July 1, 2019
By Lisa Petrison, Ph.D.
Mold avoidance pioneer Erik Johnson was interviewed by the podcast program GeneFood on the topic of “The Locations Effect, Mold Avoidance, Curing Chronic Fatigue and the Healing Power of Nature.”
Erik Johnson is a survivor of the 1980’s Lake Tahoe epidemic of the disease that the CDC is currently referring to as “ME/CFS.”
His mold avoidance approach – which involves avoiding certain types of highly toxic substances made by microbes using the techniques that he learned for avoiding hazardous materials such as nuclear radiation while serving in the U.S. Army – has been reported to have been helpful to many individuals suffering from a wide variety of chronic illnesses.
More information about him is available in the books Back from the Edge (summarizing his life story); A Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance (a guidebook for those wanting to follow his mold avoidance approach); and Erik on Avoidance (a collection of quotes on mold avoidance topics).
The interview with him was conducted subsequent to another GeneFood interview in which Dr. Neil Nathan disparaged individuals who were pursuing mold avoidance and who were concerned about the locations effect as being “almost paranoid about their exposure to mold.”
Some of my own comments with regard to the topics discussed in the interview (originally shared on my personal Facebook page) follow.
Comments by Lisa Petrison:
I would like to highly recommend that folks listen to this new interview on mold avoidance and the locations effect with Erik Johnson. It’s a very thoughtful and clear discussion of many important issues.
I do think that maybe I should make a couple of comments about locations though, so that my own perspective on these topics is clear. (I’m not of the understanding that Erik is in disagreement about any of these, but folks could ask him to verify that, if they like.)
1. My current feeling is that people who fall into chronic biotoxin illness virtually always do so subsequent to either having spent time in a moldy building or having been exposed to cyanotoxins in water (such as in hazardous algae blooms that may be present in Florida or many other places). Usually this is as a result of an extended exposure over time, but in some cases (such as what Jen Brea reported in her recent blog article) it can be a much larger exposure over a short period of time.
2. Erik suggested to me at one point that he thought that a few of the cases of CFS that occurred during the Lake Tahoe epidemic may have been due solely to exposure to the outdoor “horror plumes” (of the substance that I have been calling “Mystery Toxin”) that were there at the time. In general, though, it seems that while outdoor exposures may cause healthy people to have some symptoms (especially ones related to mood issues or chemical sensitivities), they generally are not strong enough to knock people into permanent disabling illness on their own.
3. Although even moderate mold responders may feel better in some locations than others, the locations effect seems to be a major issue primarily for people who have become super-reactive to toxins in general and especially to certain kinds of toxins. For instance, my suspicion about Mystery Toxin is that while it not good for anybody, it is especially bad for those who have had their blood-brain barriers damaged via significant satratoxin exposure since the toxin (which I think may be Penitrem A) can then cause damage to the brain even in extremely small quantities. Someone with a more intact BBB (such as mold physicians who were never all that sick to begin with) may be able to be exposed to much larger quantities of that toxin without noticing – thus opening the door for them to insist that people who consider the locations effect to be extremely important must be “paranoid about mold” and imagining things.
4. The more severely ill people start out and the more sensitized to these toxins they are, the more likely they are to report that large areas (such as whole towns or whole regions) are intolerable to them. About 20 years ago, when Erik himself was much more reactive than he is right now, he talked about the idea of “Sick Region Syndrome” becoming a thing. I think in the years since then, it has become a MAJOR thing, but that people whose reactivity is not all that high (as is the case now for me and, Erik says in the interview, also for him) may be able to tolerate moderately problematic areas (such as ones contaminated with glyphosate-related toxins or moderate amounts of toxins that may be associated with fire retardants) relatively well regardless. Others may find that to feel well, they need to be more scrupulous and avoid much larger regions, due to whole areas being blanketed with moderately bad stuff.
5. Most larger cities and many other locations have significant problems with “Mystery Toxin,” and this does require plume hopping of the sort that Erik describes in his interview. Despite that, there are many places that do not seem to have much or any of this kind of toxin at all. It’s been my preference to find those latter places and stick with them, since I do not like MT at all and would prefer to just plain avoid it. Erik does not like it either, which is why he is looking for “source points” to avoid. So (at least to my understanding) we both have exactly the same objective – avoid that toxin to every extent possible – but different strategies to avoid it. (I actually CAN avoid the sourcepoints and their plumes too – I just prefer to live a nice peaceful quiet life where I don’t have to.)
6. I do think that some locations are more problematic on average than others, and that both the Locations Ratings map and the Paradigm Change Visitor Map provide some useful information about how problematic particular locations should be anticipated by visitors to be. Again, when I have a choice, I prefer to spend more time in locations that are just generally good, because I like my life to be nice and peaceful and quiet. However, again, if I am forced to go to a place that is more problematic with regard to outdoor toxins such as MT, I usually can figure out how to survive there for at least a while, by using Erik’s “avoiding sourcepoints and their plumes” strategy.
7. For people who are starting out doing avoidance and who want to go on a sabbatical to get clear, I think the maps can be useful in allowing them to get a sense on what locations are likely to be better vs. worse bets for that. At this point, though, I primarily am recommending “road trip” sabbaticals where people try a variety of locations in a good region (and maybe also experiment with a mix of camping and hotel stays), to start to get a sense of how their reactions vary.
8. The method that Erik is describing of using your own reactions to gauge locations and avoid plumes generally is one that takes most mold avoiders quite a while to master, and therefore that I think of as “advanced.” Possibly, going on one of Erik’s camping trips would allow people to master this skill much faster than they could on their own. Certainly, I did find the week that I spent camping with Erik in the Tahoe area in Summer 2008 to be extremely helpful for me, with regard to learning to avoid outdoor mold especially in a skillful way. However, for legal reasons and other reasons, I do not ever recommend mold practitioners, health coaches, IAQ professionals or anyone similar, and so that applies here as well. I do wish Erik well in his venture and in general, however.
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