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Searching for a Healthy Home While Suffering with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS)

By Justin Seay, Director of Environmental Services

sick building syndrome

For individuals suffering with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), living in a healthy home is imperative to maintaining your health and healing. One small crack in the foundation, roof, building envelope, or plumbing of your home can cause catastrophic damage over time, both to the integrity of your home and to your health. 

If you are not familiar with CIRS, also known as biotoxin illness, it impacts up to 25% of the population who are genetically susceptible and whose immune systems are unable to process biotoxin exposure.  Sadly, because physicians are often not aware of CIRS, patients are frequently misunderstood or even misdiagnosed by the clinical community.

From water-damaged buildings to red tide and green algae, biotoxins have devasting effects on those who are genetically susceptible.  

Exposure to mold and toxins can cause persistent fatigue, poor concentration, memory impairment, tremors, and neuropathy. Other symptoms of mold and toxin exposure include muscle pain, headaches, and sinus pressure. 

Rezilir Health’s Dr. Craig Tanio is the only physician in Florida that is both certified in the Shoemaker Protocol for mold and biotoxin-related illness and the ReCODE™ protocol for cognitive decline. We treat biotoxin-related illnesses in 3 types of people.

  • Patients who are exposed to water-damaged buildings. As many as 50% of buildings have some degree of water damage. Given recent hurricanes in South Florida, this number has increased substantially. Symptoms can include lung, brain, heart, gastrointestinal and joints among others.
  • Patients with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. As we treat patients with cognitive decline, we are finding that a high percentage of people have activation of the immune system, also known as type 3 Alzheimer’s.
  • Patients with Post Treatment Long COVID, Chronic Fatigue, and Fibromyalgia. These patients should be evaluated for CIRS to see if they have physiological changes that can be responsive to the CIRS protocol. If their physiology is consistent with CIRS, we believe they can respond to the protocol.

The current housing climate has rent and home prices skyrocketing, which means that a lot of people may not be able to afford the quality of home that they once could. Because of this, some may be inclined to overlook problems with potential homes that they would not have previously.

While there may not be many options due to cost, those with CIRS and other environmental illnesses need to take their health and the cost of medical care into consideration when choosing a new home. That house or apartment may fit your current budget, but if it comes with water damage or foundation issues (no matter how small), you may be paying far more in the long run for remediation, construction, home insurance costs, and medical care, to say nothing about the stress and complications that come with illness. 

Along with the higher costs, the majority of homes that are put up for sale or rent are going fast! Many sellers are receiving multiple competitive offers before their house is even officially on the market, and the same buyers are battling over the few homes that are available for sale.

Individuals that are in a tight spot and need to find a home quickly may be inclined to jump at the chance for any home that may meet their needs without thoroughly checking the home out, and many are putting in offers for cash while agreeing to purchase the home in “as is” condition.

In areas such as South Florida, the home of Rezilir Health, purchasing a home in “as is” condition without knowing the health of the home can lead to severe consequences for people with environmental illnesses such as CIRS. Humidity, high rainfall, flooding, and other factors make South Florida a breeding ground for mycotoxins and other dangerous elements. 

That being said, it is still possible to make sure that a home that you are buying or renting is in safe condition. It simply takes effort and diligence on your part before (and after) any contracts are signed. 

When looking to rent or purchase a new home, the first question you should ask a Realtor or leasing agent is if there has ever been any water intrusion or damage in the home (or building as a whole in the case of an apartment, condo, or townhouse). By law, Realtors have to disclose if there has ever been water intrusion or a mold issue in the home, so that is a quick and easy way to get information before deciding to tour a property. If you decide you do want to tour a property, there are many things that you can look for yourself to check for water damage, mold, or other issues. 

Where to begin?

Start with the outside. If possible, check the entirety of the outside of the home. That may not be possible with larger buildings or high rises, so if it’s not, check the areas that you are able to. 

  • If you can see the foundation, are there any cracks or openings?
  • Does the ground around the foundation slope towards or away from the foundation?
    • If the ground slopes toward the foundation, water can pool and weaken the foundation of the home over time.
    • The ground should ideally slope downwards away from the foundation to ensure that water drains away from it.
  • Is the facade of the home in good condition? Are there cracks, rotting sections, holes, or other issues? Water can use these defects to work its way into the building envelope and cause greater damage over time.
  • Are the windows and doors in good condition? 
    • Are the seals intact? 
    • Are the frames solid, or are they split, rotting, or damaged in any other way?
    • Do the frames and ledges slope down and away from the window or door so that water can run off instead of pooling?
  • Does what you can see of the roof appear to be in good condition? 
    • Are there missing, cracked, or bulging shingles? 
    • Are there sections of roof that look newer or older than others?
    • Is the roof a flat roof design or does it have multiple roof lines or angles? 
      • This can create pooling or other issues on the surface of the roof itself. 
    • Is there a gutter system, and is it intact? 
      • Does it appear to be clean and free of debris? 
      • Do the gutter drains exit flowing away from the home? 
  • Gutter drains should ideally terminate at least six feet away from the foundation of the home to prevent pooling.
  • If there is a patio or deck, check for rot or damage where it attaches to the building envelope.
  • Check landscaping to see if it could create issues.
    • Is there a sprinkler or irrigation system that is close enough to the home to spray the home or deck? Does it allow water to pool next to the house?
    • Is the landscape graded to slope away from the home? 
    • If there is mulch present, how close is it to the home, and is there any rot present?
  • Is there a hot tub, pool, or water feature close to the home, especially close to an exterior window or door?

Inside the home, there are many things that you can do as a part of a visual inspection. Often, one way to detect mold is to pay close attention to how the building smells. A musty smell can often indicate the presence of unseen mold, sometimes even under the chemical scents of air fresheners that are used to create a pleasing atmosphere for a showing. If you think the scent of mold is present, trust your gut! 

  • Walk through each room and check for staining or other signs of water damage. Signs can include, but are not limited to:
    • Discoloration (often brown) from water intrusion 
    • Fresh paint on a select portion of the ceiling or walls
    • Missing or replaced ceiling tiles
    • Do windows and doors work properly? 
      • Are they closing and sealing correctly?
      • Is it a struggle to open or close them? 
  • This could be a sign of warping due to water damage
  • Are there any signs of condensation?
  • Drywall damage
    • Rippling, bubbling, paint peeling or cracking, rotting, wrinkled wallpaper
  • Floor damage
    • Swollen baseboards, rotting wood, stained carpet, warped flooring, select portions of flooring having been replaced
  • If there is an attic, is there proper ventilation? 
  • Bathrooms and kitchen
    • Check for stained, discolored, or missing grout around tiles.
      • Press on shower tiles to check for areas of weakness
    • Check under the sink, cabinets, and around the toilet for leaks or signs of water damage as mentioned above
      • Check the wax seal around the toilet for signs of erosion
    • Check the ceiling, especially above the shower, for areas of mold growth due to the steam from hot showers
    • Is there an exhaust fan? 
      • Is it functioning and in good condition? 
      • Does it vent outside of the building?
  • Appliances
    • Check around appliances that use water (refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, water heater, etc)
      • Is there any water staining around the base of the appliance? 
      • If it’s possible to check behind them, is there any water damage or staining on the walls or floor?
      • Are they in good working condition?
    • HVAC
      • Check the base of the unit for water staining or mold growth
      • Check the plenum to ensure it’s clean and dry
      • Does the unit have a drip pan?         
        • If so, is there any water staining or water currently in the pan?
        • Is it equipped with a water pan alarm?
      • If possible, check the AC coils for mold growth
      • Check all vents in the home to see if there is any discoloration or growth around or in the vents
      • Is the evaporator coil intact, and does it drain to the outside of the building? 
      • If you are purchasing or renting a multi-family home, does your HVAC system service your unit only, or multiple? 
        • Try to avoid HVAC systems that service multiple units.
    • Water heater
      • Check for signs of water damage in the area around the unit
      • Verify that the valves are piped outside, and there is a pan that drains outside

Other recommendations for finding a healthy home are:

  • Avoid carpet if at all possible
    • Carpet can act as a reservoir for mold and other contaminants, and can retain moisture which can lead to mold growth
  • Avoid front loader washing machines or shared laundry facilities
    • These can retain moisture inside of the door and create a breeding ground for mold
  • Avoid hallways that are open to the elements
  • In buildings with shared spaces such as condo and apartment building lobbies, gyms, bathrooms, or other public spaces, check those areas as you would your own home for issues
  • If possible, choose a building that is between two and 10 years old that has been well maintained

Even the most diligent buyer can miss the signs of water damage and mold. It’s often behind walls, in the AC system, under carpets, or in other places that you may not be able to detect yourself. Because of this, it is imperative that if you choose to purchase a home you insist on an inspection before closing, especially a mold inspection.

Though home inspectors are trained to look for signs of mold, they do not have the detailed training that certified Indoor Environmental Professionals do, so we strongly recommend having a full mold assessment done in addition to the general inspection. 

As a part of that mold assessment, we recommend a physical sample test. For the purposes of purchasing a home our recommendation is to perform a dust sample test. This provides a history of the home via the collection of the ambient dust and is gathered by simply dusting with a cloth around the home, which is then sent to the lab for processing (as opposed to an air sample test which provides a snapshot of only a few minutes). The ERMI is one such dust sample test, and checks for 36 different varieties of mold. 

While nothing is ever guaranteed, vigilance on your part can help ensure that you and your family are able to find a healthy, happy home. Rezilir offers assessments for your current or future homes (and offices), physical sample testing, and interpretation of results and other assessor’s reports. We also provide consultations regarding any questions or concerns about finding a healthy home, and education on how to clean your items if you’re moving out of a moldy environment.

Please contact our IEP services coordinator Jessica Seay at iep@rezilirhealth.com for more information, or to schedule a consultation or assessment. 

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