March 2, 2024
Bridging the Gap Between Our Health and Our Homes, Air Quality and Mold Exposure with Michael Rubino

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Katie Hello and welcome to the Wellness Mama podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com. And this episode goes deep on the topics of indoor air quality, specifically mold and what to do about it. And the good news is there are ways to remediate that are effective that do not have to be removing everything in your home and losing everything that you own. But we get into the nuance of this and why it’s so important today.

And I’m here with Michael Rubino, who is a mold and air quality expert, a wellness advocate. And he’s the founder of HomeCleanse.com, which is the best company I have found with a vision to end the worldwide health epidemic caused by toxic indoor air. He’s also the president of the Change the Air Foundation and the host of the Mold Talks podcast. And his company is supported by an advisory board that includes Deepak Chopra and Gwyneth Paltrow. And he is council certified mold remediator by IICRC and ACAC, and a contributing member, sponsor, and speaker to The Indoor Air Quality Association. He also has personal experience with this and has done a tremendous amount of research on the actual effective ways to deal with mold. And he goes deep on that today. All the things to know, to look for, what to test for, what to do if you do find a problem, what percentage of homes are likely to have a problem, the health effects and how to support your health after, and so much more. Definitely a wealth of knowledge. I’ve gotten a lot of questions related to indoor air quality and mold. And so I’m very excited to get to provide his extensive knowledge about this as a resource. I certainly learned a lot in this episode. I will probably work with him to do some preventative things that he talks about, like putting certain air filters in HVAC systems since I live in a very humid environment, and also just testing occasionally to make sure that there isn’t a developing problem. But without further ado, let’s learn firsthand from Michael Rubino. Michael, welcome. Thank you so much for being here today.

Michael – Yeah, thank you so much for having me here today.

Katie: Well, I’m very excited that I’m going to get to learn from you today on what I think is a very important topic and one that is either not talked about enough or talked about in ways that can seem really confusing and I feel like people often get stuck in an information loop. But before we jump into that topic, I also have a note from your bio that your first time ever meditating was with Deepak Chopra and I would love to hear how that happened and what it was like.

Michael: Yeah, so I got invited to this retreat that Deepak was hosting, and I was super excited to be there, of course. And I knew maybe two people there. So it was a very new experience for me. And mindfulness was something that I’ve always heard of, right, but never really practice it. And so really being there every day, we started with meditation, sometimes yoga too, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t get up early enough for the yoga.

We go into this session and we’re a meditation exercise that Deepak is leading us through. And I mean, I’ll never forget it. It was actually mind blowing, had a total out of body experience, felt really light floating. And one of the questions that we asked in the meditation was just who are you? And such a profound question, right? And I started thinking, well, you know, I’m a husband, I’m a father, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m an advocate for better health. And, those are just titles, right? And so really the whole point of this exercise and what it led to was just really trying to find my true self, which was just really cool. Very intentional and something that I’ve never had. You know, thought, considered spending the time to sit down and actually do.

Katie: That’s so cool. And I think that probably is one of life’s more difficult questions, though it seems so simple as to answer, who are you? So I love that you got to have that experience with Deepak Chopra for your first time meditating. That’s such a cool story. And I appreciate you sharing it. But I’m also really excited to delve into a topic that you are truly world-class in your knowledge on and that we can all learn from you on, which is broadly the topic of air quality, but in a deeper level, also things like mold especially. So to start broad, can you maybe give us some of the high level of why air quality, especially indoor air quality is so important and perhaps often overlooked largely even when it comes to people who are interested in health?

Michael: Yeah, so I think the bigger thing to realize about air quality is the fact that we take 20,000 breaths per day. And one of the really amazing things that I learned from Deepak, just to tie these two things together, is the fact that the breath is so important. We start this world with a breath, we leave this world with a breath. That’s one of the things that Deepak shared. And it’s really amazing to think about because really, if you look at health and wellness, we can go couple of days without water. Couple of days without food. Can’t go a couple of minutes without air. Air is such an important part of health and wellness, but yet it’s often the last thing that we think about. And so we talk about these 20,000 breaths per day, that’s how many times we’re breathing in a specific day. What’s in that air that we’re breathing in is so, so, so important. And again, it’s probably one of the most overlooked things that we can ever do in regards to health and wellness for each human being.

Katie: That makes sense when you explain it like that. And I’ve used similar analogies before, but I feel like often it’s easy to want to focus on the food, for instance, because it tastes good and there’s a whole community aspect that goes with food and it’s exciting. And that is important, but to your point, things like water quality, arguably much more important, and then air quality even more so. And I feel like this one, other than people maybe having heard of like air filters, for instance, is not as largely talked about, but you make a great case in what I’ve read of your work that this is often a very overlooked and really vital aspect of health and wellness. So can you give us some of the detail on what you mean by that and what you look at when you’re evaluating air quality or what people can be aware of for their own health when it comes to the air they breathe?

Michael: Yeah, I think one of the most important things to address here, which is also a little bit confusing, when we think of mold, right, and we’ll go into detail on how mold impacts the human body, but we often think of these, you know, disgusting homes. And it’s just not the case. Many of my clients homes, including Gwyneth Paltrow. Their homes are immaculate. You would never guess that there could be a mold problem in these homes. And I think that’s what makes this so tricky or challenging is, you know, people walk into these homes, they’re buying them turnkey, they’re moving in and then they’re getting sick and they have no idea why. They’re going doctor to doctor to doctor, trying to understand what’s going on with their body. They’re doing all this blood work, lab work, etc. And everything is coming out normal. So the doctor is really, it becomes a medical mystery.

And it’s not until they finally find someone who says, hey, go and check your home, they do some deeper investigations of their home and then find all these problems. And I think that’s really one of the bigger things that I want people to take away is, it doesn’t matter how clean your place is, it doesn’t matter how nice it looks, how freshly painted it is, you may have problems behind your walls or in your HVAC system, things that you don’t typically see, because we don’t have X-ray vision, right? And so testing is so vital to really understand how is the impact that my home is having on my health, on my family’s health. And I think it’s that data that can really help us build whatever we need to do to get better air quality, right? It is much more than just plugging in an air purifier into your wall.

Katie: And I would guess that depending on where someone lives, there’s a higher or lower chance of mold. I know dry climates probably on average have less of a mold issue across the board, but how on average is mold getting into our homes to begin with? I know maybe the preconception is that it’s usually only a water leak or something like that, but when you talk about HVAC, for instance, I’m assuming there are many other ways that mold can enter the home and stay in the home.

Michael: Yeah, so mold’s part of our ecosystem. Essentially, the whole point of mold is it helps decay organic dying matter, right? And, you know, when we think about it from that perspective, when we have leaves in the fall, that fall in the fall molds great because it’s going to eat up these decaying leaves so that everything can kind of turn over and we can have a spring come again with new foliage, flowers, etc, right?

So I think when we look at it in our homes, how does that affect our homes? Well, when we open doors and windows, some mold will come in. And these are called mold spores. Kind of like how weeds produce seeds, mold produces spores. So our spores are always going to naturally occur in our environment. But when we have wet environments like water damage or like our HVAC systems that unfortunately consistently condensate throughout the day, these are wet environments that these spores can start to germinate and grow into living organisms. That’s where things become problematic because the minute amount of mold spores you’d be breathing in outside, it can be a lot higher if it starts growing inside, and especially with the amount of volume of air that’s inside of our homes, it’s much more limited than outdoors, right?

So that means that more particles and potentially toxins entering our body with each breath that we take in higher concentrations. So that’s kind of where this all starts to develop and starts to become trickier and affect our health and well-being.

Katie: And for context, what are you finding as far as what percentage of homes might have mold and not know it? I know certainly there are cases where people suspect a problem and identify it, but from what your research and what you’ve seen, are there probably an equal or bigger percentage of homes that have mold and people don’t know? And if so, what would you guess that number is?

Michael: Well, so the largest home survey ever done was in 1994 by a gentleman by the name of John Spangler. And he found that 50% of homes that he surveyed had history of water damage, visible signs of water damage. 80% of those homes that had the water damage. He saw visible signs of mold. So that tells us that 50% of homes have a history of water damage. 80% of those homes have mold. I would probably argue that 100% of those homes had mold because this is just a visual inspection he did. He didn’t do any testing. And again, 50% of homes had water damage.

If you recall what I said earlier, a lot of clients’ homes, you walk in, it’s immaculate, you have no idea. So this 50% doesn’t account for hidden problems that you can’t see. So I would guess that the number has to be much higher, maybe in the 75% range. I’m a bad data set because my data is a little biased. Most people that are calling me, they suspect they have mold and typically they do. Um, but it’s, it’s gotta be a lot higher than, than we even know about. And I think that’s where we start to really understand how systemic and how big of a problem this really is.

Katie: Got it. So would you recommend testing for this as kind of a good baseline recommendation for essentially almost everyone with potentially those high of numbers already? And if so, you mentioned, I know there’s a lot of different kinds of tests and there’s a lot of controversy about them. So people are going to test. What do you recommend related to that?

Michael: Okay, so the first question is yes, I think everybody should test to get a baseline understanding of what isn’t going on in their home. When we’re talking about taking control of our health and bringing air quality up to the forefront, knowing how much air quality impacts the human being and the human body, I think we definitely want to start testing our homes to get a sense of what we’re potentially breathing in.

This is the best test that I think we should do. And it’s MSQPCR technology. I think we all know what PCR technology is post 2020 here. We’re looking at DNA analysis, and I think we should do it on our dust. Now, there are other types of testing. You can do air testing, and it almost makes sense, right? You wanna test your air quality, you test your air. The problem with air testing is it runs for about five minutes and it captures 15 milliliters of air. If you live in a 1000 square foot home, let’s say, 15 milliliters of air is a very, very small area than the overall air quality of the entire home. So we have this whole industry of people that wanna come in and take an air sample or two inside of our homes, but the data that it actually provides us is so limited. If you test three to six feet away, you’re much more likely to miss a problem. Whereas if you’re testing your dust, you’re gonna get a good average of what you’re being exposed to across the entire home. So that’s why I think dust testing is the best method of really analyzing what is going on inside of our homes.

Katie: Got it. And you talked about the spores and these exist in outdoor air and in nature as well. So I’m guessing that some low-level exposure to spores is not necessarily problematic, but you mentioned when it is able to start growing, that’s when we have a problem. And so this dust test, I’m guessing, does it come back where you might see spores, for instance, on essentially any home, but that you’re looking for certain levels or certain strains or what are you looking for on the results of those tests?

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. So the dust test is a great example. You’re gonna analyze 36 different species of mold. Now, certain species are going to be more problematic than others. For example, Stachybotrys or the toxic black mold that we all hear about. We want to see none of that, right? Because if we even see one spore, that means that there’s something going on in our home that has been leaking for at least three to five days because that’s how long it takes for that particular type of mold. So you typically only see it in association with a water damage environment. The same holds true for a mold called ketomia.

With respects to the other 34 molds. We want to see them in normal ranges, like aspergillus or penicillium, we may have heard those two molds before. They’re pretty abundant in our environment. So we’re going to see some level across our home. But when we see that they’re a hundred times or a thousand times higher than what it should be, that’s how we get a clue as to this is abnormal. This something must in here in this home must be growing and contributing to this amount because when you see those types of levels, that’s not normal transference from outside to inside.

So we want to look at the data and we want to go line by line down all the different types of molds and want to understand, is it abnormal or is this within normal range? And anything within normal range, that’s what we’re looking for.

Katie: Got it. And it sounds like statistically, at least half the people who test for these things might find something problematic on their report. And in that case, I know this is where another area, it seems like misinformation abounds, or at least so much conflicting information that it can seem like decision paralysis. Like I know I’ve done testing and thankfully nothing major came up on mine, but I even in the waiting period for the testing, sort of had that thought loop of like, if there is a problem, like what do you even do about it? Because I’ve seen so many different sources that say so many different things, and it seems like it can range from anything from, remediation can be pretty simple to basically knock down your entire home. So if someone does find something on this report, what is a general course of action and how do you help them determine that?

Michael: Yeah, so I mean, it really depends on what is found, right? There’s so many variables, which does make it a little tricky. The good thing is you wanna really have somebody who understands data that can help you interpret it and then help you put together an action plan, right? Now, in some cases, you may have to knock down walls. Yeah, that happens all the time. Sometimes the mold is growing beneath a toilet because a toilet’s been leaking or under a bathtub because a bathtub’s been leaking. In that case, you need to remove the toilet. Find out what’s going on. Remove the bathtub, find out what’s going on, right? So these things do happen.

Anytime you have mold growing in a location, it’s because there’s an opportunity for it to grow, right? And so we have to identify what is that opportunity and how do we resolve that? That is definitely part of it. I’d say, if you had to ask me top 10 places that mold is growing, I’ll tell you attics because of roof leaks, basements and crawl spaces because of just because they’re below grade, which means that there’s constantly water sitting against the foundation of the home and water likes to dry to the drier side, which is typically gonna be indoors. You’re gonna have kitchens and bathrooms, a lot of showers, tile areas are not built properly with proper waterproofing. So we see water seeping through the grout over time, getting into the wall cavity and growing. We’ve seen beautiful luxury homes that have bathtubs on top of wood floor. Unfortunately, it might look really pretty, but every time you step out of that bathtub and you’re dripping on that wood floor, you’re potentially allowing water to see through and start growing underneath the floor, right?

We’re looking at all these different things to try to understand what might the problem be and the resolution is gonna depend on how bad it is. There’s a big misconception with fogging in our environment, where basically they don’t take out anything, they just come in and they fog everything. Well, the problem with that is you’re not addressing the opportunity, right? Whatever leak is happening that’s allowing it to grow, and you’re not getting in every nook and cranny of the room. Completely eliminating anything. So often you’re gonna spend thousands of dollars, but you’re not gonna get any real result out of it.

Katie: Gotcha, that makes sense. And it seems like then it could come back. And on that same note, is there anything preventative people can do, either if they’re going to buy a house, build a house, or check their current house to try to minimize the chances of mold growing?

Michael: Yeah, so we’ll start with building a house. I see so many brand new homes that have mold growing all over the framing. Two different reasons. One, the lumber sat in the soil as they’re building the house. Well, mold is abundant in the soil, so is bacteria. So if you allow the lumber to sit in the soil while the house is being built and it’s raining, you’re going to transfer mold and bacteria from the soil onto the wood. That’s probably the number one problem that we see. There are guidelines to prevent that from happening, but unfortunately across America, if you drive around, they’re just not following the guidelines.

The second number, probably problematic thing is the fact that when we build a home. It’s gonna rain, right? It’s just there is weather, we have to deal with it. The problem is that when we know that the house is gonna get rained on, once it gets to that dried in stage, The term is called dried in for a reason. We’re supposed to then dry the structure so that no mold starts to grow. But unfortunately, in America especially, where we’re building homes so fast, it used to take us two years, now we’re building homes in six months. That dry in step is getting missed, just getting overlooked. And they start bringing in insulation and drywall or even worse, spraying the insulation over the beams. And then bringing in drywall. If everything’s wet, when you do that, you’re gonna trap moisture and then you’re gonna allow mold to grow.

So those are the two big things preventatively you can do is if you see lumber sitting in the soil, tell them to elevate it out of the soil. It’s in the structural building components associations guidelines. And you can easily point to that. The second thing you’ll wanna do is when the house is really all dried in and the outside’s all protected from the weather elements, you wanna make sure all that lumber is dry on the inside and God forbid there’s any mold that started to grow already, get it taken care of and removed from the lumber before you start bringing in insulation and drywall. If you do those two things, you will be far ahead of the game in terms of building.

Now with, you know, buying a home, test it before you close. Figure out what the problems are. The typical home inspector, most of them are not very well trained in mold, and they’re only gonna look at things from a visual perspective. So if there’s mold growing behind a wall, they’re very likely gonna miss it. So I think doing some testing on a home before you buy it is gonna be key so that you can understand what you’re getting yourself into. A lot of times my recommendation is gonna be if you’re buying the home, get the report, ask for credits and remediate yourself because the person who’s selling it, they’re just gonna remediate as quickly and as cost effectively as possible, which might not be your goal. Your goal might be to do it the right way or the best way possible so that the problem doesn’t persist and you can make sure it’s taken care of safely for you and your family. So I would put that part in your control instead of somebody else’s.

And then just, you know, one of the bigger issues systemically is with just how we maintain our homes, remediate them in general. A lot of us are not thinking about, you know, inspecting our roofs every year, looking at our doors and windows every year. You know, these are things that once they’re built, they do start to degrade over time. And if we’re not on top of these things, unfortunately, what we end up doing is we end up being reactive instead of proactive. You know, once things start falling apart, then we actually start to look at addressing them. But by then it’s already too late and it’s going to cost more now. You know, so I think people start getting into the mindset of inspecting these things regularly so that we’re not dealing with things when they’re falling apart.

Katie: And that makes sense. And you preemptively answered one of my next questions, which was, it sounds like new houses are not necessarily better just because they’re new. They can have problems from the start as well, unless you have control over those building pieces like you talked about.

My next question is, what about someone who either did build or buy a home and maybe those steps were not done? And so there’s moisture and now mold in the studs of the house. What is the process then to remediate that? Is that even possible? Like to me, that sounds like a scenario of like, just burn the house down and move on. But what do you do in that case?

Michael: That case has happened many times, unfortunately, to many clients of mine. You know, unfortunately, what you have to do is you have to test a lot of the exterior walls to get a sense of how bad it is. It’s not going to grow continuously throughout the house. So what you’ll end up finding is you’ll find that certain spots or certain areas are going to be much higher than others. And you really want to focus on those, right?

It’s going to be impossible in today’s climate and technology to have a mold free home, like free of all mold, zero mold counts everywhere, right? So we want to actually look at what is growing, how much of it is there, and what sort of impact is that going to have on our total air quality? And that is kind of some of the calculations that I look at in terms of the data to really get a sense of what’s the cost for this and what’s the value we’re gonna get out of fixing this.

So I would say in that case, get some data. Look at the data and you’ll obviously see, some areas might be way higher than others and we wanna start to prioritize a list of what’s creating the most impact and working our way down. And I think that’s what makes this much more achievable, economical, and I’ll be careful with the word economical because I know that can be a tricky word here, but it helps you really take control over what you can afford to do and do it effectively.

Katie: And what about things like soft surfaces? Because I know that’s a thing that often comes up when there’s an identified mold problem, is that the idea that you need to get rid of anything that is not a remediable hard surface, like concrete or stone or something like that. Is that the case or are there ways to potentially save things like books and clothing?

Michael: Yeah, there’s a lot of variables there. And I think that’s why it gets so confusing. You go into some of these blogs and they’re telling you, throw everything away, light it on fire, just evacuate with nothing left, not even the shirt on your back. And, you know, is there some cases where that may be true? Sure. But I think that would be a more extreme case.

Now, porous contents in general, they’re very hard to effectively clean. The best way to do it would be to test certain items. That are porous that you’re concerned about. And you can do a tape lift, which would be the most effective thing to test like a fabric couch or a mattress. And for 35 bucks, you’ll get an understanding of just how contaminated that item is, right? I think that’s probably one of the best ways to go about it.

And here’s why, I might have a mattress in my house and maybe I don’t have one of those waterproof mattress covers protecting it fully and it’s out in the, and exposed to the air. Now we have sheets and blankets and all things on top of it too, that a lot of these particles, spores, etcetera, would settle on first, right? Then we go to this variable of how close is it to the source. Mold doesn’t travel very far from its source point. It actually, the way it gets across our house is it hitches a ride with our dust.

So follow me on this. Picture you have mold in your wall. Right behind you. That wall from about that point to three, four feet, would be like a little haze of some very, very tiny particles. Now, if you’re sitting right there all the time breathing that in, that’s direct inhalation. But most of the time, our dust that’s already in the air, that passes through that area, it’s going to bind with our dust, then become part of our dust, right? Our dust is everywhere, right? So the challenge becomes how do we get our dust, which is gonna have spores, which might have toxins with it, out of our stuff so that every time we’re taking a breath, there’s less contaminated dust and more naturally occurring dust. Okay.

So when it comes to certain things, you know, the variable is how close was it in proximity because if it wasn’t that close, the odds of it being highly contaminated are gonna be a lot smaller. So once we know where the sources are, we’ll probably wanna take a more, I would say, err on the side of caution approach as close to those sources as possible. So you’re sitting on a chair right now, you have a desk probably in front of you. We’re gonna wanna look at that more closely and say, okay, anything porous here, We’re gonna wanna make sure it could be effectively cleaned. There are solutions like EC3 laundry additive, anything that’s machine washable can go in there. And anything that is non-porous can all be cleaned. Anything that’s semi-porous has to be evaluated for how effectively it can be cleaned too.

Things further away from the source, across the house and other rooms, we’re probably gonna be able to take a lot more of a relaxed approach. Books and things of that nature, in those rooms, we’re gonna wipe down the covers, the binder. We might even go so thorough as to take them outside, grab them by the binder and kind of shake them out. So any dust that has particles and spores and toxins with it will fall out of that book, right?

Now, in some extreme cases, people might be so sensitive that they need to go way more extreme than the average person. And we call them hypersensitive individuals. They’re not as rare as you think. But even hypersensitive individuals have different levels of hypersensitivity. You know, some people become sensitive to light and sound. Some people become sensitive to any sort of fragrances or chemicals. And depending on their sensitivity level, the whole game plan can change, right? And I think that’s why you take all these variables into consideration. You’ll have people tell you all kinds of things on the internet, which is hard to decipher. But I would tell you that the average person is gonna have a lot of success cleaning things, looking at it from the lens of, let’s remove all this contaminated dust, and every time that we clean, we’re removing that exponentially. So we’re getting to a level, two or three cleanings later, where we have a really healthy environment.

Katie: Well, and that’s actually really encouraging to hear that it is seemingly more concentrated near the source. So even if once you identify the problem and where it’s coming from, you might need to, for instance, get rid of one mattress that was in that same room or the cloth that was in that room. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re throwing away everything you own in your whole house and keeping nothing. So that’s actually probably really good news to a lot of people, I would guess.

It also sounds like just based on what you just said, even though like when a Paltrow’s home was immaculate, it still traveled, but it still seems like a really good idea to stay on top of dust in our homes and to have things like air filters based on what you said. Do you still think those are great things to do even though they’re not going to necessarily stop a problem?

Michael: Yeah, so I think air filters are really crucial to this whole equation, particularly the ones that are on our HVAC systems. Gwenyth had like eight HVAC systems, all of them over time had mold from various places inside the location, getting into the HVAC, growing in the HVAC, and then making the air quality just 10 times worse. As a matter of fact, after seeing data sets from thousands of homes, I can tell you almost every single time, probably like 99% of the time. We might find some mold in various locations throughout someone’s home, but we’re seeing the HVAC systems are… 10 times, sometimes 100 times or even a thousand times worse than any one source inside the home.

So this tells us that over time, these sources create particles, they titrate on our dust and they get into our HVAC system over time. And then because the HVAC system perpetually condensates, it just provides so much moisture for it to just expand and explode. So I would say, you know, you can get the plug-in ones, but there’s a lot of great companies out there that make air filters that actually turn your HVAC systems into air purification systems. And that is the best money can buy because now you’re doing two things. You’re protecting your HVACs so they’re not as vulnerable, growing mold and creating a bigger problem. And B, now you’re collecting a lot of this dust and stuff in your HVAC systems, which is gonna move a lot more air than these little plug-in air purifiers.

Katie: That makes sense. Do you have resources or can people contact you to get resources on things like that if they want to do them even preventively?

Michael: Yeah, so if you go on homecleanse.com, there’s like a whole shop we put together that has all kinds of cleaning kits to keep your home clean and dust free, air purification systems, both plug-in ones and ones that can go into the HVAC, and pretty much just anything you need to try to elevate your air quality game here.

Katie: And we’ve talked a lot about how mold obviously can exist in our home and impact the home environment. I’d love to also switch gears and talk about how that exhibits in the body and what happens, what someone might see in their body or in their family members if they are exposed to mold and often probably don’t know it because from what you’ve said, there are probably many of us who are exposed and have no idea.

Michael: Yeah, I mean, it’s so crazy because when you look at all the research and studies, I think they are, there’s a lot of warning signs that show us or tell us that we don’t know everything that there is to know right now about how mold specifically impacts the body. And I can tell you that pretty much any autoimmune disease deficiency condition out there has some correlation with mold.

We already know based upon the clinical research that asthma is caused in 21% of cases by mold exposure. And of course, I’m sure that number is very conservative. We also know that due to the great work Dr. Dale Bredesen is doing, mold can cause inhalational Alzheimer’s, the early onset of dementia, right? So it not only causes some of the respiratory stuff or the allergy-like symptoms that we’ve all grown up knowing about, but it also can be neurodegenerative, which is huge to understand and know.

We also see that air quality in general, which kind of covers the umbrella between mold, bacteria, VOCs, toxins, formaldehyde, etcetera. Any articulate matter that infiltrates into the body is causing 10% of the cancer cases out there. And that was done by Cancer Research UK. So there’s a lot unfolding around this now that’s making this more important in terms of how we’re learning. I’ll tell you, we are severely underfunded with research capabilities, which we see more shifting happening in our government, which is nice. But I’ll tell you between the amount of cases I’ve seen with people with Lyme and how sick they’ve gotten due to mold exposure. Hashimoto’s, another one. POTS. In kids, we see pans and pandas symptoms flare up like you wouldn’t believe in these toxic homes. We’ve seen correlation with alopecia. I’ve watched kids lose their hair and regrow their hair once they resolve the problem.

Miraculous stuff that I couldn’t explain myself because the medical research is kind of lagging behind. I seen a woman, Shannon Hill. Out in Florida. She was diagnosed with POTS. She was bed bound 95% of the time. She had a GJ feeding tube installed into her lower intestines to give her the nutrients to keep her alive. She was a mother of three, could barely take care of her children and the condition she was in. Within seven days of her moving out of her house for us to actually go in and fix it. She made a miraculous recovery, was no longer bedbound, was able to remove the GI feeding tube. Now, how can we explain this in terms of medical and science? We can’t. We have no idea how or why. We just know that it occurred.

So when we look at this from this perspective, inflammation, the gut brain connection that it influences, how do we draw this parallel? And I think that’s been one of my biggest challenges so far. When we look at some of the studies, there’s a couple things that we can tie together that might make a lot of sense. There’s a great study on particle kineticists that talks about how anything that gets trapped or deposited onto the lungs that is not able to be removed by our natural defense mechanisms can cause pathogenic effects. So when you learn that, it kind of starts to make sense while we have all this correlation with autoimmune disease, which is on the rise, as we all know.

And then we have to tie it with another fact that I learned from the American Lung Association, which says, any particles smaller than 10 microns will bypass our self-defense mechanisms, get deposits on the lungs, potentially even enter our bloodstream. So now we’re seeing anything smaller than 10 microns. Well, that’s mold, that’s bacteria, viruses, toxins, most allergens and pathogens. We can start to really make sense of this.

So what’s happening is we have way too much mold in our environment, which unfortunately can happen to quite a few people. Every time you take a breath 20,000 times a day, you have these tiny particles and toxins that are bypassing our self-defense mechanisms, getting deposited on the lungs where it can have pathogenic effects, entering the bloodstream where it can start to disrupt the gut, and really, unfortunately, start to build… illness in otherwise healthy individuals. And what we see is, when you learn about mold specifically, Uh, we make a lot of antibiotics out of mold. I don’t know if you guys were aware of that, right? Um, penicillium is the mold that produces a good bit of, um, antibiotics. Uh, penicillium also creates a toxin called mycophenolic acid, which is what we use in immune suppressing drugs to suppress our immune system intentionally, specifically when we have organ transplants and big medical surgeries where we need to suppress our immune system so that our body doesn’t have these reactions to. And you know. Not agree with the new organ coming in, right? It’s a foreign object. So we have these situations here where we understand and how we’re using it in medicine. But yet we’re neglecting the research on how it might affect us when we’re not intentionally using it just by growing in our homes.

So there’s a lot here to unpack. The bottom line is, I think anyone listening to this, what I want you to understand is… We don’t have to know everything. It’s gonna take time. What we do know is we can test for it in our homes. We can test for it in our bodies. And when we see those two things correlate and we know we have symptoms. It’s important to do the work to make improvements. And I will tell you almost everyone that has done that, that has ever come back to me and had this conversation said, they feel noticeably better by making those improvements. So, you know, it’s really important that we kind of look at that.

Katie: That makes sense. And it sounds like getting rid of the source of it is obviously the big first step and that I’ve always believed and still firmly believe that the body is designed to heal. So I guess the body can do a lot on its own once especially that constant exposure is removed and that our bodies are wanting to move toward health at all times. Are there any additional things that people find often helpful in that process if they’re recovering from mold exposure that can be additionally helpful in addition to what the body’s going to do on its own?

Michael: Yeah, I would say probably the most helpful thing that helped me on my own health journey was sauna. A lot of people are taking specific binders like activated charcoal or some of the stronger stuff that you can take. And for me, it was sauna. And I’m sure everybody has their own story. Unfortunately, the human body is miraculous as it is. No two bodies are exactly alike. We all have different genetics, epigenetics, different immune systems, immune responses, etcetera.

So, I always say if you’re on this journey, you’re looking for tips or tricks, you know, definitely check with a doctor first to get an understanding of what might be right for you because I’d say different things work different for different people. But I think one constant is sweating is so vital because a lot of toxins get stored in fat cells in our body. And when we’re sweating a lot, we’re drinking a lot of fluids as we sweat, we’re flushing out these toxins pretty well. And many of us don’t sweat enough. And so I would encourage people, check out the sauna. That really helped me. After like 30 days of sauna work, I felt like a whole new person.

Katie: I love that your suggestion is one that supports the body’s natural pathways. I am a big fan of it whenever possible, rather than interrupting that, just supporting what the body already knows how to do. And often, like to your point, those are the simple things like sweating, like hydrating, like sleeping well, and giving the body space to heal. And so I love that that is your recommendation. I also, it seems like I know your mission is to really create a paradigm shift and to bring education and awareness around this and help people create healthier home environments. I’m curious what spurred this and if there was a personal story that led to this vision for you.

Michael: Yeah, I mean, the somewhat personal story was more along the lines of… seeing so many people getting sick in New York where I was living right after Hurricane Sandy. My dad’s owned a construction company in New York since I’m five years old, and he did a lot of fire restoration. That was kind of his main business line. When that hurricane hit, it didn’t matter what you did, fire restoration, water mitigation, you pretty much had your hands full trying to fix homes that were destroyed. After seeing so many people get sick in their own homes, it was the first time I ever realized that our environment played such an important role in our health.

And one of the crazy things that I saw in this particular event was the fact that whenever a big event happens like this, you’ll get companies from all over the country that’ll come in opportunistically looking for work and they’ll find it. And most people in this type of situation, they’re so desperate to just get their home fixed and get back to their lives because they’re displaced at this point. That they’ll hire anyone right to just that that is willing to start right away, come in and help.

Well, a lot of these homes were not repaired properly. So a lot of the homes that I’m going in, they were supposedly repaired, they looked like they were fixed, but yet laboratory evidence was telling us that there were still problems there. And this is when I really started to understand, okay, one, our homes can make us sick. That was the first thing that I ever connected the dots on. The second thing that I really understood was that just because it looks like it’s fixed or looks good doesn’t mean that scientifically it is good. And that kind of led to this 11 year journey of me trying to understand how do I make things better for people, no matter how they look, but how do I actually prove it from a data perspective?

And I had to create a process around it that superseded what the industry had been known for. And my personal journey regarding mold and its impact, I can tell you that, as I became more aware of this, I realized… I had asthma as a kid. And when I had asthma, I lived in New York. And when I was eight and I moved out of New York into New Jersey. I no longer had asthma, and HALU is gone. I also had lots of illnesses as a kid, almost had my tonsils removed, had ear infections all the time while I was living in New York, that all seemed to subside when we moved into a single-family home in New Jersey, and I started getting healthier.

The other thing is… being in this industry for 11 years, even with protective gear, going into people’s homes all the time. I too woke up like most people, not realizing I didn’t feel quite the same way I felt in my 20s. I just chalked it up to getting older too, until I realized, you know, I go into a lot of homes, even if I’m protecting myself 99% of the time. Some of these homes we’ve seen data for pretty toxic. I should probably check myself. And that’s when I started doing that whole detox program, sauna. And I’ll tell you, I was energized again. And, um… before then, I was really wondering, you know, if I am getting older or if my kids… making me tired and finally got my energy back and lost a ton of weight in the process too and became much healthier.

Katie: That makes sense. Yeah, like you, I had a personal journey into the world of health and then I’ve gotten to learn so much and meet so many incredible people throughout that. I will of course put links in the show notes so that people can find you because like you said, there is a lot of nuance that goes into this and a lot of very personalized understanding depending on someone’s individual case and what’s going on in their home. And I know you have resources and evaluation and all kinds of info about this. So those links will of course be in the show notes, but where can people find you online to keep learning beyond what we can cover in a one hour podcast episode?

Michael: Yeah, so you can go to homecleanse.com if you need resources for your own home. You can go to changetheairfoundation.org if you’d like to volunteer to change the laws in your state. Maybe you already know about this stuff and you’re just so happy that someone’s talking about it. Well. Please volunteer, because one of the ways that we solve this problem systemically is by changing laws and regulations to make sure people are better protected against living in these types of conditions. If you want to connect with me personally, you can go to themichaelrubino.com and you can consult with me or anything looking for me specific. And of course, Instagram, themichaelrubino, if you wanna see some amazing tips, tricks that I post almost every day.

Katie: Awesome. And then a couple of questions I love to ask toward the end of interviews. The first being if there’s a book or number of books that have had a profound impact on you personally and if so, what they are and why.

Michael: So I want to talk about my favorite book of all time. And just because it applies so directly to me, it’s called The Healing Organization. And to give you a long story short, the call to action in this book is that. It’s for entrepreneurs that have organizations. Make sure that your products or services are doing good for the world, are helping in some way to heal the world and not just to make money. I think that was something that struck a chord with me. The book is fantastic and of course, there’s a lot more in that book than just what I said. If anyone’s an entrepreneur listening, please read that book. It’ll change your life. I promise.

Katie: I will link to that in the show notes as well. Those are all at wellnessmama.com for you guys listening on the go. And lastly, any parting advice for the listeners that could be related to the topic of mold or something we’ve covered or unrelated life advice that you find helpful.

Michael: Yes, go to the show notes. Get yourself the dust test and check your environment. Because I think it’s just been too long for many of us to connect these dots. And I think you’re gonna be surprised to see what you find and don’t freak out. If you find something elevated, that’s good. That means that you can make an improvement and hopefully that improvement improves your quality of life. I’ve seen the craziest things happen to people with the strangest and oddest symptoms. I’ve seen people that didn’t even think they had a problem, didn’t even think that their health was declining, but yet after some simple improvements, all of a sudden they’re feeling more energized, happier, healthier, etc. So you have nothing to lose and you have a lot to gain.

Katie: Well, I have certainly learned a lot during this interview. I’m guessing a lot of people listening have learned a lot as well. And like I said, I’ll make sure all the resources are easy to find so that you guys can find out personally for you what this means for you and your health. But Michael, thank you so much. I feel like I said in the beginning, this is a topic that is not well understood and certainly not talked about enough. And I love that you are bringing awareness and education to this and helping families in the process. So thank you for your time.

Michael: And thank you, Katie, for having such an amazing platform for people to learn and for covering this important topic.

Katie: And as always, thanks to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the Wellness Mama podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

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