Mold Toxicity In Your Home with Expert Brian Karr

Mold toxicity Expert Brian Karr

How Mold Might Be Hindering Your Healing

If you are struggling with mold in your home or you suspect mold exposure, today’s episode is for you. Brian Karr is a second-generation indoor environmental consultant and the VP of Mold Guys Inc, a company dedicated to the detection and remediation of microbial contaminants. Brian has become a go-to mold and biotoxin resource for practitioners across the country and has helped over 3000 hypersensitive individuals nationwide to create healthier living environments that have allowed their doctors to help them get better.

A 2nd Generation Indoor Environmental Specialist Shares His Insight On Mold Toxicity

Mimi MacLean:
Thank you so much for coming on today. I appreciate it. I’m excited to talk about this topic because it’s near and dear to my heart. It’s one of the reasons why I’m not getting better, I think, is the mold. I didn’t realize how important of a piece it was until recently. I’m glad that you can give us the one-on-one on mold today. So thank you for coming on. I read that you’re a second-generation mold specialist. So how did your father, I assume, got into this?

Brian Karr:
It’s my father-in-law. I’m claiming the second generation, but it’s because he is like a father, and he’s taught me how to do this. It’s a family business. The short version of this story is, I don’t know, about nine, ten years, or however long it was, I didn’t know anything about mold. I was fine. I lived in an apartment. The pipe leaked in the ceiling from an apartment above me and flooded my room. I ended up not feeling right. I ended up getting sick. I get skin issues. I get cognitive problems.

The landlord sends some mold inspectors out. This is like most of them that exist out there. And he’s like, “Hey, everything’s fine. There are no problems here.” Mark comes out, who’s my father-in-law, Mark Levy. I mean, he’s literally like one of the best that there is in the world at this. He comes out, and he spends like two hours in my 800 square foot apartment where the other guy was there for like 20 minutes. Finds eight problems, some of them tied to the leak, some of them not connected to the leak. And just opened my eyes to like what was going on.

At the time I was kind of on this like, I don’t know, quarter-life crisis sort of trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life thing and have an impact on the world and all that stuff. I saw what he did for me. And I was like, well, man, I need to get into this. This is how you can actually make an impact on people’s lives, help people. And so on the spot, I was just like, “I want to work with you.” I’ve been dating his daughter for like a couple of months. Like I just went all-in on the relationship basically.

Mimi MacLean:
That’s funny. You better hope it worked out.

Brian Karr:
I knew early on, I think. So I wasn’t too stressed out about doing that.

Mimi MacLean:
That’s so funny. But it’s true. I really think what you just mentioned, many of the symptoms from mold mimic the symptoms. So then that’s where I’m like, wait, are the symptoms I’m having Lyme symptoms? Are they from the mold? And I think there’s a lot of cross-section for that.

Brian Karr:
Yeah. Full disclosure, I’m not a doctor. I’ll probably make comments a lot, but I’m not a doctor. I know a lot of them. I talked to a lot of them. I actually just did an episode on my show with Dr. Darren Angles, an excellent, amazing Lyme episode. I learned so much from Lyme, and mold is still connected. It’s almost as if some people think that you have to do it a certain way.

Why Mold Might Be The Reason You Are Not Getting Better

Mimi MacLean:
People who reach out to me, if you’re not getting better, and anybody who’s listening, if you’re not getting better from typical Lyme treatments, I would say like stop what you’re doing right now and check to make sure you have mold. How would you suggest it? Is that to go to the doctor and see if it’s in their body? Or is it check their house? What comes first, the chicken or the egg, like the body or the place?

Brian Karr:
It could honestly be either way. I’ve worked with people who’ve done both. Either way, lead you to the same point. I don’t think it matters too much. I have some that their doctor suspected at first, and so they did some labs and some things that validated it. I’ve had other people who ended up doing an ERMI test in their house first because they read something about the connection, which is just a dust collection from throughout the house. It’s really easy to do, but it’s a really, really good screening test just to see what’s there.

Mimi MacLean:
Where do you get that? Online? Or through you? Where do you get that?

Brian Karr:
Yeah, you can get them online. There’s a couple of labs to do it. One is Envirobiomics, and the other is Mycometrics. Both of those labs do them. It’s like a Swiffer pad. It’s like you just clean your house basically. So what happens is that the mold fragments move through the house and settle down on surfaces that the home and settle in reservoirs.

Then, as we move into the house, these dust reservoirs are continuously popped up in our breathing zone as something that’s called the human cloud effect. If you watched Charlie Brown when you were a kid, the kid was super dirty all the time. This cloud of dirt around him. That is happening to us as we move through our own homes all the time, except instead of dirt, we don’t see tiny microscopic particles. The beauty of doing a dust collection test for this stuff is that it’s a much more sensitized test, so you’re getting better information out of it. But it’s also showing you a more historical perspective of what’s gone on.

Mold Toxicity Quote 2

Most inspectors come in, and they do like an air sample in the middle of your room. What that’s doing, you’re getting a snapshot in time of five minutes, and you’re not getting the most in-depth type of analysis. Air samples used in that way are the weakest. It’s the weakness of an air sample in just doing it like that. Yet our entire industry does it like that. So what’s happening is you’re taking a sample method that’s really not meant to be used that way, yet everyone is doing it, and so we get all these false negatives all the time because everybody thinks there are no problems.

ERMI is excellent because it gives you a historic point of view of what’s gone on. That’s showing you what’s popping up in your breathing zone. So it’s also giving you a better idea of your exposure as you’re moving through your house. And it’s super easy to collect. So we can do that on our own as a quick little screening test.

Mimi MacLean:
That’s great. And so besides that, you can also probably see some of the molds. If you see mildew or black mold in the corner of your bathroom or something like that, it’s perhaps a good telltale sign that you have mold.

Brian Karr:
Well yeah, but it’s funny, most mold is hidden. I say this almost like a joke, but it’s true. I’m like, “Hey guys, you want to know the secret to finding hidden mold in your house?” Like, “Yeah, what is it?” I’m like, “Don’t look for mold.” That’s the secret.

Mimi MacLean:
No, it’s true. As a Lyme person, I have a super-sensitive smell. For example, in my house, I wasn’t getting better and the doctors said “You have mold.” And I actually could somewhat smell it.

ERMI Testing – What Is It and How It Helps with Mold Discovery

Mimi MacLean:
I think because people who have Lyme are super sensitive to smell, you can almost smell a different scent. And that’s when my mold was actually our radiator underneath our floorboards. Broke somehow or something happened, and it caused all underneath our hardwood floors to get black mold and we didn’t see it. That was one case. So say as it comes back, your swifter thing comes back, whatever you call it. What was it called again?

Brian Karr:
It’s E-R-M-I, ERMI.

Mimi MacLean:
Okay. So the ERMI test comes back negative, it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have mold, right?

Brian Karr:
Most times there are problems there. It’s almost tough because I could talk to someone and just know if there’s a problem in their house without even running that. Sometimes people just need some proof that there’s something going on to validate what’s happening. My initial conversation with clients, and there are benefits in running that test later on. I would still want to run it regardless. In the beginning, if I ask them about the history of what’s gone on in their home, I could already figure out even without going in there, where some of the problems are going to be just from our conversation.

Mimi MacLean:
So one either it comes back positive or their blood work comes back positive, they would call you. What next steps do you do once you’re there?

Brian Karr:
We have two goals when we go in. Like I said, you could do an ERMI on your own. And that says, great, you got a mold problem. Now what? And a lot of inspectors out there, that’s all that they’ll do.

Mimi MacLean:
I know. I had someone do the air test. They were like, “You have mold.” I’m like, “Okay, what next?” And they’re like, “I don’t know. That’s not our department.” I was like, “What? Why did I hire you?”

Brian Karr:
It’s insane. It’s insane. And it’s just this massive problem in our industry. Even if you get inspectors that will use that type of test, and again, I keep bringing it up, but it’s not the end all be all of how to find problems in your house, but it’s a good screening test to see what’s going on. But even if you have people that will use that test, they don’t find where it’s coming from. So when I talked to clients at the beginning, I say, “Listen, we’ve got two goals. The first goal is we got to figure out where the source of the problem is.”

I use this analogy all the time that mold is like a factory. If you ever drive by a factory, they make whatever they’re making inside. The smoke creates the air pollution that we then breathe; while the factory is not directly getting to our face and nose, it’s creating smoke that is then getting to us. The factory is what’s causing the smoke.

mold finder app graphic

If we went and we said, we’re going to clean up all of our air pollutions, all we’re going to do is just try to clean the air and do nothing else. It’s never going to get fixed. That’s the same as going into someone’s house, doing an ERMI test, say it’s terrible. You know what? Two weeks later, a month later, the mold problems will be the same as it was when you did it that time.

You have to find where it’s coming from. And so that’s really the bulk of the next step is if you did do an ERMI and you find there’s something up in your house, it’s off, it doesn’t make sense, we have to go in and do a deep dive and figure out where it’s hiding. And that process can take anywhere from four to eight hours, depending on the size of the house.

Mimi MacLean:
How do you do that? Is there another special kind of test?

Brian Karr:
It’s not about like tests that are the magic tests. It’s almost like if you’re a doctor and you’re running a series of tests on someone’s body, there are certain tests that are really good for certain things. If you use them to achieve the opposite, they would both be terrible at doing what others are good at. You almost kind of view a sampling plan like you’re putting a puzzle together. And you’re like, okay, so this is good for this. So I’m going to use this type of test here. And this test is perfect for this, so we’re going to use this here.

"It's not only about the testing; you have to know where to collect the test. That's the big thing." - Brian

You could go on all day and learn how to manage an air sample, but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know where to do it. And so a big chunk of it is, when we’re going through the house, it’s looking at everything. It’s looking for like I said before, it’s not looking for mold. If we find it, that’s great, but it’s looking for signs of water damage. That is the big secret. If anyone takes anything out of this, think of any time that you’ve had any minor little water leak under a sink, somewhere that you thought wasn’t a big deal, it’s a big deal.

Some things are more obvious: when I talk to a client upfront. We’re going through the home other times, and we’re finding areas with visible water damage and not like massive water damage, like little things, minor cracking in paint, a tiny base pulling off the wall a little bit, little subtle things. But those tell us that there has been a water issue that’s occurred here; that’s where we test. So we try to find the source of where it is. So it’s a heavy visual. And then, we do rely on other tools and equipment, but the visual is so important.

Preventing Mold and Keeping Mold Toxicity Down

Mimi MacLean:
So what happens if you do have a minor leak under your sink? Is there something that you could do to prevent that mold from starting? Is there any recommendation you would say right now for anybody who does have a minor leak and just be like, okay, this is what you need to do to prevent mold growth?

Brian Karr:

If the leak happened already, you’re probably too late. Mold only needs 24, 48 hours to grow. So if you had a sink leak, even if it’s not a significant leak, it could be a drip. It could be something that was overtime. We’re not talking massive floods that come out of your cabinet. We’re talking little drips from faucets or pipes or things like that. It doesn’t need that long to grow. Most of us don’t ever look under our sinks. Two townhouses ago that I lived in, I had a kitchen sink, and I looked under it, no mold visible, nothing like super crazy. There was one little, little drip mark at the back.

I saw a drip mark on the floor where you put you for people listening to products and stuff, all the way towards the back. That’s all that I saw. I tested it because it’s what I do. And it came back and there was a big mold problem under there. And then when they came in and did remediation, they took the cabinet off and I was in there all suited up. I wanted to see what it looked like. It was like a case study for me to see what it looked like afterward. And I go, the entire bottom side of my cabinet was covered in mold.

Mimi MacLean:
So the water went through the wood and made everything underneath moldy?

Brian Karr:
Yeah. And so the way that we tested that, like if you looked in there by yourself, like, oh, there was a drip here, whatever sink drip, not a big deal. What we did is we put an air sampling pump inside of the cabinet, and then we shut the cabinet doors. So we actually use an air test right at where we think the source is, and it came back and it was elevated. It showed that there was something happening. And then they pulled the sink off, and sure enough, there’s a significant mold problem under my sink.

Mimi MacLean:
So the moral of the story, if you see any little thing at this point, it’s too late for you to do anything about it.

Brian Karr:
Yeah, you got to check it. You got to see what’s going on. Think of it this way, if you found a mole on your body, you get it checked. Like, oh man, this thing wasn’t here before. I don’t know how long it’s been here, but it shouldn’t be here. We know that you’re supposed to check those things out. You get it checked. These slight inconsistencies in the building material in our houses are like little moles. Their houses’ building material is checked. It might not be anything. And if it’s not, that’s great, but it couldn’t be something. And so that’s why you check them, so it doesn’t turn into something big.

Mold Finders Webinar and Educating People How To Uncover Mold Toxicity

mold finders logo

Mimi MacLean:
I love your analogies. It makes me visualize it and it’s easier. You’re like a total entrepreneur because you have lots of different things going on. You have your mold finder company, which comes to your house. You’re national, right?

Brian Karr:
Yeah. So that company is called We Inspect. That’s the name of our company that travels around.

Mimi MacLean:
Right. So that’s the company that comes to your house, but then you do have moldfinders.com? Or that’s the class?

Brian Karr:
Yeah. We created something called Mold Finders Method, which is a way to basically teach people how to go through their own homes. I just explained to you how to look under a sink and how to find a problem. That’s one easy thing you can do. I know how to do this in a house everywhere. So what was happening is before we became even a national traveling company, we got all these calls from everywhere where people were trying to figure it out and we just couldn’t support them at the time.

I had this one client who I had worked with a lot locally in California and she was moving to Hawaii. She was like, “Brian, I need you to come out and look at this house in Hawaii. I’m looking to buy it. I need you to make sure there’s nothing here.” Because I had worked in her house in LA, I was like, as much as I want to go to Hawaii, my wife is pregnant. She’ll never let me live it down. I can’t come to Hawaii. And so she kept like badgering me, and not like in a mean way. She was like, “I don’t trust anyone else to come to do this. I will fly you out there. You can stay there for a week. I’ll put you up. I don’t care. Turn into a vacation. I need you to come to do this.”

Mold Image I showed her what to look for in these five different pictures of different types of water damage. And then in all of her rooms, I just wrote out, okay, here’s where you look in this bedroom. Here’s where you look in a kitchen, and you look for one of these five things. It’s exactly how I would go through a house. And it’s exactly where I would figure out where I want to test for problems. It’s so crazy when you think about it. I narrowed it down for her afterward and I kind of figured it out.

Mimi MacLean:
That’s crazy. So that’s great. And you have it directed towards doctors and also just regular people.

Brian Karr:
It’s meant to empower someone to go through their own house. Because most local inspectors don’t know what they’re doing. And to fly me out, it’s not cheap. There has to be an answer for someone other than one of those two things. This is really just meant to empower people to be able to inspect their own homes.

Mimi MacLean:
But We Inspect, your other company, do you have people on the ground, or is it just working with you?

Brian Karr:
We have people that we fly to wherever you are that I’ve trained. And then either myself or Cory, who’s my business partner, typically me, on like percent of the projects. I literally oversee the project from our office. So we have our inspector that flies to someone’s home. They’re actually on the ground looking for stuff. It’s so important actually to be there to see what’s going on getting two sets of eyes on everything.

The Difference Between Standard Mold Toxicity and Mycotoxins

Mimi MacLean:
That’s cool. In your bio, you talk about mold, and you talk about mycotoxins. So what’s the difference between mycotoxins and mold?

Brian Karr:
Yeah. So mold is a living organism. Mycotoxins are literally just a chemical. That’s the basic difference. So what happens is if mold is growing somewhere and it has the ability to produce a mycotoxin, not all molds even have the ability to produce a toxin. Some of them don’t. They just can’t. Other ones can, but just because they can, doesn’t mean they will. So it’s a defense mechanism. Think of it this way. You’re in your house. You may own a gun. You’re not just going to shoot it for no reason. But if somebody busts in your house, you may shoot the gun to defend yourself—the same thing. Certain mold types are equipped with a gun, basically.

Mold Toxicity Quote 1
What happens is that other molds or bacteria or other things start to try to get into its territory, grow into its food source, take over its land. It creates this chemical toxin. The thing about how it works, it’s not like it sprays it out. It covers the colony like lava over a volcano. Covers the whole thing. Creates a toxic sort of moat around the colony. And then, as other molds start coming in that direction, it kills them. The thing is, because it’s a chemical byproduct, and it’s not a living thing, you don’t necessarily treat it the same way when you’re trying to get it out of a home.

That was the big thing that took us a long time to learn and figure out. It took us two years and about $3 million of all of our clients remediation budgets put together for us to finally realize how to best get mycotoxins out of a home. It is to treat it as if there was a series of many chemical spills in your house. And not just as if there’s particles floating around. And once we kind of did that, it all of a sudden it started working. So our protocol started working.

Mimi MacLean:
Oh, interesting. I think it’s essential to note for people who are listening like if you have mold issues and hire like a local company, or if you find the mold, don’t just hire a regular contractor to rip this stuff out.

Mold Toxicity and Binders

Brian Karr:
You’re dealing with biotoxins. People need to wear full coverall suits and respirators and stuff. I know a lot of people want to try to like do it themselves or hire a contractor, because it’s cheaper. Think of it like asbestos. Like you would never do that for asbestos because it’s more known now.

Mold is still in its infancy. While we have research and everything that shows that it is a biotoxin, it connects to all kinds of health conditions, all of these things, we’re still so early in the adoption phase that there is no governmental massive acceptance of this. There’s no regulation. There’s no anything. And so we have to protect ourselves. Like we could wait 30 years until the government finally decides to put something in place. I mean, some of us are going to be super old at that point. And some of us might be dead at that point. I don’t want to wait that long. We know all this stuff right now, so we need to protect ourselves and not rely on someone else to do it for us.

Mimi MacLean:
Right, right. If someone has mold, I know this is a kind of medical advice because you said you work with hypersensitive people. Is there anything that you ever recommended for them to do, or do you kind of leave that to the medical doctors?

Brian Karr:
Definitely leave it to the medical guys and gals. I do things on my own. I have a mycotoxin issue myself from being in all these houses that I go into.

Mimi MacLean:
There’s no over-the-counter kind of like colloidal silver or anything like that that you take?

Brian Karr:
I mean, not that I take. I take carboxy, which is a binder from Cell Corp.

Mimi MacLean:
So any kind of binders helps kind of remove the mycotoxins?

Brian Karr:
They can. But different binders working in different ways. Sometimes your body’s not actually like letting stuff out. It’s holding onto it so much. So sometimes before the binders, you actually have to open your detox pathways and your drainage pathways. There’s no one thing to do. It’s precise. That’s why getting a functional doctor that really understands how to figure out your body’s terrain and what’s going on is so important.

Mimi MacLean:
Right, right. Have you worked with a lot of Lyme patients?

Brian Karr:
So many. It was actually the first condition that I really realized the connection to mold. Now there are so many, but I always thought it was Lyme years and years ago. I didn’t even think it was all these other things. And then all these other things started adding on. Now autoimmune conditions and different viral infections and all these other things are all connected too. I always just thought it was a more Lyme thing when I first started. Yeah, I worked with so many people that have Lyme.

Mimi MacLean:
Yeah. I think any kind of long haulers people exist, either if it’s from COVID or if it’s from wherever, I think anybody who’s dealing with a long-term issue and they can’t get better at, I think they just have to look into the mold.

Brian Karr:
It is such a big piece of your body’s immune system. I mean, when you think about it. Like if your body’s constantly fighting this external force and trying to get rid of it and handle it, then it can’t fight all the other things that are going on. And if you have this external exposure that just keeps coming and coming and coming, there’s no overcoming it, which means that you’ll get flare-ups of different symptoms from different things.

If you could get rid of that component that’s filling your toxic bucket or your funnel and all these different analogies people have for someone’s toxic load, and you can get rid of that piece of it, now you’re giving your body a chance to breathe and start working on the other thing it needs to handle.

Finding The Source Is Key

Mimi MacLean:
Right. This has been amazing. Brian, is there anything that I have not covered that you think I should be covering?

Brian Karr:
I don’t know. We’re kind of like a basic inspection. Listen, the biggest thing that I would say to take out of all of this is your house will never remediate properly if you don’t find the sources of where the mold actually is. If you do air samples throughout your house, and you do dust collection and you just do them in the middle of everywhere and you don’t figure out where it is, it will never, ever work. Don’t waste your money on remediation that way. It’ll literally be like setting it on fire. So it’s imperative to find where the sources are. That’s the first step.

Mimi MacLean:
I do have one last question. If you do find their sources, is there any kind of system that you would recommend to put like a house system, like for the air filter to put on your HVAC or anything like that? Is that worth doing that? Or is that not worth it?

Brian Karr:
I think it’s worth doing. It doesn’t fix sources, but it helps protect your air conditioning system. So I think that that’s really important. There’s the Intellipure Whole Home Cleaner is one that I really like. There’s also one from IQAir called The Perfect 16 that’s a good one as well. Those are two options that you can use to help protect your air conditioning system. It doesn’t fix the source of the problem. So the biggest thing always comes back to the source. Why is this happening? Where is it coming from? Let’s fix that first.

Mimi MacLean:
Right. So you fix the source and then hopefully clean the error after that, so it stops?

Brian Karr:
Remediation is really in two phases. The first phase is to remove the source. Clean where it’s coming from. Get rid of the factory. If you think of this factory again, the second phase of remediation is to say all the smoke that came out of the factory over the last 10 years; you bulldoze the factory down. Cool. The smoke didn’t like magically stuck back into the factory when you did it. It’s like out. It’s in the air now. It is what it is. We now have to clean that up.

So in the house, you have two phases. The first phase is to remove the sources, a wall, a ceiling, a cabinet, whatever. In the second phase, we have to clean the house in a specific way. We have to make sure that the heating air conditioning system is not impacted because otherwise it’ll just keep re-circulating. And again, you’ll think that remediation doesn’t work. It’s not that it doesn’t work; it’s just that you didn’t actually do complete remediation.

Mimi MacLean:
That’s great. This has been awesome. I so much appreciate your time. It’s beneficial information. Anyone who has not looked into this whole mold journey is worth it if you’re not getting better.

Brian Karr:
Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

More About Brian and His Work

Mold Finder’s Instagram HERE

Yes We Inspect Instagram HERE

Mold Finder’s Podcast HERE

Mold Finder’s Webinar HERE

We Inspect Website Here

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