Mold-related illness: Hysteria or menace?

By Duncan Adams

Lisa Lusk, now 47, first met with the Roanoke-based osteopath more than two years ago. At the time, Lusk lived with her husband and two children in a house on Avenham Avenue in Roanoke. The family since has abandoned the home, which has an assessed value of $442,700, because of mold.

“We fled,” she said. “We spent our retirement to go into the new home.”

Lusk said her health steadily had been deteriorating and her quest for answers and treatments — both mainstream and alternative — had yielded no answers and no relief.

“I thought I was dying,” she said. “There were so many symptoms. I was having such joint pain, chronic sinus problems, very bad headaches and dizziness. I was getting to the point where I could not walk. It was severe exhaustion.”

Lusk said she worried she might have multiple sclerosis or another potentially debilitating disease.

“It felt like a gigantic physical breakdown,” she said. “I really thought I was going to become an old lady in a wheelchair.”

Some people believe with unwavering conviction that the mold in their homes has waged against them a silent, insidious biological warfare.

They report symptoms ranging from respiratory distress to depression, from joint pain to chronic exhaustion.

Yet many others, including a Roanoke man who blames “mold hysteria” for the ruination of his marriage, express skepticism with equal conviction.

The debate about indoor mold has received renewed attention in the wake of catastrophic flooding in North Carolina this fall tied to Hurricane Matthew. A related article by North Carolina State professor Sarah Kirby noted, “Once flood waters recede, it is essential to take steps to prevent mold growth.”

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