Courthouse - Mold May or May Not Be Cause of Illness
Thu, Jan 30, 2003
Officials using neutralizer spray to clean air
By Julie Allison
The Morning News/NWAonline.net
ROGERS -- Peggy Butterbaugh has had pneumonia four times in 18 months, and
she spent 10 days in the hospital last year.
Butterbaugh, who works in the Carroll County clerk's office, is one of several
employees at the Carroll County Courthouse in Berryville who have suffered from
illnesses that could not be explained.
Frequent sinus infections and respiratory problems are among the ailments
that have led employees to wonder whether the building -- and its old air-conditioning
units -- are to blame.
On County Judge Ed Robertson's recommendation, Lisa Taylor, a county administrative
assistant, inspected the building's air-conditioning units, insulation, ductwork
Taylor, who said she has had more sinus infections in the two years she has
worked at the courthouse than in the past, found black specks on some bricks,
a tell-tale sign of mold growing in humid conditions.
Whether the mold is to blame for the health problems is still a question.
Butterbaugh, however, was off work for two weeks in September and experienced
"Within 30 minutes (of coming back to work), I was sneezing and coughing.
Within six weeks, I had pneumonia," she said.
It is impossible to get rid of all mold and spores indoors, and inhaling or
touching them may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, according
to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Web site.
If insulation gets wet -- which happened in the courthouse several years ago
-- mold thrives, Taylor said.
Most of the air-conditioning units are the original units installed in the
1940s or early 1950s. In 1975, the county bought the building at 210 W. Church
St. for use as a courthouse.
Robertson said mold in the units could be a problem, but neither he nor Taylor
will say the courthouse is making people sick.
"Some people have had some respiratory ailments, with some amount of
regularity," said Robertson. "We thought we should look around. But
then there's a lot more people who haven't (experienced) anything."
Robertson said it is probably a good idea to replace the old air-conditioning
"It's an old building. We're going to have some problems," said
Although the air in the courthouse has not been tested, Taylor said she contacted
Carlisle Consulting Inc., an industrial-hygiene consulting service in Harrison.
"They told me that all they could tell me was if we had mold. I already
knew that," Taylor said.
County officials chose not to hire the firm.
In the meantime, Taylor has been misting the rooms for about five minutes
daily with Expel Heavy Duty Neutralizer, a fogger that works as an odor neutralizer.
"It breaks down the particles in the air and makes it cleaner,"
At $350 for the chemicals and the fogger machine, Expel is cheaper than replacing
the air-conditioning units.
Taylor would not say Expel has eliminated the problem.
"In some cases, it has helped," she said.
"They have sprayed and you can tell a big difference. I have not had
to return to the doctor except for a checkup," she said.
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