Background on the Mold Experts and Patients in Dave Asprey’s “Moldy”

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June 11, 2015

The backgrounds of the mold experts and patients interviewed in “Moldy” – Dave Asprey’s new movie about the health hazards of environmental toxic mold – are summarized on this page. Quotes from the movie are included.




Pictured: Janis Bell and her partner camping in the southern California desert in order to avoid mold toxins and other environmental toxicity. 



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Daniel Amen, M.D.

“One of the areas that’s damaged with mold is an area called the amygdala. The amygdala is underneath your temples and behind your eyes, a little almond-shaped structure. When that is damaged, people can have rage – for no reason. It can devastate their relationships, devastate their work. People will judge them as bad, when they’re really not bad. They’re sick. People with moldy brains hate themselves, because they don’t understand why they’re acting that way….The imaging has taught me that behavior’s a lot more complicated. It makes me more thoughtful, more forgiving. And when I see people act badly, I’m like, ‘Somebody should look at their brain.'”

Daniel Amen is a psychiatrist, brain imaging specialist and best-selling author. He frequently appears as a medical expert on television and also treats patients through the Amen Clinics. He has authored more than 60 professional journal articles, seven book chapters and over 30 books on health topics. He wrote about toxic mold poisoning in 2013 in a case study called Toxic Mold Syndrome: “It Was Like I Lost My Personality.”



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Michael Aronoff, M.D., and Jeanne Aronoff

“I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that we’re quicker to recognize when thing are going wrong. I’m hopeful that the entire medical community can get on board quicker. I don’t know what the ultimate momentum shifter is going to be, but that at some point this is going to be recognized, that we won’t be seen as such oddballs. That we’ll be seen as people who got hit early. I’m just hopeful that our kids don’t have to go through this. That they won’t have to fight for their medical treatment. That they won’t have to fight to have a clean home. Everything’s been a fight. It would be nice if we didn’t have to fight. If we could discuss. If we could learn and educate together.”

Michael Aronoff works as a radiologist in the Austin, TX, area. He and his family were made ill from a hidden mold exposure in their home several years ago and now are doing better.



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Dave Asprey

“Here’s how mold contaminates a building and makes you sick. First there are wet or damp conditions in your home, school or office. They come from things like water leaks, poor construction, constricted air flow, air conditioning and condensation. The mold grows sometimes in the open, but more often you can’t see it. Spores from the mold and their toxins are released into the air. When there’s mold in the environment, it contaminates your furniture, your clothes and everything you own. You and your family are exposed to the toxins. You get systemic body poisoning from mold toxins. After you’re sick, mold can directly invade your already weakened body. That makes you feel not very good, so you stay home, which makes you sicker and sicker because that’s where the mold is.” 

Dave Asprey believes he has been affected by toxic mold exposures since childhood. He became very ill as a young adult after living in multiple moldy buildings, experiencing an active chronic Lyme infection and a wide variety of symptoms. He recovered using a variety of treatment strategies (including diet, chelation, ozone and many others). He now shares what he learned as a result of the experience on his biohacking website, Bulletproof, and also sells a line of low-mycotoxin food products. He lives with his wife and two children in Victoria, Canada.



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James Baber

“It’s hard to find a place that’s clean. It’s hard to clean a place. But I’ve gone in a very short amount of time from chronic fatigue, dragging myself out, sleeping 22 hours a day to working again and running half marathons. I just ran a half marathon yesterday.”

James Baber is an executive management consultant who was made sick by his brand-new, LEEDS-certified, very expensive apartment overlooking Central Park in New York City. He was interviewed in-depth about his experiences by Dave Asprey on Bulletproof Radio. He currently is spending some time traveling around the western half of the U.S.



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Janis Bell, Ph.D., N.D.

“Losing my home didn’t feel like a big deal at the time. Now it does, because it’s been three years. I left thinking that I was going to go to some dry part of the country and I was going to find a nice mold-free house. By the time I left home, I felt like I already had lost so much – I lost my job, I lost my health, I lost my friends – so there wasn’t really that much else to lose.”

Janis Bell began to get symptoms of mold illness in 1983. She was an associate professor of art history at Kenyon College in Ohio when she became permanently disabled with ME/CFS in an outbreak in 1987; her health declined further after acquiring Lyme in 1993. She has spent more than 25 years actively searching for ways to improve her health (earning a doctorate in naturopathic medicine along the way). While mold avoidance has helped Janis to shed many of her previous symptoms, finding tolerable housing has been a struggle for her. She has detailed many of her experiences on her blog, Search for the Cure, and in articles in Got Mold? and Phoenix Rising. She is currently living in southern California.



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Paul Bershatsky

“Most times, the moisture originates from behind the wall. So if you’re looking at the wall and it looks okay, we know that if you pull the drywall out, the back of the wall is going to be ten times worse than the front of the drywall.”

Paul Bershatsky is the CEO of AuntieGen, a mold remediation and prevention company with offices in New York City, Chicago, Memphis and North Carolina.



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Patrick Fioriglio, D.C.

“It started during Hurricane Sandy…I was downstairs with a friend of mine and we were taping the windows. The water just piled up and the doors popped in. I said, it’s time to leave, there’s nothing that will save anything in this basement. Some mushrooms grew out of the wall, but at the time I did not think anything about mold. I didn’t know it. But it was affecting me.”

Patrick Fioriglio is a chiropractor in Brooklyn, NY. His beachfront home experienced water damage during Hurricane Sandy and he was negatively affected by the mold that grew in it prior to the issues being properly cleaned up.



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Brenda Harper, M.S.W.

“I went to the doctor and she said, ‘If you don’t get out of your house, you could die. You need to leave your house and take nothing with you.’ So I took my driver’s license and my credit card. And just walked away from everything. I stayed in a tent the first year, and then the following summer, I stayed in our garden shed….I did eventually get our home repaired. I can now live in my home.”

Brenda Harper was a therapist in a successful private practice as well as the host of a radio show focusing on health and wellness issues when she became very ill from the mold in her home. Her experiences recovering from toxic mold illness are detailed on her blog, Piece of Mind. She lives in Boise, Idaho.



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Janette Hope, M.D.

“The absolute most important thing is to get completely away from the exposure. The items that you have present in the home are very likely contaminated and will make you sick. If you move with everything you have, you’re taking your problem with you.”

Janette Hope was working as a physician when she became sick with a variety of puzzling and debilitating symptoms. Eventually she figured out that mold was involved and then recovered using a variety of treatment modalities in addition to avoidance. She now specializes in treating other mold illness sufferers in her medical practice and has written peer-reviewed journal articles on treating mold illness and on the dangers of ochratoxin. Dr. Hope also was the president of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine from 2013-14. She is located in Santa Barbara, California.



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Mark Hyman, M.D.

“If you think you have mold illness, there’s a way out. It might be a long way out, but there’s a way out. There’s hope. But you have to find a practitioner that can help you deal systematically with the mold illness. One, you have to get rid of it in your environment. Two, you have to get it out of your body. Three, you have to repair the damage that’s been done. So those are the three steps to healing from mold illness. If you follow those steps and you’re focused and you work with an experienced practitioner, you can get better.”

Mark Hyman is a well-known functional medicine specialist who frequently appears as a medical expert on television shows and who has written eight best-selling books on health and wellness. He is the chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine and the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, as well as a practicing family physician.



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Doug Kaufmann

“Most physicians simply would not believe that asthma, chronic sinusitis, even some cases of bronchitis and some cases of cancer are intimately linked with mold and their poisonous by-products. This is documented in the scientific literature. So there’s this chasm that exists between what we’re hearing or talking to our private physician about and what he is prescribing for us.”

Doug Kaufmann is the host of the popular television show Know the Cause, which focuses on the role of fungi in causing disease. He started the program 13 years ago and is based in Dallas, TX.



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Gina Lopez

 “The mold was concentrated in my bedroom, above my bed within the ceiling. So it was undetectable. My daughter had similar reactions from the mold because I had given her a bed that had been in my room for five years. After she got the bed, she started having the same kinds of cognitive difficulties. For both of her legs she was having problems and seeing a knee specialist. Just knowing that my children were watching me fail as my health was failing, and inside I knew I was dying. But Victoria getting the same symptoms led me to believe it was something more than just my health, that it was something that was within the home.”

Gina and her daughters became ill while living in a home with a great deal of toxic mold hidden in the ceiling of the bedroom. In the two years since the home was remediated, they have recovered some of their health. Gina’s family’s story is summarized in this Got Mold? blog post. They live in Santa Fe, NM.


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Billy Brent Malkus

“Optimism is very important. It’s hard to muster sometimes though, when you’re lying on the couch feeling awful for days on end. I can sit here and talk optimism all I want, but it’s been a very tough road. I’m not going to mince words, there were times that I didn’t want to wake up, I was in so much pain. It’s kind of hard to muster optimism, but you kind of have to. It’s either that or perish.”

Billy Brent Malkus started feeling ill shortly after the management of his apartment complex had major construction done in the building to deal with a pipe problem. He now lives elsewhere in the Austin, TX, area and is doing better. His bands are The Broken Harvest and The Texas Sapphires.



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Scott McMahon, M.D.

“Once the mold is growing someplace in your house, it’s going to release these toxins. The toxins are poisons. They are chemicals. You can’t kill them. They are what is causing the problem in mold illness. They float around your house, and they can deposit themselves on your furniture, on your books, on your possessions, on your clothing. Some people will move or they’ll remediate their house, but they won’t take care of the possessions. So the mold is still there. It’s still floating around, and the toxin from the mold poisons the people.”

Scott McMahon saw his first cases of mold illness when dealing with an affected school five years ago. He since has treated 700 patients and has become a Shoemaker-certified doctor. He has offices in Roswell and Albuquerque in New Mexico.



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Lisa Petrison, Ph.D.

“The problem with modern buildings is that they’re really made out of paper. They’re made out of drywall, which basically works like paper. When it gets wet, it gets soggy and it provides wonderful mold food. We have HVAC systems where we collect the dust in the HVAC systems, and with moisture in there, that provides a pretty good environment for mold to grow even if you don’t have a leak in your house. We didn’t have this kind of building before 1970. So a lot of the reason that this has emerged in the last 40 years is because we built buildings in ways that no one in civilization has ever done.”

Lisa Petrison was a marketing professor and consultant living in the Chicago area when she became ill with M.E. She spent more than a decade becoming increasingly debilitated by the disease before learning of a toxic mold problem hidden under paneling in her house. She now is the executive director of Paradigm Change, an organization providing information about the role of mold toxins in chronic multisystem illness. She also has authored the books Back from the Edge (about the life of mold avoidance pioneer Erik Johnson) and A Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance (co-authored by Erik Johnson). She now lives in Taos, NM.



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William Rea, M.D. 

“The molds are part of the total environmental load. If you picture yourself as a barrel, with molds, pesticides, solvents, bacteria, viruses all filling that barrel. And then the mold gets accessed from your house or your office or your work, the barrel may spill over and then you will start getting symptoms that screw up your immune system and your enzyme detoxification systems and then cause illness or dysfunction.”

Bill Rea started his career as a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon who eventually became interested in environmental medicine. He founded the Environmental Health Center in Dallas, TX, in 1974. He also is an author of the textbook series Reversibiity of Chronic Degenerative Disease and Hypersensitivity as well as a number of other books.



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Julie Rehmeyer

“The process of learning to trust my intuition in learning to avoid mold has been a really amazing thing. I’m a science writer and it’s really changed my relationship to science in a lot of different ways. Most scientifically minded people tend to think in terms of placebo-controlled, double-blinded trials. And that’s great. We need a lot of those and we don’t have them. I’m all for it. At the same time, it has forced me to think about what we can understand and how we can use the tools of science when we don’t have a budget and we don’t have people in white coats, and we’re trying to figure it out for ourselves.”

Julie Rehmeyer is a math and science journalist who suffered for more than a decade with ME/CFS before deciding to try mold avoidance. She has written about recovering from the illness through mold avoidance in the Washington Post and in the New York Times. More details about her experiences are in blog articles in Paradigm Change, in Health Rising and in The Last Word on Nothing. She lives with her husband near Santa Fe, NM.


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John Riera

“A lot of times, people don’t even know that they have plumbing leaks. Especially if it’s a little pinhead leak. It could be going on for a very long time and they wouldn’t necessarily know until the floor caves in or the ceiling falls in. Or somebody’s feeling sick and they’re trying to figure out why.”

John Riera is a founding partner in American Air Testing, a company providing environmental testing services to commercial and residential clients in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2001.



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Ritchie Shoemaker, M.D.

“The problem is around us, in buildings with windows that never open and recirculated air. The problem is due to new construction – in fact, old construction might be safer. But the issue is, if a group of symptoms comes up, do not assume that it’s allergy. Don’t assume it’s depression. Don’t assume you’re making it up. Assume that the patient is coming asking for help and that the duty of the physician is to be responsive to patients’ needs.”

Ritchie Shoemaker started being interested in mold toxins and other biotoxins in the late 1990’s. He treated thousands of patients in clinical practice and has published a number of peer-reviewed journal articles on the topic. He is the author of several books (including Mold Warriors and Surviving Mold) and also provides information through his website Surviving Mold. A number of other doctors now are certified to use his treatment approaches in their own practices. A conversation about toxic mold between Ritchie Shoemaker and Dave Asprey is featured in this Paradigm Change blog post. He lives in southern Maryland.


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Dr. Pedram Shojai

“People who have major problems with their health have something that’s very valuable on the other side, which is an understanding of who you are fundamentally. You can turn this into a gift, because you become so hyperaware and sensitive to your environment, to the foods that you eat, to your interactions with people…The lack of awareness is really the malady that is infecting our society. So a lot of times, on a spirit level, the lesson that we learn from something like this really turns us around and liberates us.”

Pedram Shojai is a doctor of oriental medicine, qi gong master, documentary film maker and Taoist minister. His focuses is on on teaching audiences about philosophy, enlightenment and the healing arts. He was interviewed by Dave Asprey in a podcast for the Bulletproof website.



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Dana Toliver

“It was my daughter’s birthday. I was taking her to get clothes at Sears and I collapsed on the floor. By the time the paramedics got there, I did not have a pulse. I was very scared, because my daughter was there and I was literally dying.”

Dana Toliver and her daughter were exposed to toxic mold in a previous apartment in 1995. They have experienced some improvements since getting away from the mold but unfortunately have not wholly recovered. Dana has written about her experiences on her blog, Mold Can Make You Sick. They live in the Los Angeles area.


For more information about the role of mold toxins in chronic multisystemic illness, please visit the Paradigm Change website.

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