May 7, 1997

Floods Carry Potential for Toxic Mold Disease

JAMA. 1997;277(17):1342. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540410020006

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MOLD GROWTH in water-damaged homes is a potential hazard from spring flooding. Health officials in Ohio are already familiar with a toxic mold that has been linked to life-threatening pulmonary hemorrhage in infants younger than 1 year in Cleveland. The mold, Stachybotrys atra, may be found in houses affected by major water damage.

"Unless the water damage is properly cleaned up, the recent floods in the midwest may provide an ideal opportunity for the growth of fungi. The Stachybotrys fungus seems to need a lot of water to grow," noted Ruth A. Etzel, MD, an epidemiologist in the Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, Ga.

"But," she said, "it's not just a matter of drainage. If carpeting has been soaked there's almost no way to get the water out of it. It has to be pulled up and thrown