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Help! What allergen could be in my basement?


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I have been allergic to our basement since we moved her 2 years ago. Now, either I or whatever is down there is getting worse and it is seeping upstairs.

 

My mom got an asthma attack down there, and I get a headache, nausea, and I feel dizzy and my heart rate goes up to a bit over 100. The effect is worse in the basement but recently was a mild headache up here if the kids went in and out of the basement too much. No one else has any problems down there.

 

My family and a neighbor removed everything and all the stuff is now in the garage, so it is something in the basement. We had it tested for mold and VOCs in the carpet, both were negative. I have an allergen room filter down there, and one on the main floor, and one upstairs. They do help.

 

The AC and furnace are down there. We also have a radon system. Our radon was slightly elevated before the radon system was installed. There is also a sump pump that has never even turned on once, even before this drought.

 

After the clean out, my husband dusted and vacuumed and swept and then washed down the walls on the unfinished side, all the dust on that side went down the drain.

 

We had a well respected environmental company come look and do the VOC and mold testing. They do work for large companies in the area as well as residential work.

 

It has gotten worse lately and I have to hide on the top floor and open up the house to cook on the main floor. Any ideas? We really don't want an extra move, but will have to if we can't fix this.

 

My husband has also tried fans down there and various airing out the house schemes, changing which vents and windows are open and blowing air down the stairs.

Edited by ElizabethB
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After watching that Holmes fix it guy on TV and having seen him gut two basements, I would say mold is definitely a possibility. One of the houses was tested for mold, passed, but when they took the sheet rock down, oh my. Mold Everywhere. It was coming from outside because of poor drainage. So it rained, the water collected, and seeped through the walls.

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My first thought was CARBON MONOXIDE. Please, get it tested ASAP. The fire department will do it for you if you call them if you can't afford a detector yourself. Since the mechanicals are down there it is very possible that there is a small leak and that some people are more vulnerable to its affects than others. Headache, neausea, etc. are all top symptoms.

 

Honestly, I would not stay in that house at all until this was tested and ruled out. My sister almost died from it while her husband had very few symptoms. The fire department and ER told her one more night in that house and she would not have woken up.

 

This may be overkill but Carbon monoxide is a silent killer.

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OK. And you are sure it works well? I am just paranoid about CO2 poisoning.

 

Pretty sure, we can test it to make sure.

 

Since you are renting and it tested negative I would start planning to move. My guess would be mold back behind something inconvenient to check. :( Sorry

 

We hate moving! We are hoping to get ideas of things to try or track down before we resorted to moving. We have moved 8 times in the last 10 years.

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Mold. You don't have to be able to smell it for it to be there. It can be in the ceilings, the ducts, wherever. I get the same symptoms from it. You said you tested for mold in the carpet only, am I right? Friends of ours suffered serious, permanent health effects from a black mold infestation - it was in the walls and present from the time their home was built.

 

On the other hand, other friends of ours had serious, mysterious health effects from Radon - so you might want to test for that again, too, even with the "system" installed (not sure what that is exactly so I might be totally off base here).

Edited by sweetbasil
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Natural gas leak? Mold in the sump pump or floor drain, or under finished walls or floors? Sewer/drain gases? Mold on the AC coil (dust and water from condensation easily grow mold)? Leaks into the ceiling or wall from plumbing pipes?

 

In my experience there are more quacks in the mold business than legitimately helpful businesses. There are good people out there, but they're hard to find. What kind of testing did they do? Air samples? Dust samples from the carpet? Did they have a moisture meter to test any finished walls for water intrusion? Did they check the AC and dehumidifier coils, if you have them?

 

What else gives your mom asthma--could that give you any clues? Is there a certain area of the basement where you feel worse?

 

Half our basement is finished, and even though we did remove the carpet, I'd rather a totally unfinished basement because you can see the condition of the walls and floor and do any cleaning or repair needed. When everything's covered you have no idea what's happening, and even a really dry basement could use a good scrub down every few years.

 

I just want to say that with environmental illness in my family, I'm concerned that it seems to be getting worse for you. It could mean whatever is in the basement is getting worse, or that you're becoming more sensitized and your threshold is getting lower. If you can't sort it out and your symptoms are worse, I'd definitely at least consider a move to avoid becoming more and more sensitized. You could try going to an allergist for skin testing. That won't tell you exactly what the issue is in the basement, but it might be one useful piece of information among others.

 

Amy

Edited by Acadie
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They did air samples for mold. It came up lower than the outside mold levels. I have a Whispure 510 filter down there, they said that based on the mold levels it seemed to be working very well! They checked the carpet for VOCs.

 

The unfinished side seems worse. My mom reacts to a lot of things, many sprays, chemicals, perfumes, etc. I also have a lot of allergies, but no asthma. I get the same reaction minus the dizziness to cats, but there is no evidence of cat hair and the neighbors said the previous renters didn't have cats.

 

We are having the environmental company come back now that the basement is free of stuff, there were a lot of boxes of ours and and some junk from the previous renter. We threw out some stuff and put the rest in the garage.

 

We had the radon re-tested and it is low now. That same company also tested for carbon monoxide and found none. (A different company than did the carpet and mold tests.)

 

I have had allergy skin testing done, and there is almost nothing that I am not allergic to. I have had allergy doctors in 2 different cities with 20+ years of experience each say that I am the most allergic patient they have seen. :(

Edited by ElizabethB
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Natural gas leak? Mold in the sump pump or floor drain, or under finished walls or floors? Sewer/drain gases? Mold on the AC coil (dust and water from condensation easily grow mold)? Leaks into the ceiling or wall from plumbing pipes?

 

In my experience there are more quacks in the mold business than legitimately helpful businesses. There are good people out there, but they're hard to find. What kind of testing did they do? Air samples? Dust samples from the carpet? Did they have a moisture meter to test any finished walls for water intrusion? Did they check the AC and dehumidifier coils, if you have them?

 

What else gives your mom asthma--could that give you any clues? Is there a certain area of the basement where you feel worse?

 

Half our basement is finished, and even though we did remove the carpet, I'd rather a totally unfinished basement because you can see the condition of the walls and floor and do any cleaning or repair needed. When everything's covered you have no idea what's happening, and even a really dry basement could use a good scrub down every few years.

 

I just want to say that with environmental illness in my family, I'm concerned that it seems to be getting worse for you. It could mean whatever is in the basement is getting worse, or that you're becoming more sensitized and your threshold is getting lower. If you can't sort it out and your symptoms are worse, I'd definitely at least consider a move to avoid becoming more and more sensitized. You could try going to an allergist for skin testing. That won't tell you exactly what the issue is in the basement, but it might be one useful piece of information among others.

 

Amy

 

I will have my husband check out the AC coils tonight. Thanks for all the ideas.

 

We will get it fixed or move, we are just hoping fixed is possible. We have enough experience moving that we really, really, really do not want to sign up for a move if we don't have to.

 

I agree about the carpet. We are planning that our final house when my husband retires will have only natural flooring. We hope to find one that has no carpet, but will take out carpet if necessary.

Edited by ElizabethB
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  • 8 years later...
Posted (edited)

We ended up moving out. The houses were tested out to try to move in had similar issues, we had to try a bunch before we found one without issues for me. We don't know for sure what it was, but possibly some kind of farm chemical seeping up in some of the houses, the area was previously cornfields. It got into the fabric, too, anything that was fabric that was in the basement had to be thrown out, it was a pain. Even repeated washings didn't help.

It was some likely kind of weird chemical/VOC. It actually got worse down in the basement and sometimes you could see a bit of colored fog, I felt terrible even when the levels were that high. We got a charcoal VOC removing air filter that helped a bit but was overpowered as it got worse, so we moved out--we had to find a house without a basement for me to not have issues--we found one house with a basement that was OK but it was in a not so great neighborhood.

Edited by ElizabethB
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