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Toxicity and Mental Health

Toxicity and mental health go hand in hand.

Dr. Laura Mark, a Board Certified psychiatrist, writes about this in the book Surviving Mold. Her health began to deteriorate in 1995 at the age of 40, when she joined the staff of a state-run psychiatric hospital. Over the next five years she developed stabbing headaches, itchy rashes, joint swelling, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands, abdominal pain, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and memory loss. Others in her workplace complained of similar symptoms. She left the position and experienced improved health, until she took a job at a 200-year-old satellite clinic in a rural town. Her story continues from there. A story of compromised indoor air quality, declining health, and the impact of musty, moldy conditions on the clinic's patients.

Dr. Mark writes:

How much of patients' anxiety, apprehension, irritability, mood swings, explosiveness, cognitive dysfunction, neurologic (i.e. seizure and movement disorder) symptoms may have resulted from pre- or post-admission exposure? In the worst-case scenarios, how many of our long-term folks inevitably became long-term patients, with their life confined to an institution's four walls as a consequence of exposure to the water-intruded, chemically-saturated indoor air quality of the very institution charged with facilitating their recovery in a "safe" setting?

Dr. Mark has a passion to share the medical evidence linking inflammatory responses, and the resulting mental health impairments, with compromised indoor air quality.

She even looks back and sees that her health issues began during her childhood, long before her toxic encephalopathy was diagnosed in July 2007.

Might my genetic susceptibility to a whole host of toxic triggers (particularly musty, moldy, moist places) have contributed to the years of stuttering, crying, shyness, intermittent brain fog, irrational anxieties, and sleep disturbances? Were these things due to an underlying inflammatory response syndrome? Was I a "crybaby," or were those things a result of where I lived and went to school, what foods I ate, or what air I breathed?

Imagine what was happening to my patients' children, so often misdiagnosed and mislabeled, pigeonholed. If a teenager had an episode of suicidal gesture at age 15, that history was the first thing recited in a subsequent psychiatric evaluation. Yet if her gesture was due to frustration, sadness, chronic pain, and cognitive issues from exposure to a moldy bedroom, would we still label her as an adult with depression just because she had ideation of suicide years before?

I'm learning. I see so many themes now, starting from the need to educate physicians, the need to get the word out, the need to protect my patients from moldy buildings, and to preserve my own health. The learning has so many dimensions.


"My daughter has had many blood samples taken to test for everything imaginable and her doctor just seems puzzled. Everything comes back normal."

– Anonymous

"In my moldy home if I left the wet clothes in the washer they would get musty very quickly and I'd have to re-wash... Sometimes I'd run a load, go to work, and they'd be musty when I returned that evening."

– Anonymous

"The ERMI mold test as well as your helpful articles and Toxic Talk Tuesday programs have helped us avoid a terrible mistake in purchasing a new home."

– Angela

"Our family has been out of our home for 9 months due to mold... I am so scared and weak from all of this. We have lost friends; family members don't understand."

– Anonymous

"I'm new at this, but today I cleaned my bathroom with baking soda and vinegar. It's much better not having those strong chemical smells afterwards."

– Anonymous

"The entire time we lived in our (mold-infested) house the kitchen sponge would get musty smelling within 3-4 days. It was so strange. I had to buy a pack of sponges nearly every week."

– Anonymous

"I started finding myself sitting on the floor in rooms of my house and not remembering how I got there, what I was doing before, or how long I had been there."

– Brenda

"My symptoms persisted and eventually turned into lethargy and depression. At the age of 26, I required a nap every evening after work."

– Jennifer

"I knew it was mold, but doctors kept telling me I had anxiety. I was sitting in my office and could not remember who I was talking to, or what we were talking about."

– Brenda

"My daughter started having digestive problems... heart palpitations... coughing episodes... muscle/joint pain... asthma/allergies... Her doctor finally advised me to check for mold in our home."

– Anonymous

"We all suffered from headaches, hormonal body temperature fluctuations, brain fog, fatigue, difficulty breathing, thrush, rashes, and yeast infections... we vacated our home two weeks ago."

– Anonymous

"I had been struggling with headaches, head fog, breathing difficulties (unable to get a full breath), constant scalp tingling, migraines, nausea, feeling spacey/detached, and severe itchy skin."

– Anonymous

" age 35 or 36 I started to become allergic to everything, and I got asthma at age 36... I went to doctor after doctor after doctor and was desperate for help, but nobody could help me."

– Mia

"I've been living in a mold-infested home for 13 months... I was going CRAZY! Finally figured it out... Just a few days of recovering in a mold-free home and I feel AMAZING!!!"

– Lauren

"We were having a lot of health problems and had been to the doctor countless times... we had large circles of slimy greenish-black mold on the bathroom ceiling, where it had caved in a few months before."

– C.

"Both of my sons went downhill quickly and coughed for months... They both lost their ability to read, had profound vision disturbances, and had phenomenal gastric issues."

– Lee

"I have been sick for almost 6 months now and doctors were not able to figure out why. I finally put it all together after going away for vacation for a week and suddenly my symptoms were going away."

– Anonymous

"We had some water leaks in our home... we never thought we needed to clean out and remove the floor, the ceiling, or the drywall... my two small children and I have remained constantly sick for years in this home."

– Mia

"I was skeptical at first that these (natural cleaning) products would work, but they work better than the stuff I buy at the store! We will soon be moving to the personal care products as well!"

– Jennifer

This site is dedicated to a true friend and mother — Barbara Dell Kessel (1929-2009)