|Silent Killers: The Toxic Black Mold Species
(CBS) Since the movie bearing her name appeared, everyone
knows who Erin Brockovich is: the working mother who traced illnesses
in a small California town to groundwater contaminated by Pacific Gas
After the case was settled for hundreds of millions of dollars,
Brockovich got a big promotion, and now divides her time between her
job and motivational speaking.
She lives in a million-dollar home near Los Angeles, with her third
husband, Eric Ellis, and the youngest of her 3 children - 11-year-old
Brockovich says it is the house she always wanted. The bonus she got
from winning the lawsuit made her dream possible. But then it turned
into a nightmare, 48 Hours Correspondent Susan Spencer
For months, touring her home required a hazmat suit. The house was
filled with slimy black mold called Stachybotrys
Few experts dispute that it can cause allergic reactions. According to
industrial hygienist Joe Spurgeon, it can cause a runny nose, runny
eyes, headaches, sinus congestion, cough, fatigue, and neurological
Brockovich knows the symptoms well: she suffered with them for more
than a year.
"I could not function," she says. "It was like this
hanger-onner kinda flu. Achey, night sweats, headache. And I had been
on antibiotics month after month." She says her whole family
suffered from it.
She finally identified the cause whne a contractor she hired to fix
leaks put her in touch with attorney Alex Robertson, who specializes
in toxic mold cases. He says business is booming.
"Mold needs a couple of things to grow," he says. "It
needs water, it needs cellulose. Everything we build our homes out of
almost is celluslose-based." Brockovich is suing the builder of
her house, subcontractors and the former owner, claiming faulty
construction caused water leaks that led to the mold.
She says she sees the irony of her position: "I do a major toxic
case, I get a bonus for that toxic case, and I bought a toxic
home," she says with a laugh.
The mold is so toxic that parts of the house were sealed off. But she
vowed the mold would not force her out. Instead, crews eliminated the
mold, one room at a time. The price was roughly $600,000.
"I'm gonna fight my way through it to the very end," she
Steve and Karen Porath of Forresthill, Calif., took even more drastic
action with their house. To get rid of their mold problem, they had
their house torched, giving it to local firemen for a training
exercise. The Poraths had no money for expensive repairs, and, of
course, no prospective buyers.
The same mold bedeveling the Poraths and Brockovich forced the
Ballards to evacuate their 22-room, 11,000-square foot mansion in
Melinda Ballard blames the mold for son Reese's asthma and learning
disabilities, and for her husband Ronís memory loss. Eventually Ron
quit his job as an investment banker. He sought out mold specialist
Dr. Eckhardt Johanning, who gave him a devastating diagnosis: brain
Ronís condition is a major part of the Ballards' landmark lawsuit
against their insurance company Ė Farmers. They blame the company
for the mold that has wrecked their home, saying, in effect, that the
company refused to ante up enough money fast enough to fix water
They also hold the company responsible for the family's physical and
"For the rest of our lives, we will have to worry about Ronny and
Reese and their medical conditions," says Melinda.
But the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection
Agency say that some of the most extreme health risks of mold, such as
brain damage and memory loss, have not yet been proven.
During the trial, the judge cited that lack of scientific evidence to
deliver a major blow to the Ballard case: He refused to admit any
testimony that mold causes brain damage - in effect wiping out the
familyís medical claims. Brockovich says science just hasnít
caught up with reality
The jury agreed, and ruled in favor of the Ballards in every category.
The total award: $32 million. Farmersí Insurance is appealing, but
for now Ron and Melinda are savoring their win. Melinda also testified
in support of a new California law, which treats mold as a public
©MMII, CBS Worldwide Inc, All Rights Reserved.
Do-It-Best-Yourself Mold Solutions
Certified Mold Inspector,
Certified Mold Remediator, and
Certified Environmental Hygienist, can help you fix your own propertyís
mold problems at low-cost, more safely, and better-in- results than what is
done by many mold inspectors and mold contractors. How can Phil help
1. Read Philís five plain-English,
mold advice books
to master mold inspection, testing, removal, remediation, and prevention for
your house, condo, apartment, office, or workplace.
2. Buy do-it-yourself, affordable
mold test kits,
mold lab analysis,
video inspection scope,
and a mold-killing
for the successful toxic and household
mold species identification and quantification,
from your residence or commercial building.
3. Get FREE mold advice, mold help, and/or answers to
your mold questions, by emailing mold expert Phillip Fry at
You can also email pictures of your mold problems in jpeg file format as