Web Zap*Germs Archive

September 28, 2005

Lingering Hurricane Hazard: Toxic Mold

 Frank Repole fogs a basement in a house with a biodegradable agent to neutralize mold in Stratford, CT.
Not surprisingly, as rescue efforts are replaced by cleanup and rebuilding in the South, asthma-causing toxic mold will be the root cause of many building replacements. The AP has a good account of how toxic mold was first identified in the '70s — in New Orleans, of all places — and how it affects those sensitive to its spores.

Another recent story discusses the issue of hiring contractors to clean up toxic mold.

Finally, the CDC has a collection of useful info linked from a landing page called Mold After a Disaster.

Some clips from the first AP article, which has good practical advice sprinkled throughout:
Don't expect help from insurance companies, either. Most policies were revised in the last decade to exclude mold damage because of "sick building" lawsuits alleging illnesses. Although mold's danger to those with asthma or allergies is real, there's little or no science behind other claims, and a lot of hype.
Even dead mold can provoke asthma in susceptible people, meaning that places open to the public — restaurants, schools, businesses — must eliminate it.

This is most true for hospitals, where mold spores can cause deadly lung diseases in people with weak immune systems or organ transplants. Such concerns already led Charity Hospital's owners to mothball it. Tulane University Hospital and Clinic's cleanup is expected to take months.

"The first floor's got pretty much mold. It's going to be pretty much a total loss," said Ron Chatagnier, project coordinator for C&B Services, a Texas company hired by the hospital's owner, HCA.

"It might be difficult or impossible to reopen some of these medical centers," said Joe Cappiello, an official with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

"It's not just the physical destruction that you see," but ventilation systems and ductwork full of mold, ready "to seed the rest of the hospital with spores" if the heat or air conditioning were turned on, he said.

As for houses, "anything that's been submerged probably will be a tear-down," said Jeffrey May, a Boston-area building inspector, chemist and book author who has investigated thousands of buildings for mold problems.


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