This is a photo of the floor in the bedroom where I was sleeping.
Right outside this room, on the outside of the house is a tap, which I thought must have a leaky pipe. So I called in the experts. The guy who owns the house had a look and said it does not appear to have a leak. So, then a builder guy came to the house, had a look and said that before the house was built and the concreters laid the slab, they mustn’t have mixed the sand and concrete correctly; therefore, the slab is not sealed around the edges and has a honey-comb like structure that absorbs the water that sits around the house after heavy rains. Or, another possibility: they might of used beach sand and that is why, perhaps, there is the white powder that sits on the top. No matter how many times I clean it away, it always magically appears again like dust left by fairies in the night.
It is in the main bedroom of the house I’m renting, so at the time of moving in, I thought it was a good choice of accommodations. The house had been painted with Wattyl ID paints that I know I’m okay with—for me, the VOC’s dissipate and what’s left behind does not give me headaches or affect my breathing; the blinds are made from aluminium; the floor, the carpet ripped out, is now bare concrete; the mattress, certified organic cotton; my furniture, all outgassed, so, as I thought at the time: what in an elf’s pickle could possibly go wrong?
Apart from the nervous tension within me that (nagging like a masked monkey reminding me I’d moved away to less polluted pastures because living in the city with chemical sensitivities had become unbearable) I felt, I was excited to be back. The move had disrupted my life, to an extreme level, and I had to change everything: my address, everything I owned, almost who I was. Lucky for me, my condition improved and I was able to join in with the human race again. And now I was back. I could breathe; my nose didn’t ache with pain at common everyday odours. A rose was a rose, and the inhalation of its scent was nothing but divine. Ha! I was cured, God damn it!?
Hell, I could even go into some shops (however, not past the cleaning isle of the supermarket) without wearing my freaking mask. So what in snog’s noggin went wrong? The. Damp. Patch. On. The. Floor. (It had to be.)
And moulds. That’s what. I’ve heard it said, they are the enemy of the chemically sensitive. And let me say, “I F*cking detest them (the moulds that is).”. It’s hard to believe they can cause so much pain and discomfort until they actually cause so much pain and discomfort.
One year after moving back into suburbia, I should have known what was causing the problems, but for some reason mould symptoms—for me—are ubiquitous in nature. Let me explain: I still try to avoid chemicals, I truly do, but it isn’t always possible when living in suburbia, and when I breathe in solvent based fragrance chemicals, people are wearing; wood smoke, from the neighbour’s chimneys; and truck/vehicle diesel fumes, which leak into the cabin when I drive, I suffer pain breathing through my nose (this spreads throughout my face, head, and sinus area), and I get sore dry eyes, tightness in my chest, and headaches. These symptoms can last anywhere from one hour up to twenty-four hours after the initial exposure. If I stay home, always wear my mask when I go out, and only socialise with the fragrance free, I can avoid most of these symptoms (apart form getting gassed by the chemicals emitted in other people’s wood smoke–while in my own home), but alas, I need to live my life by attending university, taking my daughter to school, visiting the shops, driving the car to get there, and most of the time, I end up with the stupid, unjust, karmic pay back of these symptoms.
So when these began happening twenty-four hours on a daily basis, I put it down to city living, visited my GP, was given pain-killers, which made it worse, and sought to cut back on chemical exposures. Winter came and my breathing became worse; I had the most awful sinus headaches and my nose was throbbing, breathing any odours/vapours (cooking odours, or chemical vapours hurt like I’d inhaled something akin to rose thorns). The only clue: each time it rained for days outside, my symptoms worsened for days inside.
You know, it rained bathtubs here in Victoria last year. This cloudy patch on the floor crept to this dimension (see above photo), and I clicked. I took a piece of paper towel and wiped at the window, and sure enough, it came away with black speckles: mould!
I moved out of the offending room, down to the other end of the house, and into the gym. Resourceful squirrel that I am, I placed an oil heater (that was stored out in the garage) into the room, and I gave the windows and the whole room a thorough clean (while wearing a mask) using hot soapy water, then squirted Herbon cleanser (a fragrance free product similar to Spray and Wipe), finally finishing with a wipe of white vinegar (even the odour of this was causing pain in my nose whilst I breathed it in). I let it sit until dry. After a couple of days I repeated the same process, except this time I put a couple of coats of Hydrogen Peroxide (Fauldings brand) over every surface where the mould had been. (The peroxide would be the closest chemical I could get to a bleaching agent, and it seemed to do the trick.)
This was six months ago; I still haven’t recovered. Either the mould exposure has knocked my immune system about, or more likely, I’m still being exposed to it. Since moving into the other room, I’ve noticed my mattress has a musty-cottony odour. On warm days It’s quite strong and I still wake up with nose-splitting headaches. So today I rang Organature, this’s where I bought my organic cotton mattress, around five years ago. Peter, the owner, suggested that the mattress has absorbed the dampness, along with the mould from the room. This makes perfect sense to me. The good customer that I am, he offered me a discount on a new one. So, while I wait for my new mattress to arrive, my hopes are running wild (like pixies in a field of daisies) with the idea that this new mattress is the missing link to recovering back to where I was when I moved back into to this dank, dark suburban gas chamber…
(Note: from the moment I bought my first organic cotton mattress, my health began to improve. (I had also moved out to live near the ocean, thrown out all my own perfume—that I’d used previous to developing sensitivities to chemicals—and perfume contaminated clothing (basically everything I owned), began eating all organic produce, and only socialised amongst the fragrance-free of society. It was a charmed life, I tell you.) With the momentum of my recovery set forward in frog leaps and dog bounds, I also acquired a couple of Austin Air Purifiers (filters), but the change in mattress started it all off. It has been said that the most important chemical free zone for a person sensitive to chemicals is their home. The state of my health is testament to that!)
Here’s to good health and re-creating it!
Now, what to do about that bloody abomination of a concrete floor before the winter rains come again?