My Experiments with Mold Avoidance in the Portuguese Countryside

Share:Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest



A metal shelter where I keep my clean clothes to avoid contamination.

July 21, 2016

By Sara Tamames

My name is Sara. I am from Portugal and this article is about how I am living at the moment.

I have been ill for over 11 years, but it only was a few months ago that I discovered that mycotoxins were at the root cause of my illness.

After years of suffering and going to countless doctors who had no clue what was wrong with me, five years ago I discovered Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) when I watched a documentary about it and it explained what I had been going through.

I was very ill at the time. Life in the city had become unbearable. I was reacting to perfumes and detergents so strongly I could not spend any time with my friends and family any more. I was locked up at home because the air outside was usually even worse than indoors, and I was in horrible constant pain.

In the documentary they showed a woman who had moved to the countryside and had a good life now. I knew what I needed to do! I left everything behind and moved to the countryside to try to get my health back.

Over the years I traveled all over my country to find a place where the outside air felt good. Through my own experience I discovered I could not live in a normal house. I got very ill when I tried.

The more time I spent outdoors in a good location, the better I felt. I could even have a pretty good life.

It was especially good to sleep outdoors in the open, breathing fresh air all night. Then I could be indoors during part of the day without suffering too much.



The view from the terrace where I am sitting writing this post.

The Quinta

I discovered the cleanest place I could find was this area in central Portugal. It is the least populated, with very little industry and mountains covered with pine forests and abandoned traditional farms. It is very beautiful.

Last year my partner bought a farm (quinta in Portuguese) in an isolated place in the mountains that had been abandoned for more than 30 years. The plan was to set up a chemical-free space where I could be healthy. I was very ill at the time.

My idea was to live outdoors as much as possible, which is easy in Portugal because it is usually sunny and it only rains significantly in the winter. Temperatures are also quite good.

So the first step was to build an outdoor kitchen, using the schist (a metamorphic stone) native to this place. We put a tiled roof over it for shade and protection from the rain. It’s wonderful to be able to cook and wash up with the fresh air and view of the mountains.

The farm included an old goat shed made of schist and wood. We put in a new chestnut floor and turned it into a one-room home to spend the rainy and cold days in.

We installed solar panels for electricity and hot water. The water comes from a water mine (spring). Clean spring water on tap, what could be better than that?

We have enough power to run a fridge and computers and a few low-voltage lights. We use independent solar-powered lamps for most of the time for less electrosmog.



This is the traditional schist building where we spent the winter. It got terribly contaminated from our possessions.

Starting Mold Avoidance

I managed to recover somewhat when we moved to this new place, but over a winter with constant rain, my health started to decline and I got terribly ill with severe ME symptoms. I thought I would die because my digestion was so paralysed I could barely eat. I ate almost nothing for over six weeks.

That is when I learned about mycotoxins – through an online summit about food that led me to the Bulletproof site. I knew immediately that was the missing piece in the puzzle of why I was so ill even though I was living almost chemical-free and in great isolation from the rest of the world.

I read A Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance and started applying the principles the best I could. I am a biochemist (I had to give up my career due to MCS) and to me it all made perfect sense. I could understand how the structure of mycotoxin molecules and molecular forces caused the effects described by Lisa and Erik. It was all very plausible and congruent with my own bodily experience.

My partner could believe that mold made me ill but he could not understand how mycotoxins work and how badly things get contaminated, so he did not want to buy new things or do anything about it. I was on my own with it.

The nature here is very pristine, so I started to go into the forest to spend my days, after showering and putting on a clean outfit that I kept outside.

I felt much better when I was in the forest. My symptoms and pain got much better. Some days they even disappeared altogether.

But the return home was excruciating. Severe despair, anxiety and suicide thoughts. Muscle paralysis and pain and shortness of breath. I could barely move or do anything when I was exposed to the mycotoxins contaminating our farm.

But I knew the best chance I had was to detox as much as possible, so I continued to go to the forest as much as I could. I started to get clear and identify the sources of exposure and the effects the different toxins had on me.

So I discovered that all my expensive organic bedding and clothes that I had bought over the years were now completely contaminated with mycotoxins and were keeping me very ill.

The house was very contaminated because of our possessions. It also had a somewhat white toxic mold growing on some parts of the wall and roof tiles. Who would know mold can grow on stone and clay? It was because they were very dusty after years of the house being abandoned and the dust was very hard to clean.

The outdoor spaces were also contaminated and I got symptoms as soon as I entered the places where we spent a lot of time.

The car and my partner’s caravan were the worst sources of toxins. Every time my partner went in there, he brought more toxins into my living space.

I think the car is growing Stachybotrys chartarum – there is visible mold that looks just like it. The toxins from the caravan are of a different nature, but equally detrimental to my health.

My partner was very upset when I told him this and now believes I am on some kind of ego trip to strip him of his personal possessions to gain power over him.

Really?! How can I deal with this?

It has not been easy to manage this situation. I have no money of my own in order to find alternatives, so I had to try to find a low-cost way to make things better for me.

My partner went away for a month with our daughter to visit his family, so now I had a chance to clean things up as much as possible.



My outdoor kitchen.

Decontamination Experiments

As soon as the weather allowed it, I stopped using the house and started living completely outdoors. But my things were still very contaminated.

I found that pouring boiling water over contaminated clothes and letting them soak until the water was cool enough to handle before washing them with soap helped release a lot of the toxins. I call this the boiling water protocol. I did this repeatedly with my favourite clothes and it made them much better.

It was important to stay away from the clothes as they soaked, since the toxins released in the air were enough to hurt me badly.

I believe I am dealing with what has been described as a Hell Toxin forming microoganism (HT-M). It grows on damp clothes even after they are washed, specially cotton (it smells like pee when it grows on cotton). It grows even just using the water from the air when humidity levels are high!

It contaminates everything and causes my skin to get sores and itch terribly. I also get intense muscle pain like my muscles are ripped and feel completely paralysed both physically and emotionally. It is like my mind goes blank.

I also get terrible burning in my lungs if contamination is high. I believe it is a chemical burn to the delicate mucosal areas of the mouth and lungs.

Hell Toxin is still not very well understood. Its hellish nature is due to the fact that it can cross-contaminate to an extent never before seen with other toxins, and it can also grow and infect things by using only humidity in the air.

This describes the toxin I am dealing with, but we cannot be sure it is the same toxin other people are calling Hell Toxin, or if all the people who are using this name are in fact dealing with the same toxin, or if there are different toxins with similar characteristics. So I encourage you to try my ideas and share the knowledge so that all of us can learn more about what we are dealing with.

I found that using the boiling water method on clothes prevents the growth of what I am calling HT-M and its infecting other items and helps to get rid of the toxins.

Putting clothes in a pot and actually boiling them for extended periods of time (at least 30 minutes) can get rid of a great amount of contaminating toxins by evaporating them – even HT.

This should be done outdoors and away from people, using a camping cooker since it is very hazardous to be anywhere near the boiling pot!

I now use the boiling-water protocol for any piece of clothes that I suspect got contaminated with mold spores, in order to kill the spores and avoid them growing on the damp clothes or contaminating my living spaces.

I have used it for all kinds of fabric, cotton, synthetic and even wool.

In the case of wool, it is fundamental not to disturb or move the clothes in any way until the water is about 30ºC because this causes the wool to shrink. When rinsing, the temperature of the water should always be the same, also to avoid shrinking.

It is true that using boiling water on clothes causes them to wear out faster. But it is still better than having to buy new clothes all the time, don’t you think?

If you have a washing machine, I recommend using the boiling water protocol before putting the clothes in the machine, so that you won’t be introducing any living spores that could grow in the machine and ruin it.



Another picture of my outdoor kitchen.

Using Effective Microrganisms for Decontamination

I have a friend who works with Effective Microorganisms (EM), so I knew a bit about what they can do. I hypothesized that these microorganisms might have the ability to digest mycotoxins, therefore eliminating them.

I asked my friend to send me a bottle of activated EM (EMA) and stared using them to clean everything. This is what I found.


Cleaning the house:

I cleaned everything in the house with a cloth damp with a concentrated EMA solution (1:20). After that I sprayed everything with EM.

Over the next days the toxins started to get released into the air in great concentrations – I stopped going in there and closed the house, leaving the window open. After about two weeks I had to go in to get some things and I was surprised to find I did not feel toxins much at all.

To be safe I still did not spend much time in there and I am leaving the house closed until I need to go in again.

But these are very promising results!

Before applying EM, I would get itchy sores on my feet and ankles just from going in the house for a few minutes and I could feel the toxins all over my body. It required immediate decontamination. And I didn’t feel any of this last time I went in!

I believe with repeated application of EMA and some time (at least two weeks to several months), it might be possible to eliminate cross-contamination altogether and maybe even prevent the growth of new toxic mold.

But the cleaning should be done by someone who is not ill because in cleaning we expose ourselves to increased amounts of mycotoxins. It took me many days to recover after the exposure I got when cleaning the house.


Decontaminating Clothes:

I put highly contaminated clothes to soak in a metal bucket in the sun with EMA diluted 1:100. I was very weak and I could not finish washing them, so they ended up soaking for a much longer time than I initially intended – more than two weeks.

By the time I got to wash them I thought they would be rotten. But I discovered instead that the mycotoxins seemed to be greatly reduced. In fact I could not feel them anymore!

I allow for the fact that there might still be some toxins there, but I am masked to feel them. In any case, it is a dramatic drop in contamination!

This process is very time-consuming and it is not practical to use it for everything you own, but I believe it is a viable way to decontaminate objects that won’t get damaged by soaking in water for a long time.

The longer things are left to soak, the better. I think exposure to sunlight might improve the process because EMA contains photosynthetic bacteria and the UV rays from the sun will also help degrade mycotoxins.

So this is what I do for decontaminating clothes and other objects with EMA.

I believe it is fundamental to use boiling water because it is good to make sure any toxic microorganisms and spores are dead and will not grow in the soaking water, over running the EM. Tip boiling water over the clothes in a bucket and let it cool to about body temperature. Then add EMA at a dilution of 1:100. Leave it to soak for at least a week, preferably two weeks.

Buckets with soaking objects should be left outside because of the release of toxins into the air.

I also use a solution of EMA diluted about 1:1000 for rinsing my clothes after I wash them with soap, therefore inoculating them with good microorganisms that will clean up contamination continuously.


Decontaminating Delicate Objects:  

For objects that can’t be soaked or washed in running water, wiping and spraying them with a 1:20 solution of EMA is still very helpful. The more often you can do this, the better.

I use it for the computer, for example. I am sharing a computer with my partner for Internet access and he often takes it to contaminated places where he uses it. When the computer comes back I wipe it down with EMA and place a cloth damp with EMA solution over the fan before I turn it on, so that the cloth catches the dust coming out of the fan.

This has greatly reduced the contamination and allows me to use the computer without too much impact on my health.

With these techniques I have been able to clean my living spaces and possessions enough that I am recovering steadily. I now have very little pain in my body. I can eat normally and my exercise intolerance is greatly reduced. My mood and cognitive abilities are also much more stable and positive.

I believe these techniques can be effective to avoid cross-contamination and spreading of Hell Toxin forming microorganisms, if indeed what I am dealing with is HT as it appears to be.

Other health practices that have been fundamental in my recovery have been the practice of earthing (by walking barefoot on the earth and sitting and sleeping on the ground without an insulating layer) and taking methylation support supplements.



My outdoor shower. Notice the metal frame that supports the roof.

Ideas on how to build a mold-resistant home

Since I discovered mycotoxins and what they can do I have been using my scientific knowledge and curiosity to learn as much as I can and develop ways to deal with this problem.

We know that outdoors cross-contamination decays much faster than indoors. Why is that?

I believe there are several factors involved, the most important being high ventilation that allows the toxins to dissipate into the air and the presence of numerous and varied microorganisms in the soil with the ability to take in mycotoxins and destroy them.

So, considering that you find a good outdoor location that is likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future and you want to build a stable home, this is what I would do.

I think that a mold-safe house should be as much like the outdoors as possible.

To avoid cross-contamination within different rooms and make cleaning easier I would build each room in a separate building. So I would have one building for the kitchen, a separate building for the bathroom and another one for the bedroom, etc. It also makes for much better ventilation of each room.

This is what we are doing at our place. We built two shelters using a metal frame and a tile roof. The next step would be to make walls, doors and windows with glass and metal.

I want to install big doors on opposing walls so that the whole room can be ventilated and the indoor air exchanged for outside air.

Due to my extreme MCS, I do not want to use any synthetic materials for building. So I have been thinking hard on how to build a mold-resistant insulated house.

I came up with the idea of making a roof with a metal sheet for waterproofing and covering it with a thick layer of soil (about 1 m). Earth is a very good material for insulation and temperature stability.

Healthy walls can also be built with rammed earth, as well as indoor structures like sofas and shelves.

Then using double-glazed glass windows and doors should provide for very good insulation.

For the floor I would use unglazed clay tiles and leave a strip of bare earth around the edges (about 50 cm) where an indoor herb garden can be planted. The earth will keep a repository of good soil microorganisms that can help clean up any mycotoxins that make it into the room.

With our schist house I discovered the amazing self-cleaning properties of an earth floor. The upstairs has a wooden floor and got highly contaminated and unlivable for me. The downstairs had a traditional earth floor that we did not change, and there is where we store food and other things and have the fridge.

The downstairs also got contaminated by our possessions, but the contamination cleared over time and now I can use it without problems. I did not have to do anything to clean it!

You can see in the pictures of my set-up where I live. It would be very good, almost ideal, if my partner were on-board with me and helped me live a mold-safe life. He is the owner of this farm, so there is not much I can do if he asks me to leave or ignores my requests to avoid mold contamination.

As it is, I don’t know what will happen when he comes back from his journey or what my future will bring. I try to live one day at a time with this enormous challenge of mold hypersensitivity.



A bucket with my clothes soaking in EM.


Sara’s blog is called “Beyond Mold: Thriving.”


Information about EM and how to get them:


Information about earthing:


Information about methylation and suplements:



More Information

Sara is currently raising money to replace some of the contaminated items that are making her sick, with the hope of becoming well enough to live full-time with her young daughter. More information is on the Mold Illness Fundraisers page of the Paradigm Change website.

The Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance is a book written by Lisa Petrison and Erik Johnson. It provides an overview of Erik’s mold avoidance approach, which has been used by many hundreds of chronic illness sufferers to move toward increased wellness.

Beginner_s_GuideThe book is available for free to those signing up for occasional newsletters about mold avoidance topics from Lisa’s organization Rabbit Hole. It also is available for Amazon Kindle. 

The book is the basis for the Facebook group Mold Avoiders, which now has nearly 3500 members. Please join us there!

For updates on additional information about recovering from mold-related illness, sign up for occasional newsletters from Paradigm Change. You also will receive a free copy of the book Back from the Edge, which provides information about the extraordinary life of mold avoidance pioneer Erik Johnson.

Hell Toxin is discussed in the Paradigm Change blog article Outdoor Toxins of Particular Relevance to Mold Illness Patients. There also is a chapter about it in the Beginner’s Guide.

Those especially interested in this toxin may want to join the new Hell Toxin Research and Discussion group on Facebook.

Dave Asprey of Bulletproof is a mold illness survivor who has spoken about mold-related issues many times and produced a documentary movie on the topic.

Find out about new information about recovering from chronic illness and living a healthful lifestyle by liking the Living Clean in a Dirty World page on Facebook.

Any and all civil comments from individuals not selling commercial products are welcome in the comments section of this blog.

Links on this page are in orange (no underlining).

Thanks very much for reading this blog.


Rate this article:

[Total: 12    Average: 4.7/5]



Total Shares
  • cindiSue

    This is great information, thank you for sharing. However, it is not practical for the millions suffering from mold illness. It’s certainly not how I want to live my life. My question is why don’t you treat and desensitize your body by going through the Shoemaker protocol, so you don’t need to have such an obsessively clean environment? I can encounter normal amounts of mold now without relapsing, so I can live like a “normal” person, and the only thing I have to be really careful with is traveling (hotels etc). I can’t imagine why everyone wouldn’t want that.

    • Paradigm Change

      I think that this comment assumes that the Shoemaker Protocol is going to be a) tolerated by everyone and b) substantially helpful to everyone.

      I have not observed that to be the case. I am glad that it has worked for you, however.

      -Lisa Petrison

    • Sara Tamames

      Now Cindi, you are assuming I could afford thousands of dollars to travel to the US and pay the treatment there. The whole point of this post is that I HAVE NO MONEY! I have no bedding, and only one outfit I can wear without making me ill. Very litle pratical or financial support from anyone. So I have to make it work, somehow.

      On the other hand, I have severe MCS, so I don’t think I could even do cholestyramine, severe patients usually can’t and Shoemaker himself says people with MCS usually can’t tolerate this. I read “Surviving mold”. There is one patient there with MCS, can’t remember his name.

      He was not cured by the protocol. Still stuck at home, getting very ill if he goes anywhere. By doing extreme mold avoidance many people have been cured from MCS. This is my prefered choice. And I like to live in the midle of nowhere in the mountains! I would like to do it even if I was not ill.

      So if you have a choice to live in a different way that you prefer, that is great for you. Some people might not have that choice though…

      • cindiSue

        Admittedly, it’s hard with no up front money. But as far as the protocol working, while everyone is different and you never know, they have continued to refine the steps and I believe a lot of people who said it failed didn’t follow it exactly. Frankly following it exactly is expensive (sort of, see below), so I think people take shortcuts.

        The MCS comment for example, I think is outdated. I had very bad MCS but it went away when I started getting treated for the mold. It is considered a side effect of mold now, and I don’t think would be a hindrance to treatment.

        Back to your comment about lifestyle. Sure, if you enjoy it, that’s great. To me it is an undesirable lifestyle, and I don’t picture most people wanting to go to that extreme. I look at the money angle as a small investment to pay for a big payoff. e.g. Let’s say the whole treatment is $10,000. Yes, that’s a lot to come up with, but it enables you to live (what I call) a normal life, and have a job where you could earn 3 to 20 times that cost per year! So in that sense it’s not expensive at all.

        • Sara Tamames

          Not here in Portugal. Most people can’t even make 5000euros/year. To make the amount of money you are talking about one has to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or something in that rank… And even then, I don’t know if they make that much money… It is a very different world. I was making less than 10.000euros a year when I worked as a scientist and all that money went to pay for living in the city – house, food, bills… Nothing left at the end of the month. Can’t imagine how I could ever afford that amount of money for medical treatment, even if I could go back to my previous job…

          • cindiSue

            I understand. But if some day there were a doctor trained in your country, the costs would probably be much lower. Most of the medical prices here in the US are very inflated (like $300 for a lab test that costs $10 to run). At some point mold illness will be widely recognized as a real problem and then hopefully there will be a better solution for people like you. Meanwhile, thanks for explaining, and it’s great that you’re finding your own way that works in your situation!

          • Sara Tamames

            Yes, I have spent a lot of time contacting doctors and researchers here and in Europe, asking them to look at Dr. Shoemaker’s work and see if they could help me. Most didn’t even bother to reply! One did reply but then stoped responding when I told her about my chronic illness… Looking for a doctor who could treat mold illness in Europe has been a dead end and a big waste of energy. So now I am focusing all my energy on doing mold avoidance. If I can do it the way I want to I am sure I will come to the same end result – being able to live an almost normal life. But I love living in nature the way I am living now, I wouldn’t change that!

    • Katie

      Cindi, a lot of us do follow the Shoemaker protocol, but whilst it may help you to feel better, it does not help you to tolerate mold or biotoxins to the level of a ” normal “person . For most of us it means living on the edge and moving again and again. Sara, we are also at the point where we will consider unconventional living. I think, one has to go through a few years of ongoing sickness to get to this point. I also have a CIRS child and whilst we would all love to go back to a normal life, the mold is beating us at its own game. We did get better through the protocol but any reexposure just sends you straight back to where you started. I appreciate that you have shared your story and ideas about outdoor living. We will try a similar concept in Australia. Seperate rooms….outdoor kitchen and showers are all things we were also considering. Just the flooring ideas are different. I dont think we could use the natural soil as we have too many spiders, nasty ants etc. I would really like to hear more about what you are doing and how you are travelling. Thanks so much for sharing

  • Clarissa von Maus

    Vielen Dank für diesen tollen Bericht und alles Gute für di Zukunft.