Some Mississippi coast families plagued by black mold

Published 11:41 am Tuesday, September 11, 2007

MOSS POINT (AP) — Despite cleanup efforts, some Jackson County homes still have mold festering behind walls and under leaky windows two years after Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s growing. It’s in the vents and the walls. It makes you itch all over,” said Perry Fountain.

Though she scrubbed her floors and walls with bleach repeatedly, her garage walls became coated from the inside out with black mold after Katrina flooded her Moss Point home on Aug. 29, 2005.

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Mold can grow anywhere that is damp and warm and can feed on wood, wallboard, upholstery and dust.

After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sponsored a study on mold prevention strategies and the possible health effects of mold contamination.

The study, released in July 2006, said that the amount of flooding caused by the storms made a massive mold contamination a certainty, and residents were told to air out their homes and clean the possibly infected areas with bleach.

Even if a home did not flood, a leaking pipe, window or foundation could allow enough moisture for mold to grow. Homeowners should inspect ceiling tiles, drywall and ventilation systems for mold growth, the CDC study said.

When Brian Rivers, a case manager for Rebuild Jackson County Long Term Recovery Agency, came to Fountain’s home to help rebuild, he found the garage covered in mold. Rivers organized a group of volunteers to remove mold from two Moss Point homes, including Fountain’s.

“When we pulled out their insulation it was black. It should be pink,” Rivers said. “A lot of people don’t know what the health risks are. They think if you put bleach on it, it’ll fix the problem.”

Black mold causes allergy type symptoms, including sniffing, congestion and dizziness, Martin Vydalek, a physician at Singing River Hospital said. It’s usually treated with a decongestant or antibiotics, but in extreme cases may be treated with surgery, Vydalek said.

The Fountains spend their nights inside their unfinished home, despite the two Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers on the property. They say the air is worse in the trailers.

Both have suffered from constant chest and head colds, and have been to the doctor multiple times.

“The doctor can only give you antibiotics. As soon as you’re done with that it comes right back,” Perry Fountain said.

Rivers warns that though the mold spores may not be visible they can remain hidden, and even a little black mold can be dangerous.

The most effective way to eliminate mold growth from materials that cannot be cleaned is to discard them, the CDC study said.

The only solution to remove mold from insulation or heavily infested areas is to have a contractor remove and replace them.

Some Gulf Coast residents would rather live with the mold than call a contractor, Rivers said.

“People are scared to ask contractors because they’ve been ripped off, or they know someone who’s been ripped off,” Rivers said.

The Fountains said their contractor took their money and supplies, which caused work on the home to stop.

“It’s gotten to the point where I’m afraid to trust anyone,” Perry Fountain said.