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Severe mold threatening family's home in Fort Benton

Posted at 6:40 PM, Mar 17, 2024

FORT BENTON — Brianna Ayers and her husband live in a quaint ranch home in Fort Benton which was built in 1910. Sadly, it may not stand much longer.

They are fighting against a silent foe which hides in the dark, damp recesses of the home. That foe is highly toxic mold, and the mold took a serious toll on Brianna's health.

“The biggest one was probably just like chronic, debilitating fatigue and my asthma and eczema just flaring up,” said Brianna.



For the longest time, she had no idea it was the mold causing these problems. That was until she met Matt Kelly, a mold health specialist from Canada. He introduced the Ayers to mycotoxins, which are poisons released by molds.

“Mycotoxins affect us in nearly every part of they body,” says Kelly. “They can affect our brain, our neurological system, our vision, and our hearing…Mycotoxins are extremely dangerous.”

Kelly instructed them to conduct an ERMI test, which stands for Environmental Relative Moldiness Index. The results suggested several kinds of mold far exceeded the healthy threshold. It was after this the pieces began to come together. Brianna was told the home wasn’t safe to be inhabited.

Mold specialists had come to the house, but had failed to pick up any readings. Most mold companies conduct an air-quality test in the middle of homes which fail to accurately get readings form the areas where mold may actually be hiding, like under floors or behind walls.

“Essentially, you're chasing a mold that you can't see,” says Ayers.

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“People are left to figure it out on their own, but it can drive such major issues that will get diagnosed as mental illness or you're getting older,” says Kelly. “People can end up on a lot of drugs for those ‘conditions’, yet they still get sick. They still remain sick. It may help a little bit to hide some symptoms, but if they're still living in the moldy home, they just keep compounding.”

Click here to learn more about mold at website of the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services, which includes this overview:

Molds are fungi that can be found in virtually every environment, indoors and outdoors, year round. No one knows how many species of fungi exist but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, such as dry conditions, that do not support normal mold growth.

Research has found that damp building conditions can lead to respiratory illnesses in occupants. Dampness in buildings can occur for a variety of reasons such as high indoor humidity, condensation, and roof leaks.

People who are sensitive to mold may experience stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing, or skin irritation. People allergic to mold may have difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath. People with weakened immune systems and with chronic lung diseases, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs. If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold, contact your doctor or other health care provider.

They are currently renting a house in Fort Benton. Their ranch home is still mostly furnished as most of their belongings are too contaminated to bring along. Insurance won’t cover the rebuild either.

“It’s so rare, most insurance companies won’t include it in their policies,” says Ayers.

They will likely move forward with the construction of a new home as soon as possible. They don’t ask for pity - they just want to raise awareness about the dangers of mold.

“It’s so rare, it can be hard for people to believe you,” says Brianna. “People are learning more about it. Be proactive before you buy a new house to have the proper testing done. Look out for the mold toxicity symptoms.”