Welcome to our comprehensive guide on detecting and treating mold in your home. In this video, we'll take you step by step through the process, starting with identifying signs of mold and ending with various removal techniques. Learn about the health risks associated with mold exposure and why it's crucial to tackle the problem swiftly. We'll also discuss preventive measures to keep your home mold-free in the future. Whether you're dealing with a minor mold issue or a widespread problem, this video offers expert advice to safely and effectively treat mold. Remember, your health and the quality of your living environment matter, so let's dive in and start learning.
In this episode, we cover:
00:27 – Jeff Bookout Introduction
06:22 – Kinds of Molds and How They Grow
13:14 – Water Intrusion in Windows
16:57 – Removing Moisture from the Foundation and Basement
29:06 – Mold Testing Procedures
38:12 – Mold Cleaning Techniques
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Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Hey guys, Dr. Justin Marchegiani here in the house with Jeff Bookout, mold expert. We are excited to have Jeff on today's podcast. Jeff is a mold detective. He goes in, he does mold inspections in different homes. He has natural treatment protocols as well to assess mold. We've got a couple of audio issues starting off, so we're ready to rock on this one. Hey Jeff, how are you doing today, man? What's cooking?
Jeff Bookout: Doing fantastic, Doctor. How are you doing today?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Doing excellent. Really excited to chat with you. So we talked about it earlier, but just kind of give the listeners a little preview. How did you get into this space out of the gate here?
Jeff Bookout: You bet. So I've been doing this for almost 20 years. How I got into it is my youngest daughter was getting sick from mold exposure. I didn't know what was going on. She had 104-degree fevers every time we would go to certain areas, strep throat by 2 a.m. And back then, it's like, “What's wrong with you? I slept in the exact same place that you did, ate the same things that you ate. Why are you sick and I'm not?” Because clearly, at her young age, she was extremely ill. So, back then, we didn't have access to the information that we have today, but she has what's called HLA genetics, so her liver is not producing glutathione, which is a naturally occurring antioxidant that takes out toxins in your body and removes them.
At the time, we didn't even know that data, but she was getting sick from mold. We found high levels of Aspergillus and Penicillium in the area that we're at, and that was the reaction that she was having. Luckily enough, I had some great people fall into my lap. Dr. Dale Smith, Dr. McGath helped me through that. Got in touch with a guy named Walter Hayhurst. He got sick from mold exposure. Nobody in the country could get him better, so he went back to work, developed his own formulas that he had, and that's what we use to get Kinsey better.
So, I look at everything a little bit more detail than everybody else, or a lot of people, from a mold inspection side, because if you are not detailed at what you do, you are going to miss the reason why people are sick in the house. I hear it all the time, “Jeff, I don't have mold in the house.” But they're looking for the Dalmatian all over the wall, right? The big black hairy stuff growing all over the wall. And if it was that easy, you don't need somebody like me, right? You know where the problem is, and you just need help getting rid of it. But in these cases, I kind of look at everybody, Doctor, as you're drowning in a toxic whiskey barrel. My job, I feel, is to come in, reduce that toxic load, so your own body and your doctor can help get you better. So I need to puncture a big hole in the bottom of that barrel.
So I'm looking for two different things inside your environment. One is what I call the elephants, just like it sounds. Anything that's going to produce mold spores or mycotoxins on a level that makes somebody sick. Secondly, is what I call red flags in your environment. Things that are contributors to your toxic load that you may not realize: plants, pets, finding, loading washing machines. There are a lot of little things in the environment that are contributors to your toxic load but not the reason why you're sick. But I feel I need to be detailed enough to show you all of those things so your body can get better faster.
So, at the end of the day, it's all about finding elephants for me and making sure that you either flee from those elephants or you find and correct those elephants correctly. We'll talk about doing it correctly in a little bit.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: But yeah, so when you look at mold visually, right, how often do you see mold visually on the wall like the kind of Dalmatian analogy versus it's there but you can't see it? What percent of the time?
Jeff Bookout: I would say at least 80 percent of the time you do not see it visually. All those cases that it's just obvious, it happened to me last week. You know, we sit down at the table when I first go into the house and kind of go over your medical history, the history of the house. If you have questions for me, one of my questions is, “Hey, what's your past water intrusions? Do you know of anything that's happened in the past?” “No, nothing's happened, Jeff.” You walk down to the basement, water is standing visibly in the window well. It is gushing out the window well and into the basement. It is just one of those things that was just obvious, but they just never go down to the basement, so they didn't know it.
But most of the time, Justin, it is hidden behind wall cavities. It is not easy to find. Crawl space is probably the number one reason why people get sick from mold exposure. So, those of you out there that have a crawl space, when's the last time that you were actually physically in your crawl space to actually look at that? Or secondly, kind of like behind my wall here, Justin, is my master shower. So if I had seal issues in my tiles, in my grout, now water's getting all behind that water cavity, mold is growing all behind that cavity, but I don't see that with the naked eye.
And a lot of times, you'll miss that on an air test if you do some air testing. Air testing is looking for the mold spore, but mold makes you sick three different ways: the mold spores, the mycotoxins that it produces, and the MVOCs that it produces. (What's that last one?) Mold Volatile Organic Compounds. So a lot of things let off VOCs or volatile organic compounds into the air, but I'm specifically looking for MVOCs coming from mold. Kind of the best analogy I have for you: Do you ever smell that musty old basement smell? (Yes) Most people know what that smells like. Well, that's an MVOC, and it's telling me that you have an active mold problem or mold is actively feeding. That's why I'm smelling that odor into the air itself.
But you have mold spores behind this wall. Well, mold works like a dandelion out in the yard. As soon as you kick it, blow it, disturb it, then it thinks it's going to die, throws its mold spores out to regenerate somewhere else. But being behind this wall, it's fat, happy, and content, not releasing mold spores into the air, but it is allowing mycotoxins or MVOCs to penetrate right through that sheetrock and communicate with my breathable air. So, I always use kind of the green gas scenario. You know, imagine mold spores, mycotoxins, MVOCs. It's green gas. So now you can see it. Green gas just comes out of those wall cavities, communicates with your breathable air, and that's why you're getting sick. But you can't see that because that is on a microscopic level.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay, got it. So you have the VOCs, you have the mycotoxins, which are the off-gassing of the mold, and then you have the mold spores themselves, is that correct? (Right). And then you have different kinds of mold. Some, not all molds, produce mycotoxins, right? You have like the Aspergillus, Penicillium, black mold type of ones that produce mycotoxins, and then you have like the Cladosporium, Microsporium, Candida ones, which are more environmental or kind of like animal-based from the outside in. Is that correct?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, exactly right. And it all comes back to water intrusion, Doctor. So, you get a water intrusion that doesn't dry out within a week, mold can begin to grow. Then it gets exponential after that. So, that first week, I call them the baby molds, right? Microsporum, Cladosporium, generally, they can cause some upper respiratory issues, but I'm generally not as concerned about those. But that water intrusion stays a week or longer, then that's when Aspergillus, Penicillium starts to grow, your toxic mold journey begins.
You change moisture content one percent either way, and different toxic molds can show up. But then, a water intrusion stays a month or longer. That's when you're seeing your Chaetomium and your Stachybotrys, the ones that produce the trichothecenes that can make you extremely sick. Those should only show up with water intrusion that's been there for a month or longer. So molds have a pecking order.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay, interesting. Very interesting. So, what are the most common intrusions of water? Is it just the roof? Is it a crack in the foundation? Is it a pipe bursting? What are the most common vectors that water, from a macro level, comes from the outside in?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, I would say the number one reason why people get sick from mold is probably that dark, forecrawl space. Number two would probably be a master shower, water getting behind tiles. But everybody, no matter where you live, you have water pipes. And even in my own home, the last three years, I've had like five or six major water intrusions. One was a slab leak, one was a hot water tank, filter leaking. A couple of them were pipes behind the walls that leaked. So it all comes back to a water intrusion, and everybody has water lines into their house. So, one of those leaking and you don't know it, and it's a slow drip that's gone on for months and months and sometimes even years, then that becomes a problem.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: So, how do you know if it's a slow leak? Like, I have one of the devices by Moen called Flow, which is a great device because it's an auto-shutoff, which is excellent. I can look at my app and in real-time, I can see if there's any water movement in the house, which I like. And it does do the shutoff. If I fill my pool up, after 20 or 30 minutes of the water being on, it knows that that's different and it shuts the water, which is wonderful. We had a pipe burst in my house last year, and it went for like 16-18 hours. It'd be nice to only have 30 minutes of damage versus 18 hours of damage. Any feedback on some of those devices, auto-shutoff devices?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, I love them. I wish everybody had one. The auto-shutoff features are very rare that I come across those, but even what I did in my own house, I bought water alert sensors. (Yes), mine, I think, are Gobies, but there are a lot of different brands that are out there. And I don't care about the brand, but put those underneath all your areas. So when I first got mine, underneath again my vanities, behind my washing machine, underneath my master tub, the first week I got it, Justin, it goes off and I'm actually angry.
I think it's a couple of days after I got it, that piece of junk is going off, right? And it's underneath my master tub, and my oldest daughter loves my master tub. It's huge. So she puts her feet up on the faucet, the spigot, and water was dumping down behind that spigot. And that was the reason why it was going off. I was like, “Oh, this thing is not a piece of junk at all. It really works.” So, in how often do I look underneath my master tub? How often do I look around my HVAC or my hot water heater? Extremely rare until there's a big problem. But if you can find that moisture intrusion and dry it out within 48 hours, you're not going to have a mold problem. So, with sensors and shutoffs, I wish everybody had them.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: I think they're great. I have them under my washing machine, my master tub, my kitchen sink. I have them downstairs in the basement. I think it's great. Now, a couple of things that I found is, okay, now you get frozen pipes. That's a big issue. I had a couple of pipe, you know, frozen pipes burst in my life, and they're a pain in the butt issue. What I do now is, anytime it gets below zero at night, you know, I'm turning off the water, you know, around 8-9 o'clock at night. I'll use my Moen shut-off, and I drain the pipes. I just go to, like, you know, the lowest sink, turn it on for a couple minutes, let all the water out, and then I'll turn it back on in the morning. And then, when if I go to work or leave the house, well, I'll use the app, turn it off, drain the water again. I only do that, like, you know, those, you know, three to five, like, you get that one week of really cold, right? I'll do that then. What do you think about doing that as a preventative on those really cold days to prevent a frozen pipe?
Jeff Bookout: Incredibly smart. So, anytime you can do something like that, Justin, you're gonna solve so many water intrusion, pipe leaks, things like that. So yeah, I wish everybody would do it.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: And I think that's the best way because I had a plumber say, “Oh, let the sink drip.” So one day, I let the sink drip, okay? And I come up to my sink, the sink's 80, 90% full of water. I go, “What the heck?” And so essentially what happened, the drip going down into the drain, it froze going into the drain, and then it froze, and then it backed up with the ice, and then the water accumulated on top of it. So you think the drip method works on those really cold days, it may not.
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, and I had the same thing happen. Yeah, it's the same thing, but I have mine dripping, and sure enough, the pipe still froze, so it can still happen. So if you can shut off the water, yeah, yeah, probably probably a great idea.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah. And then also I had a supply line going into my toilet freeze. Well, how do you drip that? What do you do? You don't, unless you can go under the hopper and put like a credit card on there and let it drain slowly, but it's like, what do you do? So now I'm just like, you know what, I'm using my app, I'm just killing the water as a preventative. I find that the burst pipes are the worst, and if you leave your house at all, just kill your water for the week if you leave your home. My God, I see people come back after a couple weeks being in Florida or something, and then the whole house is just destroyed with mold.
Jeff Bookout: Yeah. And I always say you get what you inspect, not what you expect. So same applies here. Anytime I have a major Frozen day or, you know, one of those top issues, I'll walk around my house. I'll check those areas, every single area of water pipes. I'm gonna physically look and inspect. And I'm gonna, I inspect my own house every year just like I'm a client. Just go through it because there's so many areas in my house that I just don't look at, and I know if I'm not looking at them, I know most people aren't.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah. And then also just the hose on the outside of the hydrant on the outside, if you can't kill the water, you can't have a hose because that'll be like a thumb over the straw. They'll just keep water in that line. I had a pipe burst that way. No one told me about that. You know, as an adult, you need like that handbook of like these are the things you gotta do to take care of your home so you don't jack stuff up.
Jeff Bookout: You're exactly right. Maybe one of these days I'll retire and write that book.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: I know that's a good one. All right, so we have, like, we have the overt water coming in. We kind of talked about some preventative things. We talked about that. Is there anything else, like common sense, like around windows? Do you recommend, like caulking around windows? Is there something you recommend with insulation? Anything else on the preventative side people can look at to make their home safer for water intrusion?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, in windows, it's one of those big areas. I just wrote a report, you know, a couple hours ago, and it is amazing how major those seal issues were around the windows. I mean, this is obvious. (Yeah) But they never go look outside of the windows. So generally, it's your windows in your master shower or your shower areas. Yep. So those are the two areas from the seal issue standpoint that you can check yourself because if you've got to look at this every three to five years, that silicone is breaking down or that sealant over your grout is breaking down, the caulking is breaking down. So go outside your windows, do a quick walk around your house, see if you've seen those issues.
I was doing that a couple years ago. Wow, I got a brick crack. So you get what you inspect, not what you expect. Same, same there. Look in your shower, you know, take a flashlight, look in the corners, look to see if there are any cracks, gaps, mold is starting to get into your caulking. You know, that's a good time to start replacing that. So every three to five years, that needs to be done.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, that's really good to look at. Anything else? Anything else you recommend on the preventative side?
Jeff Bookout: There's a lot of things on preventative side, and here's kind of, I would say, the top five, six things that I wish everybody did, Justin, and we can dive into some of these details later. We're going to talk about, but number one is I do a treatment of my own house every year. It's a dry fog to treat the air, to clean the air. It's amazing how nasty your building envelope gets. So by treating that air, whether it's mold, Lysol, hairspray, bleach, ammonia, it all stays trapped into this building envelope. So I treat the air with the Haven fog every year, no matter what. I use a maintenance protocol because my daughter does get sick from mold exposure. So once a month, I maintain that with the Haven Mist.
I have strategically using air purifiers throughout the house. Austin Air is probably my favorite. IQ Air would be my number two. Air Doctor would be my number three. But any device that uses HEPA filtration and VOC or charcoal filtration, that's what I want in your house, nothing that creates a chemical change. So I wish everybody had some type of air purification and use it strategically, but I mean strategic. You're spending eight hours a day in your master bedroom. You better have one there.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: How often do you change the Austin Air? I know that one's good for a couple of years, four or five years. How often do you change it?
Jeff Bookout: Generally, it's about every five years for me personally. I notice a different odor when it's time to change it.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: It starts to get a little more fruity, right?
Jeff Bookout: Is that the kind of it can be a fruity smell? It can be kind of a, I don't know, a soily smell. But anytime you smell something different around that unit, some change those filters.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay. Is it worth going in there and kind of getting like a really good high-quality vacuum and just vacuuming out the filter to just give a little more life?
Jeff Bookout: I've done that to mine several times. Yeah.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: So that's good to do as well, give it a little more life?
Jeff Bookout: Because, Justin, you minimize dust, you're going to minimize mold. Mold is just dust.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: yeah, exactly. Okay, that makes a lot of sense. All right, so we have, we talked about the filters. You said before you like Austin Air HealthMate Plus. Love that. You like the Air Doctor, the IQ Air. Those are your kind of big three on the air filter side. All right, we'll put links down below. That's awesome.
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, outside of that, I never recommend anymore. There's a lot on the market, but at the end of the day, I just don't want one that creates a chemical change, and I want one that has HEPA filtration and charcoal filtration. So if you find one of those, I'm happy with it.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That's good. Now, what about prevention on the basement side? So we got a basement, obviously, we could talk about dehumidifiers down there to keep the moisture. What about a moisture barrier on the inside of the foundation as well as the outside of the foundation? What's your opinion on that?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah in account, in every setup is different. I always said in my perfect house, I wish I had a basement. I enjoy basements, but basements can be a huge trouble area if it's not done correctly. So in a perfect world, it's stopping moisture against the foundation, number one. So a proper drainage system or proper negative sloping, foundation. Number two is I would have what's called a spider drain system. And if you look at it, it is a perimeter drain that goes around the entire exterior of the basement, then it has legs from all different directions coming to the center of the basement. So if you do have excessive moisture under the foundation, that's going into a drainage system as well.
Then obviously, waterproofing on the outside while it's being built and on the inside while it's being built. So I kind of hit it from every direction to minimize any moisture intrusion. And you hit it a minute ago with the dehumidifier. Moisture content, I want below 50 percent. So if that means you need to add a portable dehumidifier, one attached to your HVAC, you can buy cheap hygrometers Lowe's Home Depot Walmart just to check the humidity in the air, make sure that stays below 50%.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay. Now, someone, you know, that's some, that's great advice if you're going to be able to build your home from scratch. But now you get this basement, right? What's the easiest thing you can do? We can do a dehumidifier. Is it worth doing some Drylok or a moisture barrier on the inner part of the concrete foundation inside the basement? Is that a good option?
Jeff Bookout: It is a good option if you don't have a finished basement. And you got to realize these houses that I go into the basement's already finished.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: So the basement's finished. Is there anything you'd recommend outside of just a dehumidifier and a really good air filter besides that?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, dehumidifier, good air purification. But probably most importantly, no water can stand against that foundation. That's generally the biggest issue that I come across, negative sloping, a lot of vegetation, vines, and IVs growing up the side of the house, window wells that don't have dome covers over them and water's getting to those window wells. It's all about moisture. So let's stop moisture against the foundation that won't come in the basement unless it's coming from the ground up.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: So is that where so you recommend having a good sump pump put around the foundation just to make sure any water that's up against it gets pumped away?
Jeff Bookout: I don't use a sump pump, but trench drain French drain, then make sure that it goes a minimum 18 inches away from that foundation.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, okay. Yeah, we have two sump pumps which any water that accumulates, you know, you hear it go on when it rains and stuff. You hear any water that comes up around the foundation, it pumps it out. And then we put Artisan drains or French drains in to kind of just redirect the water away from the foundation.
Jeff Bookout: Now, in one note to mention there, if you do have a sump pump in the basement itself, make sure that sump pump is sealed from the breathable air. So imagine the green gas all in because there's standing water in there all the time. So seal it up, make sure there's no air communication from that pit to the breathable air.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yep, that makes sense. That's really good. Anything else? Because I find a lot of people, they just have high moisture in their basement. Like when I didn't have a dehumidifier, I found it would be 15% higher humidity in my basement compared to my first and second floors. It'll be 15%, maybe even 20% difference. Now, I keep my basement. I have it at 40%, which is the lowest I can set for April air, and it will mostly keep it around 46% to 47% with it being at 40%. So, it's just always pulling out that moisture all the time, and that's a game-changer regarding just the odor and the scent. What's your take on that?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, no, you're exactly right. It is amazing how many basements that I go into that as soon as you walk down there, “Oh Jeff, it just smells like a basement”. Basements should smell like the rest of the house, smells like a basement. There's a problem. Generally, that's exactly what you find. It's the humidity. You know, it starts getting to 60%, 65 percent. Aspergillus penicillin is just thriving off the excess of moisture and dust in the air. And a lot of times, you don't even see it visually. There's no colonization of mold. It's just malodor because so much moisture content and molds throbbing off the dust, and it had me colonized all over your stuff yet.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That's great. So, all right, so easy out of the gate, we can do some kind of drainage around the house, some kind of a pump maybe to pump the water away, or at least drainage to kind of move the water away. (Right), that's an easy one. Exactly right. And then at what point would you put a pump in, some kind of a pump to move the water away? Does that come in at all?
Jeff Bookout: It doesn't unless I have groundwater coming up. So, if I've done my due diligence on keeping moisture away from the foundation, water's not coming down the side of my walls. Now, if I can't, in your case, and I'm not for sure about your case, Justin, but I need that water to drain far enough away from the house that it's not going to keep that excess of moisture against the concrete, and that concrete will wick up that moisture and cause a problem in your basement. So, if I need it to be pumped out further away from the house, yeah, I would get a sump pump. And most things that I find is just getting good trench or a French ring system and just extend it out far enough away from the house.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That's the way to do it. Everyone should just have their foundation waterproofed when they're building. Now they should just spray it on with a sprayer and just roll it out, and it'd be easy. It wouldn't be a hard job to do it all.
Jeff Bookout: A lot of this is the problem that we're using these building materials that we're using, Justin, because they're sheetrock. Why behind your washer is there sheetrock and not hardybacker board concrete board like this in your master shower? Because (yeah), sometime in the next 20 years, you're going to have a leak underneath your sink, right? (Right). And when you do, what do I have underneath there? Compressed particle board as a platform underneath the sink, which is just a twinkie for mold. Then I've got the sheetrock on the back wall. So, if I'm putting in areas or zones that are not a mold source, I'm going to minimize any problems that I'm going to have in your basement. And I don't like carpet anyway. You know the data on carpet is if you go to change out your carpet, it weighs eight times more than what it did when you put it in. I mean, that's mold data, right? That's just nasty.
(That is gross). If you have a basement, you know there's going to be excessive moisture in your basement at some time in the next 20 years. (Yeah), I almost guarantee it.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, yeah, yeah. What I've learned just through observation, right? I had professional-grade vinyl in my basement here. It's waterproof, water-resistant. But if I could go back, what I would do is I would have just the epoxy kind of laid down, right? (Yeah), just like just the epoxy floor. That's really nice. You can make it look nice, and then it's water-resistant. So if you ever get a leak, you'll never have to rip it out. And then having a leak once, right? We had it over here, and the water just transitioned all the way across the home to find the nearest drain.
I'd have a drain in every corner of the house so when that water comes here, it doesn't move through everything and get everything wet. So you just have one drain on each corner. You have a leak or whatever. It keeps the mess a little bit more localized. (I agree). No, that's… Yeah, and I would think, you know, probably a drain under your kitchen sink too would be a smart idea, right? Just something simple like that or behind your washing machine will be a drain too. Will be good too.
Jeff Bookout: “Yeah, Jeff, I can't afford a drain.” Well, everybody, you know, Lowe's, Home Depot, Walmart sells those little cups, little plastic liner things that you can put underneath there. So if you do have a slow drip, you're just going to fill up into that. (That's it.) Yeah, you know, you've got to leave.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: You can at least put like a little liner in there and then put the leak guard in, you know, the leak alarm. But I'm just speaking to, like, more like, all right, from, like, you're talking about construction practices. You think some of these construction practices would, would kind of trickle downstream with just basic like codes, code requirements. But I guess it increases the cost, and people are just trying to pinch pennies, you know.
Jeff Bookout: It's all about money on building the house.
But you know, you talk to any insurance person, they'll tell you, like, the biggest, the biggest, biggest cost really comes with all these leaks. These leak damages, probably even more than fire or anything else, right?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, I would agree.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, all right, cool. So anything else you wanted? So we talked about the humidity aspect. That's a big one. What about the crawl space? I think I talked to JW, and he said, like, with a crawl space, you either want to seal it up and make it perfectly airtight or you want to make it like a wind funnel and have great, great ventilation. What's your take on that?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, my favorite is to have it completely airtight to where the soil cannot communicate with the air above it ever again, (ever again), yeah. And how I look at that is, imagine throwing a blanket out in the yard tonight, then picking it up tomorrow morning. Underneath that, it's moisture, right? It's a vapor barrier. So you have a vapor barrier down, or if you don't have a vapor barrier, which you should, now, now you have rainwater sitting against the foundation or a pipe leak. That soil gets wet. Mold, virus, bacteria, yeast all grow into that soil, and you have this basically a toxic pit underneath your house. So it's soil contamination. So getting a non-permeable vapor barrier, that's a thick vapor barrier that goes over that soil so you don't get a rip, hole, puncture, tear into that liner, that vapor barrier, then have it come up the sides of the foundation attached to the foundation so it completely seals it off from the rest of the house. So, basically,
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: We would also put a dehumidifier down there too as well?
Jeff Bookout: So, you know, I've traveled the nation doing this. Some areas, the answer is yes, but in some areas, no, you don't need it. But how do I attract it? (It's so dry. You mean), yeah, exactly right. So I'm checking the humidity content down there. And if I have a humidity issue, then I can add a dehumidifier. And this is very debatable. A lot of people try to shut up the crawl space so I'm not getting the humid air from outside and not getting that airflow because “It's humid outside. Jeff, I'm allowing all this moisture.” So it's highly debatable. But in my opinion, I would have it. And if I need to add a dehumidifier, I can keep that moisture under control.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: What else? What other common situations are you seeing? We talked about the humidity aspect. We talked about the basement. How do you know if you're having an issue if you have a slab and you don't have a basement? How do you see that?
Jeff Bookout: Generally, you don't, unless you have something like an infrared camera or my perfect case. You know, I was going to do the laundry, and I don't have any shoes or socks on, and I go into my washer around my washer. My floor is hot. Oops. And immediately, I know I've got a hot water line that's got a leak in it under that slab. If it's a cold water line, I wouldn't know that until my grout, my tiles started getting discolored. Then I'll look at it under infrared camera, and I can kind of pinpoint where that leak is coming from. But in my case, yeah, it's knowing your house. It's walking around your house. You get what you inspect, not what you expect. So, I think,
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: How do you treat that? How do you even treat that? Do you go in and just waterproof the side of your foundation after that? What do you do?
Jeff Bookout: If it's a slab leak like I had, is that tile comes up, and all those damaged materials underneath that tile had to be replaced. But generally, number one, it's stopping the moisture at the end of the day. And if you have a slab leak, Justin, there's nothing you can do to stop the slab leak. It's just going to happen. You have to catch it as soon as you can, like yours. If you have the water shut-off system, it's automatically going to shut off that water, and now you've got to go figure out where it's leaking at, right?
So bringing in a plumber or a guy that has an infrared camera or sonar, there are a couple of different methods to find that. But it's finding where that leak's at and stopping it as soon as possible. If you can't stop it within 48 hours, just know you're going to have to remove and replace some damaged materials. You're going to need to treat the air afterwards.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay, very good. And then what about on the testing side? We talked, like, pre-show, you know, using some of the auger plates to kind of detect what's in the air. Is that kind of your favorite baseline method? And we talked about some of the more expensive methods. Which methods do you like the best that's more practical and cost-effective?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, so here's my quick overview, then I'll kind of rate them for you. Every way of testing has its flaws, right? So they have their good and their bad with every way of testing. Generally, I love testing for two different reasons. Do I need somebody like Jeff to come out, look at my property from a mold standpoint of view, and do a mold inspection? Yes or no. And it doesn't always answer that question. But there's a reason why generally I'm at somebody's house and there's a reason why you're getting air testing.
So if something does show up low or there's not a problem, you may want to look at a different methodology because let's look at auger plates. I love those. So they're probably my favorite for the average person because it's the best bang for the buck. They're extremely cheap. They're 3 dollars a plate if you buy the mold plate. If you haven't analyzed total fees, probably 35 dollars for each room that you do. I do it professionally for you at 75 dollars a sample that I take. So it's a lot more expensive, and that's generally on the low and it's up to about 125 dollars a sample in some different areas. So it's relatively cheap and easy to do, and it gives a lot of information.
It also picks up yeast where other methodologies aren't going to pick up the yeast. And as you know from a medical standpoint, yeast is causing a lot, a lot of problems in my medically sensitive patients.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: And where's that yeast coming from? Is it mainly pets or could it be off-gassing from someone that even has candida or yeast overgrowth in their body? How does that happen?
Jeff Bookout: Generally, I say the number one reason is person or pet, and generally, why I see that is a mold side effect. I get mold exposure, it gets into your system, throws your gut out of whack, Candida starts to overgrow, so thrush coming out of the back of your mouth, literally Candida falling off of your skin. So generally, it's person or pet, but it can be from other sources too. My nose happens to be very sensitive, so a lot of times when I go into a basement and the insulation is wet, I smell what I call the sweet banana smell, which is more of a yeast-type smell to me. It is because there's Candida, Rhodocharilla, Nocardia, a yeast family mold that's actually growing behind the insulation because it's all wet. So it's not always person or pet, but it's kind of a red flag that that's the issue.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay, that makes a lot of sense. And then, what if you don't send it to the lab? Obviously, the lab will tell you what the yeast or what the mold is and if there are mycotoxins. Can you kind of assess that and they give you a number rating based on the spores? If, let's say, you just did the cheap Home Depot one and you just kept it open for an hour or two, closed it up for a week, and then can you just count the spores and just see, “Okay, I'm under five, I'm probably okay.” Because that's a good, decent method to look at.
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, the methodology behind that on a medical scale is zero to four colonies is normal. Five to eight is elevated. Nine and above is definitely going to be an issue for medically sensitive patients. So, part of it's not rocket science. So, follow the instructions from Immunolytics, set out that plate for an hour, look at it after four days. It's incubated in there, it's not having babies upon babies yet. So, after four days, I'm going to look at that mold plate. The size of the mold does not matter. It can be the size of a pinhead, it can take up half the plate, but I'm going to look at and count all the dots, (just the dots). Yeah, exactly right, that's normal. So, for three dollars, I kind of got a snapshot of that room. And if I was smart and did every room in my house, now I've got three areas that have quite a bit in them. Okay, I'm going to spend the extra money, send those off to the lab, have it analyzed. So, it's a good methodology, best bang for the buck.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: And if you see an elevation there and there's no water leak, right, you count it, it's only maybe four or five or six little pinheads, is it just, “Hey, let's get some air filtration, let's make sure the humidity is good, let's use the Haven fog solution,” or do you ever say, “Let's start putting cameras behind walls”? Like, how far do you dig when you start to see some problems?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, so generally, you know, everything's showing up low. Hey, let's do some maintenance and preventative things to clean the air. If I'm looking at it from a medical standpoint, if you have extremely high mycotoxin levels, you're extremely ill, whatever the case may be, mold testing isn't finding your source, whatever methodology that I used, let's get an inspector in there and let's find sources because at the end of the day, I think that's the biggest thing. So quickly hitting on these other methodologies, air testing, indoor and outdoor air comparison, I do it a lot.
I'm a lot more scrutinized when I look at that data, but there's a lot of data I can describe like that. So it's catching viable and non-viable molds. I look at Ermey, I think Ermey is the most expensive for the least amount of data that I can extrapolate from it. I'm not a huge fan of Ermey, but can I get data from it? Yeah, it does a better job of picking up Stachybotrys and Cladosporium than any other methodology. So if money's not an option, Justin, I'm going to tell you, “Hey, let's do auger plates, let's do air testing, let's do Ermey, let's do all these methodologies.” The problem is, it becomes expensive.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: So, what do you like for air testing, by the way?
Jeff Bookout: What do I like?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Who do you like, what company for air testing?
Jeff Bookout: If I'm doing it, I think, and I see data from other companies 24/7, so all the time I'm looking at other people's information too, Immunolytics is who I personally use, because
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Air testing too, they use the auger, though, right? They use the auger, tested the plates,
Jeff Bookout: They'll do that too. (Oh, they do both). But when I do air samples, and sorry, I don't have one in front of me, but I do it professionally, I'm doing, you know, 15 liters for five minutes in my machines. I send that off to the lab and they do it as well. Kind of a perfect example is, I see all these lab tests from other labs coming back, and when I'm looking specifically at Aspergillus Penicillium, there's only, like, 200 counts per cubic meter outside. I've done enough of this on average at least where I'm sitting at, it is probably 2,000 counts per cubic meter.
So, I don't think a lot of companies do a great job at being able to break those down. So that's why I use Immunolytics. But not only do they do the SDA auger plates, they can do swabs professionally and for the surface tape lifts. There are some other methodologies, and I always say, if you're doing it yourself and you see something that you suspect is mold, don't do an air sample, don't do an auger plate, do a swab. It's kind of like a Q-tip, right? (Yeah), you want something visibly to transfer from that swab. I want to see it on there. Then I'm going to send it to the lab. If that makes sense, on that swab, I'm probably wasting my money, it didn't transfer.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay, that's great. Well, I'll put some links down below, some of the products and some of the things we referenced. We're also going to talk in a minute here about just kind of the natural ways that you like to treat it with the Haven essential oil fog solution, which is a great option, especially when you compare to the conventional options. So we'll put air filters and some of the different dehumidifier products down below. So we have the Haven fog solution, which is, you can put it in a dry fogger, which gets it to really small micron sizes, what, under five, under 10 microns?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, under 10 microns and its already specific because I've tried. Yeah it's under 10. And kind of how I view that as a methodology, because you look at our Haven mist or any other product that is water-based, which most products are. So imagine spraying a water bottle or Windex into the air, falls out of the air extremely quickly, right? Now, the micron size is a little bit bigger, but imagine mold spores as golf balls. So now, I can see those. When I spray that mist into the air, I can get some of those golf balls out of the air. But if you look at a dry fog, its suspension rate is 30 minutes to two hours, depends on your humidity. So, it looks like dry fog, it stays in the air, looks like Halloween, and it catches those particles and brings them back down out of the air. So, a lot more efficient, more powerful too than anything else. But the effectiveness rate of getting that stuff back out of the air.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: And so it would knock it down, but it would also denature it due to the antimicrobial aspect of the oils too?
Jeff Bookout: Exactly right. And when we look at fogging, it's a two-step program for me because I'm very detailed. I think my dry fogging, you're probably solving 90% of your problem, getting all that stuff back out of the air because that's what you're breathing in. But after you do a dry fog, I even want to wipe down my surfaces, especially my horizontal surfaces, where all that dead mold spore can still produce mycotoxins. So, hey, let's do at least a good general cleaning of all my horizontal surfaces to start over with new dust, get rid of all those dead mold spores. Now, can you do a small particular cleaning, wipe your walls and everything else? Certainly, but the big thing is, get that stuff out of the air, combine that with getting rid of any dead mold spores that are still left around.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: And then what do you like for a cleaner? Would you just use like, can you use some white vinegar, apple cider vinegar? Can you do like a citrus cleaner?
Jeff Bookout: You can. Here's the strategy. At the end of the day, I'm not trying to kill anything at that point. So, microfiber cloth and warm soap don on a rag. There's Haven Mist, Haven wipes. (Okay, good) to keep the news as well. But at the end of the day, what I'm trying to do is just get it out. I'm not trying to kill anything at that point.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: And then you're also, with some of the essential oil things, you're not creating all these secondary metabolites that you may get with like Concrobium or some of these other compounds. Can you kind of compare and contrast the conventional approach to treat it on the fog side versus kind of yours?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, I mean, it is kind of the version of your air purifier spewing a chemical outgassing afterward or not. So, whether it's biocides, germicides, fungicides, ozone, and high doses, if I'm using the product that one smells extremely toxic, more than likely it is. And a lot of my patients are going to have a chemical reaction to that chemical. Some of those products have a seven to ten-year half-life. That means those chemicals have strength in your house for the next seven to ten years.
So, I try to stay away from the chemical aspect as much as I possibly can. So, when I'm treating some of the wood items that we talked about earlier, if you have visible mold growth on wood that's not wet rot, dry rot, I just want to treat it. So, I treat it with 12% hydrogen peroxide, which is going to be safe, doesn't have that chemical outgassing. Then I'm going to use a no VOC sealant over that to encapsulate and treat that wood afterward as well. So, it's all about not using a chemical-based product. That's why we use the Haven fog, GSE-based, grapefruit seed extract, lemon, lime, tangerine extracts. So, we want to use a product that's not going to cause a secondary reaction, the motto “Do no harm.” Right?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Right. Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. That's great. And so typically, if you saw mold on wood and you wait and you hit it with some compounds and you kind of knocked it down, do you have to encapsulate it every single time like that?
Jeff Bookout: I would always because if you look at the kind of the dead mold spore, and that's why we wipe down afterward, so a lot of times mold hyphae can even extend into wood another six inches without you seeing it with the naked eye. So it is always a good practice after you treat something, always seal it with a no VOC sealant. Yeah, I would.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Very good. Got it. And then fogging as well. And then, so topically, you would do like the hydrogen peroxide on there, and then you would also do the sealer on there too, the low VOC?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, it's not rocket science. You use some hydrogen peroxide, just at a higher percent, so you don't get it on you. But if it bubbles up like a cut on your skin, you know, everybody knows that analogy. (Yeah), for poor hydrogen peroxide, when you cut it, it bubbles up. Same principle with hydrogen peroxide when you're treating wood. It bubbles up like a cut on your skin. Then I would let it dry, I would do it again. Then once it dries after that, then put a sealant over it.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That makes sense. That's really good. And is that conventional protocol by people that do restoration work?
Jeff Bookout: Some of it, yes. Usually, it's not straight hydrogen peroxide, so they'll use the surfactant or other chemicals that are used. I think you used Concrobium as the analogy a minute ago. So, more of a chemical-based product and not a non-chemical-based product. That's why I like the 12% hydrogen peroxide.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, what's the other one that's olive leaf-based? It's a common one. It's a liquid one, a purple bottle-ish. And
Jeff Bookout: I think it's… It's not tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is another one that's good. But those products that you're talking about, that is an ingredient in it, but they also have other chemicals into it that I'm going to have a problem with.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: It's the secondary metabolites.
Jeff Bookout: Exactly right. And again, to me, it's very obvious when you… When I'm smelling that chemical or whatever was used on it, and it has a very strong outgassing odor, it's going to be a problem for medically sensitive patients.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That makes sense. Well, good. We'll talk a little bit more about some of the treatment options. We're going to put links down below to some of the products that we talked about, the Haven fog solution. Also, Jeff, how do people get a hold of you if they want to schedule a virtual inspection on the mold side? What's the best way to connect with you?
Jeff Bookout: You bet, airwellnow.com. On that website, there are links to biobalancenow.com. My number's on those links. But if you have a pen and paper, it's good old-fashioned 580-574-1373. That number will always get you to me. If you've got one of these other numbers, it'll eventually get it back to me as well. But that's probably the easiest way to set up for questions, virtual inspections, regular inspections, or just anything that I can do to help.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Great. Can you repeat the number one more time, Jeff?
Jeff Bookout: Yeah, 580-574-1373.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Good. We'll put Jeff's contact in the description link below. Awesome. Jeff, thank you so much. Appreciate this. This is excellent. This is going to help a lot of people. We'll send it out to all my patients that have, you know, some of these issues. Some of the stuff on the crawl space and some of the foundation stuff, I think, was just incredibly valuable. And just having the moisture detectors under some of those big areas, I think, is super important as well.
Jeff Bookout: You bet. Happy to be able to help.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Awesome. Thanks so much, Jeff.
Jeff Bookout: You bet. Have a great day.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: You too.
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