Mold Testing Results - What Do They Mean? Mold test kit results analyzed

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Q. My family and I moved into a rental home on May 25, 2002. Within a few days everyone was ill, with symptoms ranging from coughing, sneezing, burning eyes, even visual blurring than dizziness, severe headaches, memory problems, diarrhea, fatigue. I simply thought we all had a very bad case of flu. My 13-year old son by June 16th was having extreme difficulty breathing, so I took him to his doctor. He was suffering from pulmonary edema with bronchial spasms. The doctor suggested that he may be having an allergic reaction. He was treated over a three-week span with massive doses of antibiotics and steroids to clear his lungs. After the visit I went home and decided to clean the basement that the landlord had not finished doing, at which time I found large mold growth on the walls. After calling the physician, he said that either the mold goes or we have to. I had Air-O-Cell analysis, swabs and tape samples done. Air samples came back as Aspergillus/Penicillium sample concentration of >2571, Cladosporium 29, Chaetomium 109, Hyphae 11, in my son's bedroom. The swabs came back with Aspergillus/Penicillium sp. =High, Cladosporium sp. =Medium, Fusarium sp. =Medium, Epicoccum sp. Chaetomiun sp. , Myxomycete sp. , Ulocladium sp. Cladosporium sp. Basidiomycete sp. All=Low. Tape samples of basement floors and walls where Cladosporium sp. 5+Packed, Mycelia sp. 5+Packed, Microsporium 5+Packed. Could you please tell me what this all means, what the health effects are to exposure to these molds and lastly who can I find that can evaluate my family for possible exposure. We left our home and all of our belongings, all the symptoms have gone away except for coughing, abdominal pain and diarrhea, and I'm having extreme difficulty with spontaneous memory. - Michellenea, IL
A. The Aspergillus/Pennicillium concentration was relatively high and visible mold growth on basement walls indicates that you had a significant mold infestation and exposure problem in that house.
The symptoms, however, were quite extreme and not typically reported for mold exposures. The coughing, sneezing and possible headaches would be consistent with mold; the burning eyes, visual blurring, memory problems, diarrhea, fatigue are not. The pulmonary edema is also not consistent with mold exposure.
I suspect that what caused your main illness symptoms was not mold. Some other contaminant or contaminants were likely to be present. The edema suggests nitrogen dioxide but at very high levels, levels that typically don't occur in residences unless some unusual things are stored there. Another possibility on the edema is lead from an exposure to lead dust from a remediation or some other source.
I would recommend that you see a physician with a background in occupational medicine. The symptoms suggest exposure to an occupational type of contaminant. Also check out the potential for exposures to lead. The abdominal pain and diarrhea continuing are consistent with an exposure to lead. Have a blood lead level done on at least one member of your affected family.
I would remove your belongings to a storage building to allow them to air out for a couple of weeks and then have soft materials vacuumed well, hard surfaces wet-wiped before you use them again. In my opinion, they are salvageable even if the exposure was to lead dust.
You will find more information at the Mold In Our Homes website.