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Trying to Locate Source of Dizziness and Allergies

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We moved into a home last December, and ever since then, I have experienced dizziness, blurred vision, nasal congestion and occasional body aches in my living room. This feeling does not seem to happen in other rooms like my basement, where I spend 9 hours of my day working. It also does not affect my wife and daughter who think I am crazy because of this. 

In March, we had our HVAC system replaced. There was significant mold growth on the coil of the gas pack unit. The AC units and furnaces are new, but the ducts are the original to the house built in 2000. After the work, we had our ducts cleaned and sanitized by a professional company. The symptoms have reduced somewhat since that time, but they continue only in the living room. The living room is the end of the duct run from the downstairs unit. There was some visible mold seen in the ducts by the inspectors, but they do not think this is the source of my problems due to the low mold counts in the testing.

We have an Airthings meter that has shown significant levels of PM2.5 at times, upwards of 50 ug/m3, but then periods of time when there is 0. As I type, the level is 0, and I have a headache and a "buzzing" feeling in my head. We also just had a mold test done, and the inspectors said the count returned from the lab is low and within normal expectations. One of the inspectors had a similar feeling in the living room when he was working, but he was not certain the cause. They did find aspergillus with "very high" spore estimate from Hayes Microbial Consulting, but no spores were detected in the air of the basement or living room. The aspergillus is in the joists directly below the living room, and there is a drop ceiling between the joists at the finished basement area. I have noticed no allergic reactions in this area of the basement. The inspectors did note that the crawlspace is open to the area above the ceiling tiles, so that air is flowing there, likely contributing to the cause of the mold. I plan to have that sealed.

We do have leather Barcalounger furniture that we purchased before and after the move. I did not notice issues with the sofa and loveseat at our previous house, but the allergic reactions started after the move, and around that same time we added 2 recliners. There is a significant odor that comes from the furniture, but it smells like leather to me, not formaldehyde or any chemicals. I know that there are often some problems with leather off gassing, so I guess I could move them out temporarily to see if the problems persist.

We do have a few plants in the room that were also present in the former house. I am considering moving those to the garage temporarily to determine if they are causing issues, but I would think that they would have bothered me previously in the old house.

The radon levels are high, and we are going to have a mitigation system installed. At times, the radon stays over 10 for a week or so, but most of the time it stays around 3. I know that radon does not generally cause illness immediately like this, but I wanted to include as many details as possible.

2 mold companies and a home inspector have inspected my home, but no one has found anything outside the aspergillus. Is it possible that mold could make me sick if no spores are found in the air of the living room? I was thinking that maybe the stack effect (or whatever it is called) could force the air upstairs, so I was thinking maybe mycotoxins could be present, but I cannot determine if that is possible if no aspergillus spores are found in the air. It just seems odd to me that the only place I really feel sick is the living room. Does anyone have any thoughts on how to proceed? I am getting to the point where I hate being in my house...

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I find it odd that elevated mold spores were found more than once within the conditioned spaces of the house and nothing was done to locate the source and remediate it. I suspect your issue is far more simple than you make it out to be.

Edited by Marc
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10 minutes ago, Marc Arnold said:

Possibly. I just find it odd that my inspector says the aspergillum in the joists is likely not the cause of my allergens.

You may have mis-spoken.  you seem to be looking for the source or reason for your alergic reaction.  

not likely aspergillum is in the joist.  joist is a term for a building component and typically solid wood or engineered with composites/wood.  was the mold on  the joists?  if so it needs a source for moisture.


10 minutes ago, Marc Arnold said:

I guess the underlying question I have is whether the aspergillum can cause allergic reactions without being detected as spores in the air.  



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The mold is growing on 3 joist runs in the basement, most noticeably on the bottom sides. The area between the subfloor upstairs and the drop ceiling in the basement is open to the crawlspace, so the inspector said the air from that is filling that space. The people that owned the house before us did not control the humidity in the basement, so it stayed pretty moist. We plan on closing off the opening from the crawlspace to help, and we also run a large dehumidifier. My plan is to close off the crawlspace, control the humidity and have the joists professionally remediated. The confusion just came for me in determining if the aspergillum could cause problems without being detected in the air. I work in the basement 9 hours per day and never notice it there, only in the living room directly above the problem. Thanks for the confirmation, I do appreciate it.

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This is a crawlspace area to one side of the basement? Yes close it off from the living room floor and the basement, but it should have a couple of vents to the outdoors, with strong screens to keep rodents out. In some climates those vents are blocked off in the winter but opened to let dry air blow thru in the summer months.

In really moist climates, a poly vapor barrier over the dirt and an electric baseboard heater on a thermostat is an excellent way to condition the air in the crawlspace. Costs a few dollars per month but might prevent a rotten subfloor.

Good luck with the repairs, you will feel better and your floor will feel warmer as well.

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I stumbled across the post & dialogue by accident. Whilst the house construction is not really familiar to me, your symptoms sound like those a colleague suffered in a new-build extension. She was one of 30 working there but no one else succumbed. After several weeks, we discovered mould (British!) Growing in particle board flooring under carpet tiles as a resulr of moisture in an unventilated service duct in the concrete floor at ground level.

Suggest you remedy radon gas via ventilation very soon as this can cause serious health issues!

I'm a Chartered Surveyor not a medic but often make connections when strange circumstances arise in homes!

Good luck!

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  • 2 months later...

Adding some thoughts. I own a water damage restoration,  mold remediation company in Nebraska. Mold and the human body are complicated. My opinion is the mold is something to be aware of in your environment, but is perhaps is not as big of an issue as it's made out to be. 

Mold spores will be present in virtually any indoor environment, but types and concentrations will vary. Moisture content (approx. 16%) of the material the mold spores settle on determines if this mold is actively growing or not. Your exposure to dry mold is like any other allergen, your immune system can react, or not. Mold that is actively growing on a wet material is an entirely different animal. It's now consuming organic matter and releasing organic vapors and perhaps mycotoxins, endotoxins, etc. An inexpensive moisture meter can be very useful if you know where to stick it. : )

Make sure your not growing mold in your home. Keep things clean and dry. Moisture sources go beyond liquid water. Chronic excess water vapor can provide enough moisture to allow the mold found in our normal household dust to grow (like in your crawlspace). Most crawlspaces should have a dehumidifier running if they aren't already heated/cooled by your HVAC system.

Air sampling with spore traps are generally helpful in getting a snapshot idea of your aerosol mold count. But it changes from hour to hour, day to day, and cost approx. $100/sample, all things considered. Recommend NOT having a lot of samples taken. I also don't think surface samples/tape lifts are worthwhile since it often indicates how long it's been since a surface has been cleaned versus mold actual contamination levels. Think ceiling fan blade versus kitchen countertop.

IF your not growing mold in your home, then you can lower your levels. Water damaged materials with visible mold growth should likely be removed...carefully, to avoid dispersing/spreading spores. I think EVERYONE should use HEPA filtered vacuums in their homes, but not brands like Dyson, Shark, etc., because although they may have a HEPA filter, they can't perform like a professional vacuum. Pullman-Holt, Nikro, Minuteman, etc. start at around $600 but are superior. 

After HEPA vacuuming, damp wipe. Anything that removes dust will also remove mold spores. Avoid dry feather "dusting". Microfiber towels will remove the most particulate from a surface. Just use warm soap and water and avoid scrubbing the surface. You're wiping, rinse often. Then HEPA vacuum again. 

Filter your air with the highest filtration filters your HVAC will accept and consider a stand-alone HEPA filtration unit. I like ugly, bulky professional air scrubbers because they filter the most CFM per dollar. Some residential units have too many options, are overpriced, don't perform well and are more fragile.

Hope this is helpful!

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