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Mold in Winter
By: Edward R Close, PhD, and Jacquelyn A Close, RA

We often see mold exposure symptoms mistaken for colds and flu, especially during winter months. Why? Because, when the heat comes on, air blows through the vents picking up dust and mold spores, and spewing them into the air, causing respiratory congestion and distress. However, without an obvious odor and no obvious mold growth, the true cause of the congestion and respiratory problems is overlooked.

Mold exposure during winter months is a serious threat to our health. It can lead to multiple trips to doctors and numerous rounds of antibiotics, or over-the-counter (OTC) medications that result in an exhausted and weakened immune system, which can lead to cyclical and ever more serious complications and diseases. The relationship between mold and health is poorly understood by most medical doctors and health-care professionals. While numerous studies suggest links between mold exposure and almost every illness known to man, the mechanism that promotes this link is not only poorly understood, it is often completely overlooked or disregarded.

Research suggests that mold, viruses and bacteria work together to weaken our defenses and bring on colds, flu and other debilitating conditions. Bacteria and viruses are more effective in a mold infested environment for two reasons:

  • First, mold spores and their associated toxins can cause sinus infections and other respiratory tract infections, allergic reactions, and can generally weaken the immune system.
  • Second, bacteria and viruses can adhere to mold spores. And once disturbed, certain common mold spores, such as Aspergillus, remain suspended in the air for 24 hours or longer providing bacteria and viruses an opportunity to piggy-back on mold spores and gain easy access to the human body, especially through the respiratory tract, the eyes, and the ears.

Four Mold Myths De-Bunked

There are many myths commonly accepted as fact when it comes to mold. Here are the four (4) most common:

1. Mold is not a problem in dry climates.
2. There's no mold problem if I don't see or smell mold.
3. Bleach will take care of mold.
4. Mold does not grow in cold weather

Mold In Dry Climates

While it is true that low humidity decreases the potential for mold growth, buildings in dry climates, such as the Southwest Desert, are not exempt from mold infestation, especially if they have air conditioning. And even dry climates experience conditions that can prompt mold growth, including periodic rains, flash floods, leaks and condensation around pipes, as well as building practices that sometimes unknowingly promote opportunities for mold growth.

We receive regular requests for help with mold problems from people who live and work in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Texas, and other dry, arid climates. Arizona and California both have times during the year when fungal spores that promote Valley Fever, which can be deadly, are carried on winds and infect the lungs and respiratory tracts of people living in certain areas of those states. So, living in a dry climate may help, but it does not provide protection from or make you exempt from mold exposure.

If I Don't See Mold or Smell Mold – Then There's No Problem

When mold invades heating and air conditioning systems, it is hidden from sight and there is often little or no hint of the musty odors usually associated with mold, especially during the winter. Mold can be hidden from sight when it is growing inside an HVAC unit, walls, underneath carpet, or behind wallpaper. Unseen and undetected until disturbed by updating, remodeling or replacement of the materials affected, mold can have a substantial impact on your health. Having a musty smell is a strong indicator of a serious mold problem, but having no musty smell is not an indicator that there is no mold present.

Mold can be present without producing any noticeable smell whatsoever. The only way to determine if mold is present is to do appropriate sampling. This myth and the type of sampling to be conducted is discussed in detail in the book: Nature's Mold Rx, the Non-Toxic Solution to Toxic Mold, available at www.MoldRx4u.com and in quality bookstores everywhere.

Bleach and Mold

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the California Department of Health Services, and numerous other independent and governmental agencies have determined that using bleach for mold is not the best practice. You can find old documents produced by the EPA prior to 2007 that say to use bleach on mold, however, these documents have been replaced or updated in more recent publications and bleach is no longer recommended.

Household bleach is about 97% water because the active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, is very hazardous to your health. Research indicates that after the sodium hypochlorite evaporates, much of the water remains and creates conditions that allow mold to rebound within twenty-four hours of application. So bleach makes the moldy surface look better by bleaching the color out of the mold hyphae, but in the end, it only gives a false sense of security.

For more information about the debunking of the Myth of Bleach and Mold, see the link Bleach and Chemicals and the article in the September, 2008, MoldRx4u.com News: Mold and Bleach - A Tale of Two Spaces. Both are found at our website: www.MoldRx4u.com.

Mold in Winter

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, mold can be a serious and generally unexpected threat to our health during winter and this is especially true in buildings that have central heat and air conditioning. Why? When you turn off your AC in the fall, there is often a substantial amount of moisture left in the drain pan under the cooling coils (e.g., the A-coil in your central HVAC system) and in the drain pipes or tubes that lead to and away from your HVAC unit. If there is any dirt or debris blocking the drains, or dents in the drain pan, or anything that allows water to stay in the system, then when the heat comes on in the wintertime, you have perfect conditions for mold to blossom in your air ducts.

Do you see that mold?


Do you smell that mold?

You may, however, the volatile organic compounds that produce the musty smell normally associated with mold are often flashed off, broken down, or volatilized, and dissipated before the air exits vents into a room. When this happens, occupants do not smell mold.

If you don't see mold and don't smell mold, you may not realize or even suspect that mold may be causing or contributing to your respiratory difficulties. Fortunately, there is a simple solution: Diffuse Thieves® essential oil blend into the heating system's intakes, or inside the central heating and air conditioning system itself, until the oils have penetrated the entire system. You'll know this has been accomplished when the aroma of the oil in the outlet air is as strong as in the vicinity of the intake.

Dr. Edward Close says: Diffuse for at least 8 to 12 hours and use about one-third to one-half of a 15 milliliter (ml) bottle of Thieves oil at least once a month if your home is 900 to 1500 square feet. If your home is larger, diffuse for at least 24 hours and use one full 15 ml bottle of Thieves oil during that time span.

To be sure that you are preventing the wintertime mold bloom in your heating and air conditioning system, after continuous diffusing for 8 to 24 hours, put the diffuser on a timer and run it for 15 minutes every 4 hours.

Be certain you are using a cold-air diffuser with a large capacity pump, rated for use in spaces of 1200 to 1500 square feet. If you are using the diffuser offered through the e-store at www.MoldRx4u.com, one 15 (ml) bottle of oil will last about 24 hours when you are diffusing continuously during that 24 hour period. A 15 ml bottle will last about a month if you are diffusing once for 8-12 hours and then 30 minutes a day 2-3 days a week for prevention.

Based on our own personal experience, daily diffusing of essential oils saves us a lot of money in doctor bills, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medicines during the course of a winter. In fact, we have only suffered with a cold or flu once in the past 10 years. Each of us normally experienced 2 or more bouts of cold or flu every winter before we started diffusing Young Living's Thieves essential oil blend daily in our homes and offices.

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