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ensho Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-06-09 11:11 AM
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Floods and Sick Buildings

Floods, mold, cancer, and the politics of public health

Its spring, and flooding is again making headlines; though, the sick building and mold issues inevitably following in floodings wake have become somewhat better appreciated. But disturbingly highlighting the imperatives of such awareness, recently published research has -- for the first time -- shown the high cost of what the sickness that comes of sick buildings can mean, with the potential for long-lasting disability now being a documented fact.

According to a ground breaking Swedish study appearing in The International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 45 percent of so-called Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) victims -- treated at hospital clinics -- no longer have the capacity to work. Twenty percent of these sufferers are receiving disability pensions, 25 percent are on the sick-list. Emphasizing SBSs devastating potential, the study warned that the possibility of having no work capabilities at follow up was significantly increased if the time from (SBS) onset to first visit at the hospital clinic was more than one year. This risk was also significantly higher if the patient at the first visit had five or more symptoms.

Its unfortunate that knowledge of the serious nature of SBS has not emerged sooner. But, as highlighted by the US Department of Veterans Affairs during last Falls revelations upon Gulf War Illness, sometimes political and economic considerations affect health policy, leading to a serious health issue long being denied or trivialized.

Sick Building Syndrome -- more precisely termed non-specific building-related illness -- is typically a product of breathing indoor-air contaminated by mold and/or chemical toxins. Its symptoms can include: mucus-membrane irritation, neurotoxic effects, respiratory symptoms, skin symptoms, gastrointestinal complaints, and chemosensory changes. And while the malady has been increasingly seen since the 1970s, when energy concerns led to the reduction of indoor ventilation by as much as two thirds, this study is thought to be the first occasion when the problem has been demonstrated as a chronic condition with environmental causes.


Unfortunately, even problems more serious than SBS can occur through mold, the US Environmental Protection Agencys (EPA) website explicitly warning that the inhalation of mycotoxins (toxins naturally occurring in some species of molds) has been reported to cause maladies that include cancer. Illustrating what this can mean, recent Swedish headlines shocked the Scandinavian Peninsula with news of just such a cancer outbreak.

Strmbackaskola, a high school in the Northern city of Pite, was the scene of the cancer cluster. In the worst affected area, about 40 percent of the employees have been stricken with the disease, with the local paper headlining The mold in the school is cancer causing, a national headline reading Mold in school gives teachers cancer.

Though the cancer cases began appearing years ago, and its cause was earlier investigated, it was only recently that toxic black mold, Stachybotrys, was found in the affected areas.


Last Fall I interviewed one of Americas leading authorities on mold -- Dr. Dorr Dearborn, Chairman of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Dearborn came to national attention in 1997, The New York Times headlining Infants Lung Bleeding Traced to Toxic Mold, a revelation he was instrumental in bringing forward. Though his findings and those of his equally courageous colleague, Ruth Etzel, became the subject of considerable debate, the EPAs Childrens Health Initiative on Toxic Mold dutifully continues to warn: A cluster of cases of acute pulmonary hemorrhage/hemosiderosis was reported in Cleveland, Ohio, where 27 infants from homes that suffered flood damage became sick (nine deaths) with the illness starting in January 1993.
-long snip-

information we all should know about.
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