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Gainesville-based Biotrek Laboratories sold mold tests over the phone to concerned people who found the company on the internet. Some of those desperate and suffering patients may not like what the FOX 5 I-Team uncovered: videos shot by one worker showing testing materials not in a sterile location... but loaded into a pickup truck.
"What I'm transporting... which is medical testing from my administrative house so the company I'm working for doesn't get in trouble," Biotrek worker Cole Chambers said into his phone as he moved the supplies in November 2015.
Why did he think it was important to record what he was doing?
"To prove a point," he told the FOX 5 I-Team. "These are peoples' lives that we're messing with and it's unacceptable."
Chambers said he took direction from Michael Pugliese of Gainesville, a self-proclaimed international expert on mold exposure connected to companies like the one he advertised on YouTube, which is now closed.
"Or pick up the phone and speak to an expert," Pugliese said on the video. "The NMRC. The National Mold Resource Center. People helping people with their mold problems."
Patients around the country tell the FOX 5 I-Team they traveled to the National Treatment Centers for Environmental Disease in Alpharetta, where Pugliese offers his advice. An office visit requires $3300 up front. Special nasal spray and vitamins cost hundreds more. But the spending doesn't stop there.
"We'd go through your symptoms and I would sell you a test," remembered Khal Hamin, another former Biotrek employee.
The company sold urine mold testing kits -- called mycotoxin tests -- to people worried about mold exposure. Cost: $599. But twice the Centers for Disease Control publicly criticized those tests, calling them "inappropriate and unvalidated" and said they needlessly scared government workers in Chicago and Oklahoma into thinking they had deadly mold in their office space.
"I think we all felt something was wrong," Hamin recalled. "We just didn't understand what was wrong."
According to the FDA, those Biotrek urine tests for mold are not approved for use on humans. Why? Because most of us eat food with tiny amounts of mold, like raisins or cheese. The government says that would guarantee a positive test even in healthy people… because what shows up is likely what you've ingested… not what you've inhaled.