8 Investigates: Mold infestation in Region 8 rental home

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - A Region 8 woman claims she got sick from her mold-infested rental home, and says her landlord has done nothing about it.

She claims the landlord, Ralph Wood, called two companies to get an estimate on how much the mold removal would cost.  One didn't want to risk their health and the other said Wood would not like the estimate. In the end, neither company was hired.  She says the mold is still there, and it may have made her sick.

"I couldn't breathe. My rib cage feels like it's about to cave in on me," said Iris Greenway, who lived nine months in a rental home at 616 North 7th 1/2 street in Paragould.

When she found the mold, she called her landlord, Ralph Wood, about it in November…. "When we started moving things, we found the hole, more mold and then it goes all the way around even in the window ceil," said Greenway.  The walls were covered with hundreds of black rings.  But what made the situation even worse, Iris says it spread to her mattress.

"When we raised it up it was sopping wet and black.  I was born with lung problems.  I have asthma, emphysema, COPD. So I was used to waking up coughing and not being able to breathe, but it just got worse," said Greenway.

Iris was even diagnosed with a lung infection.  She showed us the letter from her doctor.  It stated the mold in the house could be the underlying cause.  Her doctor told her to move out.

"I live on social security. I can't afford to just up and move. I don't even have a vehicle. I did, but I sold it to be able to get my kids Christmas. He charges $525 a month here," said Greenway.

We pulled a sample and went to the Department of Biological Sciences at Arkansas State University to find out more about the mold.

Doctor Martin Huss put it under the microscope…"The load of spores in the sample that you brought me is very high. I mean, it's not a minor amount.  You do have a variety of things on here. I definitely see alternaria and cladosporium. They are both quite prevalent," said Huss.  Both are common indoor molds.  Cladosporium is often what you find on a shower curtain.

"Now, if you just have a little patch of mold, then we're not talking about taking down the entire wall. What you're showing me is an extreme example. If you just have a little patch of mold, you probably could use a disinfectant. Again based on your photos, I think you would have to take more aggressive steps," said Huss.  He went on to say the biggest thing is finding the underlying problem.  These molds thrive where there is access to moisture.

"If you have any sort of moisture coming into the house either from the plumbing or an outside source, you need to correct that problem. What's going to end up happening is six months, a year later you're going to end up with the same problem," said Huss.

Dr. Huss says he would not want to be living in a home with that amount of mold.  "Personally I wouldn't want to be breathing in this much stuff.  You see those round circle areas...those represent individual colonies producing large number of spores," said Huss.

Health Professional Doctor Shane Speights says when it comes to these types of mold and your health, it often depends on the individual.  "We've seen all over the place from seeing them in the clinic with a little bit of a runny nose, cough, congestion to in the intensive care unit.  A lot of these molds are naturally occurring in the environment, but we're not sleeping with them every night where you're constantly breathing those spores in," said Speights.

Speights says mold infections are not like viral or bacterial infections.  It could mean weeks or months of treatment and not to mention costly.  When it comes to Iris' condition, Speights says the mold can pose more of a risk.

"When it comes to asthma or COPD you're going to have more frequent flare-ups.  Some of the patients that have emphysema and COPD those flare-ups can be life threatening and we see that frequently," said Speights.

I left several messages to Ralph Wood, the owner, but he never returned any of our calls.  I did some research on his background and found out Ralph Wood was cited for failure to abate nuisance upon two different occasions, once in 2004 and another in 2010.

Officials with Paragould Police tell me that type of violation is in regards to maintaining a property.  The department no longer had record of the report from 2004 because of software changes.  But the incident report from 2010 did not have a description of the cause-- only to say Mr. Wood was cited to appear in court for a location at 302 South 22nd Avenue.

When Iris and I wrapped up our interview, she had one thing in mind.  "To get my stuff out of here and my kids out of here," said Greenway.

A week after our interview, Iris was finally able to move out of the home.  We were never able to find out why the mold was not removed.  If you want to find out more about the most common indoor molds and preventative measures you can take go to http://www.cdc.gov/mold/

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