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Toxic Fungus

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Standing Hurricane Drenched Buildings Ruined By Mold


By James Donahue

Sept. 29, 2005


Homes, schools and hospitals that appear to have survived Hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the gulf coast may have to be demolished anyway because they are infected by black mold that makes people sick.


It is said that once the mold invades a building, it cannot be eliminated. The best that anyone can offer is control by keeping buildings dry.


Mold is a problem that homeowners who have flooded basements, leaky roofs or dripping water lines between walls have confronted. The stuff has been a common invader of homes and other buildings throughout the south where humidity levels and heat levels are high for weeks on end.


Many fine homes have fallen to the wrecking ball after the occupants claim to have lost their health and lost their battle with the creeping fungus that grows in dark places, under floors, between walls and damp places where it is least expected.


Days of 100 degree temperatures bearing down on buildings left standing in water after the two hurricanes flooded towns and townships from the Florida state line west through Texas have taken their toll, authorities say.


Anybody caught in this predicament cannot expect help from insurance companies and is advised to beware of scams by peddlers of cheap solutions that don’t work.


Insurance policies rarely cover mold damage. Most policies were revised in recent years after a rash of “sick building” lawsuits resulted in costly settlements.


There are many species of mold and mildew that are common in homes. Humans live with most types without developing problems, but certain forms of mold are responsible for asthma, pneumonitis, upper respiratory problems sinusitis, skin rash, stomach disorders, headache, disorientation and even bloody noses. Other species of mold are so toxic they are blamed for internal bleeding, kidney and liver failure and pulmonary emphysema.


The irony is that it was in New Orleans where the health risks of molds were first recognized.


It was in the 1970s that the late Dr. John Salvaggio, allergist at Louisiana State University, described “New Orleans asthma” as a disease caused by high levels of mold spores that appeared in the late summer months following periods of high humidity.


While the molds that Salvaggio identified affected people with mold allergies, another fungus identified as Stachybotrys chartarum produces toxins with the potential to kill. Doctors at Cleveland blamed it for the death of several children from pulmonary hemorrhage in the 1990s.


There has been debate among medical people as to the real health dangers in molds. This has probably been stirred by health insurance companies locked in court battles over claims for mold related damages.


The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes a stand that there is no firm evidence linking mold to lung problem and other alleged problems beyond asthma and allergy.


Yet the sheer volume of mold in the buildings throughout the south may force owners to demolish or at least pay for costly cleaning and repair, especially in hospitals, restaurants, business and schools utilized by the public.


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