About Mold Avoiders


Owls at Mercey Hot Springs. (Photo credit: Jerzy Aust Photography.)


December 12, 2018

By Lisa Petrison, Ph.D.

Mold Avoiders is an organization providing information resources to individuals with chronic illness who are working to improve their health through the use of the mold avoidance approach pioneered by Erik Johnson. 

Erik – who acquired the disease now called ME/CFS during the Lake Tahoe outbreak in the mid-1980’s – developed his approach by modifying the protocols that he had learned while serving in the U.S. military to deal with exposures to hazardous substances such as nuclear radiation or nerve gas. 

By using his own reactions and intuition to avoid even very small amounts of particularly problematic microbial toxins, Erik quickly recovered enough of his health to be able to return to working full-time and to exercising vigorously on a regular basis – including climbing to the top of Mt. Whitney (the tallest mountain in the continental U.S.) each summer for 10 years in a row. 

During the past several years, thousands of other chronic illness sufferers  with ME/CFS or similar conditions (such as those often referred to as chronic or post Lyme disease syndrome, fibromyalgia, POTS, MCAS, GWI or EI/MCS) have experienced substantial health gains as a result of following Erik’s mold avoidance approach. 

Mold Avoiders provides a variety of information resources to help these individuals become more successful in their avoidance efforts.

For instance, Back From The Edge is a short book summarizing the basics of Erik’s story and providing an easy-to-understand introduction to many difficult mold-related topics. It is available for free to those signing up for the Paradigm Change newsletter list (and also may be purchased in Kindle format through Amazon). 

The longer book A Beginner’s Guide To Mold Avoidance summarizes Erik’s mold avoidance approach in greater detail. It is available for free in PDF format to those signing up for the Mold Avoiders newsletter list (and also may be purchased in paperback or Kindle format through Amazon). 

Another book that many people who have been successful with avoidance report having been especially helpful to them is a collection of Erik’s writings on mold avoidance topics, called Erik On Avoidance.

Those who are thinking about pursuing or who already are pursuing this type of mold avoidance may want to join the Mold Avoiders Facebook group, which now has more than 12,000 members. 

(Note that only those who already have finished reading the Beginner’s Guide and who have read the Mold Avoiders Rules may participate in the group.) 

Additional information relevant to pursuing this mold avoidance approach may be found throughout the Mold Avoiders website. 


About Paradigm Change

Mold Avoiders is a spin-off from Paradigm Change, an organization that I founded in 2013 and that provides a great deal of varied information about mold-related illness.

(Note that while many of the links on the Mold Avoiders site currently re-direct to articles on the Paradigm Change site, this will change over time as this new site becomes more developed.)

The main Paradigm Change website provides basic information for beginners as well as a large collection of research abstracts from medical journals. 

The Paradigm Change blog presents original in-depth articles as well as summaries of news stories relevant to mold-related illness issues. 

The Living Clean in a Dirty World website provides a highly curated collection of links to articles from many different sources relevant to recovering from mold-related illness. 

The Myalgic Encephalomyelitis website provides basic information on ME and CFS, with a focus on the Lake Tahoe epidemic of the disease.

A summary of links to all information resources provided by both Paradigm Change and Mold Avoiders is on the Paradigm Change Resources page.

About The Owls

I started mold avoidance in late 2007, after suffering for more than 10 years with ME/CFS. 

I spent my first year of avoidance living in buildings in the Chicago area and made a good bit of health progress.

Then, after spending a week with Erik in the Lake Tahoe area, I decided that I wanted to take things further and headed for the western half of the U.S. in search of the kinds of pristine areas where I was able to feel basically 100% well again.

I spent the next five years sleeping mostly in tents and then in a travel trailer, visiting hundreds of different locations and putting more than 100,000 miles on my SUV. 

Eventually my reactivity came down and I began living in buildings again – at first in northern New Mexico and now in western Illinois. 

I also spent almost a year at Mercey Hot Springs, an off-the-grid resort located about two hours from the San Francisco Bay Area.

I felt really good when I was at Mercey, and it occurred to me that some of the wildlife there – including many ebullient frogs and quite a few spirited owls – likely were there for the same reason that I was. 

It seems to me that while birds in general tend to be particularly susceptible to environmental toxicity, the story of these owls – which found their way to a pristine place where they were able to live with dignity and freedom and health – is a pretty good model for the kind of approach that I would like to encourage those suffering from toxicity-related illness issues to consider.

Certainly that approach seems to me much better than the story of the canaries in the coal mines, which were killed by humans in the service of “progress,” at any rate! 

I also feel that some of the other attributes often associated with owls – including wisdom, acuity, stealth and strength – may be good characteristics for those who would like to succeed at this kind of mold avoidance to cultivate. 

Note that although owls are a symbol of bad luck in some cultures, in others they are said to be associated with very good luck. (Images of them were seemingly everywhere on my trips to Japan, for instance.)

Of course, whether there will continue to be scattered pristine spots where mold avoiders and owls and other wildlife can thrive into the future if society continues on its present course, I don’t know.

Something really is going to have to change in terms of the toxicity that humans are spreading on this planet if any of us are to even survive for many more decades, I think. 

In the meantime though, this kind of avoidance seems to me to be the best strategy currently available to deal with the problems we are facing, and it has worked well for a great many people so far. 

I wish all of those who decide to pursue this course the best of luck with regard to regaining as much health and strength and joy as possible.



Lisa Petrison is the executive director of Paradigm Change and Mold Avoiders. 


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