Dr. Oz Tackles the Topic of “Mold Poisoning”: How’d He Do with It?

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April 9, 2015

By Lisa Petrison and Erik Johnson

One of the most high-profile mainstream television programs in recent history on the topic of toxic mold illness was the Dr. Oz show on April 6, called “How to Protect Your Family from Mold Poisoning.”


Following is a discussion of what the show got right, what the show got wrong – and what the show suggests about the future of public awareness about the dangers of toxic mold.

A transcript of the content of the show also is available on the Paradigm Change website.


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General Overview

Undoubtedly the best thing about this program was that everyone on it treated mold as if it is something capable of causing severe health effects and thus worth considering seriously.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, M.D., introduced the program as follows:

“You can’t smell it. You can’t see it. But if it’s in your house, it could be the reason that you and your family are sick and don’t know why.  It’s mold poisoning….I want to put this on your radar screen, because it’s happening all over America and we are just beginning to figure out the details.”

The repeated use of the term “mold poisoning” in this show seemed much more effective at changing perceptions than if they had used the term “mold toxicity” or “toxic mold illness” or “mold sensitivity” or “mold allergy.”

Although the term “toxin” rather than “poison” is considered by many to be the correct term for chemical substances made by living organisms, the idea of “mold poisoning” seems to have such emotional resonance that it possibly may be worth using anyway.

We also really liked the mention of mold being present even if it cannot be seen or smelled. Not seeing mold or smelling mold is an important factor in why many people in particularly toxic homes do not look into the question of whether mold may be a problem for them.

Later in the show, Dr. Oz acknowledged his own previous doubts about the topic of mold poisoning, stating:

“I hear stories of people moving out of a home and their whole life changing, which I always thought was a bit of an exaggeration until I started studying it a bit more. Then I realized that we have a tremendous amount of opportunity to look at these issues.”

In general, in terms of introducing some of the dangers of mold to a mainstream audience, the way that Dr. Oz discussed it on this show was a really good start.


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Kaitlin and Jill

Dr. Oz began the show by interviewing a woman named Jill and her daughter Kaitlin, both of whom had been ill while living in a home with a mold problem.

Symptoms mentioned as experienced by members of their family were sinus infections, high fevers, vomiting, and breathing problems. Doctors suspected serious illness such as cystic fibrosis or cancer, but all tests came up negative.

Many people have noted that these do not sound like the classic symptoms of people who are suffering from toxic mold illness. It seems likely that this was a purposeful decision on the part of the show’s producers rather than an oversight, though.

The government recognizes respiratory problems as being a possible outcome of mold exposures, but does not yet recognize that many other typical symptoms (such as neurological ones) also may be related. By keeping the emphasis on officially recognized symptoms of mold rather than discussing disputed ones, the Dr. Oz show may have reduced criticism of their coverage of the topic.

Jill and Kaitlin’s telling of their story made it seem that as soon as they moved out of the moldy house, all their problems were resolved. At least for people with typical severe toxic mold illness, recovery usually takes a lot more time than that.

On the other hand, the fact that the family abandoned all their possessions (leaving with just the clothes on their back and insisting that Kaitlin even part with her beloved stuffed animals) may have been helpful in allowing them to recover more quickly than many people do.


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Looking For Answers

Dr. Oz then explained that his program was going to do a mold test on the home of a family experiencing mystery symptoms. He commented:

“Now the Feeney family experienced many of the same symptoms that we just reviewed. In fact, the Feeneys have been sick for years without any explanation, like so many of you.”

Whether Dr. Oz feels that his viewership in particular has a lot of unexplained illness or whether he just feels there’s a lot of unexplained illness out there in general is unclear from this comment.

But regardless, if even a fraction of that unexplained illness were found to be associated with mold exposures, that would be really revolutionary.


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The Feeneys

Danielle Feeney at first explained her family’s health problems by focusing solely on the respiratory component:

“I’m scared to find out if there is something wrong with my house, but I’m also anxious to find out if there’s something making us sick. If there’s a reason for our congestion, for our nasal drip, our coughs.”

However, later in the studio interview, Danielle admitted she had other issues as well:

“For years, I’ve been having ear, nose and throat problems. I had pneumonia, neurological problems. I have been to numerous doctors. They haven’t found anything, and I am still suffering.”

Danielle’s husband – who later in the show apologized to her about having been skeptical about the possibility that mold could be a factor in their family’s health problems – does look in this shot rather as if he thinks she is nuts.


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Moisture Meter

The first thing that the mold tester, Matt, did was to check the moisture levels in  the walls – pictured here around the shower but presumably elsewhere in the house as well.

Moisture meters cannot provide information on whether mold is growing or what type of mold it might be if so, but they do provide some information on where the possible problem spots in a home might be.

Whether there actually was mold growing behind the Feeneys’ shower walls remained unclear subsequent to these mold testing activities.

Note, by the way, that the mold tester is wearing no protective clothing while investigating the house.

Comparatively speaking, the Feeneys are only mildly ill and thus may be unlikely to living in a really horribly toxic home.

Other homes – such as the one evacuated by Melinda Ballard and her family – are hazardous enough that even a short visit without protective gear is considered too dangerous by experts.

Many mold professionals have reported that they have eventually experienced symptoms of mold illness, even without living in particularly problematic buildings themselves.

That is something that those routinely going into suspicious buildings may want to consider, especially if they have susceptible genotypes.


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Thermographic Imaging

The Feeneys had experienced a water leak in their basement a few weeks earlier. The thermographic imaging tool suggested that the leak had been fixed properly, since signs of moisture did not register.


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Surface Sample

The mold tester noted a white residue in the area where the basement leak had been, and so he took a sample of it to be tested for the presence of mold.


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Air Testing

The mold tester then took air samples from three different rooms in the home.

Air testing looks for the presence of whole spores of mold floating in the air. It is a relatively expensive testing method and used primarily by professionals.

Those who object to air testing usually do so based largely on the fact that it is not very good at identifying the presence of Stachybotrys – arguably the most problematic indoor mold – in an environment.

A problem with Stachybotrys is that it makes a heavy and sticky spore that remains airborne only for a short period of time before falling to the ground.

Stachy spores then tend to disintegrate into spore fragments (basically poisonous dust), which mix with other dust from the environment and easily get blown or tracked throughout the whole building.

These spore fragments may be present either in the air, on surfaces, or in fabrics (such as bedding, clothing, carpets and upholstered furniture).

But even when the spore fragments are in the air, they will not be identifiable in air tests since those tests are looking only for whole spores.

In addition, research suggests that Stachybotrys colonies have the tendency to release their dormant spores into the air in waves rather than at a steady level over time. For instance, in one particularly bad home, air tests showed undetectable levels of Stachy for 23 hours of the day, and really horrific levels during just one short period of time.

Therefore, even if homes have major Stachy problems and are making people very sick, Stachy should not be expected to come up on air tests.

Typically homes with major Stachy problems will register other molds being problematic on air tests. However, often these other molds will look like relatively mild problems that will prompt testing professionals to recommend relatively trivial remediation measures rather than ones that will result in the hidden Stachy problem being found.

One question with regard to the Dr. Oz program is why the mold testers didn’t use the ERMI test.

In general, there currently seems to be a core disagreement between old-school remediators who feel comfortable with air tests and new-school remediators who favor the ERMI.

One common argument against the ERMI from remediators who are disinclined to use it is that none of the homes that they have tested with the ERMI have come up very well on the test.

These remediators thus may make the argument that the ERMI appears to be inappropriately suggesting that homes that actually are okay have toxic mold problems (Type I error).

On the other hand, if remediators are looking almost exclusively at buildings that people have suspicions about, then maybe all those buildings actually do have toxic mold problems. There are a lot of really moldy buildings out there, after all.

In addition, indoor air quality professionals make much more money on air tests than they do on the ERMI (which is a collect-it-yourself test looking at dust samples). Conceivably that financial conflict of interest could influence their judgments with regard to what test to recommend.


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Black Substance

In this section of the home visit, the mold tester went up to the attic and found a “black substance” that seemed to him likely to be toxic mold of particular concern. A surface sample was sent to the laboratory to confirm that it was mold and determine what type.


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On the Radar Screen

About a week after testing of the suspect home, Dr. Oz brought in the homeowners as well as the professionals who had supervised the mold testing to the studio.

Again he brought up the importance of simply being aware that mold is capable of causing health issues:

“Mold, I think, should be on everyone’s radar screen in these kinds of scenarios. Things don’t have to be as severe as yours, for us to begin thinking about it.”


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The Results

“Healthy home expert” Lisa Beres reported that high levels of two common molds (Cladosporium and Aspergillus) had been found in the basement of the Feeneys’ home, and that high levels of Penicillium and Stachybotrys had been found in the attic.

With regard to the Stachybotrys, she stated:

“That is the black stuff that Matt showed. Stachybotrys has the potential to be extremely toxic because of the mycotoxins that it produces.

“These can be linked to Sick Building Syndrome, bleeding, internal damage of organs. It’s dormant right now, but it’s a potential health hazard if it should become airborne.

“So all of these spores can actually become airborne and circulate through the home through the ventilation system.  So this is a concern.

“Black mold. We hear of it as black toxic mold, and that’s really what we’re dealing with here. And a high level.”

It was good that Lisa Beres made it clear that Stachybotrys is a particularly dangerous mold about which people should be concerned.

However, a problem with her comments is that she does not have enough evidence to be able to say that the Stachybotrys in the Feeneys’ home is not airborne.

She only knows that Stachybotrys did not come up on the air sampling tests, which were done at one particular moment in time. That is not sufficient evidence for her to make the assertion that the mold is “dormant.”

It is entirely possible that the existing colonies are sporadically releasing spores into the air and that the air testing simply did not catch the mold spores in the air at the exact right moment before they sunk to the floor.

It also may be that spore fragments (which are at least as toxic as whole spores) are present in the dust in the home and are wholly “airborne” (but just not recognizable as mold spores on the air tests).

It was lucky for the Feeneys that there happened to be Stachybotrys growing relatively in the open in their attic, so that this mold tester was able to find it.

Very often, Stachybotrys grows totally hidden in drywall, wall insulation or HVAC systems. Although the genetic material from such hidden mold usually shows up on ERMI tests, all other kinds of testing (including air tests and visual tests) can totally miss hidden mold of this kind.

Although there is no guarantee, it is fairly likely that since a large amount of Stachy was growing in one area of the Feeneys’ home, more Stachybotrys very well may be growing in other hidden places in the home as well.

That is where the main challenge in mold remediation lies – finding all the places where the hidden toxic mold is growing. Just locating the obvious mold growing in the open is not anywhere near enough!

Again, it seems worth noting in Lisa Beres’ statement how careful she is being with regard to bringing up only the wholly accepted effects of Stachybotrys poisoning – respiratory problems, bleeding and organ damage (apparently referring to lung damage).

What a difference it would make if mold exposures were established as a risk factor for getting the disease that the government is currently calling “ME/CFS.”

If that occurred, then the neurological, immunological and circulatory effects of mold exposures would be front and center – able to be discussed at length by any media outlet so inclined.


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A Perfect Environment

One good comment from the “healthy home experts” was Ron Beres’ explanation of how modern homes are basically accidents waiting to happen:

“Our homes are the perfect environment for molds to grow. There’s oxygen, there’s optimal temperature, there’s a food source of the building materials in our homes. The only thing missing is a water source.”

One way to look at this comment is as a suggestion that we should be considering other ways to keep mold from growing in homes (such as not constructing them out of materials that serve as a good food source for molds), rather than just trying to control the water aspect.

Water is such an integral and ubiquitous substance that trying to keep it under control is always going to result in a substantial number of accidents.

If the modern plague of moldy buildings is going to be solved in any kind of universal way, it seems likely that it is going to need to be with a fundamental change in building styles rather than just being even more vigilant about water.

However, even without any discussion of possible solutions, Ron Beres’ mention of the problem in this forum seems to have been a good thing.


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Let Me Apologize

Many of those who have looked into whether mold is a factor in their illness have experienced doubts and skepticism about the idea from their loved ones.

Danielle Feeney looks very happy to have received the following mea culpa from her husband, Robert:

“Well, let me just start by saying – let me apologize to Danielle, because I thought she was overreacting and a little off-base. So I’m sorry. But I’m relieved that this may be a cause, for what Danielle and our daughter Megan are feeling.”

It seems a really good thing that this exchange was featured on the Dr. Oz show. Handling the disbelief of loved ones is a really big issue for people considering whether toxic mold may be playing a role in their illness, and knowing that others also have experienced that problem may be helpful to them.


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Dr. James Dillard

While everyone else on this show tiptoed around the idea that mold can cause anything other than what the government acknowledges that it can cause, Dr. James Dillard – a pain specialist who is on the clinical faculty of Columbia University – stated straight-out what mold illness is actually like.

Dr. Dillard commented:

“I have patients come to me all the time for neurological problems. I see more and more of these cases, because I’m looking for them.

“But you can only find this out by doing good medical testing that goes beyond the usual stuff. The medical establishment doesn’t really believe that mold exposure is dangerous. But that’s contradicted by 30 years of good scientific evidence.

“The tricky thing is that diagnosing these people is tough because mold mimics many other illnesses. I have had people come to me who think that they have had chronic Lyme syndrome, numbness and tingling, persistent nerve pain, brain fog.  And these people actually turn out to have significant mold poisoning, which we can prove by good laboratory analysis.

“Mold is a serious health problem.”

Other than Dr. Dillard’s mention, the idea that medical testing or treatment may be of value in this type of condition was ignored in this show – probably because of fears that the government would disapprove of the tests or treatments being offered.

Thanks for your candor, Dr. Dillard.


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Cleaning Up Mold

In the last part of the show, Dr. Oz asked Ron and Lisa Beres about what people can do to protect themselves from toxic mold.

Most of their suggestions come straight from the CDC’s guidelines on how to deal with mold in general. And this is where the problem lies, since those guidelines are widely believed by those who are most knowledgeable about mold remediation and mold illness to be inappropriate or inadequate with regard to addressing toxic mold issues.

Lisa Beres’ first suggestion was that if an area was small and if the mold was just on the surface, people could clean it themselves using a detergent solution or hydrogen peroxide.

Insofar as mold really is just on one small surface area and nowhere else in a home, some professionals agree that it may be reasonably safe even for someone who already has mold illness to clean it up in the way that she describes. Others disagree.

But a bigger issue is that, very frequently, the presence of a small patch of surface mold such as Lisa Beres describes is associated with the presence of a much more serious hidden mold problem.

This program makes it seem that if you see some mold in your home, you should just clean it up and forget about it – rather than taking that as a clue that more mold may be present and trying to find out whether that is indeed the case.

Considering how serious the consequences of poisoning from hidden mold can be, that is unfortunate.

At least in the videos on the Dr. Oz website, the program did not address the question of what should be done if a larger mold problem (more than 10 square feet) is found to exist in a home.

Nor was there any discussion about what the Feeneys should do about the mold issues in their own home.

Presumably, the services of a professional remediation company would be needed for these kinds of situations. This does not seem to have been stressed on the show, however.


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Mold Screening

Lisa Beres then recommended using consumer screening tests for mold:

“If you’re having symptoms – if you’re feeling sick but you don’t know what it is, and you don’t see visible mold, which is very common – you can get a DIY affordable and reliable test kit, like this. They run about $50 and they test for a hundred different molds, and you’ll get tests back from an accredited laboratory.”

Dr. Oz responded: “So whether you see it visually or you have some of these symptoms we’re talking about, this is an easy answer.”

One thing that seems important to point out here: it is our observation that problems involving toxic mold virtually never have any easy answers associated with them. Insofar as it seems that there is an easy answer to an issue related to toxic mold, that almost always means that something critical about the situation is being overlooked or not understood.

The test recommended by Lisa Beres appears to be a Petri dish test, which virtually all mold doctors (those who treat people when “you’re feeling sick but you don’t know what it is”) dismiss as totally unreliable and unhelpful.

One problem with Petri dish tests is that, like air tests, they tend to be very bad at picking up Stachybotrys. Unfortunately, that particular mold tends not to grow very well in the conditions provided by the dish.

Therefore, insofar as Stachy is the main mold present in a home (as is very often the case in homes where people are sick with classic mold illness), this test likely will provide a misleading result in terms of it suggesting that the home is relatively okay.

In general, if a great deal of mold grows on a dish like this, then it may provide an indication that the home does have a general mold problem of some kind.

Regardless of how much or how little mold grows though, results of these tests are very difficult to interpret since they do not provide sufficient information about whether some of the worst molds are present or how much of any molds are present.

The ERMI test costs around $200-300, unfortunately.

But despite its cost, virtually all of the knowledgeable mold doctors that we have encountered recommend the ERMI rather than less expensive tests (such as the one suggested on this show) for their patients.


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Fixing Water Leaks

Ron Beres then suggested the following:

“First and foremost, if there’s a water leak, you have identify and then fix it right away. Because in 24 to 48 hours, the mold is going to grow. You have to make sure that you are really active and get that finished.”

That does seem to be good advice.

However, what is not stated here – or at any point in the program – is that if mold does grow as a result of a leak, then it is then not enough to just fix the leak and call it good.

Insofar as toxic mold results from the leak, that mold will remain poisonous even after it no longer has access to water and stops growing.

In fact, in some cases, stopping the supply of water will make a toxic mold problem worse, since dried-up colonies tend to release more dormant spores into the air than live colonies do.

Once leaks are fixed, toxic mold needs to be removed from the premises using proper hazardous materials protocols.

This is unfortunate, since finding hidden mold and removing it safely can be expensive.  But not finding and removing it can be even more costly, in terms of the effects that it may have on occupants’ health.

Almost all professional remediators do understand that. Presumably Lisa and Ron Beres understand this as well, even though they showed no evidence of that understanding on the Dr. Oz program.

Construction industry professionals seem to be much less aware of how toxic mold needs to be handled, unfortunately. We have encountered multiple construction professionals who have stated with great confidence that mold is nothing to worry about, because once you fix leaks, it just dries up and is not a problem any more.

If we are talking about the health effects of toxic mold, this is absolutely not true. It is unfortunate that the Dr. Oz show did not make this clear in their discussion of how leaks need to be handled.


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Carpets and Ventilation

Ron Beres then made two more suggestions regarding prevention of mold growth:

“Number two, you want to make sure that you do not have carpeting in your bathroom or your actual basement. Because it’s literally just a food source for mold.

“Third, you want to make sure that when you take your shower, Dr. Oz, that you ventilate the bathroom. You want to ventilate the kitchen as well when you’re cooking with an exhaust fan or you want to make sure you open the windows to reduce the moisture in your home.”

In terms of good living practice and possibly in terms of keeping small amounts of yucky surface mold from popping up, these may be reasonable suggestions.

However, in terms of preventing major toxic mold problems from manifesting, following these suggestions will do virtually nothing to address the issue.

Most toxic mold problems that have the potential of making people sick occur in three places:  inside drywall, inside wall or attic insulation, and inside HVAC systems.

Substantial amounts of toxic mold may be hidden in other places in a home (such inside crawl spaces or behind wallpaper, fake paneling or shower enclosures) as well.

Rarely is surface mold growth a culprit in why people in a home are sick.

Almost always, toxic mold problems that make people sick are hidden in places where the amount of humidity in the general air of the home is not a significant factor.

(An exception may be Hell Toxin, which is an emerging problem substance – apparently a mold – that has yet to be studied sufficiently to make any firm conclusions about it.)

Stachybotrys in particular requires actual water rather than high humidity in the air to grow. Like certain other toxic molds, Stachy grows just fine in places with relatively low humidity (such as less than 60%), provided that it has access to a little bit of actual water.

Even a small amount of standing water – such as may be present as condensation between the walls or in the HVAC system – may be sufficient for Stachy to grow.

The amount of water in the overall air of a building has little to do with how much condensation is present in the HVAC system or between the walls. Even very dry climates may have buildings with toxic mold growth in these places.

In addition, insofar as a pipe leak or a roof leak or a window leak occurs, the level of overall humidity in the air becomes irrelevant in terms of whether hidden toxic mold growth occurs. As long as Stachybotrys and some other toxic molds have access to water from a leak, they can grow and make toxins even in extremely dry climates like Death Valley.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with ventilating the kitchen or bathroom. But in terms of helping to prevent toxic mold from growing behind the tile in the shower or inside the walls of the bathroom, ventilating the bathroom likely will be no help whatsoever.

Therefore, the discussion of ventilation as a mold prevention method in a program about mold poisoning seems likely to give viewers a false sense of security that in the end will lead to some people failing to take appropriate measures and thus experiencing harm.

One positive about this section of the program were the big signs stating “AVOID MOLD” behind Dr. Oz and his guests. That is a great goal!

It just is unfortunate that the suggestions being given on the show seem unlikely to help people to avoid the mold that is likely to be harmful to them.


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Humidity Levels

With regard to other preventive measures, Lisa Beres stated the following:

“Absolutely, proactive measures are key. So you can use an air conditioner or dehumidifier in your home. This will keep the humidity levels low, which is what we really want. And if you have a basement, I advise putting a dehumidifier down there. This is a common spot for mold to grow, and it will help reduce that moisture.”

Again, suggesting that humidity levels are key is misleading.

While Lisa and Ron Beres may be correct that homes with low humidity levels will have less mold in general, keeping humidity levels low will do little or nothing to prevent the growth of the hidden toxic mold problems that almost always are responsible for making people sick.

In addition, air conditioners (whether through HVAC systems or window units) often are associated with particularly toxic molds.

Since air conditioning transforms relatively harmless humidity into much more problematic water droplets, the idea that air conditioning should be a problem rather than a solution with regard to toxic mold growth should not be considered much of a surprise.

Many mold avoiders have reported that they feel much worse in buildings after the air conditioning is turned on at the beginning of summer or that window air conditioning units have made them feel particularly sick.

Based on the reports of mold avoiders, “climate controlled” buildings (especially large buildings like hotels with centralized HVAC systems) very often are especially problematic with regard to toxic molds.

While buildings without any climate control are not always good, those buildings do tend to be reported as much better on average. This includes buildings without air conditioning in humid climates as well as in dry climates.

Air conditioning units in RV’s and automobiles also tend to be huge problem spots for mold avoiders. After some particularly bad experiences, many mold avoiders make themselves a promise that they will never, ever use air conditioning in a vehicle again.

In general, we see the invention of air conditioning as one of the larger contributors to the current health calamity associated with moldy buildings. (Other particularly problematic modern innovations in terms of fostering toxic mold problems are drywall, cellulose wall insulation, and wrapping buildings in plastic so that more condensation occurs between the inside and outside walls.)

The suggestion of these “healthy home experts” that air conditioning is the solution and that it should be used as much as possible seems very much off base, therefore.

In terms of increasing comfort and making surface mold less likely to grow, reports suggest that dehumidifiers are a much safer choice than air conditioners.

But dehumidifiers do not seem to be any kind of solution to preventing toxic mold problems in buildings either. Dehumidifiers have a preventive effect only on the growth of exposed surface mold, which is almost never reported as the culprit in terms of making people sick with mold poisoning.

Obviously, figuring out whether a home has hidden water problems, fixing those problems and safely removing any existing toxic mold is a much more challenging endeavor then buying a dehumidifier or running the air conditioner all the time.

Insofar as the Dr. Oz show was stated to be about mold poisoning though, focusing heavily on measures that have little or nothing to do with toxic mold poisoning and totally skipping over the issue of how to prevent and fix actual toxic mold problems seems a major error.


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Air Filters

Finally, Lisa Beres brought up the topic of air filters. She stated:

“Now, you also want to change the furnace filter, which is your HVAC system, your heating and cooling system. You need to change that every three months. A good rule of thumb is to do that every season. Because these will remove over 90% of airborne mold spores that pass through it. When you’re looking for a healthy living filter, they literally capture those airborne mold spores. So very important.”

The subsequent exchange with Dr. Oz made it seem that the use of air filters likely would solve the whole problem of environmental mold for the Feeney family and everyone else, so that they didn’t have to think about it any more.

Dr. Oz: “So for the Feeneys, we did an airborne mold test and there was mold in the air in their home.”

Lisa Beres: “Right. We found mold in the air and in the surface tests.”

Dr. Oz: “So if you’re going to miss it in the walls, because it can hide, at least get it out of the air so it’s not affecting your family.”

Lisa Beres: “Exactly.”

This seems to be the last comment about mold presented on the website video, and may have been one of the last comments on the show as well.

Possibly, Dr. Oz was simply not very informed about mold remediation and Lisa Beres did not feel that she had sufficient time left to explain the limitations of air filters.

However, the idea that using air filters in a home is going to be in any way significantly helpful without addressing a major Stachybotrys problem in the walls is inconsistent with the position taken by not only every mold doctor but every apparently knowledgeable remediator that we have ever encountered.

If changing the furnace filters more often or buying a standalone filtration unit were any sort of solution to environmental toxic mold problems, then the question of whether toxic mold can cause illness likely would not be so much under the radar screen.

That kind of easy solution is one that the government likely would readily get on board in terms of actively embracing and promoting.  “Mold is bad!  So change those air filters!”

The especially frustrating thing about the air filter discussion on the program is that Dr. Oz’s first guest made it clear that she did not believe that air filters would have been any sort of solution to her family’s mold problem. Her family instead left the house with nothing but the clothes on their backs and never returned.

Not everyone needs to flee any time any type of mold is found in a home, of course. It depends on the extent of the health problems involved, on the type of mold toxins involved, and on the amount of mold present.

Certainly, Dr. Oz should not have made it seem that mold is so scary that people failed to consider the issue of mold because of fear of what they might find.

But the program should have made it clear that the measures that Lisa and Ron Beres were suggesting may be wholly insufficient to help people who are really sick, and that assistance from remediation professionals as well as medical professionals may be worth considering in some circumstances.



A preview of the upcoming documentary film "Moldy."

                               A preview of the upcoming documentary film “Moldy.”


In general, it was great to see Dr. Oz discuss this topic on his show.

Especially in combination with mold victim Suzanne Somers’ new book “Tox-Sick” and mold victim Dave Asprey’s new documentary movie “Moldy” (scheduled for release in June), the Dr. Oz program seems like it will be helpful in putting environmental mold much more onto the radar screen of the average person than it has been in recent years.

Dr. Oz made it clear in the program that he takes mold poisoning seriously. That is important.

The other physician on the program, Dr. James Dillard, was really terrific. It is unfortunate that he was not given more time, but perhaps we will hear more from him elsewhere in the future.

On the other hand, the “healthy home experts” – Lisa and Ron Beres – provided remarkably misleading and in some cases frankly inaccurate information on how people can go about looking for and addressing mold issues that may harm them in their homes.

This is especially disturbing since this couple previously has been featured as mold experts on Suzanne Somers’ program and on other TV shows.

It would have been much better if the Dr. Oz program had just brought up the problem of toxic mold and encouraged those who were experiencing mysterious health symptoms to discuss the situation with a doctor and/or a mold remediator, without inviting this couple on the show at all.

Giving people misleading advice with regard to what to do about toxic mold is far worse than giving them no advice at all about what to do about it.

Considering how harmful listening to this type of advice could be for people suffering from actual mold poisoning, having these two “experts” continue to be presented as the voice of mold on TV seems to have the potential to become a real problem as interest in this topic grows.

Perhaps those experts who actually know something about toxic mold illness need to join together to halt this problem before it goes any further.

Another general observation prompted by the Dr. Oz program is related to the fact that Dr. Oz only felt comfortable discussing the respiratory problems associated with mold, rather than the many other problems (such as neurological ones) that the experts in the field believe to be associated with it.

In general, the media only covers medical issues that the government already recognizes. This means that those who have been most injured by toxic mold (including those who have conditions such as “ME/CFS” or similar illnesses with a strong neurological component) are not seen by the media as being able to legitimately share their mold stories.

Getting the connection between typical mold illness symptoms and toxic mold poisoning recognized by the government and thus able to be covered by the media is an important component of our own advocacy efforts.

For instance, an ERMI study showing that living in a moldy home can be a risk factor for getting “ME/CFS” could be one way to accomplish this goal.


About the Authors

Erik Johnson has been working to bring medical attention to the role of mold toxins in the disease currently being called “ME/CFS” since the Lake Tahoe epidemic in the mid-1980’s (before there were any articles in the medical literature about the idea that inhaled mold toxins inside buildings could have a negative impact on human health). His life story is summarized in the book Back from the Edge.

Lisa Petrison is the executive director of Paradigm Change.


Unfortunately, the footage of Dr. James Dillard from this program does not seem to be available on the Dr. Oz website.

It can be viewed in this video provided by Sandy Wolfe, however.


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

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