Surgeon General's Office Issues Conflicting Message on "Toxic Mold".

Share Article

In a move that spells trouble for tens of thousands of sick Americans, the Surgeon General of the United States is ducking the issue on questions concerning Toxic Mold. Despite direct objections by senior Congressional staff at a recent national health policy summit, the presenting researchers at the event made statements that mold presents no human health risks. However, Watchdog groups say that not only are study results that are driving national policy tainted by corporate influence, but that the follow up press statement on the event proceedings from the Surgeon General is deliberately misleading.

I find it impossible to believe that the only thing that is motivating this stonewall is corporate greed. I think they are afraid of the issue and don't know what to do.

On January 12th and 13th, the office of Richard H. Carmona, Surgeon General of the United States, conducted a two day clinic for public health professionals, titled "Surgeon General's Workshop on Healthy Indoor Environment". The event, which was conducted at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, included panelists from public health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with various university and medical researchers participating as well.

The presenting panelists maintained a focus on communicating the positions of their respective organizations and research. Dr. Noreen Clark, Chair of the recently released Institute of Medicine (IoM) study, "Damp Indoor Spaces and Health", promoted the findings of that paper and made a bid for more funding. The IoM study was sponsored at the request of the CDC after much public debate on the issue.. Dr. Clark stated, among other points, that indoor molds were not found to have an association to serious disease symptoms, as have been widely reported in the press on the issue of "Toxic Mold, more accurately referred to as "Toxigenic Fungi". However, the Institute of Medicine study has recently come under fire for issuing a press release that failed to convey that the study was only charged to investigate allergic and non-infectious respiratory symptoms of fungal exposure, and that their findings never included examination of other serious symptoms. The study was widely quoted in the popular press and has since been used in defense litigation in a case in Arizona where a woman claimed severe injuries from mold exposure in a Phoenix apartment.

The event was attended by members of the public health advocate community, including Joel Segal, Public Affairs Director for the office of Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich). Congressman Conyers, the ranking Democrat in the US House of Representatives, introduced sponsorship of a Bill in 2001 ( HR 1268), that proposes mold be listed as a hazardous substance. At one point during the presentation, Segal was moved to stand and take issue with some of the proceedings.

"The Institute of Medicine study does not reflect what we are seeing in calls to my office." Segal said. "We are receiving complaints from people who have experienced lung and organ damage, permanent neurological problems and fatigue symptoms that are functionally disabling after mold exposures in their homes. We've had more calls on this than any other single issue, including universal health care -- since sponsoring HR 1268, we have been receiving at least 10 calls per day for the last three years from victims who are displaced, calling from motels, sick and living in cars."

When contacted after the event, Segal went on to state, "We have had inquiries from Senators Kennedy, Clinton and others on the issue -- they are well informed and very concerned. We need to sponsor a multi-agency, non-partisan task force to study the human health and economic impacts of this. At this point, it's not an exaggeration to say that this is a public health emergency."

Other attendees were quick to add their takes on the workshop. Sharon Kramer, a leading mold advocate from California who has been personally affected by fungal illness, had this to say about the workshop presenters:

"They know they have a big problem on their hands. They know they are not properly addressing it. They know they need to get the allergists out of the clinical control of the decision making process and put some infectious disease doctors on it. "

"I honestly think that, over the years, they thought we were a bunch of neurotic whiners. This position has been perpetuated by those occupational doctors who evaluate on behalf of the insurance industry and worker's comp. Then there are companies like GlobalTox that have infiltrated the government decision making process, yet do expert insurance litigation support for a living."

Given the contentious nature of the event, it was anticipated that the Surgeon General's office would issue some acknowledgment of the concerns that were being expressed by senior government officials and citizens. However, on Thursday, the press office of Health and Human Services, on behalf of the Surgeon General, issued a follow up media release that focused solely on the health effects of Radon, and no other pathogenic agents.

The release appeared to imply that Radon was associated with the 160 percent rise in childhood asthma of recent years. In contradiction to this, the EPA states on their website that "There is no evidence that other respiratory diseases, such as asthma, are caused by Radon exposures".

"This is unbelievable! I think I heard the word "Radon" used five times in the entire conference" Kramer said. "I sat there for two days. I witnessed many scientists and professionals who truly are working for a solution (to the mold problem)." she said. "I find it impossible to believe that the only thing that is motivating this stonewall is corporate greed. I think they are afraid of the issue and don't know what to do."

Health and Human Services press officer Craig Stevens did not return calls after multiple attempts to contact him on the matter. -Jonathan Lee Wright

U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona warned the American public about the risks of breathing indoor radon by issuing a national health advisory today. The advisory is meant to urge Americans to prevent this silent radioactive gas from seeping into their homes and building up to dangerous levels. Dr. Carmona issued the advisory during a two-day Surgeon General's Workshop on Healthy Indoor Environment.

"Indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the county," Dr. Carmona said. "It's important to know that this threat is completely preventable. Radon can be detected with a simple test and fixed through well-established venting techniques."

Radon is an invisible, odorless and tasteless gas, with no immediate health symptoms, that comes from the breakdown of uranium inside the earth. Simple test kits can reveal the amount of radon in any building. Those with high levels can be fixed with simple and affordable venting techniques. According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, one in every 15 homes nationwide have a high radon level at or above the recommended radon action level of 4 picoCuries (pCi/L) per liter of air.

National Health Advisory on Radon

Radon gas in the indoor air of America's homes poses a serious health risk. More than 20,000 Americans die of radon-related lung cancer every year. Millions of homes have an elevated radon level. If you also smoke, your risk of lung cancer is much higher. Test your home for radon every two years, and retest any time you move, make structural changes to your home, or occupy a previously unused level of a house. If you have a radon level of 4 pCi/L or more, take steps to remedy the problem as soon as possible.

"Americans need to know about the risks of indoor radon and have the information and tools they need to take action. That's why EPA is actively promoting the Surgeon General's advice urging all Americans to get their homes tested for radon. If families do find elevated levels in their homes, they can take inexpensive steps that will reduce exposure to this risk," said Jeffrey R. Holmstead, Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"Based on national averages, we can expect that many of the homes owned or financed by federal government programs would have potentially elevated radon levels. The federal government has an opportunity to lead by example on this public health risk. We can accomplish this by using the outreach and awareness avenues we have, such as EPA's Web site, to share information and encourage action on radon to reduce risks," said Edwin Piñero, Federal Environmental Executive, Office of the Federal Environmental Executive (OFEE).

A national Public Service Announcement (PSA) that was released to television stations across America in January, National Radon Action Month, is reinforcing this recently updated health advisory. In the television spot, the camera scans a neighborhood with rooftop banners that remind the occupants of the importance to test their homes for radon. The television PSA can be viewed at:

For more information about radon go to EPA's Web site; or call your state radon office; or call a national toll-free hotline at 1-800-SOS-RADON (1-800-767-7236).

The Surgeon General's Workshop on Healthy Indoor Environment is bringing together the best scientific minds in the nation to discuss the continuing problem of unhealthful buildings. Indoor environments are structures including workplaces, schools, offices, houses and apartment buildings, and vehicles. According to a recent study, Americans spend between 85 and 95 percent of their time indoors.

In just the past 25 years, the percentage of health evaluations that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has conducted related to indoor-air quality has increased from 0.5 percent of all evaluations in 1978, to 52 percent of all evaluations since 1990. This means that in those years, the evaluations related to air quality concerns have increased from one of every 200 evaluations to one of every two.

The problem is also adversely affecting our children's health as millions of homes and apartments and one in five schools in America have indoor air quality problems. This can trigger various allergies and asthma. Asthma alone accounts for 14 million missed school days each year. The rate of asthma in young children has risen by 160 percent in the past 15 years, and today one out of every 13 school-age children has asthma. Dr. Carmona is especially focusing on how unhealthy indoor environment affects children, as he promotes 2005 as The Year of the Healthy Child.

Contact: HHS Press Office

(202) 690-6343

Surgeon General Releases National Health Advisory On Radon

For More Information, Contact:

Jonathan Lee Wright /

Joel Segal, Public Affairs Director, Congressman John Conyers / (202) 225 5126

Sharon Kramer (760) 822 8026 /

Richard H. Carmona, Surgeon General of the United States / (877) 696 6775

Craig Stevens, Press Officer for Health and Human Services / (202) 690 6343


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Jonathan Wright

719 429 4787
Email >