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Potential health risks for DI neighbors displaced from homes

Published on 08/03/08
By Helen Ravenel

(This is the third and final in a series on Daniel Island families who have been displaced by mold found in their homes. This week we look at the potential health risks associated with mold exposure.) Daniel Island residents Ben and Joy Allen moved from their home about two months ago after receiving results of a mold test.

While Ben Allen said that the family is moving forward and is renting a home, they are doing better physically. According to him, they are now in a stable environment, not one where mold was potentially affecting their health.

The Allen’s first contacted Terence Tully of Moisture Control in May to test their home for mold.

Tully told the Moultrie News that Ben Allen had been complaining about being ill and wondered if there might be a connection to mold.

What Tully found was 8-10 different species of mold.

Ben Allen suffers from the MS disease, an auto-immune disease that affects the central nervous system.

He experienced his first episode/presentation on Sept. 8, 2005. The Allen’s moved to their Etiwan Park home Aug. 15, 2005. Ben was diagnosed with MS two months after he moved into the home.

He does not believe that mold in of itself necessarily makes people sick. It is a contingent question- mold can cause respiratory illnesses, he said.

“In Mr. Allen’s situation, his MS has been exacerbated and his condition from MS has deteriorated more because of exposure to mold,” said Fritz Jekel, who is representing the Allen’s.

Ben Allen said that he does believe that mold can have a much more serious impact on people who are immune-compromised.

“That is a relative term as well,” he said.

According to him, mold exposure is contingent upon type, duration and magnitude. If one takes these components and adds an immune suppression, the effects are exacerbated.

The Allens said their daughter, Madeleine, 3, has suffered repeated serious respiratory problems. The family pediatrician Lucy Davis advised that they leave the house upon the discovery of the mold.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), certain people should avoid mold-contaminated environments entirely. These include: people who are undergoing periods of substantial immunosuppression, persons with neutropenia (neutrophil count <500/µL) attributed to any cause, including neoplasm, cancer chemotherapy, or other immunosuppressive therapy, and other persons considered by their physicians to have profoundly impaired antifungal host defenses caused by congenital or acquired immunodeficiency. Ben Allen said that he and Madeleine are immune-compromised.

He is because of his MS and the treatments that suppress his immune system.

Ben Allen said, “Madeleine’s condition is currently being evaluated to confirm her previous diagnosis of cyclic neutropenia. There is a strong probability that Madeleine has asthma and some other underlying condition, which has yet to be determined. We will continue pursuing the advice of medical experts to ensure Madeleine receives the best available care and treatments.

“My Primary Care Physician, Dr. Lucy Davis, M.D., referred Madeleine and me to Dr. John Ramey, M.D. Of National Allergy, Asthma and Urticaria of Charleston, PA for continuity of care.”

He said that he was fortunate to be working for the right company when he became disabled.

He has a disability pension and good insurance.

He said that his medical bills are extraordinary but with his wife Joy running the music department at Trident Hospital, he is fortunate that he has the capacity to still pay their mortgage and rent.

Allen said that he still does what he can to mitigate the damages to the home such as running the air conditioning to prevent the mold from spreading. This costs him an additional $150 a month.

But Allen said that he is not looking at the situation from a monetary point; it is the quality of life issues that are frustrating the most for Allen.

“We deal with what we are given,” he said.

Pittman describes his son’s ear infections and respiratory difficulties as “pressure that cannot be relieved like what one might experience on a plane.”

Anders has also had scarring and hearing loss.

“All of these years we thought, gosh, he has bad luck,” Pittman said, never considering that mold is one of the prime causes of asthma in children.

“Of course he is the one who has the worst quality in the house,” Pittman said.

According to Pittman, his house contained very elevated levels of Aspergillus/Penicilum.

On the CDC Web site, it says children aged 12 years, particularly infants, and persons with chronic, obstructive, or allergic lung diseases might be able to tolerate limited exposure, but should consult with their physicians and consider avoiding areas where moldy materials are disturbed.

“This is really uncomforting to know that our 7 year olds life was spent in this environment,” Pittman said

“You cannot fix a child’s health once it has been affected.”

“Joy and I hope we can come to an amicable solution with this,” he said.

Daniel Island-based attorney Patrick Mc-Donald, who is representing both the Allens and the Pittmans said, “The past several months have been unbelievably horrific for my clients. They have been diagnosed with serious health conditions, have been forced to flee their home and throw away cherished belongings.”

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