Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Toxic History

I've temporarily changed the title of this blog. A few weeks ago (maybe longer) I was talking about how badly I need to move out of this toxic apartment but that I didn't have help and that I was restricted because I couldn't drive far. I was in contact with quite a few people (with this illness) who would inevitably ask "How far can you drive?" and my reply is/was "Three miles at a time".

These past two months have been, and continue to be, intensely reflective. I have pulled away from almost everyone while I decide what my next steps will be.

I've been in denial about how much mold, pesticides, and certain mysterious chemicals affect me. Seeing how much my functioning has decreased since being since being back in a moldy environment has been an eye opener.

I've gone from being able to do 10 loads of laundry, cook, go to the store, walk Chelsea, and socialize to being in bed 80% of the time. When I first moved here I would take Chelsea for a walk 5 times a day plus other activities. Now my legs are so weak I'm unable to walk around the block without stopping (especially my left left leg and especially below both knees) It has nothing to do with deconditioning. I'm so fatigued after I get up, take meds, and make breakfast that I have to lie down again. I cook one meal and make it last the next 4 days (quinoa).

Since moving to this apartment I have had a toxic chemical exposure (Chevron fire), had my car partially flooded by some underground creek (it smells like mold and has condensation like crazy), and am living in toxic soup. All in seven months.

I found out the previous tenant complained about mold and told the landlord. This was told to me by the property manager who was recently fired.

I remember when I looked at these apartments. It was a beautiful sunny day and people were milling about. My sister and I first looked at the studio that was advertised. As soon as I walked in and took a couple steps I had a strong visceral feeling to GET OUT. I glanced around the apartment noticing how messy it was as well as the smell of gas. The property manager was grumpily telling someone that the previous tenant had a family emergency and left unexpectedly.

As I heard him talking I looked in the bathroom noting the previous tenant's toothbrush. It was if he left thinking he was going to come back. The family emergency story didn't fit with what I was observing but that faded into the background once I saw the 1 bedroom apartment. It wasn't fantastically cute or anything but it was cute and in a great location central to everything I need.  And they would take a dog. Awesome. I moved in three weeks later.

I noticed that I felt okay in the apartment except when I looked at the kitchen. It felt dirty to me. So did the back porch area. I also noticed a strange musty odor. It didn't smell like mold or mildew just....odd and......... funky.

Interestingly enough I forgot to look under the sink. Big mistake. The dry rot was so bad it looked as if the bottom of the cupboard had melted (it had a thick coat of paint on it). The back area that I didn't like? It's covered in mold from the rain and dampness. The back porch, the steps covered with a coat of pretty green mold. During the spring and summer it was dry and clean.

What I didn't know was the previous tenant in that studio didn't have a family emergency. He had been on dialysis and died of kidney failure.

And that flood? It was the creek as well as sewage. It entered the garages of the apartment building leaving the floors covered in thick stinky slime. The whole area smelled faintly of sewage. It entered the area via a large crawl space underneath my bedroom. The sidewalks outside the front of my apartment are still stained.

But that's just the past seven months. I have worked in so many water damaged buildings. I didn't know it was bad for me. I think of one place where I worked where we had buckets in various places to catch the water. I remember trying to get the agency I worked for to pay for a new roof for one of the residential programs I ran. They didn't have the money and declined. A year later one of the residents had an asthma attack in the middle of the night and died.

In 2006 my then partner and I moved into an apartment in the bay area. It smelled moldy to me and I commented that something didn't feel right (I had no idea about mold back then). She really liked it and other than the odor and my gut feeling there wasn't any other reason to not take it so we moved in.

I was diagnosed on 11/2/2007 with ME/CFS. Later that year I found out I was living in an apartment that had toxic mold hidden in the walls. The only sign of any problem was condensation on one of the windows and mold around the calking of that window. Here is the mold report (in case the link doesn't work it's November of 2008). By December I was housebound.

In the 80's the bay area had a problem with medflies. So they sprayed the area with malathion and some other substance all the while reassuring everyone that it was safe. They did mention that people should stay inside on the nights they sprayed. The helicopters would fly all over spraying this pesticide like they were pouring water on a fire. In the morning my car would be sticky with the residue.

Malathion is an organophosphate and can affect the nervous system. One symptom is trouble swallowing. Right around the time they were spraying I had my first episode of a pill getting caught in my throat. Thank God my mom was there because I could not swallow, breath, or ask for help. Suddenly there I was standing in front of her motioning to my throat. She initially thought I was joking until she saw that milk was coming out of my mouth because my throat had closed. Realizing I was in trouble she jumped up and started doing the heimlich maneuver on me.  It was one of the few times I ever saw her cry. 

There is so much ignorance and misinformation regarding the consequences of mold/pesticides/chemicals.

According to Dr. Shoemaker 25% of the population has genes that make them susceptible to mold and/or lyme (I happen to have the dreaded genotype making me multisusceptible). He also states that 50% of housing has toxic indoor air. My guess is that figure is closer to 85% in low income housing.

These are some reasons why the past two months have been intense. I have a decision to make. I don't know-am I going to be someone who cannot remain functional living in conventional housing?


Anonymous said...

why isn't you're family helping!!!!!!!!!!! if they know about this and aren't helping give me there email addy and i'll rip them a new one.
xo from the uk

Renee said...

Wow what a mess for you...such a vicious circle...I hope you can find a healthy place to live and soon!!!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Having people around to help when you are too sick to cook or get up is pretty important. As much as you want your independence you have to be realistic and do what's best for you illness. Doing laundry, cooking and doing errands is alot especially when compared with what you can do now. You need to get out of the toxic environment. The longer you stay the worse you might get.

Carrigon said...

I'm in a similar situation. Since I moved to this apartment, I'm much, much worse. And the whole building is completely toxic. And they have a fondness for chemical cleaners here and will use heavy chemicals to clean the rugs and hall outside my apartment door. Then I have had trouble with a tenant under my apartment chainsmoking. And there's mold in the building. CFIDS/ME patients need a clean, chemical and mold free place to live. And no one is going to provide us with one.

Sue Jackson said...

Sorry I haven't been by in a long while - I've not had time to visit any of my favorite blogs. Just a bit overwhelmed.

So sorry to hear you are in yet another mold-filled environment. Unbelievable, huh? It does sound like you need to get out, though I understand what an ordeal that must be.

Thinking of you...


Live with CFS

liebjabberings said...

I read your post - and my spine froze: I got CFS the week of Nov. 5, 1989 - IN California at a physics meeting, Anaheim - AND they were spraying for medflies.

Before the end of the week I had a raging sore throat. My doctor back in NJ had antibiotics waiting when I got back - but this THING has never gone away.

Corinne said...

this is terrible! the worst of possible environments. I hope you can get out soon and put all your precious energy into finding a better option. Maybe a temporary trailer? I write about creating chemical and mould free houses, rooms or trailers.


Corinne said...

another idea came to me... in Canada PWD can stay for free in national parks... I don't know if that's the case where you live. But if it's possible for you to do that when the weather is nice I think you will recover quite a bit in a really clean environment. In one month of doing this I was able to reverse a year of going downhill.... I had to drag myself there because when you are in such a toxic housing situation I know it's hard to make that move but it will help.