I moved to New York City from San Francisco with an eager, wide-eyed, open and driven spirit! I was finally living my dream of uprooting my life to the Big Apple, and I had never lived anywhere else outside the state of California. I relocated with my company, and since a few of my other colleagues were also moving 3,000 miles away at the same time, I decided to sublet with one of them in the Upper West Side. The unit was only one of five in a walk up near Central Park. I was the first to arrive to apartment in January 2012 and had taken a red-eye, so I was pretty tired already, But as I settled into the apartment, I felt really fatigued and assumed it was because of my overnight flight. However, the weird thing was is as time went on, my extreme fatigue still lingered, and I’d experience it throughout the entire day. I was getting enough sleep and eating right, so I thought maybe my body was getting used to the time difference of now being three hours ahead from the west coast. My housemate was experiencing similar symptoms as me, such as respiratory issues like trouble breather and a wheezing cough. What made matters worse is we were also developing skin issues, allergies and often felt cold-like symptoms. And one interesting thing I noticed is whenever I was outside of the apartment, my symptoms weren’t as bad. We were determined to fix these issues and feel like our healthy and energetic selves again, so went to see western medicine and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctors at some of the best hospitals in New York, hoping to receive a logical diagnosis. The only answers they could provide was that we’ve developed allergies since we’re not used to a new environment, and would then prescribe us pharmaceutical topicals or drugs, which I refused to take or accept their answers. The symptoms that I was physically experiencing were not getting any better. I’d have to urge to itch up and down my upper body, my chronic sinus and post-nasal drip issues were only getting worse, and I started to have challenges mentally and emotionally. It became even harder for me to concentrate on anything, I’d get irritable, foggy headed, was having poor memory. Everyday, I always wanted to immediately go home and sleep, unbeknownst to me that my living space was causing all of these uncomfortable symptoms. It wasn’t until I started seeing a new chiropractor in Brooklyn, that I told him all about my mystery symptoms. Without conducting any tests on me, the first thing that came out of my chiropractor’s mouth was “Nadine, you have black mold, get your apartment tested right now!” He proceeded to explain that black mold is extremely hazardous to your health and can even be deadly. I had never heard of it before, but it’s apparently prevalent in New York because many of the building are old, and humidity causes the mold to grow and thrive. He gave great advice on how to go about working with our land lord in getting our apartment tested, which they’re required to do and foot the bill for it. Once I got back home from seeing my chiropractor, my housemate and I started googling everything about black mold, and all of our symptoms matched what exposed individuals commonly experience. We requested our apartment get tested immediately, and low and behold, we did indeed have black mold and it was at high levels. The mold was not visible to us because it was growing beneath the bedroom walls that stemmed from a leaky window in the unit above, that the landlords neglected to fix for almost 10 years.

The next few weeks that followed were a whirlwind. When dealing with black mold and remediating it, it’s a very serious matter. Those toxic mold spores are in the air, and anything that was made of cloth or paper had to be thrown out or professionally cleaned. The rooms needed to be treated with mold-killing fog, any type of surface had to be washed down with special solutions, and the carpet would need to be HEPA vacuumed. So every single book that I’d collected over the years and brought with me had to be disposed, along with any documents or notebooks. Even the woman we sublet from had to throw out a book that was personally signed by Warren Buffet. All of my clothes went to the cleaners, so for the next few days, I had to buy brand new undergarments and outfits.

Although this black mold experience was a huge inconvenience that questioned my move to New York, and compromised my health, I was better off being exposed to it for only 4 months, instead of years. I felt bad for the woman in the unit above us who had the leaky window that wouldn’t get fixed, because she believes that a serious health issue she developed came from black mold exposure. She also thanked us for saying something and making the land lords take action. But if it weren’t for my chiropractor, who knows how much worse my health could have been if I didn’t remediate the mold from my belongings. Black mold is the root cause of many health issues that doctors say we just “develop” as we get older. From headaches, trouble breathing, rashes, and sinus issues, to name a few, symptoms will vary from one person to another. Even the woman we sublet from believes that her psoriasis stemmed from the black mold exposure.

If you or someone you know is suddenly experiencing any of these symptoms, and they’re aware of any type of leak that may or may not be visible, I strongly encourage you to get your home tested for  possible black mold. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, any type of mold can become deadly. To find a certified inspector in your area, you can locate one via the Institute of Inspection Cleaning (IICRC) http://www.iicrc.org/locate-a-certified-professional/ This invisible toxin needs more widespread awareness among western doctors and the general public, so that we can all have healthier lives that allow us to thrive!

The picture on the left was me before I had tested my apartment for black mold. Often my friends would tell me that I looked “dead behind the eyes”. The picture on the right is me now. Happy and healthy and free of black mold.