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Can Rats, Chemical Odors, Or Even Stress, Cause Mold Like Health Reactions In Homeowners And Office Workers?

Copyright (c) 2007-2018

Mold is and always has been a major contributor in building related illness. I have seen many clients who were ill as the result of living with mold. However, one must not overlook the possibility of other contributing factors such as cigarette smoke, non mold related bio-allergens such as cat and dog dander, rat and mice allergens, and chemical contaminates such as pesticides or volatile organic compounds. Sometimes the culprit is stress or psychosomatic illness, when the latter is expected the investigator must find some tactful way to encourage the client to see a doctor who can help determine if that client is under to much stress.

In many cases homes have no unusual mold conditions but have roof rat infestation (Ratus Ratus) in the attic. This is more common in the South especially in Florida. Rat infested attics often goes unnoticed for years while the occupant suffers. Poorly maintained AC units with damaged AC ducts or loose fitting panels causes rodent odors and allergens in the attic to be sucked into the building where the client may or may not notice a mild dusty or woody or attic odor. This is not uncommon and it is unfortunate how often it goes un diagnosed by short sighted AC service persons looking for proper temperatures at the AC unit or and short sighted mold inspectors looking for mold only.

I have seen more than one case where occupants have been sick for years, after extensive testing and inspection for mold in the building I enter the attic to literally find thousands of rat droppings, rat trails, rat urine stains, and even cute little rat foot prints in the dust on top of AC ducts in the attic.

Other times chemicals are present such as sewage gas. If your roofer replaced the roof but did not vent the plumbing vent pipes through the roof then sewage gas (hydrogen Sulfide) will build up in your attic and eventually back up into your home or office. I discovered this exact problem at a bank in the Florida keys. This bank had an attic and that attic was full of hydrogen sulfide gas. The builder who should have been able to figure this one out did not figure it out and instructed the bank employees to light scented candles, by the way this gas is explosive, and fortunately the bank did not explode.

At a beautiful house own by an interior designer in or near Miami Florida the client was concerned about unusual odors, mild mold odors were coming out of the AC ducts and also she had 3 or 4 AC units in a house that only required one AC unit, thus the AC units were cooling the air before they had a chance to dry the air thus this created a humidity problem that in turn resulted in humidity in her AC ducts and mild mold odors coming from her ducts.

Even with mild mold odors in the ducts her real problem was not mold at all. Testing the air for gases with something called a to-15 canister revealed a veritable cornucopia of at least a dozen or more gasoline ingredients including benzene a carcinogen. After much effort with a hammer we were able to open the tightly sealed crawl space door where strong fumes poured out.

Apparently someone had dumped large amounts of gas into the crawl space nailed the crawl space door shut and sold the property to the interior designer who had purchased the house a few months before my inspection.

At another property spots that the client feared were mold turned out to be stains from a bad paint job. When obtaining an inner wall sample a strong pesticide odor came out of the wall. It appears that the landlord may have used too much pesticide in the wall prior the tenet moving in a few months earlier. The client was mildly obsessed with a fear of mold despite the fact that to most observers the spots did not look like mold.

Strangely enough this client admitted that she was a bit mentally ill. It seemed strange that she admitted this. Many people experiences at least a tiny bit of mental illness at some point. Stress, depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders, and paranoia effects one out of X number of people in America at some point in their lives. I say X because I am not a therapist but a mold inspector, so I do not know the actual number. After your read this article go to some therapist's websites, do a little research and I am sure you will find out X is a high number.

Sometimes it becomes apparent that their is a strong likelihood that clients are not suffering from mold allergies or any other indoor pollutants, but from possible psychosomatic illness or stress. Often these persons are under stress and also these persons read large amounts of mold information written by fear mongers who are not scientists and who do not perform mold inspections.

Other unfortunate clients get ridiculous information from persons claiming to be doctors. Yes their are doctors out their who like sharks detect stress, and emotional instability in patients and instead of trying to help them they encourage the patients down this path so that the doctor can get more visits and more money from persons who fear that mold is making them sick when it is just fear, stress, overwork, unhappiness at home, mold obsession, or cigarettes making them sick.

I have seen more than my fare share of previous stressed out people with tons of mold website information on the dining room table and no mold in their homes. One thing these people have in common is that their symptoms are more like unusual symptoms in the articles they read as apposed to more common mold symptoms coughing, sneezing, itchy throat, watery eyes.

Stress has long been recognized as a contributor of building related illness. But in 2006, recent studies from London and Singapore point to the possibility that stress is a much more important contributor to building related illness than most investigators realized.

The following is from a Green Building Press Article.

According to researchers in London and Singapore, sick building syndrome may be a stress related disorder, rather than a fault of building design. UK researchers asked 4,000 civil servants from 44 buildings in London about their environment and job pressures and about symptoms such as coughs and tiredness. They found dry air and hot offices increased symptoms slightly but the most important factor was stress.

The research is printed in Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal. A similar study by the Singapore Ministry of the Environment produced similar findings.

The London researchers argue that many of the symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, respiratory problems, and unusual tiredness could be linked to work-related stress, rather than something wrong with the environment in the building.

The study found high job demands and low levels of support were linked with high symptom rates, especially for those with little decision-making power.

They used outside observers to assess civil servants' physical work environment by measuring factors such as temperature and light. The volunteers were also asked if they had any physical symptoms and about the demands of their job, including levels of support at work. Some 14% of men and 19% of women reported five or more symptoms associated with the syndrome.

The team found higher levels of symptoms in buildings with temperatures outside the recommended range, poor humidity, airborne bacteria and dust. But lower levels of symptoms were reported in buildings with poor air circulation, or unacceptable levels of carbon dioxide, noise or volatile organic compounds. Workers who could control their immediate environment by turning down heating or opening windows also reported fewer symptoms.

The study authors said: "Sick building syndrome may be wrongly named - raised symptoms reporting appears to be due less to poor physical conditions than to a working environment characterized by poor psychosocial conditions. "Our findings suggest that, in this sample of office based workers, physical attributes of buildings have a small influence on symptoms."

Co-author Dr Mai Stafford of the Epidemiology and Public Health department of University College London, said: "We are not making claims that buildings don't matter. There certainly could be buildings which do have physical properties that are very bad, but for the general workforce job stress and job demands seem to have a bigger impact".

The Singapore study examined the role of work-related psychosocial stress in sick building syndrome and tested the theory that in buildings with no recognized environmental problems, health complaints typical of the syndrome were primarily stress-related.

Data was gathered from confidential questionnaires to assess symptoms and perception of the physical and psychosocial environment among 2160 subjects in 67 offices. Working conditions were also inspected and indoor air quality monitored.

Researchers found more symptoms of sick building syndrome among office workers who reported high levels of physical and mental stress and decreasing climate of cooperation. This association was sustained even after adjustment for personal and environmental exposure factors.

They concluded that stress was a significant and independent determinant of the health complaints, and that symptoms compatible with the sick building syndrome in many cases were stress-related, commenting, "Our findings underscore the importance of personal and organizational stress management to prevent ill health at the office".


About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
Daryl Watters has a bachelors degree in education for teaching biology and general science and is a certified mold inspector, certified home inspector, and certified indoor environmentalist providing building inspections in South Florida since 1993. For more information visit http://www.floridamoldinspectors.us http://www.florida-mold-inspection.com

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