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Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Toxic Mold Danger

Be on the lookout for a slew of stories about mold in New Orleans. Unfortunately, a number of insurance-paid scientists are getting out there trying to downplay the significance of the dangers of mold, confusing reporters' stories.

This story appears today in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Sharon Kramer, an expert on the toxic mold issue goes through the story, exclusively for New Orleans Environment Watch, line by line, below (her comments in bold italics).....

Unwelcome guest moves in as Gulf Coast dries out
By Julie Goodman

GULFPORT — Angela Hawthorne, 48, who lives with her son and three grandchildren in her Gulfport home, has struggled to tend to debris, roof damage and water-soaked carpeting left by Hurricane Katrina.But once the mess was contained, another horror emerged: black and white mold that is slowly working its way from her floors and baseboards up the walls.
The stench is stifling.

"I just couldn't do nothing but cry, I was so upset," said Hawthorne, whose family now lives on the property in two travel trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"It freaked me out. I kind of got nervous because I never knew what black mold was."
In the aftermath of Katrina, Hawthorne and other residents around the Mississippi Gulf Coast are discovering the nasty manifestations of mold, which has appeared as green, white and black spots on their walls, furniture and refrigerators in homes with little ventilation. Mold reproduces by way of tiny spores and begins growing indoors when the spores land on wet surfaces. And the homes Katrina left standing have plenty of those.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, controlling moisture and eliminating mold growth can help contain potential damage to health and property. The agency recommends scrubbing mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and drying completely for small moldy areas in the home.

This woman is living in a Level IV Contaminated area. Professionals in HasMat suits are recommended for this much mold.

Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments - New York City Guidelines

Some homeowners struck by the storm surge have been told they need to strip their homes down to the wooden frame and yank out their carpeting for a thorough drying out.

That's true. But at this amount, pros should be doing it, wearing full protection.

Residents with asthma, organ transplants and emphysema are struggling with the growth more than others, describing coughing, irritated throats, dry mouths and trouble breathing. Many have launched into frenzied cleaning with bleach and water, trying to rid their homes of the mold while not knowing what, if any, dangers they face.

It is known what dangers they face. And bleach is not recommended by the EPA at all, except for smaller areas. The reason is that the spores react to it and they become "angry". They shoot off mycotoxins in defense as you are trying to kill them. Even after they are dead, non viable mold spores can still cause reaction when inhaled or eaten.

See: http://www.moldinspector.com/bleach-ineffective-mold.htm

But Dr. Gailen Marshall, an allergist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, cautions residents not to overreact.

Gailen Marshall is an ALLERGIST. He is not qualified to comment on toxic reactions. It would be highly unlikely that he has done any research on mycotoxins. Nor is he qualified to discuss psychological implications of patients. He is, however, a member of the ACAAI, of which Emil Bardana is President.

Dr. Bardana is a prolific expert witness in courtrooms denying the existance of mold induced illnesses caused by buildings and for the benefit of their clients who would have financial liability.

That's why when they are spinning, you will never see an allergist talk of the mycotoxins. They can't. Not qualified.

See this site for example of Dr. Bardana's previous work against a woman trying to get workers' comp for mold exposure: http://www.katu.com/team2/story.asp?ID=73443

While mold can pose significant health risks to those with seriously compromised immune systems, it does not generally threaten healthy individuals. Mold can cause disease in someone with an abnormal immune system, but mold doesn't create the abnormality.

Here is the spin. What is an abnormal immune system? One who got sick? We are genetically engineered differently, some are more susceptible. But I know people who have never been sick a day in their lives to become gravely ill after mold/toxin exposure. Apparently their immune systems were "abnormal". Of course one does not know if they are "abnormal" until they are exposed to excessive amounts of mold.

People with healthy immune systems can develop allergies with prolonged exposure to mold, also. "An allergy doesn't kill people but it certainly can make them miserable and dramatically compromise their quality of life," Marshall said.

Define "allergy". Is he only discussing Type I allergic reactions? Because Type III and IV Hypersensitivity Reactions can certainly kill you.

Hawthorne, who, along with her grandson, is asthmatic, complains of a dry mouth, and says her heart starts beating more quickly when she's around the mold. She dons a mask whenever she works in the house, which is mainly to wash her grandchildren's clothes.

"Once you open the door, it hits you in the face," she said. "I've just been coughing and coughing, like something wants to cut my wind off."

The mold is prevalent around the bottom of her granddaughter's room, where white and black spots have taken over the bottom half of the bedroom walls.

Talk of the so-called "black mold" is ubiquitous on the Coast. Stachybotrys chartarum, as it's scientifically known, is the classic black mold. Another type is Aspergillus, which can lead to an asthmatic condition that causes scarring in the lungs.

Different species of aspergillus produce toxins. Aflatoxins. Aflatoxins have been studied as biochemicals to be used in warfare. Aspergillus is a nasty mold. Because it is so prevelant, it has done much more damage to people than stachybotris.

But that condition is life threatening in less than 5 percent of the cases, Marshall said.
"A sense of concern is appropriate, a sense of urgency and panic is not appropriate," he said.

I would totally agree with this statement. But there is going to be panic if they don't get these doctors appropriately trained ASAP.

Marshall warns those cleaning their homes of mold to be wary of exposure to cleaning products in the zeal to scrub, as he has seen patients with lung damage under those circumstances. Cleaning should be done in well-ventilated areas, and he recommends purchasing a humidifier to help with the air quality.

Residents struggle to describe the smell that has taken over their homes.

"It just seems like an old, nasty smell, I guess," said Michael Mires, 26, a kidney transplant
recipient on anti-rejection medication.

This guy will most likely be dead soon if he stays in that environment. Molds are opportunistic. They will be settling in, in the area of his weakness.

He lives with his mother in a Gulfport apartment complex with water-soaked carpeting and says he's gotten so used to the stench, he doesn't always notice it.

The property owner says he plans to pull up the carpeting in the units but is still trying to repair roofs taken off by the storm.

Nearby, 42-year-old Regina Magee, who has emphysema, walks around her mold-infested home with a breathing tube and an oxygen tank.

Her breathing problems have been exacerbated since Katrina, and professional carpet cleaners told her the only thing she could do is pull up carpeting.

Her son had to wash her walls, and there is still black mold around her closet baseboard. She also complains of a phantom stench in her refrigerator she likens to cabbage. It returns despite periodic scrubbing and having emptied the refrigerator of all food after the storm.

She takes a baby photograph of her niece off her hallway wall and points to the mold growth on the back.

"I didn't want to throw my frame away. I know it's stupid, putting it back up," she said, as she
hanged the picture back on the wall.

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