When you have a weird illness, you inevitably wind up doing weird things to deal with it.
For those of you just joining in, I have neurological issues in response to mold. My entire family does. Take some crappy genes, add some bad exposures and a couple triggering events, and now we all suffer from varying degrees of mold-related illness. It is an annoying problem to have, not least because the learning curve is so steep.
One of the things we were surprised to find is that our perfectly safe, never moldy vehicle suddenly became dangerous for us to drive. Every time we spent more than fifteen minutes in it, we noticed ourselves struggling to concentrate and starting to fall asleep. Why? Because of all the crap we’d trekked in from contaminated buildings.
We keep a mental tally of water-damaged places to avoid. However, sometimes we go to a new shop and don’t realize it’s making us sick until we’re loaded up with bags heading for the car. After one too many of these trips, our car started feeling funky from the spores and toxins we’d transferred—not just with bags, but on our clothes and shoes, and in our hair as well. Sounds crazy, right?
Yet, we shampoo pets because of all the stuff they get into, and we expect people to smell like coffee if they work in a café, or grease if they work in a diner. That’s how mold toxins affect my family—we may not always be able to smell them, but we feel them. And we could feel them building up in our car.
We tried all the obvious solutions first. We aired things out. We vacuumed the floor and ceiling and kids’ booster seats. We washed the floor mats. We wiped down all the interiors with soap and water, then vinegar and clove oil. The car sparkled and smelled great, but it still made us sleepy, in part because we had no way of cleaning inside the vents.
So, we looked into ozone. Ozone is regularly used in the hospitality industry and in second-hand car dealerships to eliminate odors and restore a sense of freshness, but people freak out at the thought of using it themselves.
There are good reasons for this fear. Ozone can trash your lungs and mucus membranes if you breathe in concentrated doses of it. There’s also the potential for a short-term increase in chemical exposure from any resultant degradation of manmade materials. However, in our case, we felt confident that we could manage the process in such a way that we were neither gulping down ozone or inhaling a high concentration of chemicals, and as our car was quickly becoming unusable, we really had nothing to lose on that front.
My husband purchased a small ozone generator off eBay. It came from China. We can’t remember the exact cost but it was less than $100 AUD ($74 US). It was likely cheap, in part, because there’s no timer function. You turn it on when you want to use it, and it runs for a maximum of 2 hours. The output is a measly 3.5 grams per hour.
We parked the car in the driveway, started it up, and turned on the air-conditioning. (NB: You could probably do this with the car off but we weren’t sure how our battery would cope with the AC running for 2 hours straight.) Then we put the ozone generator inside the car and fed the power cable out a door to a socket. Then we twisted the dial to maximum run time, shut the car door, and left it.
After the generator finished running, we opened up the car and let it air out for a couple of days. The first few times we drove, we did notice a distinctive odor. I have no idea how to explain this smell so I’m just going to call it “warm”. We left the windows open and eventually it went.
As far as damage goes, nothing jumped out at us. Our car seats are leather, and they looked the same before and after. None of the plastic parts deteriorated. The only thing we noticed is that the steering wheel cover seems to be wearing away at 12:00, but this may have happened regardless. I also see some teeny, tiny bubbles and some clouding in the windscreen—kind of like you get up close with acrylic—but again, it’s possible this was there before and I’m only noticing it now.
However, the ozone treatment left the car feeling 100% clear! If you also react to water-damaged buildings, you will understand what I mean when I say that they have a sort of heaviness to them. The air just feels thicker, and weighted. In fact, I personally think that when people talk about a place giving off “bad vibes”, they are actually picking up on poor air quality and biotoxins. The sense of unease is just the body telling the person to flee. But I digress…
The upshot is the ozone worked for us. The car felt light and fresh, and no longer put us to sleep. We were so pleased with the results that we’ve actually done a couple treatments since following subsequent contaminations; each time, the ozone brings us right back to baseline and we are able to resume using our vehicle per usual.
I will end with a disclaimer: I have no medical credentials. I do, however, spend a lot of my spare time poring through medical journals and articles, and am excited by the growing interest in biotoxin illness and treatment. Feel free to send me links to any new research in this field.