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  Mold In News

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Research Shows Stachybotrys chartarum Toxins Damage the Sense of Smell in Mice
Trailer Will Shelter Fire Station 21 Staff
Allergy Sufferers Miserable From Mold
Reducing Harmful Mold in Your Refrigerator
Latino Tenants Protest Infested Buildings
PSJA Accepts $11.2 Million in Mold Lawsuit

From MSU Today [msutoday.msu.edu/]
By Tom Oswald
Article Date: March 3, 2006

Research Shows Stachybotrys chartarum Toxins Damage the Sense of Smell in Mice

MSU researchers in the Center for Integrative Toxicology have found that certain toxins produced by black mold, that ubiquitous fungus found everywhere from damp basements to thousands of buildings in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans and the U.S. Gulf coast, are capable of killing nerve cells, essential for the sense of smell, that are located in the nasal passages of mice.

The scientific study – the first of its kind to investigate the potential harmful effects of inhaling mold toxins on the nasal passages – has been released on the prepublication Web site of the scientific journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, at www.ehponline.org . It also will be presented by MSU researchers at the Society of Toxicology's annual meeting in San Diego in early March.

“Essentially, this toxin is killing off the cells needed for the sense of smell,” said Jack Harkema, a University Distinguished Professor of pathobiology and diagnostic investigation and one of the MSU researchers. “This is the first animal study to really show that a toxin derived from the spores of black mold may cause significant damage in the nose and the frontal part of the brain involved in olfaction.”

According to the MSU researchers, these toxins found in black mold, also known as Stachybotrys chartarum, specifically killed olfactory sensory neurons in the nasal airways of exposed mice. These nasal neuronal cells are known to detect odors and send electrical signals to the parts of the brain that are necessary for the sense of smell, or olfaction.

In addition, they found that the mice that inhaled these fungal toxins developed rhinitis, inflammation of the nasal passages. Mild inflammation also was detected in the animals’ olfactory bulbs, the part of the brain directly connected to the olfactory nerves from the nose. Olfactory bulbs relay the smell signals from the nose to other parts of the brain that are involved in olfaction.

“The mice used in the study were allowed to sniff a single small dose of the toxin, which is known as satratoxin G,” said James Pestka, a professor of food science and human nutrition. “The amount of toxin given to the mice would be close to estimated amounts that a person, without respiratory protection, may inhale when working in a room heavily contaminated with black mold.”

In every mouse that received the single dose of satratoxin G,” said Zahidul Islam, a research assistant professor in Pestka’s laboratory, “there was a large loss of olfactory sensory neurons through a process called programmed cell death or apoptosis, and all of these same mice also developed secondary inflammation in the nose and olfactory bulbs of the brain.”

“This is the first report actually showing that olfactory neurons undergo death when exposed to low levels of these toxins,” Harkema said. “Can we extrapolate to humans? It’s hard to say. But we do know that olfactory cells that line the airways of mice are similar to those in the human nose.

“Are our noses more or less sensitive to this toxin, and other similar fungal toxins? This is really a crucial question yet to be answered. We also need to develop better ways of detecting these toxins in the contaminated air of water-damaged buildings, so that we can protect the public from toxic exposure,” he said.

Exposure to black mold has been linked to another dangerous respiratory disorder called pulmonary hemorrhage. A number of infants in the Cleveland area who lived in mold-contaminated homes were reported in the mid-1990s to have developed this lung disorder and some even died as a result of this condition. This bleeding disorder of the lungs appeared to be caused by something in the air of the infants’ home environments, most likely toxins produced by Stachybotrys chartarum or similar fungi.

“Also, it has been reported that there are neurological conditions in people who have inhabited mold-contaminated buildings or homes,” Harkema said. “They’ve claimed to suffer from memory loss or other neurological symptoms. As we all know, memory can be triggered by what we smell. Our studies in mice suggest that airborne toxins from mold may damage our ability to smell.”

A recent Institute of Medicine report said “critical gaps” exist in the knowledge of the effects of black mold and its relationship to what is known as “damp building syndrome.”

“What our laboratory research, and those of others, will do is allow us to better understand the cellular mechanisms underlying the toxin causing injury in the nose and brain,” Pestka said. “It is crucial, however, that others also conduct well-designed human epidemiological studies so that we can better determine the overall human health impact of exposure to airborne toxins from black mold.”

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution [www.ajc.com]
By Clint Williams
Article Date: July 28, 2005

Trailer Will Shelter Fire Station 21 Staff

Mold-plagued Fire Station 21 near Ball Ground will be staffed once again when a double-wide construction trailer is moved to the site next month.

Firefighters on May 31 moved out of the fire station to allow crews to knock out a bathroom wall to remove mold. They were scheduled to move back in three to four weeks, but it may be November before repairs are completed, said Cherokee County Commissioner Jim Hubbard, who is spearheading the project.

There are at least four spots in the building where water is leaking from the outside, Hubbard said.

Additionally, Hubbard said, the air-conditioning system doesn't adequately regulate the humidity in the building, so it stays damp.

Firefighters have said that mold at Station 21, Station 4 in Free Home and Station 12 in Waleska is causing serious health problems for people assigned to those stations.

More than 40 firefighters are plaintiffs in a $60 million lawsuit filed in February 2004 against the company that built those three stations. The lawsuit accuses M.G. Patton Construction Co. of poor construction practices that allowed mold to contaminate the buildings.

The lawsuit complicates repairs, Hubbard said.

"The one who was responsible [for the problem] has to be given the right to repair it," said Hubbard, who is also a longtime volunteer firefighter.

The trailer being rented by the county has four offices and a common area. Two of the offices will likely be used for dormitory space, said Tyler Smith, the Fire Department division chief for administrative services.

Moving the mobile home to the station will provide safe housing for firefighters and allow members of the department's hazardous materials team to be stationed where their equipment is housed.

The department will be paying $650 a month to rent the trailer, said Cherokee County fire Chief Bruce Borders.

The area normally served by Station 21 is now covered by three nearby stations, each four to five miles away.

From The News-Press [www.news-press.com]
By Andi Atwater
Article Date: July 29, 2005

Allergy Sufferers Miserable From Mold

Spore Count Soars From S.W. Florida's Rain and Humidity

July's hot, humid weather has been a boon for mold growth and a bane for allergy sufferers.

Itchy noses, ears and throats, watery eyes and sporadic sneezing are the hallmarks for some 35.9 million Americans with seasonal allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Here in southwest Florida, mold spores [counts] , boosted by excessive rain this summer and hot humid weather, are unusually high, experts said, and many Lee County residents are paying the price.

"This has been the worst time," said a congested Vickie Lane, 46, of Fort Myers, whose allergies are so bad she forgoes cosmetics and contact lenses.

"Like right now, I have wheezing in my throat, a stuffed head, sometimes a headache and my ears and throat are itching," she said.

"Every time it gets rainy and wet, I suffer more."

The National Allergy Bureau listed southwest Florida as high in mold counts this week and moderate in weed pollen, mostly ragweed.

Fort Myers allergist Dr. Larry Castillo said his office counts pollen and mold daily and has seen an unusually high proliferation of mold spores.

"That has to do with all the rain, the humidity, the high ambient temperatures — all that facilitates mold growth," he said.

"When it's unusually high, people are having problems."

County biologist and land stewardship manager Roger Clark also attributes the increase in mold spores to the decrease in natural vegetation around the county.

"We're changing so fast, there's a lot of construction activity and we don't have as much green space to perhaps help keep the air clean and absorb particulate matter," he said.

"It's just a theory, but it makes sense."

The four most common mold spores that cause allergies in southwest Florida are Aspergillus, Penicillium, Alternaria and Cladosporium, mold that can rapidly increase both indoors and outside, Castillo said.

When inhaled, tiny fungal spores may cause allergic rhinitis.

Because they are so small, mold spores also can reach the lungs, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Mold is a naturally occurring fungus and cannot be totally avoided, but health officials say there are a number of things an allergy sufferer can do to cut down on his or her exposure.

The easiest solution: Turn on the air conditioner and stay indoors.

For those with chronic symptoms, over-the-counter allergy medications can often help. After that, a visit to a doctor or allergist may yield relief through prescription medications.

"Use the air conditioner — it effectively filters out 93 percent of spores," said Fort Myers allergist Dr. Mark Greenberg. "This is Florida. You're going to have unavoidable exposure."

From Capital News 9 [www.capitalnews9.com]
By Marcie Fraser
The article date was not noted.

Reducing Harmful Mold in Your Refrigerator

What's lurking in your refrigerator? It could be toxic mold.

If you're not cleaning out your refrigerator every four months, you're behind.

Diane Whitten of Cornell Cooperative Extension (Ballston Spa, N.Y.) said, "Toxic mold is a microscopic fungi that grows on certain plants or animals, meats and produce. They're not necessarily dangerous, some are good and some are bad."

A clean fridge will help reduce mold from growing. Wipe it down with baking soda and water. Use bleach [Bye Bye Mold recommends a bleach and water mixture (10% bleach)] on dark moldy areas often found in the seal, and make sure it's tight and clean.

If it's cracked or torn, replace it. If the fridge needs repair, don't wait. And if there is mold on your food, is it safe to cut around it and still eat it?

"Hard cheeses, like cheddar, Monteray jack, brick swiss cheese, you don't have to throw that out. You can cut off about an inch away from the mold, you can save the rest," said Whitten.

If there is mold on soft foods like cottage cheese, bread, fruits or vegetables, whipped cream or yogurts, toss it. If you do ingest mold, keep an eye on how your body reacts.

"Some molds cause allergic reactions in people, respiratory problems and certain molds can form a microscopic toxin that can make people very ill," said Whitten.

When serving food, keep it covered as much as possible. To prevent mold from getting onto the food, keep it stored in the refrigerator at the proper temperature.

For fridge and food safety keep the temperature between 36 and 40 degrees. Don't overload your refrigerator; it will prevent air from circulating which cools the food evenly. And in the event of a power outage, keep the freezer shut. A freezer full of food will last two days.

"Don't leave perishables ...[unrefrigerated], and use leftovers within three to four days," said Whitten.

From The Sentinel Newspapers [www.thesentinel.com]
By Meghan Oliver
Article Date: August 12, 2005

Latino Tenants Protest Infested Buildings

With a water bottle full of dead cockroaches in one hand—and her toddler Anthony in the other—Alyssa Ana Quintanilla, a tenant of University Landing Apartments bordering Langley Park and Silver Spring, protested the management's gross neglect of decent living conditions.

The cockroaches, collected from her apartment, were just one of various vermin that have sent Quintanilla and dozens of other tenants into an uproar leading to an organized protest on the afternoon of July 27. Led by CASA de Maryland, a community organization formed in 1985 to address the needs and rights of the Latino community, the protest specifically pointed to mismanagement by apartment complex owner Steve Stavrou of Stavrou Associates in Annapolis for the unsanitary conditions.

Juan Carlos Ruiz, director of community organizing at CASA de Maryland, led the group of protesters from CASA's headquarters on University Boulevard to the apartment complex less than a mile away, where he opened up the speeches.

"Today the Latino community is pulling together to tell the people they [Stavrou Associates] are ... abusing our community," Ruiz shouted. Surrounding him, tenants held signs depicting drawings of rats, bed bugs and photographs of mold along interior apartment walls.

The tenants came with a list of demands for Stavrou Associates, including freezing rents, improving response time to maintenance problems, eliminating pest infestations, keeping communication between management and tenants bilingual and installing lights at the rear of the complex to improve safety.

Quintanilla, holding up her bottle of cockroaches, also addressed the crowd, with Ruiz translating her speech from Spanish to English.

"I am here because I am tired of throwing away food that the cockroaches and rats eat every night. We do not have money to [throw away] this food," translated Ruiz.

In addition to vermin, tenants were there to protest the management's raising of the monthly rent while continuing to ignore their demand for, and right to, a clean and healthy living environment. As of this month, the rent for a one-bedroom apartment at University Landing is $825 excluding electricity.

CASA provided information on tax credits the apartment complex management received in 2000 from a federal financial program to improve the units' conditions. The complex, straddling Prince George's and Montgomery counties, is situated in an area of Maryland with increasing rental prices. The rent at University Landing apartments, according to President of the Tenants Associate Laura Pinto, has gone up 7 and 17 percent, but without any improvements to the unsanitary conditions of the units.

Tenants who have challenged Stavrou Associates have been given eviction notices, said some protesters. Pinto spoke at the protest, translated from Spanish to English by Kim Propeack of CASA.

"I'm here to denounce the repercussion they're taking against us," Propeack translated. "We are really tired of suffering all of the abuse they're giving us. We're paying rent ... and we are here to demand our rights."

Will Campos (D-District 2) attended the protest as well to address the concerns of his constituents in Langley Park.

"On behalf of the county government, I want to say that these conditions are not going to be tolerated in Prince George's County off the bat," said Campos. He went on to say that he was making a "formal request" to the property owners to sit down and discuss a way in which the problems could be resolved.

"If not," Campos continued, "then these types of protests will happen frequently to inform the public of what's going on."

Steve Smitson, an attorney for CASA, explained that the tenants have rights that will not be ignored. He specifically addressed the health risk faced by children who live in moldy apartments. Asthma has developed in some children within the apartment complex, which tenants believe to be directly linked to the mold spores.

"Children often are the most affected by the illegal conditions we see here," Smitson said. "Tenants have the right to organize and the right to demand that children's health has not been put at risk by management who doesn't care."

A tour of two apartments at University Landing revealed the vile conditions under which families live, including cockroaches scurrying about the kitchen walls and a door in one apartment, and painted over mold on the walls of another.

Lucia Hernandez, who has lived in the apartment complex for more than five years, was given an eviction notice May 31. The notice, which was passed out to the media, said that tenant is in "breach of lease" for "subletting without authority of the Landlord, excessive noise, interfering with the quiet enjoyment [of] others, unauthorized resident."

Hernandez, however, believes the eviction is a retaliatory move on Stavrou's part for voicing her dismay over apartment conditions. She welcomed the media into her home to see a broken pipe beneath her kitchen sink surrounded by mold, which she said she has asked management to fix.

Nicole Cabezas, a volunteer at CASA, translated for Hernandez, explaining that many people were afraid to confront management for fear of being evicted without any notice. While Hernandez said, through translator Cabezas, that some tenants have had additional residents in units not listed on their lease, they dutifully pay rent which the landlord takes. When they complain about mold or cockroaches, they are given notices of eviction without prior warning.

In another apartment, a tenant who did not want her name revealed for fear of retaliation by the landlord, showed video footage of her moldy walls. In 2000, when the apartments were renovated using money from the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, she said windows were improperly installed, giving way to mold growth.

The mold, which she lived with for two years, was an issue she said she addressed with her landlord every time she paid rent. When the management finally did take action, they painted over the mold instead of cleaning the walls and replacing the windows, she explained.

Her son, she said, now has asthma.

Currently, tenants are demanding a meeting with Steve Stavrou within 30 days of the protest. At the meeting Stavrou Associates is expected to present progress on the demands made by the tenants for fair, healthy living conditions.

From The Monitor [www.themonitor.com]
By James Osborne
Article Date: August 02, 2005

PSJA Accepts $11.2 Million in Mold Lawsuit

SAN JUAN — The Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district has accepted an $11.2 million settlement in its lawsuit against the construction company that built PSJA High School.

In June, an arbitration panel ordered the Landmark Organization to make the settlement offer after determining that the company was responsible for the cost of a $10.2 million mold cleanup project undertaken by the district in 2002, said PSJA Superintendent Arturo Guajardo. In its lawsuit, which also named 44 subcontractors, the district claimed the building developed a problem with mold due to design and construction flaws for which the Austin-based general contractor was responsible.

Landmark filed a countersuit claiming the school district had failed to provide them the opportunity to inspect the building and determine what problems existed before going ahead with the cleanup.

In a prepared statement Monday, the company criticized the arbitration panel’s decision.

"Landmark Organization did not agree that the (PSJA) school district had been harmed to the extent attributed to it by the arbitration panel that decided this case," the statement read.

"It appears that the arbitration panel gave undue weight to the amount of money PSJA school district spent on what Landmark Organization believed to be questionable remedial work."

The company said it would attempt to recover the cost of the settlement in court from subcontractors on the project.

On Monday, the school board gathered for a special meeting and approved the deal, providing the district $6.6 million after attorney’s fees. Trustee Roy Rodriguez said he expected the remaining cleanup costs to be picked up through pending lawsuits against the project’s subcontractors.

"This is merely a partial payment settlement," he said.

"This is a positive step towards recovering all the money that was spent."

But local watchdog organization Grupo Poder was critical of the settlement and questioned the validity of the lawsuit.

"About that time everyone was claiming mold," said member Sofia Valdez.

"Even if there was mold, it wasn’t something that needed $10.2 million to clean it up. Mold’s not going to kill you. It was just something to get everyone excited."

Warren Barry, the owner of Assured Indoor Air Quality, which has done inspection and cleanup work for a number of school districts in the Rio Grande Valley and across the nation, said while common mold typically is not dangerous, there are strains that are.

"Yes, mold is everywhere. But I believe, and a lot of microbiologists believe, you don’t want active colonies in buildings," he said.

"There are certain types of mold, which are less common, but can cause harmful health effects."

The settlement with PSJA comes on the heels of another major payout to a local entity. Cameron County reached a $12 million settlement with Landmark last week after filing suit against the company in 2004, citing mold problems at the Carrizalez Detention Center and a sheriff’s department administration building which officials also claimed were caused by flawed construction and design practices.

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