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The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #185 - Michael Rubino

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MICHAEL RUBINO is an air quality expert and wellness advocate, helping to bridge the gap between our homes and their direct impact on health. He is the founder and CEO of HomeCleanse (formerly known as All American Restoration), a company dedicated to addressing the worldwide health epidemic caused by poor indoor air quality. He works closely with the company's advisory team, which includes global well-being trailblazers Deepak Chopra’s The Chopra Foundation and Gwyneth Paltrow, to achieve the company's mission to improve the quality of life for 100 million people each year by 2030. Rubino is also the founder of Change the Air Foundation, a nonprofit committed to empowering the world to achieve better health by establishing safer and healthier indoor environments.

Through collaboration with over 100 doctors globally, Rubino strives to not only raise awareness globally but also provide solutions to correctly identify and remove the pollutants causing this worldwide health crisis. Rubino specializes in working with people who are immunocompromised or have acute and sustained reactions to mold exposure and has helped heal over 1,000 families so far—including celebrities and athletes. He is a council-certified Mold Remediation Supervisor by ACAC and IICRC and is a contributing member, sponsor, and speaker for the Indoor Air Quality Association.

In an effort to share his expert knowledge, Rubino has authored the book, The Mold Medic: An Expert's Guide on Mold Removal, and is an ongoing contributor to MindBodyGreen. He has been featured on Gwyneth Paltrow’s The goop Podcast, LiveStrong, Dr. Will Cole's The Art of Being Well Podcast, Forbes, MarketWatch, and USA Today. Rubino has appeared on television as a featured expert, including local NBC, Fox, and ABC affiliates, to name a few. To further create a worldwide community, Rubino also hosts the YouTube series, Mold Talks, where special guests include medical experts as well as mold recovery patients, including media icon Atoosa Rubenstein.



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The Mold Medic

11:00 - michael's personal story

13:30 - mold remediation vs other toxin clean up

17:20 - Aspergillosis

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22:20 - mold sensitivities

23:20 - michael's DIY detox program

26:10 - can there be mold in the sauna?

27:50 - what are the conditions for mold?

30:15 - where is mold? what is mold?

32:00 - how quickly can mold Sporulate?

33:30 - can you always see the mold?

36:20 - the 3 types of mold

38:00 - the mold mitigation from the bible

41:15 - air purification

45:30 - purifiers that kill mold

47:40 - using bleach on mold

51:55 - negative pressure for remediation

54:05 - positive pressure for remediation

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1:00:25 - condemning buildings for mold

1:03:10 - landlords responsibility

1:04:20 - Michaels non-profit for mold remediation

1:11:00 - buying homes with mold problems 

1:12:10 - what is the process if you suspect there's mold in your home? 

1:20:10 - how to use the dust kit

1:26:45 - finding a remediation company

1:30:00 - pre- and post- testing

1:32:00 - can remediation ever result in a worse mold problem?

1:34:00 - the products used to remove mold

1:37:30 - after remediation, where does the mold linger? what do you need to discard from your home?

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1:44:45 - do spores die over time?

1:46:45 - best practices for prevention

1:51:30 - HVAC filter recommendation

1:54:30 - dealing with insurance

2:01:15 - renter's insurance

2:07:00 - working with michael


Melanie Avalon: Hi, friends. Welcome back to the show. I am so incredibly excited about the conversation that I'm about to have. It is about a topic that I am so, so passionate about. And honestly, ever since starting the show, I've been so eager to do an entire episode dedicated to this. So, this is, I think, going to be so incredible, so valuable for so many people. The backstory leading up to this, after I graduated from college, I moved into an apartment and started feeling not well. Before that I was very energetic and didn't perceive having any acute health conditions. And for two years, I lived in this apartment and life was so exciting that I just powered through and I don't think I realized how unwell I was feeling.

But after I moved out of that apartment, literally, when I was moving out and moving all the furniture, I realized that there was black mold everywhere behind my bed. We found some in the walls. It was just not good, in addition to the oven having leaking carbon monoxide every night, which was not good either. But in any case, after that, I became acutely aware of the effects of mold on our health and very concerned with mold in our living environments. Started really researching it, and since then, I've lived in multiple apartments and have had some flooding issues and water issues multiple times. And when that happened, I was all over it with testing and making sure that there wasn't a mold situation again.

That said, even with my obsession with the mold, when the water instances happened later, I was still very overwhelmed and confused as far as what testing to do. Was the testing effective when my apartment complex did remediation? Was that effective? There's just a lot of unknowns. So, I am so thrilled to be here today with Michael Rubino. He's the CEO of HomeCleanse, which was formerly known as All American Restoration, which is a company that is dedicated to addressing this issue. I was very familiar with him. His people reached out to me, but I had heard him before in my own journey of trying to find clarity with the mold situation.

He's worked with Gwyneth Paltrow, and I'd heard him on her podcast, and he also has a book called The Mold Medic: An Expert Guide on Mold Removal, which I had not read. And so, I read it when they reached out, and oh, my goodness, it was incredible, because it answered all of these questions I'd had for so long. That was a very long-winded way of getting to this introduction for Michael, who is here today to help us figure out this mold issue. Michael, thank you so much for being here.

Michael Rubino: Well, first of all, that was an incredible introduction. And can I take you everywhere just to have that introduction all the time?

Melanie Avalon: Sure. Sign me up. I am here.

Michael Rubino: Well, thank you so much for having me here today. It's great to be here. I love all the work that you're doing and so grateful that you've educated yourself on this important topic, because from my side of things, I see so many people struggling and suffering unnecessarily just because they're looking outward instead of inward.

Melanie Avalon: What do you mean? 

Michael Rubino: Well, when I say looking outward, I mean they're looking at all these different things as potential causes to their health challenges instead of inside their own four walls.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, like so, inside the home. 

Michael Rubino: Mm-hmm.

Melanie Avalon: Okay. Yeah. No, I love that. Would you like to tell listeners a little bit about your personal story? You talk about it in the book. Your dad was in construction? 

Michael Rubino: Yes. 

Melanie Avalon: And your roommate was into mold remediation or what did your roommate do? 

Michael Rubino: Well, testing. He was into testing. So, my roommate, who later became my brother-in-law, crazy story I know. And I don't know if we're going to have time for all that today, but I'm certainly happy to cover that too. But it's really interesting how life hands you these opportunities or these awakenings of what you could potentially do to not only help yourself, but to help others. And I think for that, mold really came into the picture for me pretty strongly, I would say, I've been in the know since I'm five years old in terms of construction, because my dad has been in the construction space since I'm about five. He did fire restoration and had to rebuild homes all the way from scratch to halfway burnt down, etc.

But what's really interesting about fire restoration is when you have a fire, it typically gets put out with water. If we know about mold and bacteria, water is kind of the enemy there. It always was part of the existence and part of the piece of the puzzle. But what was really interesting about my journey is really the fact that I never really looked at this from a health perspective before, until after Hurricane Sandy happened in the Northeast, when I started working for my dad and getting calls from people, "Help, I'm sick. It's my house, I need your help." And as I started connecting with people in the industry, looking at different laboratory results as to what's actually going on in the environment, correlating them with different results that they're taking with their doctor. It all started to make a lot of sense to me, obviously, but it's still such a niche thing. It hasn't really reached this mass awareness where people are really understanding the fact that it's so important to have a healthy home when you're looking at the biology of your own body.

Melanie Avalon: That's what I personally experienced. And you talk about this in the book, I just find it so interesting. The way society treats the mold and the toxins of mold in a contamination situation compared to other toxins like lead or any other things where there's like a cleanup-type situation. And you talk about how that process is just so different. There's like a skepticism if you say that you're mold sensitive or that if you seem concerned about cleaning it up. I know with my apartment complex, when the flood that happened, it was from the apartment above me flooded. It was like 03:00 AM and it just started raining in my apartment and it was crazy. I was so adamant with them about the mold situation and they were like, "Oh, no, as long as there's no water, there's no mold." I was like, "I'm not sure that that's accurate." [laughs] So, why is that? How is mold handled as a toxin and a contamination versus other things?

Michael Rubino: Well, it's not really handled on the same level that we handle lead and asbestos. I think everybody knows that lead and asbestos is not something you want in your house. You're very much willing to pay a company to come in and fix it. It's pretty much just part of our society at this point. Mold, like you said, has been met with a lot of skepticism. There's almost like a stigma around it. First off, no one wants to admit that they have mold as if it means they're dirty or something, which is not the case. It's water that's Earth's life source that brings all these microorganisms in. It's not our fault, right? It happens. I think the other thing is people are skeptical because, well, first off, there's no mold pill, right? We've gotten really accustomed to some sort of pharmaceutical drug that validates the fact that there is an illness. I hate to say it, but it's true. 

We also have this other issue of there's really no diagnoses codes in the healthcare community. Meaning, lead poisoning. We understand what lead poisoning is. There's a diagnosis for that. You go to the hospital and they say, "Oh, you've got lead poisoning." Okay, well, there's really no such thing as mold toxicity. The people that know about it use that term. But if you go to a hospital and say, "I have mold toxicity," there's no code that they could put in to say that you have mold toxicity. So, when you put that together, it's still very much in the infancy of understanding the importance of how mold in particular might impact your health. 

But there's a whole host of problems that come with water damage outside of mold too. Where do we draw the lines? And for me, I'm looking at, well, I want to create healthy environments for people. And so, with that in mind, any particle that's a living particle like mold or bacteria can have a detrimental mental effect on our body. If you go to the Cleveland Clinic website and you pull up one of their blogs of what causes disease, they're going to tell you that there's four main things that cause disease. It is bacteria, that's a microorganism, viruses, a microorganism, fungi, which mold is part of fungi, and it's going to be parasites. So, those are the four things that cause disease. Now, three of those four things are very commonly found in our own homes, and that's viruses, that's fungi like mold, and that's bacteria. And all of that is due to water damage, humidity, and certain nonexistent prevention methodologies that we should be having that we don't.

Melanie Avalon: With mold being part of the fungi, do you know, are antifungals ever used for mold treatment or no? 

Michael Rubino: Oh, yeah, no, they definitely are. Antifungals are definitely part of it. Usually, they do antifungals to help kill things, and then they use binders to help bind things, and then the whole goal is to kill and remove it from your body. So, I would say, antifungal is most definitely-- There is one medical term with mold and that's aspergillosis. Have you ever heard of that? And that's when aspergillosis is literally growing inside the lungs, which is a type of mold. There're obviously antifungal treatments for that in the medical field. It is really, really interesting. I can dive more into mycophenolic acid, which is, what we create antibiotics with specifically to suppress our immune system. Why would we want to take immune suppressant drugs? Well, if we have like an organ transplant. We don't want our body to reject that organ. And so, we were going to want to suppress our immune system on purpose to accept that organ. But when you look at that and you're like, "Well, if mold is an immune suppressant and we make drugs to suppress the immune system from mold, why would we want to have that in our homes?"

Melanie Avalon: All the work I did during all of that was all with not the conventional medical system, so I was curious if the conventional medical system ever prescribed antifungals for mold. That's really interesting about the lung condition. You mentioned in the book that approximately maybe 40% of the population is "mold sensitive." So, are you mold sensitive? 

Michael Rubino: Well, I am, but I'm probably not to the same brevity as some folks. For me, when I'm around certain species, typically, for me, aspergillus knocks me out. I'm allergic to cats. And so, the best way to describe this is, anytime I'm going to a hotel and maybe it has a moldy HVAC system, I immediately feel like I have a cat in my face. I'm scratchy, itchy, my lymph nodes get swollen, it's harder to breathe. I get these really wild allergic symptoms like I do when I'm around a cat. I would say that over the past 10 years of me just being in people's homes, being exposing myself to mold, even wearing masks, even wearing suits, and things of that nature, I noticed that in my early 30s, I was more sluggish, I was tired all the time, I looked tired all the time. I would say having more an acute brain fog. I started doing my own detox program and it really consisted of eating really, really super clean for 30, 60 days straight and then I was in the sauna. When I say in the sauna, I would gradually work up to where I'm in the sauna, like 5 hours a day. Drinking, obviously, a ton of water. I had a buddy system. There's definitely some-- you definitely want to do it intentionally with somebody, but that's what I did.

What's really interesting about this is, when I was in the sauna for the first seven days, I was barely sweating. And so, that to me, was very odd because I always sweat. About eight or nine days into it, all of a sudden, it was something had released and I was profusely sweating, like I should be in 140 degrees. Now, after that, I just kept going and I did the sauna for 30 days straight pretty intensively, like what we're talking about and what really interesting was, after those 30 days, not only did my skin look better, I felt like a clean slate. I was waking up feeling refreshed for once. I wasn't sleeping any different, but I felt just like I was getting better sleep. The acute brain fog had definitely dissipated and the fatigue was just completely gone. I was even just having better bowel movements and GI issues. So, whatever was happening to me over all the toxins, and mold, and bacteria that I've been subjected to being in this profession, it definitely helped make a massive difference for me when I intentionally tried to jumpstart it. I also lost 35 pounds in that process.

So, it was really interesting to me, because I think weight gain was another symptom that I missed on. I gained 50 pounds in the course of about two years. What's interesting is, if you look at what I eat, I eat like a chipmunk. My wife is super healthy. I'm always eating these cauliflower rice bowls with protein and veggies. You would think that the way I was gaining weight that I was eating cheeseburgers every day. It just wasn't making sense. Something was abnormal inside my body. And so, once I did that detox, it was like a reset. Metabolism is back, lost 35 pounds right away, and now I'm at the last 20 pounds or so that I need to lose that. It's the hardest weight to lose where you got to be super more intentional. So, that's my plan for this upcoming year. 

Melanie Avalon: I love that. So, was that a traditional heat sauna or an infrared sauna or what type of sauna?

Michael Rubino: So, I did a traditional, yes, steam sauna and it was just because the neighborhood gym had one. I was just utilizing that. I was running first to get the blood flowing. The idea is you want to get circulation going, because toxins are stored in fat cells for those that don't know that. To break up fat cells, you really want to get things circulating. And so, I would do that and then go sit in the sauna. It was very intense, but I never felt better. And honestly, I love the sauna. I think it's such a smart thing to do.

Melanie Avalon: It's probably the cornerstone of my detox experiment as well. So, I have an infrared sauna and I do it every single night. It's hard to describe if you haven't done it, but you just feel clean after internally. Are you concerned though about with the steam saunas? It sounds like that would actually be the perfect condition for mold. Are you concerned about mold in the sauna?

Michael Rubino: For this one, it had ventilation in there, I didn't see any mold in there. Certainly, it can be if it's not done well. Definitely it depends on the place and the way it's installed. Maybe steam isn't correct, because I guess, it is like steam, right? It's electric, it's got the rocks, it generates that heat, but it has to be well ventilated. So, it's not something you want to buy and put in your closet. I think at home, if you're going to have an at home one, having an infrared is the best thing to do.

Melanie Avalon: Okay. So, foundational question, which like I mentioned, I have had a lot of pushbacks on, what is the literal, actual conditions required for mold? Is it true, because I can't tell you how many people would tell me, "Oh, we took the water away. So, there can't be mold?"

Michael Rubino: Well, if there's no water, you won't have growth. But if something grew before you took the water away, then it's still there. So, that I think clears that up. A lot of people think that, "Oh, if I want to just get rid of the mold, I'll just install a dehumidifier and dry the place out." Well, you're definitely going to help stop future mold growth, but once it's there, it's there. And so, it's alive, it's well. If you take away the water, it'll definitely produce less. The terminology is that it hibernates or goes dormant, but it's still there. You could still test for it, you would still find it, it's still there. I know this because we have tested these different types of places over the last 10 years. Places with active leaks, places with leaks that were fixed, and we're still finding the presence of mold even when the water is fixed. So, I think that tells the story. Even if it's not producing and it's producing less, if it's still producing, it's still impacting your air quality. And so, you always want to keep that in consideration. 

What does mold need to grow? It needs really two things, water, moisture. It doesn't have to necessarily be a leak. It could be humidity. Humidity is moisture too. It could be vapor diffusion. Meaning, if you have a basement that's subgrade, you're always going to have the wet outside drying to the inside, which is going to be in your basement and that will increase the relative humidity and bring moistures to allow something like mold to grow. It also needs a food source, which is an irrelevant discussion, because almost everything is a food source, including your dust. I've never met a person that had a dust free home. I never will. So, you always have pretty much the ingredient for mold to feed off of. It doesn't necessarily need to be dark though it typically does end up being dark where these dark, damp spots are, but it can grow if there's light too. But I think that's important, because if it can grow in a greenhouse, it can grow in a room that has windows or that always has the lights on.

Melanie Avalon: I have some follow-up questions about that one, so all of those things that you just listed aren't actually the mold itself. So, where is the mold?

Michael Rubino: Oh, yeah. We should talk about that, right? Mold is two things. It's a spore, which we'll call the particle and then you have the living organism, which is when that spore meets with water and has a food source and grows into a living organism, kind of like how a seed becomes a plant. But since mold is kind of ugly, we'll call it a weed instead of a plant just because it lines up better. As we look at that, so we have two things. Our home always has the spores of mold, the seeds of mold. There's nothing you can do about that. It's part of our ecosystem. Keeping a clean home, dust free, or cleaning and removing dust regularly is going to be pretty successful at keeping the amounts of spores that you have in your home low. 

When that spore then gets met with water, which could be a roof leak, could be windows leaking, could just be high humidity, could be in the basement where you have that vapor diffusion we talked about. But once it starts to grow into an organism, then it sporulates. Meaning, now it creates more spores in that location, some of them are getting aerosolized, but the actual purpose is for it to sporulate close together, so that it grows and colonizes together. It's an organism. What do organisms want to do? They want to survive and they want to reproduce. And so, that's what it's doing inside of our homes. We're the innocent bystanders of this, because we're now breathing in more spores for every breath that we take. That's more that our body has to remove from our system and this is how the problem starts off inside the home.

Melanie Avalon: How much time is required? So, if there was a water exposure in the perfect condition with the spores present, how much time is required? If you dry it fast enough, will it be okay? Or, does it vary by species? 

Michael Rubino: It varies by species. For Aspergillus, Penicillium, some of these more prominent species, it takes about 24 to 48 hours to grow. So, that's actually pretty quick, unfortunately. The average home, if it has a leak, it takes three to five days to fully dry. Yeah, usually, if you have a leak, it's pretty rare that you wouldn't have mold unless you purposefully dried it out, cut it open, so there's no potential for trapped moisture, etc., etc. But things like Stachybotrys, which by the way, is the toxic black mold that everyone talks about, it takes three to five days to grow. And so, when I'm always looking at scientific results, I'm looking for different species and I'm trying to understand what likely happened. If I start seeing Stachybotrys or Chaetomium, which is kind of Stachybotrys' cousin, I'm noticing that, "Okay, that mold takes three to five days." So, we're looking for some sort of leak that maybe was a little more systemic and not something that happened like, "Oh, this one time." That helps us narrow down, "Okay, where could there have been some issues that we might have forgotten about or that might have not been top of mind or that maybe you thought were fixed years ago, but actually it wasn't?" 

Melanie Avalon: Can you always see the mold? 

Michael Rubino: This is really interesting, but 250,000 spores fit on the head of a pin. So, mold is really, really small. You will never see a mold spore in your life unless you have 25 to 50 times optical zoom goggles, which, if they make those, please send them my way. The organism itself, yes, you can see it if it's colonized largely enough to be at least 250,000 of them on the head of a pin in that reference. When you put it from that perspective, if you see it on the wall, there's already a lot there. But then let's take, because this is all very, unfortunately, confusing. So, we have to then side step to another area here where you may have a large problem, but it's behind the wall. And so, the front of the wall looks totally fine, but yet behind it is horrible. I think Gwyneth mentioned on her podcast, right, that when you walked into her place, you didn't see anything. It looked totally fine. I'll never forget the first meeting that I had at this house with her seven-contractor people that were totally in disbelief of what we found and what the plan was to eradicate it. And the majority of the issue was underneath her bathtub.

Melanie Avalon: Her bathtub. I remember her talking about that. Yeah.

Michael Rubino: If you walk into the room, the place is immaculate. You don't see anything. But the second you disconnect the bathtub and lift it up, it's like, "Whoa, there's this massive problem." It was actually that exact moment where all seven of those people called me in a panic, "We found mold. What do we do?" It's like, "Well, no shit, Sherlock. We know there's mold. We told you there was mold. We knew we would find it. That was the goal." But what was really interesting is that's the exact moment that they're all like, "Wow, maybe mold is a little different than what I was thinking." It's totally fine because I connected those dots about 10 years ago, but I too was at that standpoint where I was like, "Oh, I didn't really think this was a big deal until I saw that it was.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, that happened to my cousin recently. She kept getting sick. And they're very holistic. They're into all the things. They couldn't figure it out. And then I don't know how they found it, but in her bedroom, right behind the wall, it was just a massive mold issue. So, that's just really scary. You mentioned these really toxic types of mold that take multiple days to grow. And in the book, you have a very long list of all of the different types of molds and what they can do. It's a really fun time. So, what's the difference between allergenic, pathogenic, toxigenic, the three different types? Is it just the symptoms they inflict on people or is it actually--? How are they different, different types of molds? 

Michael Rubino: Well, it's because certain species of mold are known to be toxic and have this toxic effect on the body. And so, we call those toxigenic. Some of them are more neurological impacting. And so, we call those pathogenic. And then some of them really are more allergy prompting molds that give us this allergic reaction feeling. And so, we call those allergenic. Yeah, they're known to cause different symptoms. And again, I keep saying this gets very confusing and I apologize. I didn't make all these rules. Some of these molds can produce what's called mycotoxins. And so, you might have an allergenic mold like Aspergillus, but it's capable of producing ochratoxin A. And so, now we have this nontoxic mold, but also produces toxins which are toxic. So, it can get very, very confusing in that regard. It's going to get worse before it gets better, because we know right now there are over 100,000 species of mold. And so. we study about 36 of them. We don't do a great job studying them. When I say, we, I mean more like the whole profession itself, because clearly, we've obviously known about mold a very long time. We've known that it's a problem on our health for a very long time. There's literally an entire mold remediation protocol in Leviticus, part of the Old Testament in the Bible. 

Melanie Avalon: Is it a good protocol? 

Michael Rubino: Actually, it's a fantastic protocol. I might as well share it now. What it is is, basically, if they had mold growing inside-- There were stone houses at the time. So, if they had mold growing in these stone houses, they would first try to clean it, and then they would have a priest come in and bless it, basically pray that it doesn't come back. If it came back, they would demolish the entire structure, carry it a mile outside the village, so that it didn't infect the other houses inside the village. I found this so fascinating, because I think one of the number one questions that people always ask me is like, "Mold has been around forever, probably even before humans. Why is this such a big deal today in 2022?" Maybe it's always been a big deal, but there's life. We have all these problems in life and sometimes, we focus on other problems and we forget about older problems. This is one of those cases to follow up on the second part of that question.

Since 1970s, when Richard Nixon was president, what did we do? We started chasing China and Russia to become the world's superpower. And through that, we wanted to be responsible and energy efficient. So, it's always politics that gets us in the mess, by the way. We start going in and changing all of our standards to be much more energy efficient. We haven't stopped. We still do this very thing today. And through that there's good that comes out of that, cheaper electric, better for the environment, all good stuff. What we tend to do as a society and we do this all the time is we rush into things without thinking of the consequences. So, we build these tighter homes, they're more energy efficient, yay. But they're also tighter and what does that mean? That means that, if we have things like chemicals or toxins or mold or bacteria, even viruses inside of our home, what does that do? If we have no air exchange that means we're breathing in more particles for every breath that we take that gets into our body, then our body has to fight to remove all that stuff then we would if we're breathing outside. When people say, "There's mold outside, so it shouldn't matter. You don't get sick outside, so you can't get sick in your house." No, you don't get sick outside, because you have an infinity volume of air. And so, you're breathing in less particles every time you take a breath than you would inside. That's really the name of the game.

The other statistic that we look at is the EPA suggests that indoor air quality is usually five times worse than outdoor air quality. So, staggering. It's already five times worse, plus we have less volume of air, what do we think we're going to get? And this is really the brunt of all of this stuff as we look at it. I look at everything and I'm like, "Well, duh." But the problem is that there's not one organization, where all of these tidbits of information are hosted on one place that help you connect these dots, because if they did then there wouldn't be so much skepticism.

Melanie Avalon: I see those stats all the time about the indoor air quality. Is that on rooms without air purifiers and air filters? I'm in just a smaller apartment. I have six air purifier units. I'm just crazy. Do air purifiers work or help?

Michael Rubino: Well, here's what air purifiers are. They're vacuums of filters on them. So, they filter out. They draw in air, they filter that air, and they push it back out. So, do they work? Absolutely. Do they help? Absolutely. Where might they not be as effective? In places that have a lot of organisms producing a lot of particles and toxins because at some point, if you have more particles and toxins being created than what can be removed, well, then it's not going to give you the value that you're looking for.

Melanie Avalon: Do you have thoughts on some of the air purifiers proposed that they actually have technology that kills the mold? Do you have thoughts on those technologies? 

Michael Rubino: Yeah. So, imagine if I told you to go outside and just kill a bunch of seeds, so that you don't get weeds in your yard. How might you look doing that?

Melanie Avalon: How would I look? 

Michael Rubino: How would you look, if you just pictured yourself going out and I don't know, trying to kill seeds or stomp on seeds, so they didn't grow? 

Melanie Avalon: Pretty ineffective. 

Michael Rubino: [laughs] My philosophy with-- And I say philosophy because it's really what it is. My philosophy is, why are we trying to kill something, especially something like a spore? Isn't really alive yet? It's basically the seed, right? So, it still needs moisture, food to grow. Why are we trying to kill something that, A, isn't even alive and B, all we have to do is remove it? It's kind of like this. Imagine you had a dirty countertop and there's crumbs and all this stuff. And I'm like, "Hey, take this." We'll just use bleach because bleach kills things. Take this and just spray some bleach over it and just leave it. Walk away. It'll dry. It'll be fine. Well, there's still going to be all these crumbs and grime and grease and disgusting stuff still on your counter, because you're just spraying something. You're just trying to kill it. You're not actually removing it. So, the problem that I have with the kill philosophy is that anything biological is going to leave behind some sort of footprint. If you killed me right now, there would be a body and blood and all this stuff in place. I wouldn't just vanish. 

The whole thing is, we keep trying to kill all these things, but we don't understand what that actually does in the environment. And furthermore, we don't know what that does if somebody breathes that in after. There's a crime scene investigative unit. When you have a dead body or something, there's a whole team that comes in and helps scientifically remove the bloodborne pathogens. There's like a whole business around cleaning this stuff up. Why is that? Because there is something that gets left behind that can have so much bacteria and so much viruses and all these other microbiological contaminants that we don't want to expose to other people in that area. And so, it just really sparks the question in my mind, do we really want to go around killing things or do we just want to try to remove them? 

Melanie Avalon: It's really interesting, because like I said, I'm a little bit obsessed with air purifiers. It's just interesting to see the dichotomy between how the different companies will approach it, like the traditional HEPA filters and stuff like you mentioned like a vacuum. So, they're saying, "We're physically removing the particles compared to the other technology," where they're saying that they're killing it. They kind of not put down, but they say the other companies, "Oh, they're just removing it, they're not killing it." It's just interesting, because both of them point down at the other for not doing what they should be doing when it sounds like maybe you need to be doing all of it.

Michael Rubino: Sure. Well, here's the problem with some of the technologies that are aimed around killing, especially like oxidizers and that route of chemical exposure. What happens when you kill something? Well, what they do is they test it for efficacy. If I take a particle and let's say no matter what the technology is, it kills it or destroys it or whatever. We know that in this universe, a particle cannot be created nor destroyed. So, anything that uses the word destroy, I always find very interesting, because what it actually does is it blasts it into smaller particles. If you break a glass, what is it going to do? It's going to shatter into smaller pieces of glass. If we kill something, okay, now we've just shattered into smaller pieces. Great. A, that's harder to remove smaller pieces than the bigger pieces. And the bigger pieces, by the way, are already 25 to 50 times smaller than what the eye can see. And so, yeah, when they test for efficacy purposes, yeah, now you're not going to find that. You're not going to find what you're looking for, because it's now smaller pieces. So, it's not going to match up. And so, that's fine for testing purposes. But my whole thing is, how do these smaller pieces impact a person? 

If you go on EPA's website, I love this one, you type in like EPA bleach and mold. Just google those three keywords together. You'll find this article. The EPA highlights this one phrase and it says, "You should not use bleach for mold. In fact, you should not use anything to kill mold, because even dead mold may cause an allergic reaction in some." They use allergic because we haven't really crossed over the mainstream bridge of mold can do other things and allergies. But I at least take a win on that because when I look at that, I say, "Good. Well, they're of the same mindset here where killing--" We don't understand what killing might do to somebody, especially for people who might be sensitive to their environment as it is.

Melanie Avalon: If you were to put a compound like bleach or whatever on mold in the dying process, do they release toxins? When you're doing your remediation, which we still have to get into, does the environment become more toxic while that's happening?

Michael Rubino: So, to answer your first question, I think it's highly possible, because why does mold produce mycotoxins? It does so as a self-defense mechanism. If you start spraying chemicals at it and start trying to kill it, as is dying, an organism's job is to survive and reproduce. It may be producing mycotoxins. We don't know for sure because I don't think really enough testing has been done around that topic, but it's definitely pretty theoretical for sure. There's also been some interesting bylines around how Wi-Fi, like increased Wi-Fi may make mold feel threatened and produce mycotoxins, which is interesting too, kind of roping in the whole EMFs, because what is EMF? It's low levels of radiation, right? Supposedly, safe for humans, but something as small as mold, who knows? We're not studying the effects typically of EMFs and Wi-Fi on mold and maybe we should. 

What's really interesting just to tie that little piece together is, in Chernobyl, they found radiation eating fungi, mold, essentially. So, it's really interesting because mold is obviously evolving and adapting to its surroundings. And especially, if its job is to survive, one of the things that an organism does is it starts to be able to eat. It starts to be able to figure out how to eat certain things that maybe it wasn't able to eat in the past. And so, if I find that really fascinating too, because what effect does that have? Is that going to help evolve that species of mold? Is it going to make that species of mold more toxic? We don't know. Is that species producing more mycotoxins, because it's eating radiation? I wish I knew the answer to that. But these are all really good questions that we should really be looking at, because I think we've always known mold is a problem. It's tending to be more of a problem, especially the way our construction is going. I think we ought to give it a little more time on our hands, because of how easy it is to grow in our homes to make sure that we understand more of it, especially in connection with the medical community on how it might affect our health. 

To answer your second question, which I believe was, when you're remediating, does the house get more toxic? And I would say that in most cases, yes. And that's pretty much why, if you want me to work with you, step one is you just have to move out of your house. Because what ends up happening is, let's say you have a bathroom. Let's just say you only have a bathroom and your bathroom has a problem, the rest of your house is pristine, okay? When I put that bathroom under negative pressure, which is what you do to stop the mold from spreading into other rooms, you are also pulling everything from every interstitial cavity across your home towards that bathroom, okay? And so, all of the pristine areas that we thought might have been pristine, that could have had some mold or could have had some bacteria, toxins, etc., are now going to move through the air across your entire home towards that bathroom. So, if you're living even on the other side of the house, you're just going to be constantly hit with more particles, because we're controlling all the airflow to go towards that location.

So, with that being said, when you're embarking on this journey to create a healthy home, it's really something you want to do, and you want to go away for a couple of weeks, a month, however long it takes, find a temporary place like an Airbnb, just whatever, whatever it takes, because there's this scientific process of really understanding what's going on in the environment and then making the repairs necessary. You really have to understand how and which this process works to make sure you're not having adverse reactions from it.

Melanie Avalon: How do you actually create the negative pressure and how do you decide to create negative pressure or positive pressure?

Michael Rubino: Great point. So, negative pressure is created, typically, by drawing more air towards that space than the room itself has available. How we typically do this is, we use negative air machines or air scrubbers. And what those machines have is they have an exhaust where air exhausts out, and then it has a return where air gets drawn in, similar to like in an HVAC system, return, exhaust, supplies, etc. What we do is we exhaust the air outside of that space. So, usually, like a nearby window, open that window, we build like a window manifold, we connect the tube to it. What it's doing now is drawing air into that machine, but that air is moving then outside. So, it never provides makeup air back into that room. It's always negatively drawing that air.

When you're doing that and you do that because when you open up a wall, we talked about 250,000 spores on the head of a pin, when you open up that wall, and boom. Hundreds of thousands, millions of spores or what have you are going to be aerosolized at that exact moment. So, air scrubber is going to pull that towards the machine, trap it into the filter, and blow clean air out. But it's really the controlling of the air pressure that does the trick, not the plastic or anything else that you may have seen inside one of these remediation projects. And so, when you use that, you're, obviously, controlling the airflow. But our house has tons of interstitial cavities, nothing's hermetically sealed. And so, we're obviously going to be pulling air from other places towards that location. And that's where things get tricky, because even if you find a problem, it doesn't mean that your house doesn't have other little minor issues that maybe aren't making a significant difference. But when you start to pull them all together into your living space, that's when it may be really problematic.

Melanie Avalon: Can you also do the flipside, where you do the pressure the reverse way with the positive? 

Michael Rubino: Yeah. There's positive pressure. That's where you're pushing out more pressure than you're pulling in. Hospitals have this, so that one space isn't being impacted by the spaces around it. Hotels typically have this too. If you ever gone to a hotel and you open the door and as you're opening and it's like wind is gushing you in the face yeah, that means that the building is positively pressurized. It's pushing out more air than it's pulling in. When would you want to do that? Well, let's say you're working in a basement and there's no windows. There's just no way to create negative pressure. What you would want to do is you'd want to create positive pressure outside of that space. And you do that, so that nothing from the basement can ever escape the basement because there's more air pushing towards it.

It's like when you have an HVAC, you have a return supply, so the supply is basically pushing air into a room unless that room has any air returns in it, it's always going to be positively pressurized. Typically, we have-- I mean obviously, building codes have changed as of recently. So, if your home is pretty new, you'll have almost a return in the supply in every bedroom. But previous to that, mostly your hallways, your living spaces are all under negative pressure constantly and your bedrooms and other rooms are always positively pressurized. So, everything is always trapped in the common areas where we spend a lot of time. 

It's very interesting. You have to understand pressurization, when to use certain pressurizations, so that you can make sure that you're getting the results you're looking for while you're working in this. I had a horror story once where a client calls me up and she's like, "All right, I have remediation going on and I'm here." And I'm like, "Well, that's problem number one, okay? Let's keep going." Problem number two, we found out was that the company had more pressure outside the containment than inside the containment being drawn. So, they had an air scrubber inside the containment like it was supposed to be out the window the whole night, but it was set to half. So, maybe it was running at for argument's sake, let's call, at 200 CFMs. That means that the air is circulating 200 times over the course of a minute. We have then the outside unit was set at like 500 CFMs, okay? So, what that means is that more air is being drawn outside the containment. Even though, it was under neutral pressure, it doesn't matter. More air is being drawn that way than the containment itself. And so, these guys were accidentally cross contaminating all the stuff that they were doing across the entire home, just because they didn't understand pressurization and how to set things up properly.

Is that such a problem? No, because you can clean it and you can fix it. But was that a problem for her at that exact moment? Yes, because she started not feeling well, and she was living there, and they said it would be fine. It just led down this path where now she's not feeling well and she's scared, obviously, and she just needed a plan of, "Okay, have them stop that, have them fix this, and then they need to clean the place after, and we need to test and make sure that it was cleaned properly." We make it simple, but at the end of the day if you don't know what you're doing here, you can screw the pooch on this.

Melanie Avalon: When I had the flood situation and I kept asking them to test for mold and to do stuff and they were not about it and dragging their feet. And then finally, I just hired somebody to test for myself and it came back positive and I showed them that. And then once I showed them that, they were all over it. And my mom was commenting how they do take mold really seriously, because buildings can get condemned for it if they actually find mold. Is that true? The reason buildings get condemned is that, because the buildings could literally rot from the mold. Why do we actually take it seriously, if there is mold sometimes or maybe we don't?

Michael Rubino: I wish everyone took it seriously. I've been doing this a long time now and I wish I could say that. I don't believe that that's true. I think some people take it seriously. Even in that case, you had to prove to them that there was an issue that they weren't willing to check themselves. That's just at that point, now it's a liability to them, because you have proof, and you can sue them, and it's a whole thing. But the fact that they made you get proof when they could have easily inspected and checked and made sure themselves, I hate that part of the story because I think that this is what we do to each other. We have this skepticism from a whole societal standpoint, and some of us in society might own buildings or might own some rental properties and rent stuff out. If we're all skeptic about the things that this can do, then we're not going to take it seriously until someone threatens us with lawsuit or proof or things of that nature. It just opens the door to, I don't know, not love one another and respect one another and I think that's kind of a lot of what's been happening in our society these past few years, that really sucks. 

I think we should be taking it more seriously than we currently are. And of course, you have some great landlords. I actually had a mold issue in my rental right now. Wife and I just recently bought a house. We had a ton of mold, by the way, which I'm documenting, which will be fascinating for people to see. But we're fixing that house. We've been in this rental. In the meantime, we found some mold in the HVAC, because there was unfortunately a little terror running around in our attic that ripped some holes through the ducts and the landlord is really great. I don't think the landlord has listened to any of my podcasts, seen any of my posts. He just happens to be a good human being and was like, "I will take care of this." Not everyone gets that lucky, which is the unfortunate part. I do a lot of expert litigation work for families who unfortunately have no legal recourse on some of the damages that they've been through. That part, to see that side of things is really painful for me because it goes against the world that I'd like to see, where maybe we care more about each other than we do about them almighty dollar. And if we can ever get there, my God, it'd be amazing. 

With that being said, there're a lot of unfortunate necessary changes in regulations and protocols. For example, a lot of landlords in a lot of states, they're allowed to have their super go and address remediate mold. While that may be okay in smaller issues, especially if they know what they're doing, if we're going to allow that, maybe we should make sure that the supers are properly trained for that. This is opinion. This isn't law. This is my opinion that the law should change. I think that I've seen some horror stories from that side of things to warrant such changes. I also believe that our current building standards do very little to address water damage and problems that these water damage situations can bring. We have pretty good guidelines, not laws, but guidelines that people just don't simply follow. When they don't follow them, you can tell, there're problems in the home. And so, unfortunately, a lot of these situations really put people in tons of hardship. This also shakes out into the insurance industry too. Some of the insurance companies are great and some of them are not so great. And I've seen people really been through the ringer, both on the financial hardship side, but also your health is deteriorating. It's a nightmare.

Melanie Avalon: Well, that was one thing I loved reading about in your book and your bio. So, you started a nonprofit during COVID for mold remediation?

Michael Rubino: I did.

Melanie Avalon: So, what did you do with that? 

Michael Rubino: Well, first off, starting anything during COVID is a nightmare, especially when you need government's approval because with a nonprofit, you need a file to be accepted as a nonprofit, if you will. In the middle of COVID, that process took 10 times longer than it was supposed to. Obviously, government short staffed, and things of that nature, and that's just how that works. And you're dealing with the IRS on that plus there was all these other IRS programs that their attention was on. So, everyone's forgiven, but it took a long time and here we are in 2022 and finally got our status as of July of 2022. 

Melanie Avalon: Congratulations. 

Michael Rubino: Thank you. So, it's called Change the Air Foundation. And I would say that the four main pillars are-- One of my favorite pillars is policy reform. Policy reform is looking at all of the laws that we have across all 50 states and making sure that we are being more proactive at protecting our people from these harmful effects that water-damaged buildings can have. Obviously. this is a broad stretch because there's so many different angles to this. But one of the first things I want to start with is we talked about lead and asbestos. They're classified as a health hazard. Mold is not classified as a health hazard on any state department website in the United States.

Now, that has to change because we're going to continue to have skepticism until we have more credible sources to point to to say this is a problem. And the state department health websites, if they all classify mold as a health hazard, then landlords, insurance companies, everybody has no choice, but to make sure that the right thing is getting done when the health hazard is in existence. That's one of the first initiatives we want to do across the US within policy reform. But it goes beyond that. There's a lot of reform that's needed in terms of protecting people. But with government and policy, you have to go in baby steps, because if you put too much at once, you have two parties to deal with. So, remember that. You have Republicans and Democrats. In order to get everybody to agree, the best strategy is to get them to agree to one or two things at once, because if you put 10 things, you're going to lose all 10 of them. And so, that's been the effective strategy. 

There're 14 different states right now or 12, somewhere around that range that we're actively advocating for policy reform. We've had, I think, three or four bills written and proposed in legislation. So, we are making lots of headway in just five or six months, Change the Air Foundation on that. We also have research as an initiative, because I think there're over 280 different research pieces in relation to mold and its effects on our health and they're very good pieces, different topics, and different avenues.

One thing that I have as someone who's been in business for so long and has helped so many people is a lot of information. What information might we have? Well, how about the information of what types of molds, how much of those molds in people's homes, how are their symptoms, coupled with some of them might have medical reports from doctors where they have different maybe mycotoxins that might have matched the levels of molds that were in their home. And so, we have all of this great information. We have all these amazing people that want to share this information in order to propel people forward, so that nobody suffers the way that they had to suffer. We can use that information to put together some research programs.

With that being said, if we can start to research what different species of molds and what quantities of those molds might have caused or exacerbated certain symptoms, maybe looking at different medical profiles, maybe this person had some autoimmune disease or deficiency, maybe putting all of that together, we might see some patterns and we might be able to better understand just the effects of the mold can have on our bodies and all different types. Because guess what? We're all inherently different. So, if we can start to categorize some data and make sense of it that would be a home run and that'll open the doors for all this research and testing that we can do to really nail this and give the public the information that they need, so they can make better decisions in their homes and their lives. 

We also have awareness and education as our next pillar. I think that goes without saying. If we're not aware of something, then we're going to be adversely affected by it. When we are aware of something, now we can take action. And so, the more that we think that our homes cannot be a problem for our health, the more likely we are to have homes be a problem for our health. But if we know that they can and we know how they can then we can take action. We can test our homes once a year to make sure everything looks good. I'd love touch on how to test that home for a screening purpose. If we can start to take action on certain things based on knowledge that we're now aware of, guess what? We're going to be okay. And right now, if you call 15 different people and ask them about mold, you're going to get 15 different answers. I'll tell you right now. 

Mold is not a problem to leave it all the way to burn your house down and run away. And so, we need to have really good credible information and we need people to be aware of that information. So far, it has been just an absolute nightmare. That's one of the many reasons why I wrote this book is I wanted people to have good information to be able to resort to in case they did need to do some mold remediation or find out if they had mold, etc. 

Melanie Avalon: It's a testimony to how effective your actual process must be because when you were talking about buying a new home and you said that there's mold in it, my first thought was, "Wait, he's actually going to get a home that already has mold in it?" But then I was thinking, "Oh, well, if he's very confident in his ability to deal with it, then that speaks for itself."

Michael Rubino: I've owned three homes, this is my third home, and all three homes have had a mold problem. I just want to throw that out there. So, I've never not owned a home that didn't have a mold problem. What I typically do is I buy these like foreclosures. This one wasn't a foreclosure, but it was the fixer upper house that had issues, needed a new roof, new windows. As we started opening things up, I expected to find problems and we found plenty. Yeah, I do trust in my process, because my process isn't really predicated on some patent or some secret formula. It's just good old science. We have particles, we have organisms, we remove the organisms, remove the particles. We test and verify, and we're good to go. It's just so simple. But unfortunately, everyone likes complex processes and patented stuff and this and that. But the simpler it is typically in my perspective, the more effective it always is.

Melanie Avalon: That leads us to the big question I said I had and then you touched on it with the testing process. So, when somebody actually sits down and is going to have this process of maybe they suspect mold, maybe they just need to do yearly testing like you mentioned, so what does that process look like? Do you hire a testing company versus a remediation company? Are they ever both the same? What questions do you need to ask pre and posttest, ERMI, all the things? What do we do? 

Michael Rubino: Perfect. So, the first thing that I'd like to start with, I think it would be really helpful to guide people through my process. Then this way people won't need me anymore, which would be amazing only, because the more I can do to educate the absolute best that I can be here because I know I can't fix one house. I can't fix every house in the world. And so, we need to just continue to get this information out there and help people. You want to start with testing the dust. Let me explain why. Previous to this conversation, a lot of people, what they do is they test the air. They hire a company, a company comes in, they take all these random air samples. And usually not always, but usually, we get a false result of your house is perfect air quality, okay? It's less than outside, it's what you could ask for, it's great. 

I actually just had a client that had this happen to, and I looked over the results, and I'm like, "Let me tell you why it's not great." But let me tell you first why this is not effective, because only two reasons. One, most of the mold that's created in our home, and this is true of mold, bacteria, viruses, any particle, VOCs, formaldehyde, it doesn't matter. These particles, wherever they emanate from, they don't really go that far. What ends up happening is they settle within our dust. The rule of thumb is somewhere between 3 and 6 feet. I think we all heard that during COVID. It doesn't really fall that far from where the emanation point is. And so, if you think about that most of our problems with water on a home are going to be on an exterior wall. The archaic technology of testing homes is typically-- Let's take an air sample in the center of a room, so we won't miss anything. We'll take it from the center. Well, you're going to miss everything because you're very unlikely to have a problem in the center of the room. You're more likely to have a problem on an exterior wall or a wall that has plumbing in it. So, the further away that you test from the problem, guess what? The more likely you are to miss whatever the problem actually is. So, that's one part of the problem.

Then if it doesn't emanate far, what happens and how does it affect us? Well, what happens is it settles within our dust and it binds with our dust. It just becomes part of our dust and then our dust constantly recirculates around the home. So, if you've ever sat on a couch on a sunny day and you saw that ray of light peek through the window and you saw those dust particles floating in the air, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Our dust is everywhere. What's in that dust is really important because that is what is typically making us not feel our best. With that being said, these air tests, they're made specifically to pick up isolated small particles like mold. So, dust is too big to fit inside this cassette. What that means is that any mold particles that are bound with our dust are not getting registered by this test. So, we're missing a big portion of what we're actually exposed to. 

So, I came up with this idea, "Well, we need to change the narrative." People get air testing all the time. Everyone thinks it's the gold standard of, do I have mold? It's not. It's a useful tool to help you locate sources if you know how to test it in localized areas where you suspect there may be a problem. It also can be useful because you can poke a hole in the wall, stick a tube through it, and then draw an air sample from behind the wall, which is, obviously, usually where a lot of the problems are. But in the center of a room as a screening tool, because that's what you're doing, you're trying to screen the room, it's not useful.

We've all heard of ERMI, right, E-R-M-I, ERMI, many different ways to pronounce it and call it. But it's the relative moldiness index that was developed from the EPA. And so, what I don't like about ERMI specifically is the ERMI itself. And that's that index. So, basically, what the ERMI is, it takes the data and it uses PCR technology to analyze the DNA of what's there, so I love that part, and then it gives you a score. Well, the score has been highly ineffective over the last 12 years since I've been doing this, it's because it misleads people to think that there's a desirable score. It's not about the score. It's actually about the data. If we focus on the data, we're successful. So, what I did is, I said, if we want to change the narrative and we want to give people success with screening their home to answer the question one way or another. Do I have mold or do I not? Then we need to create a technology that takes what's good about ERMI and brings in a better understanding for the consumer, because previous to that ERMI was really an educational tool for the profession to really understand how to use it, to try to understand what that data might mean inside someone's home.

After about 10 years of using that data, I know for a fact how useful that data could be and how to utilize it. It's very simple. It's what am I exposed to? What we want to do is we want to take that data. Let's say, we have Stachybotrys showing up. Good. Where is that coming from? Where might all the leaks be that have created wetness for at least three to five days that may be growing Stachybotrys? And by the way, molds do grow together, so you have different species that grow together. So, I suspect that if we find where that Stachybotrys is, we might find where the elevated Aspergillus and Cladosporium is too. And so, what I started doing is saying, if we start screening our homes with the dust first, then we can take that information to an inspector and say, "Good, help me find where these three elevated species are coming from so that we can make sure and put together a proper plan to eradicate it." And then we'll clean the home and remove all the dust that we possibly can. With that, a lot of these spores that were high in the Dust Test are going to be exponentially removed with it every time that we clean. The key is, we want to remove the organism first that's creating these particles and toxins, then clean up to remove the toxins and particles. 

So, with that being said, the Dust Test is what I developed. You can go to the dusttest.com and check it out. That is using the same technology that we know from ERMI, but making it more consumer friendly. Everything's color coded. It tells you, if it's 10 times higher than normal, 100 times higher, or 1000 times higher than normal, it's the same normal standards that the EPA set. So, we didn't make a new normal or anything. We're still following that same path. We're making it in a way where we can actually take action from it and not just be confused by like, "Oh, I got a 14. Is that good or bad?" Or, "My friend has a 2. I want a 2." It just creates a lot of confusion because I've seen "Good ERMI scores" with horrible data showing that there's a problem, and the client thought there was no problem based upon a number that it doesn't really make sense of how that number got there.

Melanie Avalon: You guys were so kind, you sent me, I have it in front of me right here, your Dust Test. So, I'm thrilled to try it. What I will do is, by the time this airs I will have tried it, so I can record in the intro some of my experience with it. For the Dust Test, if somebody orders it-- Do they order multiple kits for different rooms or how much area does it cover?

Michael Rubino: The world is your oyster with the Dust Test. If you want to get data on every single room, you can. What's the benefit of that? You can compare it to other rooms. I have clients that get one for every room, I have clients that get one for every floor, and I have clients that just get one for the whole house. The difference is, obviously, it's all averages. What it tells you is how many spores per milligram of dust that you have for each different species that it can test for. You're looking at the major 36 species that are prominent in a water-damaged environment.

When you're looking at that data from room to room, it's great to have because then it's easy to say, "Well, you could see the Chaetomium gets less and less as we get to this side of the house, so we know that it's emanating from that side. It helps you pinpoint and give you some more locational data. However, we have to remember that it's a screening tool. The idea of it is, it's like when you're sick and you go to a doctor and you're like, "Hey, I don't feel well." They're like, "Cool. We're going to do a screen of your body and we're going to look at all these different vitamins and minerals and do some blood work, and we're going to look for abnormalities." All of that is a screening tool. 

What they're doing is they're looking for something abnormal to then say, "Okay, this is weird. We need to do more testing on this avenue now". And so, this is what that replicates. What we want to do is we want to screen our homes to understand if there's anything abnormal going on. And then that's going to tell us if we should go a little further and maybe do some more testing to try to figure out where might some of these problems be, or maybe the dust looks great, and everything looks fine, and there're no problems, and we just want to have a cleaning regimen to remove spores more frequently as they come into contact with our environment, maybe we want to upgrade our HVAC filtration, so we get better filtration, and we go in that route. So, it's a good first step to answer the question, might I have a problem that I should be doing something about?

Melanie Avalon: The way my apartment is set up, I have a-- I learned a lot about the air conditioning units reading your book. But I guess, whatever can be indoors-- There's a little closet that you open and it's the whole air conditioning machine?

Michael Rubino: Sure. Yeah, like the central system.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. So, I'm concerned about mold in there because my unit has been freezing over a lot of nights. So, it gets wet and then it stays wet and it just keeps happening and they haven't fixed it. In that situation with this kit, would I test directly inside of that little closet or would I test in the room outside of that closet?

Michael Rubino: What I would do is, because if you have a problem in your HVAC, it's going to be evenly distributed across your place. And so, I would be collecting dust from every room that you have and this way we can look and see for an abnormality. If the place comes back that there're elevated levels of specific species, we can then do what's called like an EPA 36. So, it's a specific swab type test that you can swab the inside of the coil where the HVAC is constantly freezing and condensating. And the reason being is, because when mold contaminates an HVAC system, it typically contaminates the coil. 

The coil, for those that don't know, it's basically what conditions the air, pulls the moisture out of it, and then it drips down into this pan where it drains away. Well, that coil is always wet. It never fails. We already know that mold and bacteria need water to grow and thrive. And so, typically, what we see with HVACs being a problem in distributing mold and bacteria throughout our house, it's on that coil. So, we can look for abnormalities through the Dust Test. And then if we see some problems, we may start to say, "Okay, has there been any leaks? Go check underneath all of your sinks. Send me a picture. What do they all look like? Let's get you an EPA 36 and let's get you to swab that coil and see what comes out of it. And then we'll come up with some more different strategies to help pinpoint where this problem might be coming from." And that's going to really be helpful for us, because we want to understand what are we going to do to fix it.

Melanie Avalon: I do have one of those units that is supposed to be the killing technology, because they were saying, if I put it right by the HVAC, then it'll be killing everything that's running through the HVAC. So, regardless of whether or not that's effective in the long run with the PCR test and the Dust Test, I'm assuming it picks up both dead and alive?

Michael Rubino: Well, the great thing about PCR is it looks at DNA. And so, unless the DNA has been altered, you're going to pick it up and you're going to find it. So, it's going to pick up spores and fragments of spores. If you have something that's destroying or killing that might be breaking these things up into smaller particles, it probably is still going to pick up some of those fragments and be able to understand that, "Oh, it's from this species based upon the DNA sequencing." I think that it's a great thing to have, because we're not going to be able to have anything that covers up problems. It's just going to tell us unbiased information as to what is there. If we see too much, then you might have this amazing killing machine, but what we're going to say is, "Well, that's great and all and that's going to work better when we don't have these problems in the first place." 

Melanie Avalon: So, it sounds like the Dust Test is an incredible way for listeners to, at least, if they-- Well, probably everybody could benefit from it, if they need to see where they might have issues in their house. So, for listeners, if they go to thedusttest.com/melanieavalon, that's where you can get that kit and I 100% recommend that. So, beyond that, because that's a really great tool for people to take initiative and take things into their own hands. But then if they do need to move forward with remediation, what do they do? How do they vet companies? How do they find who to work with? What's the role of pre and post testing? What's the whole thing?

Michael Rubino: This is a lot to unpack, obviously. Finding somebody that's good is really difficult. I outlined that in chapter one of my book talking about just me being in a room with a guy who's been doing this for 30 years. At that point in time, I was doing it for four or five. This person didn't really understand microbiology, they really didn't understand the remediation process. This guy has been doing it for 30 years, right? So, you got to be careful. I think vetting people is really important just because they're licensed, it doesn't really mean much, because it only takes three days of a course to get a license, unfortunately. It's like the Wild Wild West. You really have people that are supposed to be handling microbiological contaminants that don't have a basic understanding of science, which is a big problem. It's really just construction companies that get certified and then they just start doing this. But in my opinion, it's really a specialty. 

I think the best way to vet somebody is to really ask them about their process. If it doesn't make sense, it probably doesn't. And so, you don't need to be an expert to feel that out. What are the things you want to look for? Are they going to use engineering controls? Meaning, are they going to put up plastic and create negative pressure in that room or positive pressure outside that room to make sure that whatever work they're doing is not spreading across the house? You also want to ask what their guarantees are. If you get someone else in to come in and test afterwards, do they guarantee their work or are they going to charge you to come back? That's another big thing that happens quite frequently. 

Then I just really understanding what they're going to do, how they're going to remediate, how they're going to remove the mold? Because there are so many companies that rely on products. And products are a tool, but they're not everything. You really want to understand, how do you remove the roots of mold, so it doesn't grow back? How do you clean the space to make sure you're removing these particles and toxins? You really want to dive into the thoroughness of that. I also always ask people to ask how long it's going to take, because a thorough job is going to take longer than a quick in and out job. And so, when you vet two or three companies and you're going through the process, you're going to get a bunch of different opinions, you're going to get a bunch of different pricing, and you're going to get a bunch of different time lengths. And so, dive into that. Ask the person, "Why is this only going to take three days? Someone else said, it's going to take seven. What are you doing to cut out on this time? Is that thing that you're cutting out going to benefit me or harm me?"

I think those are really good ways to get a grasp around what you're paying for, because I think most people think intrinsically that all mold remediation is the same, all contracting work is the same. And so, it really just comes down to getting the best price. Unfortunately, that's not exactly accurate. I think you always want to understand what you're paying for and is that the outcome you're looking for. And I think once you understand that, that's really the best way to vet that process.

Melanie Avalon: For the testing Itself, like the pre and post testing, do some companies do that themselves? And if so, should you always use a third party instead? 

Michael Rubino: Yeah, you want a third party. Some companies do do it themselves. In some states, it's actually illegal to do your own testing in and out just because it's a conflict of interest. If you know how to test, you could purposely test further away, so that it looks better than what it might really be. I'm not saying that all companies operate like that, but it is a possibility that you could do something like that. So, really the best way to do this is to get an outside perspective, someone to come in. I also think when you're working on a project, you get used to the space. Having someone else come in to look at the space differently for the first time I think can be a big benefit to make sure that nothing is getting missed in this process. So, you really want to create a team that is looking to work together in your best interest of the client and not necessarily in the best interest of profit margins of a company. And so, I think the best way to do that is to just get an outside third-party professional to come in and give you that unbiased view. 

Pretesting and post testing is an interesting concept in and of itself, because at the pretest, you're really trying to do a deep dive of the home and find out where all the problems may be. Evaluate which problems are big, which are small, which need attention right away, which can be held off for a little bit to develop this project plan. And then the post test, just make sure that the areas you are working on have been worked on properly and satisfactorily, so that there's nothing else left behind, because sometimes you think you went far enough and then you do this test and you're like, "No, no, we got to go a couple more feet." And so, you really want to be thorough and check that.

Melanie Avalon: We talked earlier about, does the space become more dangerous or contaminated while that's happening? But is there ever the case where if they don't do the job correctly, they could bring mold from one part of the house and actually spread it to another part of the house and you'd have more of a problem? 

Michael Rubino: Yeah, definitely. This does happen. Sometimes it's on accidents, sometimes it's just because the company doesn't know any better or, like I said earlier, they're relying too heavily on products and not enough on the knowledge and what the process actually takes. And so, when this type of thing happens, it can create a bigger problem. Now, you have to clean other rooms that maybe you didn't have to put so much attention on. Maybe, now the HVAC needs to be cleaned again if it was already clean. And so, there're always consequences to actions that are made. I think that's why it's so important that when you hire a company, you're making sure that each step of the way is really planned out well because if you're remediating a room and then cleaning the HVAC and then cleaning the home as an example, you create that plan and that plan set up from day one. But then you find out along the way that plan was done out of order, because the other person didn't realize the importance of that order. 

Now you're in the situation where mistakes were made and now things are going to have to be done again. And so, it can be not only frustrating, not only cause time delays, but also there's a cost factor there. So, I think it's really important that you vet companies well. You want someone that's going to be your QB, your quarterback, and plan everything out for you and take you to the finish line, because if you're piecing things together with people who don't really know what they're doing, you tend to get a lot more heartache, financial hardship, and problems as a result.

Melanie Avalon: So, you talked about the importance of both the products and then the actual entire process. As for the products, because in your book, you talk about the specific products that you guys use. I don't know, I have such a fear of toxic things. So, I'm assuming the products that are used, are they toxic? 

Michael Rubino: Great assumption. I don't use any chemicals. It's not necessary. There are all botanical products these days that have broad spectrum disinfecting capabilities. My favorite product to use is literally certified 100% botanical. Not even 1% of a chemical in there. It's not needed. The goal is to remove mold, it's to remove bacteria, remove toxins and particles. And so, removing doesn't require killing. And so, I think the industry has evolved a lot over the past decade or so. As we really understand more about the objective here that we want to remove things, we don't necessarily want to kill them and just leave them there. These broad-spectrum botanical disinfectants have worked wonders at providing amazing results and not having these harmful toxic chemicals in people's homes that are continuously [unintelligible [01:21:25] long after you're done.

So, that's been a really important thing for me and with the company that I founded and making sure that we're doing this as safe as possible, the products we're using are safe as possible that they're tested to be effective. I think that's really how we put everything together. We haven't changed products at this point in about seven years.

Melanie Avalon: That's a really interesting reframe, at least, for me, because just in my daily life, in my apartment, I use all botanical-based and natural cleaning ingredients. But then in my bathroom, there's just something about-- because I have such a fear about mold and things like that. In the bathroom, I'm like, "Okay, I'll just use bleach and stuff." It sounds like I could be using botanicals everywhere.

Michael Rubino: You can switch from bleach to hydrogen peroxide, which is definitely a better alternative because it's an oxidizer. So, it's still going to have that whitening effect that we like from bleach. That's probably one of the main reasons that we ever wanted to use bleach in the first place, because it ain't the smell. If you use hydrogen peroxide, you're going to get that. You're not going to have this noxious odor. It goes in there pretty quick and converts back into water and oxygen. So, it's much safer to use than bleach, much less taxing and harmful on the body, and that's a less toxic alternative, of course, than using that. And for those that don't know, your body actually produces hydrogen peroxide naturally, your cells do. So, it's not this foreign entity that you would otherwise be entering the body and then having the fight to remove.

Melanie Avalon: I actually found a product recently, a brand reached out to me, and they make a cleaning solution that is, it's literally just some form of iodine that they've said kills basically everything. But they said it's safe enough that you could even ingest it and be fine. So, I've been experimenting with that. 

Michael Rubino: That's interesting. Well, iodine is great. When COVID was first hitting, there's a lot of iodine products that were trying to defend against getting COVID when you're around people and stuff, that was supposedly very effective. So, we know that the properties of iodine and being able to kill microbiological contaminants is pretty good.

Melanie Avalon: So, here's a huge question and I know a lot of people think about this. I have thought about this for so long. After you've done the remediation or even when you're dealing with the whole issue, your actual objects afterwards, do you need to get rid of everything? If you keep that one thing, where does the mold linger? Can you get it out of your own personal objects? You talk about porous versus nonporous objects in the book. How big of a deal is it, people's possessions? 

Michael Rubino: This is a very complex topic in and of itself because for some it's not that big of a deal at all. For others, it is. And so, it really is going to be dependent on the person. Let's just talk about it scientifically for a second. Our house has living organisms producing particles and toxins, whether it's mold, bacteria, etc. And those circulate in the air, they bind with our dust, they settle all over our stuff. So, anything that's nonporous that we can remove dust at 100% efficacy from it, we're fine. But when we have porous items, especially like a fabric couch, for example, that dust can get embedded into the fibers, mold and bacteria and those toxins can get embedded into the fibers. And actually, looking at mold, for example, and bacteria and toxins are even smaller, but they're 25 to 50 times smaller than what the eye can see. And so, if you take your fabric couch and you put it under a microscope at 50 times zoom, those little threads are going to look like gaping holes for something that's small. And so, I think when we put that into perspective, stuff is going to get embedded into our couch, we're going to plop down on it, and then that's going to aerosolize all the stuff that's in the couch and enter our breathing zone and we're not going to feel typically that great especially if we're sensitive. 

With that being said, you may want to consider tossing that couch, but there're so many variables, like where was that couch? Was that couch in the immediate room that was the worst? Was that couch 17 rooms away? Where was that couch, I think is really going to help answer some questions of what's the likelihood of it. When we talk about being 100% certain, if you want to be 100% certain, you got to throw away the couch. But if you want to maybe not throw away everything and you're looking to salvage some things, especially some porous items, the best thing that you can do is do the best that you can at cleaning it. I mean, vacuum it really thoroughly, maybe spray it with a botanical antimicrobial and give it a good scrubbing. From there, if you do everything else right, and you keep a couple of things, and you do your best at cleaning those things, then it's really up to the person on how they feel that determines if they can keep it or not.

And so, I've had people that were like, "I'm not removing my wall-to-wall carpets. And so, we vacuum them, we clean them, we did everything we could. Post-testing was done. And miraculously, everything was perfect." And I was like, "Well, I couldn't do that again if I tried, probably, because that was just luck." Because then I've had people who did everything and then I'm getting a call like, "Hey, every time I'm around this couch that I really wanted to save, I don't feel that well." It's like, "Well, we may want to consider throwing away the couch then." So, it's not a perfect science. There're so many variables. And so, you can never be 100% certain.

It really comes down to the person, and what their financial situation is, and how they're going to feel too, because there's a lot of mental gymnastics that happens with this. You get sick from being inside your home. There's a lot of traumas that that comes with. And for some folks, they're like, "I just need a fresh start. I'm throwing everything away." That's a very personal choice. There are some things that may be valid to throw away, but there are some things like nonporous items, even certain semiporous items that can effectively be cleaned. So, it's very confusing, but I think at the end of the day, you want to clean everything as thoroughly as you can and it's really a personal decision that you got to make at that point. 

Melanie Avalon: Does time have any effect on it? And the reason I've been thinking about that is, when I moved from my moldy apartment in LA to Atlanta, I brought clothes with me. I've wondered if there's anything in the clothes and if I should have gotten rid of them. Do the spores die eventually or go away? And also, you mentioned a product in your book that can clean clothing. I was wondering if that is still effective or if that's still something you recommend. 

Michael Rubino: Yeah. So, people have been having a lot of success using things like Borax EC3 laundry additive to clean their clothes and they're having a lot of success with that. There have been a very small percentage, maybe 2% to 3%, who are so sensitive that doesn't matter what you do. It won't work for them. Time helps because there's a lot that happens with time. Our bodies change over time too. And so, once you start handling the big issue, the problem that-- For example, you moved, right? So, you moved out of the problem. Sure, maybe you brought some stuff with you. But once you're out of that problem, of course, you're getting some exposure from some of the stuff that you brought, but probably not as nearly as bad as when she once had it living in that apartment. So, what ends up happening is your body, especially with everything that you do to bio hack your body and be in control of your body.

Your body is going to heal over time. As your body heals, you become less and less sensitive also in conjunction. And that does take time. For some people, it could take six months, some people, two years, some even longer, unfortunately, but that time heals all statement really holds true as long as you've done the work and are continuing to put in the work to heal yourself and get out of that situation.

Melanie Avalon: That's empowering. What about good practices for, just in general, maintaining your mold free environment being preventative? Where should people really be paying attention? You talk in your book about certain problem areas, like in the kitchen and bathrooms. Are there things people can do to just be really preventative? 

Michael Rubino: Yeah. So, routine inspections, I probably said this earlier, but just to drive that home you know roofs, doors, windows, all the things that tend to leak on our home that we typically neglect until they leak. It's better to be proactive on those things. Get someone up on your roof every year and make sure it's in good condition. The flashing is good, the drip edge is good, everything on the roof is-- all the shingles or tiles or whatever your roof is made out of is intact. Things settle and change over time. You always want to be on top of that. Same thing with your windows and doors. Depending on if your windows are new construction windows or replacement windows, they're going to be installed differently and they're going to have different waterproof and countermeasures with replacement. It's literally just caulk. Caulk is the only thing stopping water from getting in. New construction windows will have a flange, they'll have flashing around them. So, they're definitely a little better watertight wise but that stuff breaks down too. 

You always want to stay on top of that. You'd rather fix it. While it's not a problem, then let it get to a problem. Moisture, obviously, is enemy number one here. Water is Earth's life source. Just like how we drink water, water provides life for viruses, bacteria, mold, parasites, anything, you name it. It's the life source of this planet. So, we want to have access to water, just not infested in our homes. And so, the key really is here is moisture management. If you have basements crawlspaces making sure that they're waterproofed well, you're diverting water away from the house as best as you can, you have dehumidification system, so that when water does come in, you're dealing with it, not allowing it enough time for bacteria, mold, etc., to grow. When it comes down to just the home itself, humidity is another form of moisture. It's water-- it's vapor that's in the air. And so, what we want to do is we want to make sure there's not too much moisture in that air. And we do that through dehumidification systems. If you're on a drier climate and you're using humidifiers, because it's too dry, understood. But making sure that you have some way of controlling it, so that it never just goes off the rails and keeps the humidity way too high, you don't want that. 

The other thing, I would say, last two things that are pretty important, easy to forget about. One is HVAC filtration. A, a lot of us don't even have good filtration. Meaning that, most of the filters we buy are $20 filters or less. Maybe they're MERV 8 to 10 or even 13, but they're not getting a small enough particle like mold or bacteria from getting into the system and contaminating the coil, because that coil always condensates and it's a wet environment, which mold, and bacteria, viruses, etc., love. So, getting better filters on our HVAC systems, basically turning our HVAC systems into gigantic air purifiers, is going to be an amazing thing that you can do. 

Last but not least, there's a reason why we test the dust and it's because our dust is everywhere. Everything that's in our environment settles in our dust. But the key is to remove dust. Every time we remove dust, we're removing contaminants. There's a lot more than mold and bacteria. We have pollen, we have pet allergens and pet dander, tons of indoor pathogens that come into our home throughout the day as we open doors and windows. It's a normal part of life, but the more we allow dust to accumulate, the more contaminants it's going to have and the more contaminants it has every breath that we take, it has the opportunity to enter the body, impact the bloodstream depending on, obviously, how small the particle is. That's where we start to notice differences in our health. 

So, I think it's really important that we're staying on top of dust and cleaning. And even that, it can be a bit of a challenge, because we always have to make sure we're cleaning while it's damp, meaning like damp rags, mops, etc., because if we do any dry wiping or dusting with those feather dusters, feather dusters, all you're doing is kicking stuff back around into the air. So, it's just looking at some things a little differently. Nobody ever told us that owning a home or heck even renting a home would be this big of a challenge, but it really is. It's a big responsibility and it really is important because it impacts our health and it's something that we're often not thinking about.

Melanie Avalon: That is so helpful. Question about the HVAC system. Is there a certain brand of filters that you like? I don't know, if you're comfortable making recommendations. I've just been so haunted by this question. I want to have the perfect filter. 

Michael Rubino: So, my favorite filter is the Intellipure SuperV. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, wait. Writing that down. What is it? 

Michael Rubino: The Intellipure SuperV. And if you go to homecleanse.com and you just click products, you can find it on there. It gives you all the specifications. There's only one reason that I really enjoy it. It's a MERV 16 filter, which is the highest rating you can get in a filter these days. It only has the pressure drop of a MERV 8. And so, I get a lot of emails about it, because people were like, "So and so said, you can't have a MERV 16 filter, because-

Melanie Avalon: That's what they told me in my apartment complex.

Michael Rubino: -then it will cause stress on the system and freeze the coil." And they're not wrong. But this particular product is really amazing, because first off, it was the first one in the marketplace and they had solved that problem and we're able to make a MERV 16 by creating different chambers for the air to pass through. And so, what happens is, it's not losing as much pressure as it normally would, if it was just a thick 3-inch filter. So, this thing is pretty large. It almost looks like one of those 1990 computer modems that just attaches to your HVAC. Yeah, but it is that way because it has to basically allow the air to pass, still filter it, but do so in a way that it's not restricting the airflow as much as it normally would if it was just a solid 3-inch filter. So, I think that's really probably the main reason why I like it. Since it came out in 2017, there's been some others even more recently, I think IQAir Perfect 16 is just another example of one. 

Looking at the studies and the specs that Intellipure has done, I really can't find something that gets such a small particle. Even some of their lab work was showing that 80% or 90% of the time they were getting something as small as 7 nanometers removed. So, that's the size of some viruses, that's how tiny, which is really impressive. And so, yeah, that's probably my favorite device. I hope that more and more devices keep entering the marketplace, because we need to just keep getting smaller and smaller and figuring it out.

Melanie Avalon: That's amazing. Next Christmas, I might have to gift this to everybody. It's funny because they replaced my HVAC system in the summer and, I mentioned this earlier, it started freezing over every morning. Right now, I'm using a MERV 13. They're like, "You just can't use that filter." And I was like, "Well, listen, it wasn't freezing over before you replaced it." I was wondering about that. So, it's just so good to know. I'm so excited. I'm going to order that right after this. Okay, one last big topic and it's two different things. As far as actually going through the process of doing this, you have a really helpful informative section on dealing with insurance companies in your book. What actually surprised me was that, I guess, it never occurred to me that all of the insurance companies have similar systems or protocols, basically, what is and what is not covered. What is covered? You don't have to go through the gamut, because people can just get the book. But in general, if people suspect they have an issue, what are the chances or the odds that the insurance company will cover some of it?

Michael Rubino: Yeah, and this has been the bane of my existence since I've been working in this industry for the last 12 years is trying to really navigate insurance industry and really understand what is covered, what's not covered. I can't tell you how many people are putting in insurance claims and they're getting denied or they're saying, "You have a $10,000 max. Here's a check for 10 grand." And they're like, "But I have $60,000 worth of damage here." So, it's very frustrating. I think what it really boils down to is this. The insurance industry, it's pretty regulated, as probably most people know. And it's regulated state to state. So, meaning, there's not one national program we all follow, it's like every state has their own regulations. And so, if an insurance company wants to do business in that state, they have to abide by those regulations. I think our government tries to do a great job at holding the insurance companies accountable because there's been nightmares naturally over the years. But the government doesn't know or doesn't see this, because they're not in it every single day. And me being in every single day, the problems that I see are the fact that many people don't understand when they're buying insurance, what they're actually getting. 

I actually just bought a new house a couple of months ago, had to go through this whole insurance process. And even though, I knew what I was talking about, it was still a nightmare, because you're talking through this, I moved to a new state, so I had to learn how they do things, and things were a little different. But essentially, they wanted to cap mold at $10,000. I'm like, "Look, with all due respect, I do this for a living. I know that if I have a leak, it is most likely going to cost more than $10,000 to fix it and put it back together and all this stuff." And they're like, "Well, we can go up to $20,000." It's like, "No, I'd like to have proper coverage here." If a house burns down, they'll typically pay to rebuild you house. But luckily, houses don't burn down as much as water comes in. So, that's something that they really haven't tried to subvert so much and minimize their risk. What it really boils down to is water damage is a big risk for them, because the statistic is, 1 out of every 10 years, someone's going to have a water damage claim. And so, if you multiply that by how many clients they have, it's a pretty big payout. 

We have to create a win-win, because we can't have insurance companies go out of business, because then we're screwed. But we also need to make sure people are educated. So, what I've seen, again, because I did this myself in the past before I became educated about it, was you call a bunch of companies and you get the best rate. I want to pay the least possible per year. What people don't realize is that, again, it's back to what we said earlier like, it's not apples to apples. The reason it's the cheapest is because that company doesn't cover certain things and because they don't cover certain things, they're more comfortable charging less and taking less of a risk. And so, one of those things typically is mold. Some of them even cap water damage. Meaning, you have a leak. Maybe there isn't mold. You caught it fast. But there's a cap on how much you could spend. If your whole house floods and it's not just one small leak, you're stuck paying for that above and beyond that cap. And so, it's been really frustrating. 

I urge everybody listening to this. Call your insurance company right now. Find out what your mold coverage is and just ask for the maximum they will give you. Even some of the, I don't know what companies you would call this, but almost every company has at least a $50,000 max. And so, you can ask for it. Obviously, it's more, but you're talking-- For me, it was like an extra $20 a month. Grand scheme of things. Yes, it's a little couple of hundred bucks more per year, but you'd rather not need it and have it than not have it and need it. So, people really need to understand that. 

The other thing is, insurance companies, their goal is to keep the cost down. I've always had a very interesting battle with insurance companies over the years trying to get paid for things that need to be done, because there's been environmental impacts to the home. So, for example, roof leaks. Water comes down and now we have mold, we have bacteria, there're all these things growing in the wall. We're able to test for it, we identify, we show them, and they're like, "Well, just cut this 2 feet off the floor." And it's like, "No, you don't understand. The water came from above. What is cutting the floor going to help with?" "Well, the water travels down, it'll collect at the floor." "Yeah, but the water passed through, it's still wet. And so, there's still going to be mold and bacteria going up the wall. You can't just leave it like that" and you start to get into like a fight. And they say, "Well, that's just the way we do things." It's like, "Maybe that's the way you do things, but that's not the way things should be done. This is not going to restore the house to what's considered an original condition."

It's just the insurance company, from what I see, we need changes just because we know a lot more today than we ever have. So, we need to modernize some of these things. They need to be educated well too. And obviously, a company is full of people. And so, it's not just a CEO of an insurance company that we need to educate. We need to educate the whole company, so that everybody understands how important this is to do it right. What we need to make sure is that people are covered to do things the right way, so that they don't get impacted or adversely affected from their health side of things, because I think that's what happens just way too much right now and it's really sad.

Melanie Avalon: What about people in apartments with renters' insurance? Are you pretty much at the whim of the complex as to what they will do? 

Michael Rubino: So, renters' insurance is actually pretty awesome. I encourage everyone to get it. For example, it typically covers your stuff. Let's say, a pipe leaks and it's your landlord's responsibility to maintain the pipes. Pipe leaks, okay. Landlord is going to come in, he's going to remediate your place, he's going to fix it all up. That's something that he's responsible for. The insurance company typically, depending on the coverage that your landlord has, will cover that. But they won't cover your stuff, because the landlord's insurance company is not going to cover the tenant's contents. And so, most landlords will actually write it into their lease that you have to get renters insurance and you can't live there without it, because what they're trying to do is, if God forbid, the place leaks. It's not like the landlord caused the leak. These things happen. What ends up happening is, now all of your stuff is damaged. If there was mold, now all your stuff is contaminated and it costs a lot of money to clean it, costs money to replace it.

And so, we get into this match where the tenants like, "Well, the landlord should pay for it all. The landlord's insurance company won't pay for it all." So, then that kicks it back to the landlord and tenant fighting over who should pay for it. It's just a really sad situation, because I feel for everybody. The tenants living there and they shouldn't have to pay for anything. They didn't do anything. The landlord didn't cause the leak. And obviously, some situations, they didn't do the right thing or whatnot, it's a different story. But for a typical case, this just happens. And so, that's why everybody is supposed to have insurance. 

If you have good insurance as a tenant, they'll actually come in and pay for it all to be cleaned and replaced whatever needs to be replaced. It's actually a very pretty easy process. The only thing there too is, when you buy renters insurance, make sure that you really value your stuff and make sure that you get enough coverage for everything, because God forbid you have to replace everything. Some people accumulate 20, 50 hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of stuff over a lifetime. And so, you want to make sure that you're not back at square one should something happen. You also want to up your mold and fungi coverage there too, because yeah, if you don't ask for it, sometimes you'll get the bare minimum and it can be costly if you need it.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I think I mentioned this earlier. I guess, the one place I feel like it can be hard to have agency is if the complex or the landlord doesn't take it as seriously as you do. And so, they aren't putting in the initiative to deal with the mold issue. 

Michael Rubino: That happens. That happens a lot. I've been an expert witness in quite a few of those cases and it's sad. I think that it's a societal problem. It's not always about money. Sometimes, it's really a societal issue where society doesn't come on board and have this understanding. We've definitely moved the needle a lot in the last 10 years, but we're still-- If you go out to a coffee shop and you start asking people, "Hey, do you ever hear about anybody getting sick from mold?" You could tell. You survey 10 people, you're going to get at least 40% of people, at least, if not way more that will tell you, "No, you can't get that. That's impossible. You can't get sick from that." And so, we're still not very on board as a society about how important air quality is and some of the different microbiological contaminants that can mess up our air quality and impact our bodies. I think that definitely plays a part in it, because you get these big companies, you get these people that work at these companies, and they bring their own ideas and beliefs to work. And so, you're trying to tell them, "I have this big mold problem" and they're like, "Yeah, yeah, sure."

It creates a lot of these unnecessary issues. If we all just did a little bit of research and started to connect some dots, I think we would take it more serious. That's really what we need. And how the legal process works? It's like once you start seeing a ton of people lose money over it, that's almost like what it takes. You need people to lose money over it before people start to say, "Wow, I better take this serious." And then as that happens, you get more and more evidence, you get more and more case study and case law that starts to transform things from a liability perspective. I hate to say that because I hate that money is tied to everything, but it's a harsh reality that I've been learning along the way.

Melanie Avalon: I think I told this earlier, but when I had the water damage in my apartment, they weren't doing anything until I hired a third-party test or testing people and then I showed them the results and then they fixed it. And then I just asked them to deduct it from the rent, the testing that I had done, and they did that. So, that's something that listeners can look into. Some states, I know, we have a fix and deduct clause. If they don't fix it within a certain amount of time, you can basically fix it yourself and deduct it from the rent. So, that's something to look into for people. But yeah, just to touch on what you were just speaking about, that's why I'm just so grateful for everything that you're doing with raising all of this awareness and educating people. It's just really, really important. So, thank you so much for what you're doing. Can people work with you? You have your company, so do you take new clients? 

Michael Rubino: Yeah, of course. So, I'm no longer the CEO of HomeCleanse. I am the Chairman of the board now. We have a CEO, his name is John. He's an amazing guy. He ran a successful shipping and logistics company and comes a wealth of experience to just help make sure that we can grow faster, reach more people, because ultimately, we have to get bigger if we want to help more and more people. So, that part is really exciting. HomeCleanse is a great company and someone I definitely would recommend giving a shout to if you're suspecting mold might be a problem and you're not sure not only just mold, but just you think that your house air quality isn't as great as it could be, and you want to take a look at that, and see some scientific evidence as to what it is and what to do about it. That's a great thing. 

As far as me, I do consulting right now. I can't promise I'm going to do it forever mainly, because I'm getting to that mindset where I want to help as many people as I can. Right now, one individual at a time is not really the right path and I want to start creating a lot more educational material this upcoming year, so that maybe people don't need me one on one for the situation. And so, that's definitely a route that I'm going to be taking later this year. But for now, yeah, people can definitely work with me one on one. I'm always happy to. I enjoy it very much. So, every project is like a puzzle to me to put together. And so, I love challenging my mind, and learning about families, what they're going through, you know their home, and how I can help them improve. 

I'd say over the past 12 years now, watching people's quality of life improve after making changes to their home has been one of the most remarkable things. And obviously, after the success that I've had even younger in my career, it's what kept me going and what kept me realizing like, "This is way bigger than I ever thought and really needs to grow, so that people can have access to good, clean air quality, and how important that really is to our bodies and our health." I think it's been an amazing ride. 

Melanie Avalon: So, that really resonates with me. It's funny, because people will often tell me that I should be doing one-on-one consultations or I should become a doctor, which is all really incredible work, but I feel like I personally can make much more impact not doing the one-on-one stuff, instead of having a large platform and spreading awareness and education. So, I think that's awesome that you're doing that. 

Michael Rubino: Yeah. 

Melanie Avalon: That brings me to the last question that I ask every single guest on this show and it's perfect because I just realize more and more each day how important mindset is. So, what is something that you're grateful for? 

Michael Rubino: I'm really grateful for my family who provides me this opportunity to go out there and do what I do each day. I have two kids, Mason and Olivia, three and seven years old. And my wife, Colby, who I couldn't enjoy doing the things that I do if I didn't have just such a great family supporting me every step of the way. I work a lot as you might imagine. And so, it's great to be able to have this time where I shut off and then go be a dad and husband. I think that's what really drives me is to have that good balance. And then of course, just like every single person that I've ever gotten to speak to, to meet with, to help in some fashion or another, whether it was just a piece of advice or a full-blown project, I'm just very grateful for life itself and everything that's come to fruition so far. Last thing that I want to say I'm grateful for is the future because I know this is just the beginning. 

Melanie Avalon: Well, that is awesome. Well, I am so, so grateful for everything that you're doing. It's, like I said, just so needed, so appreciated. I cannot wait to air this episode and just have it. This episode is going to be such a go-to resource that I'm just going to throw at everybody. Anytime I get any questions about mold, I'm going to be like, "Just listen to this." So, thank you so much. This has been absolutely amazing. I so appreciate it. And for listeners, well, they don't know that we actually recorded this on two different days, because we didn't get to everything, so, I so appreciate your time, especially right before Christmas Eve. 

Michael Rubino: Yes. And I want to thank you too, because this has been an amazing podcast. You've asked such amazing questions. You really dug deep on this. I go on podcasts and we get to a lot of basics, but I think the way in which you brought this all together, kudos to you, because were able to cover some really complex topics, give a lot of great information. So, I hope people learn a lot and just want to take a moment to appreciate you for putting this together, because I know that a lot of people are going to benefit. 

Melanie Avalon: Well, thank you so much. My day is made. I really look forward to all of your future work. I will be eagerly following you. Maybe you can come back in the future as well. 

Michael Rubino: Yes, I would love that. 

Melanie Avalon: Here's to a sparkling bright 2023. 

Michael Rubino: Happy holidays. Happy New Year. 

Melanie Avalon: You too. Thanks, Michael. Bye.

[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription] 

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