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Preventing mold growth and potential health problems after a water leak

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Damp floor and walls after a pipe burstBeing a homeowner is never easy, especially when you're dealing with chronic illness, and the last thing you need are major unexpected problems. Unfortunately, that's exactly what my wife and I suffered recently when a central heating pipe burst and flooded our main living room. Aside from the immediate inconvenience of moving bulky furniture and fixing the leak, I soon began to worry about other consequences, particularly the possibility of persistent mold growth and the potential consequences for our health.

Mold and its spores are nothing to be sniffed at - excuse the pun! As a study published in the journal Environment International explains, exposure to these mycotoxins has been linked to cancer, kidney disease, liver disease and immunosuppression. The last of these includes illnesses such as chronic sinusitis, which my wife suffers from (and is currently treating with the Breathe Easy Kit), and possibly chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) which I have lived with for 25 years; in my previous blog post I actually wrote an account of how mold exposure in my childhood home may in hindsight have contributed to immunosuppression and me succumbing to the viral infection that triggered the illness.  

Back in the present, we initially thought the problems we were having were related to our combi boiler as it would keep shutting down due to low water pressure. As a short-term fix I simply topped up the water level in the boiler and turned it back on. Hey presto! 

Unfortunately, the water pressure kept dropping at a faster and faster rate and after doing much reading about boilers and central heating systems online (not a particular interest of mine!), as well as talking to a few friends in the plumbing trade, it became painfully apparent that we must have a significant leak in the pipes of the central heating system...somewhere.

The confusing thing for my wife and myself was that we'd seen no sign of any leak whatsoever anywhere in the house. Hence our conviction that the boiler must have annoyingly (and expensively) failed after just three years of living in our first house together. As it turned out the boiler is fine so at least we dodged a huge bill for engineer call out fees or even a new boiler - neither could be described as inexpensive!

After searching the entire house again, feeling for damp carpets and looking for water-stained walls and ceilings we still came up empty-handed. Finally, I realised there was only one place left we had not checked, behind and underneath the large L-shaped sofa we had been happily lounging on in our living room. Suffice to say there are no awards for guessing what we found having moved it out - a wall to wall carpet saturated with water! Even the dry wall (plasterboard) in the corner of the room was showing clear signs of rising damp...what a nightmare...but at least we'd solved the mystery at last...

After removing skirting boards to reach central heating pipework running between radiators I was able to trace the problem to a simple elbow joint (right-angled connector between two pipes) that was not sitting on its thread and had not formed a tight seal as a result. Simple cause - poor workmanship, resulting in big issues for us!

Having correctly reconnected the pipework and tested it (it all works as it should without any leaks now) we set about the "dry out and clean up" operation and I began looking into ways in which we could minimize the potential for mold growth and prevent any that had already begun from going any further. The full blown leak had only lasted a week to ten days but there's no telling how long the pipe had been leaking at a slower rate for - perhaps all summer since we last used the central heating and radiators last Winter.

More online research led me to a solution for preventing mold-related sinus issues (particularly useful for my wife), namely a unique homeopathic supplement called Sinus Defense. The great thing about Sinus Defense is that it's designed to be taken on a daily basis to prevent future sinusitis flare-ups before they happen. Without going into too much detail it aims to achieve this by using the immune-signalling properties of Proline-Rich Polypeptides (PRPs) found in colostrum (a mother's first milk) to modulate the immune system. The idea is that by regularly consuming the PRPs in Sinus Defense the microbes and allergens (e.g. mold spores) responsible for chronic sinusitis, mold allergies and related conditions, will be correctly identified and dealt with by the patient's own immune system, thus preventing full-blown attacks before they can occur. It's early days for my wife but I have high hopes this approach will mean she can banish her frequent sniffles, headaches and other misery-inducing symptoms, for good. I too am also taking this supplement given my own immune issues as a ME/CFS patient and the now extra potential for mold growth in our home due to the significant water leak and resulting damp!

In terms of doing everything we can to make it less likely mold will become a lasting problem in our home as a result of this water damage, we're also using EC3 Air Purification Candles to eliminate mold spores from our rooms and rebalance the microbial ecology of the environment. On top of that we've since cleaned the surfaces of the living room and the entire house top to bottom using EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate and washed all of our clothes and removable furnishings (e.g. cushion covers, bedding, curtains) with EC3 Laundry Additive added to the washing machine (simply goes in the rinse cycle/softener tray). All of these EC3 products are specifically formulated to remove and prevent mold and mold spores. I'm now confident we've done all we can to remedy the situation and prevent what was already a small disaster from becoming much worse if we'd simply done nothing to fend off mold before it could have become a real problem for our home and long-term health. Luckily we don't yet have children as they specifically can be very badly affected by mold exposure, as the study I linked to discusses, but I don't want our home to become a breeding ground for mold...just in case, ya know!

In summary, it's been a pretty stressful time as a result of this water leak but it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise with the knowledge I have gained about chronic sinusitis treatment for my wife and the measures I've now put in place to prevent mold growth in our home, from any source!

If you're unlucky enough to have something similar happen to you then please, first make sure you get the problem fixed permanently, then get your room/home dried out and ventilated throughly as quickly as possible by turning the heating up to full (getting additional electric heaters if necessary), and finally think about using some or all of the products I've mentioned (or similar) to ensure your home, your clothes, and most importantly...your body...are free from toxic, disease-causing mold.

If you have any questions about anything I've discussed in this blog post then as always, please leave a comment below and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Equally, if you have your own experiences to share and/or alternative ways in which to deal with mold growth or prevent it in the first instance then also please feel free to share with us all in the comments section below...

Wishing Mold-free, Good Health to All!  

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People in this conversation

  • Thank you Catherine for all that excellent information and advice! I didn't discuss the sofa as I also was trying not to overload readers with too much all in one post. We actually moved the affected sofa to another room (a conservatory) that is mainly used in summer and can be closed off from the rest of the house in winter with double-glazed French doors if necessary. The sofa also needed a good clean even before the water leak - mainly thanks to our stubborn Labrador finding it more comfortable than his own expensive bed! I therefore plan to do this when Spring comes around using chemical-free, MCS and allergy-friendly methods (e.g. baking soda, white vinegar and EC3 Cleaning Solutions) and will follow that by writing a post on the subject. I should have mentioned dehumidifiers so I really appreciate you bringing those up. I actually bought some clever 'passive' dehumidifiers for the room affected by the water leak and all adjoining rooms and it has been amazing to see how much water they have "sucked" out of the air (for anyone interested these are the Unibond Aero 360 Pure Moisture Absorber. I'm so glad I spotted those on sale in the supermarket at the time - a very cheap but effective solution! I also used a traditional electric dehumidifier in the affected room itself, luckily I'd bought one years ago due to a persistent leak in a rented apartment and still had it. With regular use of Micro Balance Air Purification Candles ever since in addition, I'm quite confident we've avoided what could have been a serious mold problem. There are certainly no visible signs but as you well know it's only by testing with a scientifically proven kit like the EC3 Test Plates that my wife and I can be sure; that'll be another task and a write-up here on the EiR Blog in the near future...
    In the meantime, thanks again Catherine for such comprehensive support and advice, it's much appreciated!

    Comment last edited on about 6 years ago by Maff
  • Hi, Matt!

    I'm sorry to hear you are dealing with all of this, but I agree with you wholeheartedly, that it may be a blessing in disguise. It may be the source of your wife's chronic sinus infections.
    One thing you need to address, but seems missing from your post, is cleaning the sofa for mold and moisture. I have a post on my blog about that very thing. Here is a link to it. Also, I have another post that may be helpful. This link is about cleaning for mold after a sneaky leak, like the one you have encountered. The main thing with mold and with preventing it from taking hold in your indoor environment is prevention. Stop the source of the water, and stop the mold. Mold is just the symptom. The disease is always water. The products I always use and talk about are, of course, the MicroBalance EC3 Products. The reason is, because they actually work without aggravating other issues, like chemical sensitivities, etc. I would also recommend purchasing a dehumidifier to place in the room where the water intrusion occurred. It is imperative that you make certain that the walls and floors are completely dry before replacing the carpeting or putting the furniture back. Without a dehumidifier to remove the moisture, it will take everything a lot longer to dry out. Replacing any carpeting or materials over an area that isn't bone dry means mold. You don't want that after all of the trouble you are going to now. When you are finished, use the EC3 Test Plates to test the air and the surface of the sofa for mold spores. This will tell you all you need to know about the safety of the air and surfaces in your home, in terms of mold. If things aren't where they need to be, continue to treat them with the MicroBalance products and retest until your plates reveal acceptable levels of mold for your body and its particular sensitivity. Here is a link to a video and to a post on how to use the plates.
    I hope all of this info isn't overkill and that it helps you. Please let me know if you have any questions of concerns. I would love to help.
    Take care,

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