Toxic Mold Discovered After House Purchase: Extreme Illness
(New Milford, CT)
April 22, 2004 I walked into the house with the realtor. After taking just a few steps over the threshold I said to her 'what's that smell?', and as she kept walking ahead of me, she replied 'oh, that's the old house smell'. I didn't think anything more about it. I was moving from California to Connecticut. I didn't know what mold smelled like. I was enchanted with the house built in 1730 (although it was sold to me as being built in 1900), and so July 2, 2004, I moved in. That was Weichert Realty. I can see now, why the realtor did not show up to the closing and did not give me a walk-through before the final purchase.
My house in California sold in just over a week, and, with my house being my primary investment, I took the funds and turned it over to the 'new house' in Connecticut. Within just a few weeks the symptoms began, but I did not know what it was, I thought it was just 'me'. My mind was racing. I couldn't sleep at night. My sinuses going crazy. I couldn't stay focused on anything for very long.
As an opera singer, after two years of living in this toxic mold house, my voice had tanked, I was having to cancel performances, my voice doctor in New York City didn't know what was going on and neither did my voice teacher (world-renowned voice teacher).
In 2007, I lost my two pet bunnies, one to a heart attack and the other to something that even the vets couldn't figure out. In 2008, I lost two of my cats, and one of my cats ended up having (to this day) a severely compromised immune system and she is on steroids.
By 2009, I was well into the throes of depression, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, weakness, headaches, dizziness, feeling like there was a black hole in my chest, serious lack of focus, lack of energy, angry for no reason, crying at the drop of a hat, lack of drive, increased sinus issues, occasional blurred vision, major digestion problems, my skin was grey and pale with poor skin tone, and by the time 2011 came around, I was having rashes all over my body, heat waves coming up from the base of my back, literally gasping for air, waking up in the middle of the night with my throat collapsing and couldn't breathe, irregular heart beat, chest pain, increased digestive disorders, heaviness in the legs, and I was getting sick all of the time. almost ending up in the emergency room several times.
It wasn't until the end of August 2011, when there was a huge thunder storm with buckets of water coming down, that I checked the walk-in basement for possible flooding. To my horror, not only was there a flood, the stone walls were seeping water, and the sheet rock the previous owner had installed against the other stone walls were black top to bottom. That's where my forced air furnace was located. I contacted State Farm insurance and they wouldn't help me with the basement, however they said I should get the house mold tested. On September 7, 2011, my house (only two rooms and not the basement) were tested for mold. The report yielded really bad news - over a million (yes a million - the legal limit is 500) spore count with 75% or more of it being stachybotrys and aspergillum penicillum, the two molds I later learned that can kill you. State Farm would only cover a portion of the damage (from a roof leak no one could find after the earlier 2011 snow storms), and so I ended up getting the house 'remediated', I put this in quotes because it was only partially helpful and the mold returned with a vengeance 2.5 years later in all of the places they 'remediated'. Floors swelled and buckled and mold abounded. Unfortunately, I learned that Connecticut has a 2 year statute of limitations, so I couldn't go after anyone - not the realtor, not the previous home owner, not the realty company, not the building inspector. I met with several lawyers and none of them would touch the case.
In early January 2012, I finally got to a doctor in CT who specializes in mold allergies. He has been on Fox, NBC, CNN, ABC, and other media formats talking about the health problems and risks that stem from mold exposure. When I first saw him, after giving the nurse the list of symptoms, he said to me 'I cannot believe you are sitting in my office, you should be in the hospital; you have the strongest immune system of anyone I have ever met'. My blood was tested for mold, and I had a chest xray (as both of the 'killer' molds can form balls in the lungs). And thus the treatment began: 3 antibiotics and 1 steroid a day for three, yes 3 years. In that time, I tried to find a rental that did not have mold. They all had mold. I moved to a house finally, but discovered mold in the closets, garage, bathroom and outside that I had not initially seen when I looked at it, and the first day of living there I was having severe allergic reactions. I was able to move out within a few months.
I moved back to my house that had supposedly been 'remediated'. No it was not. Every time the furnace kicked on, I was gasping for air (literally), and experiencing heat rashes up and down my back, and the skin rashes started up again. Lethargy, weakness, illness, continued, and my voice was suffering terribly. The whole thing all over again. When I would go into other places (churches, stores, restaurants) that had any kind of mold in them, my symptoms would flair up in a big way. I had to stop being a church music director at one church in CT simply because they were not dealing with their toxic mold situation in the dirt basement and in other areas of the building (including the air ducts).
So now, I am living in my studio above the garage. The garage has had to be remediated. I have found it difficult to find anyone to do the work, so it has been slow going. I am now at the point of having shockwave (an antifungal) applied to the walls, ceiling and cement floor. All of the insulation and sheet rock has been removed. However, because of my highly reduced health and compromised immune system, my body is still suffering from what mold is still floating around in the garage, and I literally have to have the air conditioner and the ceiling fan on at all times just to be able to breathe. When it is damp and rainy outside, I find it difficult to breathe both outside and inside and my only solution is to get myself to locations that have air conditioning (including my car).
My singing career has been thwarted for over ten years, and you readers may be saying to yourselves, well, why did it take her so long? And I can reply simply by telling you that when the body/mind is so seriously compromised by longterm mold exposure, the energy level is so depleted, the cognitive processing is so not-functioning, that it is not possible to see clearly, to understand what is going on. It is like being in a continual fog.
When I have spoken to people here in CT about mold in buildings and public buildings, they either ignore me, think I am making it up, or sadly agree and just nod saying, yeah, that's Connecticut. The mold situation here is really bad. Danbury is the home of the national leaf mold center. Another musician told me his story of his mother's house full of mold. He finally moved out and is now permanently on an oxygen machine at night while he sleeps. His mother doesn't notice the mold - something I have found again and again, that people who are living and/or working in it, don't smell it. But now I can smell the mold on people's clothes, coats, and sweaters. Even my bank manager and the bank tellers told me they can smell mold on the clothing of the people who come in to do their banking. This is so sad. One of my choir members (I am directing at a different church now), told me that her grand daughter literally sticks her head in the freezer so she can breathe. Shocking that her parents are not taking it seriously. Women, children, babies and the elderly are most at risk for longterm consequences.
So what is the solution? Sure, remove the mold (if you can find a company who will actually do a job that is completely thorough - and they do not guarantee their work, I asked), use dehumidifiers, air purifiers, etc., and think seriously about making the move to a part of the world that does not have humidity above 60%.
So when I drove to Utah in June 2015 to give a concert with my harp, I was amazed at how much more easily I could breathe. I was energetic, happy, my skin cleared up, I had a sense of focus, remembered who I was as a person, artist, musician, made plans for my year, and really felt awesomely great! By the time I reached Illinois on the drive back, all of my symptoms began again with the outside humidity. By the time I was back at my 'home', my health was right back where it was before I left.
I am making plans to move to a dryer climate.