Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker says the science is clear. He wrote the book on Surviving Mold, which compiles 15 years of his own research on thousands of patients who lived in moldy and water-damaged buildings.
His findings are starting to change everything about the way the world views mold-related illnesses.
"It’s systemic. Not a runny nose, not a sneeze, it is an inflammatory cascade that we can show step-by-step, hormone-by-hormone,” says Dr. Shoemaker.
He says the key to it all is in our genes.
By taking just one tube of blood from a patient, Dr. Shoemaker can see if they have the proper immune response gene.
According to Dr. Shoemaker’s research, about 75% of humans have a gene that helps them fight against toxins in the body. The other 25% have a different variation of that gene which means their bodies cannot fend off the same attacks, including those that come from mold.
"There are people who move into the moldiest buildings you find that won’t be affected. They might have some allergy, but they won’t have inflammatory illness or bio toxicity that other 25% does,” says Dr. Shoemaker.
For years, the CDC has acknowledged that mold can cause respiratory illnesses and asthma in people exposed to water-damaged buildings.
As for more serious illnesses involving the brain and neurological systems, they say that link has not been proven.
But Dr. Shoemaker says his findings, along with other doctors on the cutting edge of research, are now debunking that school of thought.
Those illnesses are not just simple allergies.
"Anywhere in the body where blood flows there can be an effect in inflammatory response to a water-damaged building,” says Dr. Shoemaker.
"When you lose regulation of inflammation, inflammation goes haywire. It’s not stopped, person stays ill,” says Dr. Shoemaker.
Everything from digestive issues to skin lesions to brain damage and memory loss has been linked to mold exposure by Dr. Shoemaker.
So how much exposure is enough to cause these illnesses?
According to the CDC, those standards have not been established.
"Just about every word in that sentence is not only wrong, it’s deceiving in its wrongness. We don’t need high levels to make susceptible people sick because of genetics,” says Dr. Shoemaker.