1/31/03 - Is Black Mold Causing Dongola School Rash?



Is Black Mold Causing Dongola School Rash?
By: Wendy Ray

(Cape Girardeau, MO)--The question that's on the mind of everyone in Dongola, "Is stachybotrys causing students to break out in a rash?" One Heartland professor, who's an expert on the mold, says it could be. Dr. John Kraemer, an Environmental Sciences professor at Southeast Missouri State University says stachybotrys is tricky, it's very small and can be very hard to find, but the mold spores can easily latch on to objects and people.
"It can come in contact with skin and be an irritant to skin. There are many things that can happen coming in contact with stachybotrys," Dr. Kraemer says.
Stachybotrys is a black slimy mold that takes over anything in it's path. Even though you can't see the mold in Dongola school, it doesn't mean it's not there. "It could be behind wallboard and you don't see it before you remove the wallboard," Dr Kraemer says.
When it's broken down in a microscope, stachybotrys is more complex than the human eye can see. "You have several colonies, large growth cycle, you're not going to see one spore out there," Dr. Kraemer says. He explains, it can easily spread. "It can get very large. It can break up in small circles. It can be one large black mass. It can be a sliding mass down a wall. It can be individual growth areas."
All that fungi can be airborne. Dr. Kraemer says, "The material that may irritate the skin or mucous membranes is going to be from direct contact. You're going to have to inhale it or fall on your skin."  It falls on our skin everyday. Fungi are in the air all the time. Dr. Kraemer says there are certain chemical compounds put out by fungi---large molecules that can irritate mucous membranes in your eyes, respiratory system and skin. "We know it's stachybotrys," he says. "I don't know where it is, or how much they found of it, but if the question is did it cause it, sure, it could have possibly been the cause."
So far, there has not been a definite conclusion made on whether the stachybotrys found in Dongola is causing the rash on students. But like Dr. Kraemer said, there is the possibility that could be the case.