NewsChannel 3 has gotten big results with both Lincoln Military Housing and the Navy making big changes in complexes all over Hampton Roads.
Now NewsChannel 3 is taking action to help families suffering from major health problems caused by mold exposure.
Since the beginning of NewsChannel 3’s exclusive investigation into mold in military housing, the common denominator in all these families stories has been the health problems.
Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker says the science is clear. He wrote the book on Surviving Mold, which compiles 15 years of his own research on thousands of patients who lived in moldy and water-damaged buildings.
His findings are starting to change everything about the way the world views mold-related illnesses.
“It’s systemic. Not a runny nose, not a sneeze, it is an inflammatory cascade that we can show step-by-step, hormone-by-hormone,” says Dr. Shoemaker.
He says the key to it all is in our genes.
By taking just one tube of blood from a patient, Dr. Shoemaker can see if they have the proper immune response gene.
According to Dr. Shoemaker’s research, about 75% of humans have a gene that helps them fight against toxins in the body. The other 25% have a different variation of that gene which means their bodies cannot fend off the same attacks, including those that come from mold.
“There are people who move into the moldiest buildings you find that won’t be affected. They might have some allergy, but they won’t have inflammatory illness or bio toxicity that other 25% does,” says Dr. Shoemaker.
For years, the CDC has acknowledged that mold can cause respiratory illnesses and asthma in people exposed to water-damaged buildings.
As for more serious illnesses involving the brain and neurological systems, they say that link has not been proven.
But Dr. Shoemaker says his findings, along with other doctors on the cutting edge of research, are now debunking that school of thought.
Those illnesses are not just simple allergies.
“Anywhere in the body where blood flows there can be an effect in inflammatory response to a water-damaged building,” says Dr. Shoemaker.
“When you lose regulation of inflammation, inflammation goes haywire. It’s not stopped, person stays ill,” says Dr. Shoemaker.
Everything from digestive issues to skin lesions to brain damage and memory loss has been linked to mold exposure by Dr. Shoemaker.
So how much exposure is enough to cause these illnesses?
According to the CDC, those standards have not been established.
“Just about every word in that sentence is not only wrong, it’s deceiving in its wrongness. We don’t need high levels to make susceptible people sick because of genetics,” says Dr. Shoemaker.
He says in that 25% of the population, just being in a water-damaged building can cause serious illness even if mold tests show low levels of spores in the air.
“If you use a air sample to say its safe, that’s fraud,” says Dr. Shoemaker. “You don’t even need testing when you have obvious water intrusion.”
Even the EPA recently funded and patented mold standards through what’s called the “Ermi Test.”
It samples the dust in a person’s home to see what kinds of mold show up.
Dr. Shoemaker says this test will show if there are high enough levels of mold in a home to make someone sick.
“Every time you see someone sickened by a water-damaged building, someone has been negligent,” says Dr. Shoemaker.
So what does that say about the Navy and Lincoln Military Housing who have admitted their fault in allowing military families to live in leaky homes for years?
Dr. Shoemaker had some strong opinions.
“We put them in protective vehicles to not get blown up by IEDs, so we put them in a bathroom where the drywall is falling down, not right. Gave them purple hearts, and then we put them into a home with a window leaking and they step through the floor and it collapses. That’s not right,” says Dr. Shoemaker.
Because this is something that’s in your blood, simple removal from a water damaged building will not get rid of your sickness if you are in that 25% group.
But the good news is that gene deficiency can be treated by doctors with hormone therapy as long as it’s properly diagnosed.