on the tap tests. Carpet's another big one. Carpet can be very, very nasty. Tap test the carpet and see if there's much growing in it. Stuffed animals, clothing, yeah, you had mentioned that, that's another really great one. But just furniture.
I mean, very few people, when they get a new house, they get all new furniture. The furniture usually is transferred from one house to the next. Quite often, you can bring to test those things. Mattresses, that's another good one, to see if your mattress is potentially moldy.
[0:44:52] SCOTT: It's my understanding that some of the indoor molds can come from indoor plants. Is there an application of tap testing when we're thinking about plants that might also have some fungal growth on the soil itself?
[0:45:05] JW: Yeah, it could be. I mean, you can always just sprinkle something on a mold plate and see what grows. I mean, soil by itself is inherently moldy. If you're going to have indoor plants, which aren't necessarily recommended for those who are sensitive, you want to have something, like big river rocks on top of the soil to minimize the mold getting up into the air. You can certainly just sprinkle a little soil onto a plate and see what grows. We do the same thing with spices. A lot of times, the spices that people use for cooking are very moldy. Sprinkle a little spice on a mold plate and see if anything grows. That's a good way to weed out some of your spices that could be affecting your health.
[0:45:37] SCOTT: Awesome. Yeah. These are some incredible tips. A colleague that I was talking with recently was sharing that he's been finding that elevated mold is very common in brand-new mattresses, maybe from how they're stored, or shipping, or something along those lines. What are your thoughts on mattresses and how commonly we might see some fungal overgrowth?
[0:45:59] JW: Happens all the time. I think you're correct in that it's the materials that are used in the making of the mattresses, as well as where they're stored, where they're manufactured, where they're stored, and how they're transported. We've done a lot of tap tests on mattresses that have been very, very moldy. There are some types that seem to be better, like some of the more solid mattresses, like the rubber foam mattresses, or foam in general, they don't seem to often be as bad as the ones that are pillow top, or are a traditional field mattress. That's just a rule of thumb. It's not absolute. That's why we recommend that people put any mattress inside one of those hospital grade covers, because you're preventing the mattress from getting contaminated, but you're all also preventing anything that came from the factory from getting on you. HEPA vacuuming it and then putting in one of those nice covers really works pretty well. Yeah, we see that quite often.
[0:46:47] SCOTT: One of the tips that I learned from Larry Schwartz in an earlier podcast was using a mattress HEPA vacuum that also has ultraviolet light in it as well. That's something that I incorporate into my cleaning routine.
One of the things that I don't know that people realize that you offer is the swab testing. I don't know that I realized that until relatively recently either. When might it be more appropriate to think about sampling a surface with a swab, as compared to the gravity plates? How do we make that distinction?
[0:47:17] JW: Sure. What we're trying to do is give a good complete picture as we possibly can of the environment, right? If you have an area in which there appears to be some water standing, or maybe that's some mold growth, best way to do it is to swab it and see what we're dealing with. What that does is when it confirms that that's a potential source of mold, also gives you the type of mold, so you know if you get it in the air, then that's what the source was for what's actually in the breathable air.
It's also great for dust. I mean, you could swab a register, like on a return vent and see what's in there. If there's a high percentage of mold in there, well, that's a bad indication. If there's any Stachybotrys, Chaetomium, or even Alternaria, that's a bad situation. The swabs are very, very good to give us another view of the home environment.
[0:48:00] SCOTT: Is there any potential value in doing plate testing and then based on those results, coming back and later swabbing the areas where there were high colonies on the plates? Or should we think of these two options as really independent techniques?
[0:48:16] JW: I wouldn't consider it independent, because, again, our goal is to find anything that's affecting the mold hygiene in the house. If you choose to do that with multiple rounds of sampling to minimize cost, so be it. If you just wanted to use just swabs to identify a source that you think is a problem and maybe some dust, okay, that's one way to do it, but the swabs won't give you any indication of actual exposure, right? Because the primary route of exposure is meat inhalation. That's more of an air type thing. Yeah. I mean, it depends on the person. It depends on their level of experience and education, or if they're guided by an IEP, the IEP may ask for specific sampling in a specific order.
[0:48:55] SCOTT: Talk to us a little bit about how we interpret the results of the swab testing. What are the reported metrics “surface area observed to have mold”, “fungal spores versus mycelial fragments” and then “organism by percentage”? What do those tell us about a specific swab sample?
[0:49:12] JW: Yeah, that's a good question. Quite honestly, we probably give more information than the average person really needs, right? The percent of the surface area that showed to have mold, that's just an indication of how much of the swab is covered in mold. That's a direct reflection of how the area was sampled. Now a skilled IEP, if they’re using the swab and they rubbed that swab all over that area and only 1% or 2% of the area is actually covered with mold, that gives them an indication of how big that that spot of mold growth is. For the average person, I don't know if that's tremendously useful.
The split between fungal, spores and then the mycelial fragments, that just gives you an indication of what it is you're looking at, right? Are you looking at the actual source, where the mycelia are growing and the spores are coming off of it, that entire structure, or are you looking to just settled dust that only has spores in it? It gives you an indication of what it is you're looking at. The most important is the amount of the mold present and the types of mold present. Again, if you see Stachybotrys, Chaetomium, Alternaria, those shouldn't be there. Those are the ones that – they're the atom bombs of the mold world, right? They produce the biggest symptoms in the surge world, biotoxin illness world. We want to make sure there's none of that there.
[0:50:25] SCOTT: I'm a strong believer that when there is mold, we need to identify the source, remove it. Then there may be potential opportunities to mist, or fog, do small particle cleaning and things of that nature. From your perspective, how important is source removal? Then in those cases where someone might live in an environment that they don't own, can't remediate, but maybe have to stay in that environment, are there some things that we can do to improve the health of that environment, even if we can't go to the source removal aspect of it?
[0:50:57] JW: Absolutely. Yeah. Source removal would be the absolute number one thing, except for stopping the moisture, right? Nothing's above stopping the moisture so that you don't have anything else grow. But after that, source removal is by far the most important. The example I usually use to solidify this in people's mind is if I put a cup of gasoline in the middle of your living room, it doesn't matter how many doors and windows you open, or how many air filters you have, you're still going to smell gasoline. If you get the gasoline out, then the source is gone, the smell will start to decrease. There's nothing that surpasses source removal as a technique for treating mold or addressing a mold issue.
After that, though, if you're looking at polishing techniques, as we call them, polishing techniques include your small particle cleanup. They include your ERVs, where you're diluting out some of the molds, or toxins. That's the energy recovery ventilator, if people aren't familiar with that. It's just an air exchange system. It includes your filtration. If you're using a HEPA filter, or charcoal filter, zeolite filter, something like that, it includes the fogging techniques. We do like the fogging a lot, because it touches areas that aren't otherwise touched. If you fill an environment with fogging, it's going to touch every little nook and cranny that maybe you touched, maybe you didn't touch.
Then hopefully, your fog is going to do some type of conglomeration of particles that then they fall out and are easily cleaned through – we call it small particle cleanup, but I just call it cleanup, right? Just get rid of the dust, clean up the carcasses, as I like to say, so that you're not breathing them later.
[0:52:25] SCOTT: If someone is in an environment where they can't identify the source, or maybe they suspect what the source is, but they're landlords just not going to address it, there's some time before they can move out of that environment, are any of these polishing techniques going to be appropriate, or adequate enough as a temporary option, until they can either move or do something more extensive?
[0:52:50] JW: Practically, yes. This is where we get into a lot of heated debates where people say, “No, you just have to leave.” A lot of times, people can't just leave. Just view mold like if you were to breathe a poison. You want to reduce it. Whatever you do to reduce it is a benefit. If that's filtration, if that's just cleaning. If you shampooed your carpets and reduce the amount of mold that you're potentially going to breathe, if you change out your air filter with a MERV 11, or 13 filter, something that's rated for allergens, that's going to help reduce the molds you breathe. Anything that you do to reduce that mold load is a benefit. You got to think it that way. An improvement’s an improvement, right?
None of us live in clean rooms. All of us have mold exposures at some point. We're trying to minimize those exposures and deal with them as efficiently, cost effectively and efficiently as possible.
[0:53:39] SCOTT: Yeah. I mean, I definitely think there's a place for fogging and misting. I think, that the potential pitfall is that people then use those techniques as a way to avoid the source removal and think that it's a get-out-of-jail free cards, so to speak. Unfortunately, that's not commonly the case.
I want to talk a little bit more, because I know you've had a lot of background in the development of some of the products that many of us will know, like CitriSafe and Haven and EC3. Is the goal of those products to bind to, or to coagulate with particles that are in the air, so that they drop to the surfaces, so we can then clean them, microfiber wiping, those types of things? Or is the goal of these products also to be anti-fungal with the idea that we're actually killing something by using them? Then when do you think these tools are appropriate? Does the process need to be repeated on some regular basis? Give us your thoughts on fogging and misting.
[0:54:37] JW: Sure. Well, initially they were developed for the purpose of killing, very much in the fungicide world. Walter Hayhurst developed these and he was a compound, he still is a compounding pharmacist for 50 years. He was trying to find something that could effectively save his life, because he's being mold exposed, without setting off chemical sensitivities. It's a very fine line. He calls it “secundum artem”. That's Latin for the art of mixing.
What you want to do is you want to make a very effective solution that takes care of the problem without killing you essentially, right? That was his initial focus. The fogging products do have a conglomeration to them, which pulls them out of the air. Primarily, he was trying to just eliminate the source of the problem, which is the live spore itself. In this realm, I like to use the John Wick example. I don't know. This probably won't resonate with everybody. If you think of the movie John Wick, right? The threats coming in the house, what did John Wick do to the threat? He killed the threat. Did he leave the bodies there? No. The bodies get removed, too. It's the same thing in the mold world. It's like, people don't understand, dead mold is not colonized. Dead mold does not infect. Dead mold does not produce additional MVOCs. Dead mold does not produce additional mycotoxins.
Dead mold is not as dangerous as a live mold, okay. It's like, for some reason, that's missing in the logic of things. Along with that, though, by killing the mold, you haven't eliminated the entire problem, you want to get rid of the carcasses, too. Clean them up. That's where that small particle cleanup comes in. That's where filtration comes in. All those techniques to get rid of any of those little remnants of the mold. They're very, very helpful and very, very important.
[0:56:13] SCOTT: One of the hesitations that I've heard some people discuss relative to anti-fungal type fogging, or misting is the possibility then that you're threatening these organisms. They're producing more mycotoxins. Now, the environment is worse. I mean, it doesn't resonate with me personally. I mean, I think we need to get rid of these things. Then with the cleaning, is that also going to help address any potential mycotoxins that were released? Or is that process happening so fast that it's not super likely that we're seeing a significant increase in mycotoxin production in that fogging, or misting process?
[0:56:49] SCOTT: You've got it. We've tested before, primarily with gravity plates, with spore traps, and so on. We've done some fogging and then tested 24 hours later, and there's no growth of the mold. It's being essentially treated so fast that it's not like it has time to react and start producing all these additional toxins. That just doesn't really happen.
We haven't seen any indication of that. There's not being a researcher, or anything of that nature. It's just some of these things, they just, somebody comes up with this idea that seems plausible and it just gets parroted so many times. I haven't seen the evidence for that in the 20 years that I've been doing this.
[0:57:24] SCOTT: I think, most of us know that carpets are not ideal for people that have mold allergy, have biotoxin illness, have CIRS. Unfortunately, many of us, myself included, do have some carpets. What do you recommend in terms of carpet maintenance and maybe using some of these products? I've always been a little hesitant to be adding moisture into the carpets. I've always been hesitant to go rent one of those carpet machines that I have no idea how many other people's houses it's been in and whether that's going to itself be a source of potential mold that I'm then bringing into my environment. Give us some of your thoughts on carpet maintenance.
[0:58:02] JW: Yeah, all of that is true. All of us that have ever been in an apartment have had to rent a carpet shampooer and you've opened it and smelled that nasty musty smell. Carpet shampooers are nasty. I basically own one for that reason. I got a BISSELL. That was $300, so I wouldn't ever have to borrow anybody else's, or renting anybody else's. They're nasty. At the same time, though, you got to get the junk out of the carpet. I mean, it's like a sponge for mold. Then you walk on it, and it just resuspends it.
Personally, what do we do? Yeah, we use the BioBalance Haven Clean product, because it's the same natural botanicals we're talking about. We put that in a carpet shampooer and it treats the mold in there, plus it gets it up out of the carpet. That's our favorite way to do it. Any technique in which you're removing that nasty dirt, everybody here use these carpet cleaners. Picture that water before you dump it in your toilet, okay. A large percentage of that is mold. If you're reducing that dirt, debris, dust, you're reducing mold. That's one of my catch phrases, right? Reduce dust to reduce mold. You got to get it out of there.
Now, to your point, the carpet needs to be dry within 24 hours. You've got to take and move your furniture around, if you got furniture in there. You've got to use fans. You got to make sure that you didn't soak your carpet padding. I mean, there's some dangers there. Hopefully, if people do it smartly with some of these tips, it'll be fine. Yeah, certainly, don't let your carpet sit wet.
[0:59:23] SCOTT: Continuing on the misting and fogging conversation, what are the different types? What I'm referring to here is dry fogging versus thermal fogging. When might one be more appropriate than another?
[0:59:35] JW: In my experience, and I financially benefit from BioBalance and CitriSafe, so I have ties to these companies. I don't want anybody to think I'm speaking completely independently. The dry fogging, as a lot of people term it, it doesn't have water, right? It's just a more of a glycol-based fogging solution. It's not adding moisture to the environment. It's a thermal fog, and so it penetrates better. It fills the room so full that it overfills it. We're talking like, 28,000 CFM comes out of these machines and fills, overfills the room to really try and push it into wall space and ceiling space. It's a much more aggressive and effective treatment solution, but also much more expensive.
When you look at the other foggings, as they call them, which I call mistings, which are the wet solutions that are sprayed like the EC3, those will treat anything that they touch in the environment, but they're not going to penetrate wall space, or ceiling space, or anything like that. They're good for treating areas, but then you're going to have to probably repeat it more often, because as the pressure changes in that interstitial wall space from wind effects, or whatever it may be, heating and cooling, some of that that's in there can be driven back into the breathable air. Then you're looking at more often, retreatments to get the levels down.
[1:00:50] SCOTT: Is that retreatment really only necessary if the source of the original – if the original mold source itself hasn't been addressed? Because if we've addressed the source and then we're coming in and fogging, or misting, should we expect to continue to see things that we need to constantly repeat? Or is that only going to happen when there is still some kind of a source that we weren't able to fully remove?
[1:01:13] JW: It only happens when there's a source, but let me throw in some caveats, okay. I've got six kids and three dogs. My sources never leave. On some level, I always have to maintain my home. I don't have to maintain it as aggressively if it were water damage materials, but I still have yeast bacteria build up in the home just from having so many people and pets in that environment. There are situations in which I may periodically miss my home just to get those levels back down. If we're talking just from a water damaged building that has been remediated, you shouldn't have to retreat that once the source is gone.
[1:01:51] SCOTT: We talked a little bit earlier about cars and the person that did some plate testing and then retested. Talked to us about some of the potential options for improving the health of our cars. It seems to be a fairly common issue that people maybe are reactive to their cars. Is it primarily changing the filter itself that's part of the HVAC system of the car? Is it a scenario where we could use some misting, or fogging? What are some of the things you would do to improve the health of our vehicles?
[1:02:25] JW: Sure. We've done a lot of this over the years. Cars are covered in fabric, whether it's the carpeting in the bottom, or it's the seats themselves, if they're not leather. The shampooing of those carpets is useful with an upholstery attachment on a carpet shampooer, that does help. Again, as long as you get it dry quickly. The changing the cabin filter is very important. There are a lot of, well, I shouldn't say a lot, there were several vehicle models in which the cabin filter was at the bottom of the AC system. The air conditioning system would condense water on the filter and mold would grow on that filter.
Certainly, if that's the case, there's not a whole – you can maintain a little bit if that's a problem that you're never going to get rid of completely. Well, how do you know? You just test with the gravity plates and see if the mold comes back. The way we've traditionally treated cars is either to fog them with the hot fog, or if people just have the EC3, or the CitriSafe spray, we'll turn the air conditioning on, drawing from the outside, so the recycle is not on, or the max isn't on, and spray at the base of the windshield, and then lightly mist all the carpeting and inside of the car. That'll treat it.
With any of these solutions, you have to remember, they're walking that line between what's effective and what's not going to harm somebody. You have to treat it, but then you have to make sure it dries quickly, because if it doesn't dry quickly, mold will eventually grow. You've got to treat it and dry it if you're going to go that route.
[1:03:50] SCOTT: You've seen lots of before and after tests, both in terms of plates and swabs. I wonder what some of the needle movers are. We know we need to get rid of the source, get rid of the water intrusion, or water-intruded materials, but what are some of the things that you've seen really make a difference? Do air filters make a big difference? Does a MERV16 whole house filter type, does that make a difference? What are some of the top tools that you've seen that are really making an environment healthier, that are then confirmed by before and after testing with your plates, or swabs?
[1:04:22] JW: Sure. Okay, so again, if source removal is off the table, dilution is the solution of pollution. I'm a big fan of ERVs, HRVs, so they dilute out the indoor air. We see a lot of improvement from that. Maybe ahead of that, though, is just cleaning. You'd be surprised at how getting rid of dust lowers the mold level so much. We're talking wet wiping of any hard surfaces, walls, floors, and then HEPA vacuuming anything that's fabric. Those things would make a big, big difference. Changing filters does have an effect on the HVAC system, especially if the HVAC system is running quite a bit, because it will filter out the air.
Stand-alone air filters, they work well in the area which they're designed. The thing to consider there is that for them to work there, it has to get to the filter to be filtered, and so there's a potential for exposure until that actually occurs. Then the filter, it has a relatively small fan that's blowing in a relatively small area. It's not like it treats necessarily the whole house real, real well. It does for ultra fine particles, but for the – like PM 2.5 or 10, it's okay. The way you can tell is, right, you still have dust build up in a house with the HEPA filter. It's not removing everything, but it's removing a lot, so it does help.
We've seen big advantages to the fogging. I'm a big fan of fogging. A lot of guys that I really highly respect, they don't like the fogging, and so I listed as a tool, and I'm not going to twist anybody's arm to use it. I do it in my house. I think it's great. That moves the needle quite a bit. I'd say, those are probably my top techniques. I don't think I forgot anything. I think that's the majority.
[1:05:55] SCOTT: You mentioned wet wiping surfaces and even potentially walls. Are you doing that with water? Are you doing a John Banta type water with some dish soap in it? Or are you using one of these CitriSafe, or Haven, or EC3 type products in that wet wiping process?
[1:06:12] JW: No, most commonly for me, it's just a few drops of your favorite dish soap. I say, Dawn, but whatever your favorite dish soap is in some warm water with some microfiber cloths. I mean, that's so effective. For walls, where I can't reach that high or it's just a pain, I just use Swiffer cloths. I just go over them real quick. That's what I do. You just have to be practical about it. Just think about, if there's dust on there, how am I going to get the dust up? Some people say, well, you've got to wipe three times with new water and new microfiber cloths and this and that. I understand where they're coming from. If you can get rid of 90% of the dust with the single cleaning, that's probably going to be enough to effectively affect your health, positively affect it.
[1:06:51] SCOTT: When you're doing the Swiffer on the walls, is there any advantage to doing ceilings as well, or is it just not likely that that much is actually accumulating there because of gravity?
[1:07:01] JW: You got it. Yeah, your horizontal surfaces are going to be the biggest reservoir, and then just through natural electrostatic attraction, you're going to have stuff that is on the wall, especially walls that are textured. Ceilings, not as much. I mean, you can just think if you look at your ceiling, you don't typically see dust on it. That's why it's upside down.
[1:07:19] SCOTT: With your testing, you offer consultations as well to help patients understand the results. What are some of the things that you might commonly share with patients during these consultations?
[1:07:29] JW: Well, quite honestly, this is going to be the most basic stuff, right? It's, do you have a bad odor? Do you feel worse in a certain area? Do you feel better when you go on vacation? Do you have any sources of water, such as flooding, pipe leaks, overflowing toilets, maybe some sinks that show some discoloration, or some waviness of the cabinetry that show some water damage? We just go through some of those real obvious things. It's like, okay, now, do you have a filter in your HVAC? When was the last time you changed the filter in your HVAC? Just real basic things that a lot of people never consider, because a lot of this is just education. You got to educate people on how to protect themselves, identify problems, and usually maintain it, but effectively change it, so that they don't get sick.
[1:08:15] SCOTT: My last question is the same for every guest. What are some of the key things that you do on a daily basis in support of your own health?
[1:08:22] JW: Yeah, well the number one is avoidance. I'm not a mold avoider, like those people that move out into the middle of the desert and live in a tent. I value my quality of life too much. When I walk into a new restaurant, I look up at the HVAC and I see if it's real dusty and nasty. If I walk into one of the bathrooms and it smells bad, well, I'm going to take a deep breath and try and hold my breath if I have to use it, or else, I'm going to go somewhere else. There's just practical things that you've learned to do, because everybody's going to be exposed at some time, but you're really trying to minimize it.
You walk in a room, you see nail pop on the walls where the walls got real humid and pushed the nails out a little bit and then came back in. That's indication of water. You see staining, okay, I'm going to avoid that place. One for me is if I walk into a real moldy place, if it feels like a cave and it's closing in on me, well, then that's a sign, that's how my body interprets mold exposure, so I'll leave that place. Stachybotrys for me, it feels like I'm breathing chlorine gas. If you ever had that feeling in your sinuses, that's what Stachybotrys feels like to me, because I've been sensitized. I just avoid those things.
On top of that, man, I'm a big fan of the sauna detoxification process, where you sit nice in the sauna. I love that process. Daily, I'm looking at just supplements. I really like, CitriSafe makes an acetyl glutathione sublingual. Well, that's going to be for sale soon. I've had that for six months. It's excellent. I'm a big fan of beetroot powder, because all mold exposed people, they're real low on glutathione and nitric oxide. You can get a bag of beetroot powder at Walmart for 15 bucks, and it does really well for those of us that are sensitive to mold. Then of course, I'm magnesium deficient, so I take a lot of magnesium. That's it. That's what I do.
[1:10:01] SCOTT: Well, some good things. Yeah, this has been such a great conversation. I think, the work that you're doing with ImmunoLytics is great, providing a lot of tools and the services that you provide as well. I think it's so important. The cost factor also, the fact that people can get this visual assessment from the plates for $3 is just amazing. I appreciate all that you do. I know you're really connected in this community and trying to come up with new tools and new solutions that are going to make our lives better. Just want to thank you so much, JW, for everything that you do.
[1:10:31] JW: Hey, thanks, Scott. I appreciate you, too. It's been a great conversation.
[END OF EPISODE]
[1:10:34] SCOTT: To learn more about today's guest, visit ImmunoLytics.com. That's ImmunoLytics.com. ImmunoLytics.com.
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