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Front St.Clovis Schools Section - Clovis Free PressBack St.
Vol. 17  No. 21 Final Edition
Clovis Free Press
September 14, 2000
Mold Contaminates School
Buchanan High ordered shuttered for 36 Hours!
By Howard Hobbs, Ph.D., President, Valley Press Media Network

    CLOVIS -- Mold was found in two Clovis Unified School District offices late last week. The discovery of a potentially hazardous organism was seen growing in the new Buchanan High School administration offices. On Thursday, Superintendent Walt Buster told reporters there was the possibility of "...molds at Buchanan High School," and that "...the extent of the problem" had not been determined. According a news release from the district office Dr. Buster, ordered Buchanan High shuttered for 36 Hours. Long term arrangements for temporary classrooms for Buchanan High students are being worked out at the Reagan Center in southeast Clovis.

    If mold is in your local school buildings teacher, students, parents and staff who have been exposed to the effects of mold contamination should be aware that if it is toxic mold it is very hazardous and has even been reported by health authorities to have been fatal in isolated cases.    

    One common form of mold recently appearing in school buildings in California and all along the Pacific Coast is Stachybotrys chartarum, a toxic form of mold. It may cause health problems from volatile gases or toxicity from inhalation or skin contact with toxin-containing spores. Toxic effects at relatively low doses are non-life threatening but may cause rashes, mild neurotoxic effects such as headache, nausea, muscle aches and pains, and fatigue. The immune system may also be affected resulting in a decreased resistance to infections.  

    Construction defects are thought to be closely related to outbreaks in public buildings. In a current school case in Southern California, attorney Thomas E. Miller is investigating allegations that potentially toxic mold is causing chronic-cold like symptoms in a 12-year old boy who lives in the Also Viejo California area. Fourteen other incidents of sickness related to mold have reportedly been documented in the development, in addition to several in the Villagio II complexd in San Clemente. Miller contends that the mold is the result of a construction defect in the affected structures, a defect caused by water seepage.

    The Highline School District in Seattle, Washington is another example. "A 55-year-old building is thought to have so sick it made may have made teachers sick. The District closed the school building, parts of which date to 1943, after maintenance workers last week found in a wall the toxic mold stachybotrys, which is known to cause respiratory illnesses" according to Nick Latham, District spokesperson. The finding came just weeks before the first day of school, Sept. 2. Latham said District officials still weren't sure where the 450 students and 25 staff members will be housed. Most likely, the students will be bused to one of three vacant or semivacant buildings owned by the District.  

    That will be a big change for the students, most of whom live nearby and walk to school, Latham said. The District sent letters to parents, many of whom are Vietnamese and Cambodian, alerting them about the closure and inviting them to a Friday meeting. For more than a year teachers have been complaining of coughs, and sinus and throat problems. Last spring a group of them attended a board meeting to tell administrators the District should fix the problem, said Susan Santie, a board member. Some teachers had speculated some student illnesses may have been from the poor air quality, but the district's study offered no proof of that, according to Santie. Students had not complained about the building, administrators said.     

    The District ordered repairs for the building this summer and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to refurbish the building, Latham said. Also this summer, Highline commissioned a study of the building that turned up the fungus in the ceiling of a teachers' restroom. Latham said he didn't know whether the building would open again or how costly it would be to remedy it. "We're not going to say when and if kids can come back," Latham said. "Once they're in a safe and clean school, then we can take time to study the situation."

    [Editor's Note: According to OSHA Stachybotrys and other toxic molds and fungi requires Level IV remediation in compliance with OSHA 1910.134, 1910.1200. Mold spores are tiny bacteria less than 4 microns in size -- so small that as many as 250,000 spores can fit on a pin head and a person exposed to them can inhale as many as 750,000 of these spores per minute! They are produced by microorganisms which can grow in moist areas of improperly constructed or improperly maintained buildings and in farm hay and stored grain silage where the moisture content is high (30%) and the area is poorly ventilated. Heavy concentrations of mold spores appear as dry, white or grey powder or clouds. The body has natural defense filtering systems (such as raucous lining, coughing and sneezing) against dusty air which helps remove some contaminants. Most contaminants overpower and pass through these defenses. Mold spores not only bypass defenses because of their number, but also because they are so small. Very fine particles, like mold spores, move into, accumulate and settle into the lower lungs. There they produce toxins. The lungs transfer oxygen to the bloodstream, and most of the actual exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen takes place in the lower lungs. So the lungs become a roadway for toxic materials to travel through the bloodstream with the oxygen. The body's reaction to the toxins permanently affects the lungs' ability to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream. The lung tissue becomes permanently scared and each exposure to mold spores increases the damage. The body's last defense against these tiny invaders is to develop an allergy producing cold or pneumonia-like symptoms.]

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