I did an informal survey of some ME people who'd been to the Caribbean part of the world since getting ME. Out of 23, 17 said they were extremely well when in the Caribbean area. 6 found their ME was not significantly better than usual. There wasn't much middle ground.
Those who weren't well had been "all over the Caribbean", to Aruba and one MCS person had made ill by bus fumes and tap water in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.
Those who were well went to: "All over the Caribbean", Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad and the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.
Post by Lisa Petrison on Nov 14, 2011 16:41:30 GMT -5
Following are some comments I wrote a couple of years ago, discussing factors that may make outdoor biotoxins such as toxic mold more problematic in some places than others, along with Paul B.'s response.
Here are some tentative observations about the role of toxic mold in the locations effect.
1. Areas with a higher concentration of buildings tend to have a higher amount of outdoor toxic mold.
Toxic mold grows mostly inside buildings. This mold then circulates into the outside air. Thus, areas with more buildings tend to be more problematic.
2. Certain types of buildings tend to be more prone to toxic mold growth.
Stachybotrys, which appears to be the most problematic toxic mold, requires cellulose (preferably in processed form) and a water supply in order to grow. Buildings that are made of drywall and that have leaks tend to be ones that cause problems.
Unfortunately, a large majority of buildings in most countries now include drywall.
A more predictive component thus is the extent to which water intrusions occur. Though these may be problematic in all types of buildings, certain conditions make them especially prevalent: flat roofs (especially in places with large amounts of snowfall), materials inclined to leaks (adobe seems especially bad), and poorly constructed or maintained buildings.
Buildings with centralized duct systems tend to have worse mold problems due to a) the spores getting blown around the whole building, b) the possibility that mold will grow in the duct system (using the cellulose from cotton clothing fibers as food and condensation as water), and c) climate control systems (since toxic molds grow at a lower humidity level than "regular" mold and thus have less competition with regard to taking over an entire inside area at the level of humidity present in these buildings).
Insofar as a high percentage of buildings in a particular area meet several of these criteria (think cities in Alaska and downtown Santa Fe), the amount of mold in the outside air may be especially bad.
3. New buildings may have less toxic mold growth than older ones.
This is not always true, since some buildings with poor construction have mold growth before they're even finished. (Newer buildings also may be problematic for CFS sufferers due to "precontamination" of building materials previously stored in moldy places, but these tend not to affect outdoor air quality.) Still, new buildings often are clear of toxic mold growth. This can change rapidly within a year or two though.
4. Even one bad building can make the outside air in the surrounding area bad.
If your neighbor's house is bad, you may experience bad outdoor air regardless of how few other buildings there are in the area.
5. Farms often have outdoor mold problems.
This seems to often be the case when fertilizer (perhaps compost) is present. Various toxic molds also can grow on straw, stored grain and other items found on farms. Chemicals used on farms may exacerbate these negative effects. Being "out in the country" seems like it should be safe, but unfortunately may not be.
6. Areas that have building materials rotting outside will have particularly severe toxic mold problems.
The worst imaginable condition is when a bunch of drywall sits outside in an area subject to a large amount of rain and humidity. This is exactly the situation still present in the aftermath of hurricanes in places like New Orleans and southern Texas.
7. Sewer systems and garbage dumps can have toxic mold problems.
The outside air in proximity to these may have a high level of toxic mold.
8. The presence of certain chemicals may exacerbate the poor health of those who are hyperreactive to toxic mold.
It is our experience that scrupulous avoidance of toxic mold eventually results in the fading of chemical sensitivities. However, few CFS sufferers get away from toxic mold to a sufficient extent for a long enough period for this to occur. The presence of chemicals in an environment thus can make any location feel bad.
9. Areas at higher altitudes than the surrounding environment tend to have less than their fair share of toxic mold.
Many chemicals in the outdoor environment tend to rise upwards. Toxic mold seems to fall downwards. Stachybotrys is known to be a "heavy" spore that quickly falls to ground level inside buildings, and so it makes sense that this would be the case in outdoor areas as well.
Note here that absolute altitude is not what matters. Rather, it's altitude relative to the areas around it. In a low-lying area, an altitude of 300 feet above sea level may qualify as a relatively high altitude. In some parts of Colorado, "relatively high" may mean anything above 7000 feet.
10. Populated areas surrounded by mountains tend to have more than their fair share of toxic mold.
These areas suffer for two reasons. Any mold produced in the surrounding higher altitudes may fall downwards. Mountains also can serve as blockades that keep outdoor mold (which again tends to hover close to ground level) from being blown away. Areas with mountains on three or four sides seem to have particular problems in this regard.
11. Wind can blow toxic mold out of an area.
Wind tends to be a good thing in populated areas, since it serves to blow toxic mold away. Areas with little wind (think Tucson) thus tend to have worse toxic mold problems.
A combination of wind direction and surrounding mountains can influence the extent to which this occurs, however. For instance, Reno (where Erik works) has a large mountain on the west side. The toxic mold problem in that city tends to be particularly bad when the wind blows from the east, since the mountain serves as a block. Denver has an exaggerated version of this situation (it's a bigger city with a higher mountain on the west side), and thus may have an exaggerated version of the bad effect. It would be interesting (though likely not fun!) for me to visit Denver to find out.
12. Wind can blow toxic mold into an area.
When mold is blown out of populated or other bad areas, it goes someplace. Areas that are downwind of it will experience sporadic or permanent negative effects.
With mold coming out of one house or a sewer system, the recipient area may be just a few hundred feet. In other cases, outdoor toxic mold may blow hundreds of miles. For instance, it seems to be the case that problematic amounts of mold present in Texas can blow north all the way to Kansas and west to the middle of New Mexico.
13. Mountains can protect unpopulated areas from being affected by mold from other places.
For instance, Death Valley and the San Joaquin Valley in California are both very sparsely populated areas surrounded by unpopulated mountains. Both of these places are extremely good with regard to toxic mold, in my experience.
14. Sunshine may result in lower levels of toxic mold in the outside air.
All things being equal, sunny places seem that they may have lower levels of outdoor toxic mold. Sunny days in a particular place also seem to be better in terms of relative toxic mold. Conceivably, cloud cover may prevent mold toxins from dissipating into the environment. A tentative observation is that objects that sit in sunshine tend to "die-down" with regard to toxic mold potency in a comparatively short time, leading to the hypothesis that the sun may have some direct effect in nullifying the strength of the toxins.
15. Falling barometric pressure seems to result in higher levels of toxic mold in the outside air.
Falling barometric pressure often is accompanied by clouds, meaning there is some overlap with the previous point. It also may be the case that mold colonies (especially those growing outdoors) release mold spores when rain is expected, since easy growth is more likely to occur when water is present.
16. Temperate climates may be better in terms of toxic mold than cold ones, and many places seem to be better in summer than winter.
The hypotheses above about sunshine may be related to this. It's also possible that temperate climates, all things being equal, have more "regular" mold that can help to keep the toxic mold from spreading as quickly.
17. The effects of humidity are a bit counter-intuitive.
At first, it seems like dry areas should have comparatively low toxic mold problems.
This is not necessarily the case. Compared to other molds, stachybotrys can grow at a relatively low humidity level (60% or higher).
More importantly, a steady water supply can allow this mold to grow even in buildings in places like Death Valley (with a humidity that often is only 5%). Since dried-out stachy colonies release even more toxic mold spores than live ones, and since they can spring back to life as soon as they again get a little bit of water, sporadic water intrusions can be phenomenally effective at allowing them to exercise negative effects on the environment.
It also may be that the lack of competitive "regular" molds in low-humidity areas allows toxic molds to more easily take over an entire building.
It's my observation that buildings in desert areas tend to be "all or nothing": to either be okay or to have extremely high levels of toxic mold. On the other hand, very damp areas (think England and Japan) are prone to the easy growth of all kinds of mold, including the toxic kind. All things being equal, areas that have moderately humid climates and few climate control systems may be better with regard to toxic mold levels.
18. Areas with a great deal of rainfall or snowfall may be more prone to toxic mold problems.
Conceivably, more rain or snow might mean more water intrusions into buildings and thus more mold. On the other hand, some people in areas with very low amounts of rainfall tend to be cavalier in terms of keeping their roofs and windows in good repair. Even a little bit of rain once every few years can cause a colony of stachybotrys to form, with the dried-out remains continuing to release dormant spores indefinitely into the future.
19. The presence of outdoor plants seems to reduce the effect of toxic mold in the environment.
Populated areas with more vegetation seem to be comparatively less problematic with regard to toxic mold. Stepping even 50 feet into a city park sometimes seems to decrease problems significantly. One explanation for this may be related to the presence of negative ions in these areas, but something else might be going on.
20. The presence of plastics and electronics seems to increase the effect of toxic mold in the environment.
This could be related to the presence of positive ions associated with these objects, but something else again might be going on.
21. Proximity to large bodies of water (especially the ocean) seems to decrease the effect of toxic mold in the environment.
Part of this may be that large bodies of water are open spaces that allow mold toxins to easily blow away. It also could be related to the negative ions associated with proximity to these bodies of water, or something else might be going on.
22. Forests that have been subject to chemicals as a result of firefighting activities frequently are bad locations.
In some cases, especially in dry climates, only chemicals seem to be present. In others, toxic mold seems to be a component of the "badness". One type of firefighting chemical causes water to stick to wood rather than running off of it, and it seems conceivable that this might provide the components (cellulose + standing water) that toxic mold needs to grow outdoors.
I wonder if the increased use of microwave ovens and cell phones in recent years in the Caribbean accounts for that location not helping me personally nearly as much as it used to ?
I could not comment on some of your points as they are for small areas, not an area as broad as what I call "the Caribbean". IE: points 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 12 I wasn't sure. 13 did not apply. 20 varies.
Otherwise it seems there is an amazing co-relation between my Caribbean "well" areas and areas not conducive to growing toxic moulds ! I expand by commenting on your various points:
2: Caribbean has little drywall and wood, but lots of concrete and some rock.
9: There are few places with higher areas near by.
10: Some "bad" areas in parts of the world that would probably be good for me, except for the topography have higher areas around them: Mexico City: Quito; San Jose, Costa Rica.
11: Most of my Caribbean "well" areas have ocean breezes.
14: Caribbean is sunny
15: My CFS is worse during cloudy or turbulent weather
16: Caribbean is warm
17: Caribbean is humid
18: Caribbean has lots of rain during certain periods
19: Caribbean has lots of plants.
21: The Caribbean is near the ocean.
22: I don't think many forest fire chemicals are used there
Post by Lisa Petrison on Nov 14, 2011 17:21:17 GMT -5
Another comment from Paul Beith:
Just so people understand, what I and others found was that we were healthy when in the Caribbean area. In many cases, this started the first day of being there. At least in 2000/2002 era.
Like a healthy person, I lived a normal life, with normal stress, without medicine, eating the same as a healthy person, whether there was sunshine or not, whether it was warm or not. Whether I was on vacation or not. I did not have post exertional fatigue.
The main difference I had from most other healthy people was that I needed to rest more, but I could still have a normal life.