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Beware the mold stachybotrys

Mikala, who was exposed to the mold

'The average person will spread the mold'

November 5, 1997
Web posted at: 11:34 p.m. EST (0434 GMT)

From Correspondent Joan MacFarlane

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Michigan (CNN)-- Deloris Griffin's 14-month-old granddaughter, Mikala, used to run freely through her house, but lately she has developed breathing problems.

Griffin hasn't been feeling so well herself. She gets headaches and often feels ill, especially when she's in her basement.

All this happened after the rains came this spring, flooding Griffin's basement and leaving behind something strange.

"There was a small, round, black circle which I attributed to a hole in the drywall," she says.

But it wasn't a hole. It was a mold called stachybotrys. And it was making them sick.

The symptoms Griffin and her grandchild display are indicative of those who have been exposed to stachybotrys, a mold so potent that a doctor in Ohio has linked it to the deaths of ten infants.

Dr. Dorr Dearborn, a pediatric pulmonary specialist in Cleveland, discovered the relationship between the infants and the mold after a rash of bleeding lung cases following Ohio's spring floods in 1994.

"These are young infants," Dearborn said. "Most of them are less than six months old and often less than two months. They'll come in with either coughing blood or having major nosebleeds."

'The average person will spread the mold'

The mold grows after a flood, or when a sewer backs up. The fungus can become airborne and spread through the heating ducts, which can make removing the mold dangerous.

That, in turn, puts a premium on cleaning up properly after a house has flooded, but Dr. George Riegel of Healthy Homes says it is something that few people do.

"The average person who goes to clean it up, who doesn't do it professionally and doesn't contain the area, will spread the mold and you'll have a higher concentration," he said.

Getting rid of the stachybotrys isn't always cheap. To remove it safely could cost the Griffins close to $10,000.

It is important to bear in mind that while stachybotrys is potent and must be dealt with efficiently, most black molds are not stachybotrys. Stachybotrys grows only on wood and paper products, and can be found in only about 2 to 5 percent of American homes.

Nonetheless, "It's kind of unnerving," Griffin said. "I am ready to move, but where am I going? This is my home. I can't afford to just pack up and leave."


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