Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lifetime Made For TV Nightmare Continued: Living In A Tent Thanks To Toxic Mold


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------------NEWS FLASH---------
REPORT COMPLETE: October 12, 2009
Peter Helfrich
35 Clinton St., Apt #10
Plattsburgh, NY 12901

Dear Peter,

This is a final report from MouldWorks for the single bulk sample we received October 5th, 2009, taken from your home at 35 Clinton St., Apt. #10, Plattsburgh, NY. Here are your results.

1118-1 tape (Bathroom - Behind Shower)

Penicillium sp./Aspergillus sp.
Stachybotrys sp.


Aspergillus sydowii
Aspergillus versicolor
Oedocephalum glomerulosum
Stachybotrys sp.
Trichoderma harzianum
Dry-spored Acremonium sp.

General Comments

Our analysis of the above set of samples found abundant evidence of a mold infestation in the bathroom sampled in this home. The sample contained viable spores, vegetative cells and/or reproductive structures from a variety of fungal species, including many molds which require moderately high to extremely high levels of available moisture before they can colonize an indoor site. The presence of these microorganisms can be directly attributed to elevated levels of available moisture locally. Specifically, Stachybotrys requires a water activity of at least 0.94 before it can germinate and colonize indoor sites. Water activity is a measure of the proportion of moisture available to organisms growing on a semi-solid substrate. Finding molds indoors that require such high levels of moisture is a strong indication that this site has experienced flooding, leaks or other water intrusion events. I gather from the chain of custody form that the shower stall had been leaking for some time and this is almost certainly the source of the moisture that supports these colonies. Without first addressing the moisture problems behind the mold growth, molds will undoubtedly continue to plague this site.

Due to the presence of several toxigenic mold species, I'd strongly recommend having a professional come in and clean up the infestation properly to avoid stirring up spores and risking further personal exposure. A professional mold remediator will have the equipment and expertise needed to remove the colony safely, under containment, ensuring that any spores released during the work are removed from the building. It is important that any remediation job is guaranteed with third-party air sampling for mold spores following completion. Without this step, you have no way of knowing whether the project succeeds in improving the indoor air quality

Health Effects

Some of the molds found in this sample have the potential to adversely affect your health. In the paragraphs below, I'll detail some of the risks thought to be associated with exposure to each of the concerning molds that were identified. Let's start by looking at the most concerning mold found in this sample, Stachybotrys.

The whole issue of stachybotryosis and trichothecene mycotoxins is reviewed in a recent book by Nicholas Money (Carpet Monsters and Killer Spores, Oxford University Press). He concludes that Stachybotrys should be taken very seriously indeed. Here is what the findings of the last 5 years suggest:

Stachybotrys toxins include a very potent trichothecene, Satratoxin G, which may seriously damage lungs and internal organs. It is probably the agent responsible for the burning sensation when active strains are inhaled (not advised). In a study published just a little over a year ago, researchers at Michigan State University established a link between Satratoxin G and the death of nerve cells in the part of the brain responsible for the sense of smell in mice. Researchers allowed mice to sniff a single dose of Satratoxin G equivalent to that which a person without respiratory protection would be exposed to in a room contaminated with Stachybotrys chartarum. They then tracked the damage to the neurons lining the nasal passages of the mice at time intervals after exposure. Every mouse exposed to Satratoxin G developed a significant loss of these nerve cells through a process known as apoptosis within a day of exposure. In apoptosis, a type of programmed cell death, cells essentially commit suicide, in this case in response to exposure to Satratoxin G. Additionally, each exposed mouse developed inflammation of the nasal lining and the olfactory bulb, the part of the brain that relays sensory information from the nose to other parts of the brain. Significantly, this inflammation and loss of nerve cells were also triggered by exposing the mice to smaller doses over five consecutive days indicating a cumulative effect.

Although it isn't yet known how Satratoxin G affects human noses, it is known that the nerve cells damaged in the mouse study are similar in both species. Studies in the past have focused on the role very small mold spores or pieces of spores might play in irritating the lungs. However, this study conclusively shows that the nasal passages may be damaged as well. The nose acts as a "scrubber" removing significant amounts of both very large (>5 microns) and very small (nanoparticle-sized) constituents of aerosols. More work needs to be carried out on the effect these particles have once deposited.

In addition there are several other categories of nasty substances made by the fungus, including several which are immune system depressants and may account for vulnerability of people who are chronically exposed to the toxin to respiratory illness - colds, etc. The fungus also makes stachylysin, which causes leakage of blood from the small capillaries and breakdown of the red blood cells.

There are two species of Stachybotrys commonly recovered from interior habitats, S. chartarum and S. chlorohalonata (formally described just a few years ago). These two species can be distinguished on a special culture medium, and I did this routinely in the past. However, after discovering several instances in which both species were present in the same sample, I thought it prudent to consider any Stachybotrys infestation as potentially hazardous. Only about half of S. chartarum strains make trichothecenes, but they may make the other kinds of toxins mentioned above. S. chlorohalonata does not make trichothecenes, but it does make other mycotoxins known to be mutagenic.

It has been claimed that the spores of Stachybotrys are too large to get far into the respiratory passages. However, it is now known that the trichothecenes in Stachybotrys chartarum are localized in the spores and that tiny fragments of the spores (sub-micron sized) can become airborne. These observations suggest in turn that aerosols containing mycotoxins can be generated in environments where Stachybotrys infestations occur even if no spores are seen in air samples. Indeed, pure mycotoxins have been filtered from the air in buildings where Stachybotrys infestations are severe. Given this information, it would be prudent to regard any Stachybotrys infestation as a potential danger and treat the site with respect.

The two Aspergillus species observed in the cultures prepared from your sample are also of some concern. These molds can produce huge numbers of dry spores which are easily lofted into the air and are slow to settle. Spores from any species of Aspergillus should therefore be presumed allergenic. In addition, each of the species identified in this sample may present additional health risks worth discussing:

Aspergillus versicolor produces the mycotoxin sterigmatocystin. This compound is a chemical cousin to aflatoxin, one of the most mutagenic substances known. Fortunately, sterigmatocystin is much less mutagenic than aflatoxin, but sources I consult advise caution when dealing with this mold. Beyond this, it is now known that A. versicolor also produces aerosols of sub-micron particulates that could easily penetrate deep into the respiratory tract; these tiny particles can be mycotoxin-laden, creating a dangerous situation. Very recent work has shown that mycotoxin production in these fungi occurs only at relative humidities in excess of 90% when growing on wallboard and other building materials. The author (Kristian Nielson) concludes that sites which have experienced alternate cycles of wetting and drying are at most risk for mycotoxin contamination. Sites such as this, in which Aspergillus versicolor is mixed in with Trichoderma, Actinomycetes or other wet wall microorganisms, are at maximum risk for contamination by sterigmatocystin. Having said all of that, I must mention that sterigmatocystin does not become really mutagenic until it has been acted on by enzymes in the liver, and it is an open question whether inhaled mycotoxins ever get to the liver.

Aspergillus sydowii is a frequent agent of invasive aspergillosis. The fungus is able to enter the body through the epithelial cells of the lung and disseminate through the blood resulting in acute pneumonia. Although this sounds quite frightening, this condition requires the patient to have a previously existing severe loss of immunocompetence for the fungus to gain hold. Cases in otherwise healthy patients haven't been reported.

Lastly, the Actinomycetes found in this sample are not molds at all, but filamentous bacteria. They produce huge numbers of really minute dry spores which are probably allergenic, since their small size would allow them to penetrate respiratory passages efficiently. Actinomycetes typically grow in wet sites and are part of the wet wall syndrome. These bacteria are typically ignored in mold reports - but they should not be. Workers in Finland have reported that some Actinomycete spores, unlike most toxic mold spores, may actually trigger inflammatory responses in the lungs.

All samples have been processed and analyzed using MouldWorks SOP 1, SOP 2 and SOP 7.

All samples were inspected prior to processing to ascertain their condition. Unless expressly stated in the report, all samples were in adequate condition for analysis.

Matt Visser
Mycologist and Lab Manager

MouldWorks, LLC
3190 Lakeview Drive
Beulah, MI 49617


Letters From A Porcupine
Thursday, October 22, 2009 12:09 AM
"Peter Helfrich"
Add sender to Contacts


 (Carl) My interpetation is they wanted to help. But $50 for species is ridiculous. $50 for genus identification may be reasonable for one sample. Accurate and meaningful species identification can take several iterations of the original sample to separate species by varying temperature, humidity and growth media.

(PJH) So why did they flip flop 5 times? It was un-professional.... Say yes; say no; & don't be a prick & hang up on me if I say send the samples back to me because I can get better service somewhere else...Bottom line is they are not a home owner friendly lab.. Not a big deal.I was looking for home owner friendly labs because the people that ask me for help need such labs..Why did Mold Works do both for $50??? I would say; explanations aside, they did a great job of testing what was in the shower. I did not need the hoopla with it; but the science was there; the cost was decent, etc.
Bacteria is another whole set of analysis and can only give you gram-positive, gram-negative and shape. Specific exceptions include e-coli, total coliforms, some actinomycetes...

 (Carl) Again, if you would lighten up and find out who can help you and how they can help instead of demanding actions which cannot be done and stop with the rapid accusations you'd get further ahead.

 (Pete) Like I said, I was respectful to the owner till he ended the conversation by hanging up on me. I never demanded anything.

Yes, I know how some abuse us. But they don't if I go in with a cooperative attitude armed with diplomatic facts. I deal with much more powerful people than you've encountered and have been successful for myself and my clients.

I go in with a positive attitude, yet when I see the writing on the wall, the German in me comes out & that is when I shoot from the hip. I have been talking over Dr.'s heads since I realized my illness...

 (Pete) Clients?? What is it you do exactly???

 (Carl) Your response demonstrates the same attitude and behavior as with Sickbuildings and is a huge turn-off. Dr Thrasher did not accept your responses - and I wouldn't have either - because you didn't acknowledge your wrong actions and instead kept pushing for more from him.

(Pete) After he (Dr. Thrasher) threatened to sue me, I sure as hell was not about to go into any details on a web site. I figured the guy was just trying to bait me so he could get his lawyer handy... My apology would have sufficed the average person, but Dr.'s have an ego sense of entitlement = the God complex. Give me all the books he read & instruct me & I could do what he does. I would not charge $1,500 an hour to a homeless person to heal them, as I would Donald Trump. Dr. T. does not see that distinction, nor do most of his kind. They think the world owes them for the hoops they hand to jump through to get the diploma on the wall = oh please....

Pushing for more from him...??? Like what?? You want to hear a turn off from me?? Some guy living the high life of a well off Toxicologist that has the nerve to ask a homeless person for $250 to write a letter on his behalf to a Dr. in order for the hope of proper treatment. Go back and read the Bible Carl.. Don't just read it; absorb the meaning. The rich & greedy have their day.. Those that scoff at the sick and the poor who can not pay their bribe money get theirs. Dr. T. can sit all comfy in his Jag & listen to Simon & Garfunkel but he does not get the true meaning of the song my friend. The less that you give your a taker. I lost all respect for him before Sickbuildings; he just sealed the deal in public, and some others from the group emailed me & said as much & I was asked to come back yet I don't need to be part of such a click. Those that have much, yet turn their nose to the homeless & weak are those that will be judged in the end by a higher power than us.
 (Carl) I wish you luck, Pete, but until you change your methods neither I nor anyone can help you.

 (Pete) Help me?? I'm a dead man walking Carl.... If I had a big last name, or a rich aunt I could have a Dr. T. fix me up good as new, but the reality is $$ talks, let the poor die & have God sort it out.

 (Carl) BTW, in my 23+ years as a professional I have never critiqued and shut off anyone like I have just done with you. So don't come back accusing me of not caring. I do. But others caring about you isn't sufficient. You have to act in a manner which gets you what you need so we can continue caring about you.

 (Pete) I never accused you of anything..????... Why would I do that??

Carl, I know you care, but right now with the medical system, legal policy, etc. against moldies like me = I'm a dead man walking & I am beginning to accept that. You never charged me for your advice; or at least I have not seen a bill in the mail!! They must have sent the bill to the wrong tent... LMAO!!

We live in a care+less world. Science/technology has shunned faith & the spiritual. I just get the vibe that most people here to "HELP" are really here to "PROFIT"... Not you; but many of the Dr.'s, mold testers, etc... It utterly sickens me to be a human. I hope I die & come back a monkey because they are far more humble, giving, & selfless as a group species.... We are far from the master race; I am sure of that after my mold encounter. Greed rules the land of milk & honey; its all just hate & money.

People are entitled to their opinions; but lacking fact & jumping to conclusions are crimes everyone fall into; as you did assuming I was a jerk to EMSL before the CEO was a jerk to me... To error is human, & I hold no grudge.
Carl Grimes
Healthy Habitats LLC

 (Pete) I never asked for a determination.. I asked for the species... I leave the determinations to the experts.
Most labs charge $35 - $50.. I gave them $50 thinking it was enough.
They flip flopped 5 times on doing the bacteria + fungi for $50.
7 phone calls + 5 flip flops to me is annoyance &unprofessional.
They made it a point to say they would rather not deal with home owners, etc.
Had they called me once or twice with a firm response, not been arrogant/not hung up on me, I would have respected them. Simone was very nice to me; yet her boss was a cocky jerk; bottom line...
I abused them?? HAHA.. I wish I recorded the conversation. I called the guy sir 15 times, and he treated me like an idiot. I tried to tell him thank you for his time before he hung up on me.
As far as sickbuildings... I tried to apologize to Dr.T on three - 4 occasions & he just kept bitching. I'm not going to keep holding the olive leaf of peace out to someone who wants to keep beating a dead horse. If someone can't move forward, I leave them behind. Besides, when people are on a blog like that accusing me of lying when they did not read the email; I just don't have time to deal with the high school drama.
I felt I did my best to try to mend the fence with Dr. T &he could have cared less.
As far as the hospital... If you were in the room as I was; you would realize they did not want to prove it was mold related. I read the report on me & they changed my responses to the questions they asked me!! They are afraid to have to testify, so they just pushed me aside. You of all people should realize the status quo regarding moldies = we are considered delusional idiots. That was how I was treated...

--- On Wed, 10/21/09, Carl E. Grimes wrote:

From: Carl E. Grimes
Subject: Re: EMSL Re22:Our upper management has decided to send back your samples
To: "Peter Helfrich"
Date: Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 6:43 PMPete,
I would have done the same thing if I were them. You are asking for the impossible and sending a self-determined amount of money without regard to what it costs to obtain the analysis you demand. You are also asking them for an interpretation of data which no lab can legitimately provide (including MoldLab, which will never stand up in court).

This is not an issue of upper management abuse and money grubbing. This is not a case of my having to tolerate them or their abusive behavior. They are professionals and will not agree to do what is impossible or unethical. They clearly state what they can do and I clearly state what I need. If there is a match then we do business. If not, I either find someone who can or I adjust what I'm requesting.

You are your own worst enemy by your conduct and by demanding from others before you have any idea what they can provide. You abused and then slammed EMSL just like you slammed Sickbuildings and the hospital.

It is possible to get what you need but not with your "slam-bang" methods of disrespect.

Carl Grimes
Healthy Habitats LLC

--- On Wed, 10/21/09, Pete Helfrich wrote:
From: Pete Helfrich
Subject: Re22: Samples
To: "SimoneWilson"
Date: Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 4:20 PM
Thats cool.. I'd expect nothing less from upper management. The guy was cocky, and was just out for $$$..
I'm not knocking you, but 7+ phone calls to 5 different people does not make me want to advise anyone to use this company for anything.
+ the guy hung up on me!
Sorry you have to work for such jerks..
--- On Wed, 10/21/09, Wilson, Simone wrote:

From: Wilson, Simone
Subject: Samples
To: ""
Cc: "Harding, Richard"
Date: Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 2:43 PM

Mr. Helfrich,
Our upper management has decided to send back your samples, along with your money order. If you have any questions feel free to call us.

Simone Wilson
EMSL Analytical
2001 E. 52nd St.
Indianapolis, IN 46205