Arizona School Mold Controversy

The following news story appeared in the Arizona Daily Star last Sunday.

When teacher Suzanne Anderson discovered mold behind a poster in her classroom this fall, it set off alarm bells.

Angela Cupis, the teacher who used the Summit View Elementary School classroom last school year, had spent a nightmarish 2009-2010 assigned there. She was in and out of urgent care, was hospitalized several times and at one point was in isolation while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong.

"Once I was back at school and off my medication, it would take about two weeks before I would start getting sick again," she said.

The article continues with a discussion of the impact of toxic mold on health. Sadly, the article quotes the past president of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine as saying, "Fear of 'toxic mold' is widespread, but it has not been proved that indoor mold can infect people with these 'mycotoxins.'"

The school principal agreed, saying, "As far as we know, there were no illnesses due to mold."

Parents and others say otherwise.

"My daughter suffered from a lot of migraines, upset stomach, fevers, chills and would vomit," said Summit View parent Jerilyn Ugalde, whose daughter, Annaliese, was in the class last year where mold was found this year. "She easily missed more than 20 days last school year and her pediatrician could never figure out what was wrong."

Her teacher last year, Cupis, said she still recalls the room's musty odor. She had severe headaches, her temperature spiked as high as105 degrees, and she suffered chills, respiratory infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and kidney stones, she said.

She fell behind at work, and said principal Lopez-Miranda was documenting her performance before Cupis took a medical leave. Lopez-Miranda said she couldn't discuss Cupis because of confidentiality laws.

Her physicians mentioned the possibility of mold as the culprit, Cupis said. "They asked me if it could be environmental, but I told them no," she said. At the time, "I didn't know about the mold."

This year, the new teacher in the room, Anderson, had her own symptoms.

"I am allergic to mold, and I suffered from itchy, red eyes and congested sinuses. I felt like I had a cold that would not go away," she said. About half of her students also had runny noses and watery eyes, she said.

To view the article in its entirety, click here.

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