"It accuses (Director) Frumkin of letting scientific integrity lag behind political expediency and uncomplicated conclusions. Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller, D-N.C., said the problems "threaten the health and safety of the American public. Fixing ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, CDC ) requires a cultural shift of the agency."(Associated Press)
"They come in with a very narrow focus and oftentimes they don't come up with anything" to help the community." (Cole, EPA, AP)
Both quotes could easily be applied to school mold investigations by local, state, and federal agencies. The CDC, (Centers for Disease Control) is directly responsible for years of misinformation provided to the public and health agencies regarding the risk to health from mold and damp buildings, lack of science-based information regarding health effects, medical aspects, prevention and solutions, as well as its poor handling of complaints regarding school mold exposures.
This Associated Press article reveals the minimizing of potent dangers to health by the United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, in recent years. Visitors to this site are often all-too-aware that, in like manner, the toxicity of agents in moldy, damp buildings have been minimized by our federal / state government agencies - in order "not to alarm the public", and in order to protect corporate interests over those of the public whose health our federal and state agencies, such as CDC (Centers for Disease Control), OSHA, NIOSH, and our health departments are supposed to protect.
We ask for a broader Congressional investigation into the misinformation and risk to the public caused by federal agencies, specifically and especially the Centers for Disease Control, regarding mold, supported by the recent GAO Audit on Mold. (view current CDC info on mold below this article)
We ask that Congress takes strong action to reverse this general perversion of the protection of public health, which, in turn, will provide some solutions to our current health and economic crises (SMH).
The federal agency charged with protecting the public near toxic pollution sites often obscures or overlooks potential health hazards, uses inadequate analysis and fails to zero in on toxic culprits, congressional investigators and scientists say.
A House investigative report says officials from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry "deny, delay, minimize, trivialize or ignore legitimate health concerns."
Local communities have voiced frustration and confusion at findings by the agency that are challenged by outside scientists or are ambiguous about whether people living near industrial pollution or toxic dumps or breathe foul-smelling air have reason to worry.
"Time and time again ATSDR appears to avoid clearly and directly confronting the most obvious toxic culprits that harm the health of local communities throughout the nation," said the report from the House Science and Technology investigations and oversight subcommittee.
The health agency declined to comment, saying its director, Howard Frumkin, would address the criticisms when he appears at a hearing before the House science panel Thursday.
By law the health agency, a branch of the Health and Human Services Department, assesses health hazards at polluted sites designated under the Superfund cleanup law, and those of concern to local communities. It frequently faces residents who expect environmental answers for a host of illnesses, which science can't always provide.
But the agency's critics also include some of its own scientists, including toxicologist Christopher De Rosa, who told Congress last year that his bosses minimized the health risk of formaldehyde in trailers provided for survivors of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
Congressional investigators reviewed ATSDR health studies and interviewed scientists and community activists across the country for the House report, which was obtained by The Associated Press.
It accuses Frumkin of letting scientific integrity lag behind political expediency and uncomplicated conclusions. Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller, D-N.C., said the problems "threaten the health and safety of the American public. Fixing ATSDR requires a cultural shift of the agency."
David Ozonoff, professor of environmental health at Boston University's School of Public Health, said ATSDR often produces good work, but added: "They don't always use the latest science and the most up to date information. They don't have enough resources and people and breadth of skills and talent. They don't have the trust of communities."
Ozonoff took issue with aspects of a new draft health assessment for a contaminated neighborhood in Elkhart, Ind., that addressed elevated levels of the degreasing solvent trichloroethylene. The agency appeared to overlook previous studies showing cancer and birth defects can show up at lower exposure levels than the draft report indicated, thus playing down the potential risk in Elkhart, he said.
Among issues raised by other scientists:
• Ronald Hoffman, a professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, uncovered a high incidence of a blood cancer in northeast Pennsylvania while working with the health agency's scientists. The research identified an elevated incidence of polycythemia vera, including four cases on a mile-long stretch of road near a former toxic waste company.
Although an abstract by Hoffman and his colleagues said there was significant evidence linking the cancer to environmental causes, agency officials publicly rejected the idea and unsuccessfully pressured Hoffman in 2007 to withdraw from a conference where he was to present the findings.
"I thought they were trying to always increase the hurdles so they could disprove what to me was basically pretty obvious," Hoffman said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. Ultimately, after additional analysis, ATSDR agreed that the elevated cases were statistically significant and its scientists joined Hoffman in publishing the findings last month. The agency is now considering additional studies.
• Henry Cole, an environmental consultant and former senior scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency, said a four-year study into residents' complaints of foul odors and health ailments near an Ohio waste plant, Perma-fix of Dayton, used insufficient sampling to conclude in December that none of the 100 compounds exceeded safe levels.
Nor did it incorporate lawsuit and regulatory information that could have broadened the result beyond ATSDR's sole recommendation that Perma-fix should check for an odor source and mitigate it if possible. That left residents frustrated. "They come in with a very narrow focus and oftentimes they don't come up with anything" to help the community, Cole said in another interview.
• Randall Parrish, a researcher at the University of Leicester, England, found depleted uranium exposure in 20 percent of residents he tested in Colonie, N.Y., where a company once produced uranium weapons for the military. He recommended that ATSDR revisit the area because its earlier health study, without benefit of his test method, assumed it couldn't detect past exposure or tie it to illness years after the plant closed.
ATSDR replied that the amount in people's bodies would be so small it wouldn't cause a health hazard, so no further work was warranted, the subcommittee report said.
On the Net:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press.
CDC Facts about Mold - from their website, 3/12/09:
Note: this section is particularly inaccurate and inadequate:
"There is always some mold everywhere - in the air and on many surfaces. Molds have been on the Earth for millions of years. Mold grows where there is moisture." (this section, at left, comes straight out of defense experts mouths, when trying to minimize the impact of mold on health. MOLD IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE GROWING IN OUR BUILDINGS, THIS IS A NEW DEVELOPMENT FOR IT TO BE RAMPANT INSIDE BUILDINGS) (SMH)
"Mold and Your Health
Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects, or none at all. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, molds can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. (SMH: this is absolutely inaccurate and minimizes the health risks, at grave risk to the public health - when the CDC knows that its own study (IOM, Damp Indoor Spaces and Health) has shown an association between the new development of upper and lower respiratory tract illness such as asthma, for previously health people, within damp buildings, and the same report has described damp buildings and mold as public health risks, in general.) People with mold allergies may have more severe reactions. (SMH: Again, minimizing, as ANYONE may have more severe reactions, according to research, including the IOM study.) Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may get serious infections in their lungs when they are exposed to mold. These people should stay away from areas that are likely to have mold, such as compost piles, cut grass, and wooded areas. (SMH: this, again, minimizes the impact of indoor mold and toxic molds on the general public - as toxic molds cause immunological problems and may cause the occupants to become immune-compromised, according to independent researchers.)
A link between other adverse health effects, such as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants, memory loss, or lethargy, and molds, including the mold Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), has not been proven. Further studies are needed to find out what causes acute idiopathic hemorrhage and other adverse health effects." (SMH: Again, this is disingenuous, as the CDC has consistently ignored the public's pleas for help, by estimated millions, for bleeding sinuses and lungs, when children and adults are exposed to indoor molds, such as Stachybotrys, and not conducted adequate studies. The CDC's own policy of applying the Precautionary Principle should dictate protection of the public when it receives these alarming reports about mold-related illnesses from physicians and the public, as has been done in the past with SARS, AIDS and other emerging health threats.)
There is always some mold everywhere - in the air and on many surfaces. Molds have been on the Earth for millions of years. Mold grows where there is moisture.
Mold and Your Health
Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects, or none at all. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, molds can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. People with mold allergies may have more severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may get serious infections in their lungs when they are exposed to mold. These people should stay away from areas that are likely to have mold, such as compost piles, cut grass, and wooded areas.
A link between other adverse health effects, such as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants, memory loss, or lethargy, and molds, including the mold Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), has not been proven. Further studies are needed to find out what causes acute idiopathic hemorrhage and other adverse health effects.
Mold and Your Home
Mold is found both indoors and outdoors. Mold can enter your home through open doorways, windows, vents, and heating and air conditioning systems. Mold in the air outside can also attach itself to clothing, shoes, bags, and pets can and be carried indoors.
Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.
You Can Control Mold
Inside your home you can control mold growth by:
- Keeping humidity levels between 40% and 60%;
- Promptly fixing leaky roofs, windows, and pipes;
- Thoroughly cleaning and drying after flooding;
- Ventilating shower, laundry, and cooking areas.
If mold is growing in your home, you need to clean up the mold and fix the moisture problem. Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water.
Mold growth, which often looks like spots, can be many different colors, and can smell musty. If you can see or smell mold, a health risk may be present. You do not need to know the type of mold growing in your home, and CDC does not recommend or perform routine sampling for molds. No matter what type of mold is present, you should remove it. Since the effect of mold on people can vary greatly, either because of the amount or type of mold, you can not rely on sampling and culturing to know your health risk. Also, good sampling for mold can be expensive, and standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable quantity of mold have not been set. The best practice is to remove the mold and work to prevent future growth.
If you choose to use bleach to clean up mold:
- Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. Mixing bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products will produce dangerous, toxic fumes.
- Open windows and doors to provide fresh air.
- Wear non-porous gloves and protective eye wear.
- If the area to be cleaned is more than 10 square feet, consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guide titled Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. Although focused on schools and commercial buildings, this document also applies to other building types. You can get it free by calling the EPA Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse at (800) 438-4318, or by going to the EPA web site at http://www.epa.gov/mold/mold_remediation.html. [external link]
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using bleach or any other cleaning product.
MOLD PREVENTION TIPS
- Keep the humidity level in your home between 40% and 60%. Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months and in damp spaces, like basements.
- Be sure your home has enough ventilation. Use exhaust fans which vent outside your home in the kitchen and bathroom. Make sure your clothes dryer vents outside your home.
- Fix any leaks in your home’s roof, walls, or plumbing so mold does not have moisture to grow.
- Clean up and dry out your home thoroughly and quickly (within 24–48 hours) after flooding.
- Add mold inhibitors to paints before painting.
- Clean bathrooms with mold-killing products.
- Remove or replace carpets and upholstery that have been soaked and cannot be dried promptly. Consider not using carpet in rooms or areas like bathrooms or basements that may have a lot of moisture.
- To learn more about preventing mold in your home, see the Environmental Protection Agency's publication A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home at http://www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/moldguide.html. [external link]