Toxic Rot in Homes Linked to Sickness
Tuesday, January 7th 2003
New Zealand research confirms the role leaky houses play in allergies and infections.
Scientists have confirmed the mould growing in water-damaged homes around New Zealand is dangerous to humans and may affect animals.
The toxin-producing fungus stachybotrys has been linked to serious illness and deaths in the United States, but until now researchers had not proven the fungus found in New Zealand homes was toxic.
Scientists now confirm the fungus is linked to the rashes, breathing problems and chronic chest infections of some home owners.
HortResearch microbiologist Nick Waipara said tests had also found other toxic fungi growing with the stachybotrys. "We're finding the population of fungi in the walls is more complex than we thought. Some of them are first reports of them in New Zealand and haven't been reported overseas."
Stachybotrys grows only when materials such as wood or carpet backing are saturated for long periods. It rots wood, carpet, wallpaper and plaster if left to grow.
Dr Waipara said stachybotrys had been confirmed in 170 homes but the toxic rot is likely to be growing in any home which has been poorly constructed and leaks, or in old damp homes. He said samples taken from 10 of 43 homes where the occupants had reported illness were tested for toxicity.
Tenants in the homes reported symptoms that included rashes, tiredness, headaches, allergies, breathing trouble and chronic chest infections.
Some occupants said that since living in their leaky home they had experienced health problems such as allergies for the first time. People with existing complaints such as asthma said they felt worse.
In the US legal disputes have linked stachybotrys to a range of health problems, from chronic tiredness to bleeding lungs.
A report on toxic rot is being prepared for the Ministry of Health and the results will be sent to science publications.
"It gives weight to the evidence that these fungi could potentially cause sick building syndrome," Dr Waipara said.
The fungus emits toxic gases which can permeate minute cracks or wallpaper but, if disturbed, the fungus may send out spores which expose people to dangerous levels of the toxin. The toxic fungus could also affect animals, he said.
Builders making repairs to rotting homes were at high risk.
The preliminary results have already attracted international interest with the New Zealand evidence to be included in stachybotrys research at Columbia University in new York, Denmark's Technical University and the Institute of Hygiene and Medicine in Germany.
However, further investigation of stachybotrys in New Zealand by HortResearch and Landcare Research is on hold while applications for more funding are made to the Government.
Sourced from the New Zealand Herald 6 January 2003
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Related health information can be found here:
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