Mold spores don’t receive nearly the attention of the Big 3 tormentors of the allergic – grass, trees, and ragweed
– but allergy experts say it’s a big reason why some continue to suffer even after those seasons wind down.
For those sensitive to mold spores – not to be confused with indoor mold – the first day of Fall 2016 was a landmark day.
With the Thursday morning report, the spore count hit an all-time high of 19,990, according to the Asthma Center’s Dr. Donald J. Dvorin, the official counter for the National Allergy Bureau for the last 30 years.
Consider that 7,000 – that’s the number of spores that pass through a refrigerator-sized parcel of air in a 24-hour period – is considered “extreme.”
Unlike the Big 3, these are spores produced by fungi, rather than pollen grains.
They typically show up in early spring and persist in the fall until the weather turns cold. The Asthma Center says the numbers are highest midsummer to late fall.
Conditions this week have been perfectly aligned for a harvest of mold spores, Dvorin said.
They love to grow on fallen leaves, of which we have plenty around here. The rains Monday might have given them a production boost, and the subsequent warmth and dryness have been ideal for flight.
Inhaling the spores can trigger a reaction that apes that of inhaling tree, grass, or ragweed pollen.
The tree and grass seasons are done, and ragweed is winding down, so if you’re still feeling like you’re under attack from pollen, the culprit might well be a spore.
Mold spores might be the under-the-radar ugly ducklings of the allergens, but about 60 percent of Asthma Center patients who complain of grass, tree, or ragweed allergies also react to mold spores, Dvorin said.
For more on the spores and pollen, check out the Asthma Center site.
California’s Mold Law – SB 655
Mold is now a factor in declaring a property unfit for a renter.
A landlord could even face misdemeanor criminal penalties if mold is not cleared out. California’s Mold Law – SB 655 . .
However, he said a health officer actually has to come out to a property to declare it uninhabitable because of mold. A renter will not be successful in court, he said, unless a health official says the unit poses a risk.
“Here’s the really good news: You don’t need to do anything until you’re told about it,” Hutchinson said of when a landlord needs to clean it out.
The mold law also says mold is not the landlords’ fault if the tenant caused mold by “inappropriate housekeeping practices.”
BILL NUMBER: SB 655 INTRODUCED BILL TEXT
INTRODUCED BY Senator Mitchell FEBRUARY 27, 2015
An act to amend Sections 17920 and 17920.3 of the Health and
Safety Code, relating to housing standards.
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST
SB 655, as introduced, Mitchell. Housing standards: mold.
(1) The State Housing Law, which is administered by the Department
of Housing and Community Development, prescribes standards for
buildings used for human habitation and establishes definitions for
this purpose. The law provides that a building, or a portion of it,
in which certain conditions are found to exist, such as a lack of
sanitation, as specified, is substandard. The law provides that a
violation of these provisions is a misdemeanor.
This bill would specify that visible or otherwise demonstrable
mold growth, excepting mold caused by inappropriate housekeeping
practices or improper use of ventilation, is a type of inadequate
sanitation and therefore a substandard condition. The bill would
define mold as living or dead fungi or its related products or parts,
including spores and hyphae. By expanding the definition of a crime,
this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
(2) The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse
local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the
state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this
act for a specified reason.
Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes.
State-mandated local program: yes.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. Section 17920 of the Health and Safety Code is amended
17920. As used in this part:
(a) "Approved" means acceptable to the department.
(b) "Building" means a structure subject to this part.
(c) "Building standard" means building standard as
defined in Section 18909.
(d) "Department" means the Department of Housing and
(e) "Enforcement" means diligent effort to secure
compliance, including review of plans and permit applications,
response to complaints, citation of violations, and other legal
process. Except as otherwise provided in this part, "enforcement"
may, but need not, include inspections of existing buildings on which
no complaint or permit application has been filed, and effort to
secure compliance as to these existing buildings.
(f) "Fire protection district" means any special
district, or any other municipal or public corporation or district,
which is authorized by law to provide fire protection and prevention
(g) "Labeled" means equipment or materials to which has
been attached a label, symbol, or other identifying mark of an
organization, approved by the department, that maintains a periodic
inspection program of production of labeled products, installations,
equipment, or materials and by whose labeling the manufacturer
indicates compliance with appropriate standards or performance in a
(h) "Listed" means all products that appear in a list
published by an approved testing or listing agency.
(i) "Listing agency" means an agency approved by the
department that is in the business of listing and labeling products,
materials, equipment, and installations tested by an approved testing
agency, and that maintains a periodic inspection program on current
production of listed products, equipment, and installations, and
that, at least annually, makes available a published report of these
(j) "Mold" means living or dead fungi or its related products or
parts, including spores and hyphae.
(k) "Noise insulation" means the protection of persons
within buildings from excessive noise, however generated, originating
within or without such buildings.
(l) "Nuisance" means any nuisance defined pursuant to
Part 3 (commencing with Section 3479) of Division 4 of the Civil
Code, or any other form of nuisance recognized at common law or in
(m) "Public entity" has the same meaning as defined in
Section 811.2 of the Government Code.
(n) "Testing agency" means an agency approved by the
department as qualified and equipped for testing of products,
materials, equipment, and installations in accordance with nationally
SEC. 2. Section 17920.3 of the Health and Safety Code is amended
17920.3. Any building or portion thereof including any dwelling
unit, guestroom or suite of rooms, or the premises on which the same
is located, in which there exists any of the following listed
conditions to an extent that endangers the life, limb, health,
property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants thereof
shall be deemed and hereby is declared to be a substandard building:
(a) Inadequate sanitation shall include, but not be limited to,
(1) Lack of, or improper water closet, lavatory, or bathtub or
shower in a dwelling unit.
(2) Lack of, or improper water closets, lavatories, and bathtubs
or showers per number of guests in a hotel.
(3) Lack of, or improper kitchen sink.
(4) Lack of hot and cold running water to plumbing fixtures in a
(5) Lack of hot and cold running water to plumbing fixtures in a
(6) Lack of adequate heating.
(7) Lack of, or improper operation of required ventilating
(8) Lack of minimum amounts of natural light and ventilation
required by this code.
(9) Room and space dimensions less than required by this code.
(10) Lack of required electrical lighting.
(11) Dampness of habitable rooms.
(12) Infestation of insects, vermin, or rodents as determined by a
health officer or, if an agreement does not exist with an agency
that has a health officer, the infestation can be determined by a
code enforcement officer, as defined in Section 829.5 of the Penal
Code, upon successful completion of a course of study in the
appropriate subject matter as determined by the local jurisdiction.
(13) Any visible or otherwise demonstrable mold growth, excluding
the presence of mold that is caused by inappropriate housekeeping
practices or improper use of natural or mechanical ventilation.
(14) General dilapidation or improper maintenance.
(15) Lack of connection to required sewage disposal
(16) Lack of adequate garbage and rubbish storage and
removal facilities, as determined by a health officer or, if an
agreement does not exist with an agency that has a health officer,
the lack of adequate garbage and rubbish removal facilities can be
determined by a code enforcement officer as defined in Section 829.5
of the Penal Code.
(b) Structural hazards shall include, but not be limited to, the
(1) Deteriorated or inadequate foundations.
(2) Defective or deteriorated flooring or floor supports.
(3) Flooring or floor supports of insufficient size to carry
imposed loads with safety.
(4) Members of walls, partitions, or other vertical supports that
split, lean, list, or buckle due to defective material or
(5) Members of walls, partitions, or other vertical supports that
are of insufficient size to carry imposed loads with safety.
(6) Members of ceilings, roofs, ceiling and roof supports, or
other horizontal members which sag, split, or buckle due to defective
material or deterioration.
(7) Members of ceilings, roofs, ceiling and roof supports, or
other horizontal members that are of insufficient size to carry
imposed loads with safety.
(8) Fireplaces or chimneys which list, bulge, or settle due to
defective material or deterioration.
(9) Fireplaces or chimneys which are of insufficient size or
strength to carry imposed loads with safety.
(c) Any nuisance.
(d) All wiring, except that which conformed with all applicable
laws in effect at the time of installation if it is currently in good
and safe condition and working properly.
(e) All plumbing, except plumbing that conformed with all
applicable laws in effect at the time of installation and has been
maintained in good condition, or that may not have conformed with all
applicable laws in effect at the time of installation but is
currently in good and safe condition and working properly, and that
is free of cross connections and siphonage between fixtures.
(f) All mechanical equipment, including vents, except equipment
that conformed with all applicable laws in effect at the time of
installation and that has been maintained in good and safe condition,
or that may not have conformed with all applicable laws in effect at
the time of installation but is currently in good and safe condition
and working properly.
(g) Faulty weather protection, which shall include, but not be
limited to, the following:
(1) Deteriorated, crumbling, or loose plaster.
(2) Deteriorated or ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls,
roofs, foundations, or floors, including broken windows or doors.
(3) Defective or lack of weather protection for exterior wall
coverings, including lack of paint, or weathering due to lack of
paint or other approved protective covering.
(4) Broken, rotted, split, or buckled exterior wall coverings or
(h) Any building or portion thereof, device, apparatus, equipment,
combustible waste, or vegetation that, in the opinion of the chief
of the fire department or his deputy, is in such a condition as to
cause a fire or explosion or provide a ready fuel to augment the
spread and intensity of fire or explosion arising from any cause.
(i) All materials of construction, except those that are
specifically allowed or approved by this code, and that have been
adequately maintained in good and safe condition.
(j) Those premises on which an accumulation of weeds, vegetation,
junk, dead organic matter, debris, garbage, offal, rodent harborages,
stagnant water, combustible materials, and similar materials or
conditions constitute fire, health, or safety hazards.
(k) Any building or portion thereof that is determined to be an
unsafe building due to inadequate maintenance, in accordance with the
latest edition of the Uniform Building Code.
( l ) All buildings or portions thereof not provided
with adequate exit facilities as required by this code, except those
buildings or portions thereof whose exit facilities conformed with
all applicable laws at the time of their construction and that have
been adequately maintained and increased in relation to any increase
in occupant load, alteration or addition, or any change in occupancy.
When an unsafe condition exists through lack of, or improper
location of, exits, additional exits may be required to be installed.
(m) All buildings or portions thereof that are not provided with
the fire-resistive construction or fire-extinguishing systems or
equipment required by this code, except those buildings or portions
thereof that conformed with all applicable laws at the time of their
construction and whose fire-resistive integrity and
fire-extinguishing systems or equipment have been adequately
maintained and improved in relation to any increase in occupant load,
alteration or addition, or any change in occupancy.
(n) All buildings or portions thereof occupied for living,
sleeping, cooking, or dining purposes that were not designed or
intended to be used for those occupancies.
(o) Inadequate structural resistance to horizontal forces.
"Substandard building" includes a building not in compliance with
However, a condition that would require displacement of sound
walls or ceilings to meet height, length, or width requirements for
ceilings, rooms, and dwelling units shall not by itself be considered
sufficient existence of dangerous conditions making a building a
substandard building, unless the building was constructed, altered,
or converted in violation of those requirements in effect at the time
of construction, alteration, or conversion.
SEC. 3. No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to
Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because
the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school
district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or
infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty
for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the
Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the
meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California
California's Mold Law - SB 655
Air Quality Problems & Health Symptoms Persist over gas leak
The Aliso Canyon nightmare isn’t over. . . . .
for Sandy Crawford’s family and hundreds of other refugees from the methane leak in Los Angeles County.
Although the 112-day leak from an underground gas reservoir was permanently sealed more than a month ago, relocated residents returning to their homes report health symptoms similar to those that drove them out weeks earlier. Crawford’s two boys, ages 3 and 11, both got sick when the family moved home, and so did the family dogs, Betty and Blade. The Crawfords moved back to their hotel within days.
“The limbo is what’s killing us,” Crawford said. “Not knowing the long-term effect and not knowing if we are just going to take [our children] home and expose them to more stuff, and what it is that we are even exposing them to, it’s such an uneasy feeling.”
Since the leak was sealed Feb. 18, the Los Angeles County Health Department has received health complaints from nearly 300 individuals who either returned home or attempted to do so. The symptoms are similar to the 700 reports of headaches, dizziness, rashes, eye, nose and respiratory irritation, and abdominal pain from Oct. 28 to Feb. 18, when the leak was active. The causes haven’t been identified.
This has set up a clash between residents and Southern California Gas Co., the owner of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility. The unit was the source of the largest natural gas leak in U.S. history. Under orders from state authorities, SoCal Gas has been paying to temporarily shelter more than 6,000 households from Granada Hills, Porter Ranch and neighboring communities. Public health authorities and SoCal Gas say air quality in those neighborhoods has returned to normal and residents can safely move back home.
The dispute is coming to a head this week. A state judge in LA County ruled Friday that the company is not required to pay for temporary quarters beyond Tuesday. SoCal Gas said it would pay hotel bills through checkout time this Friday. As of last Tuesday, roughly 5,000 families still hadn’t returned home from temporary housing, according to SoCal Gas spokeswoman Melissa Bailey.
“Air quality and health experts—including those from the county’s own public health department—have been saying for weeks that the air quality in the area is at normal levels, and is similar to the air quality in other parts of the county,” SoCal Gas said Friday in a statement. “Testing by a third party of over 70 homes, sponsored by SoCal Gas, showed no elevated levels of methane inside these homes, and did not detect mercaptans or other sulfur compounds associated with natural gas.”
The argument over environmental safety in LA echoes famous past disputes over the chemically tainted Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, N.Y., and water pollution in Hinkley, Calif., the subject of the film, “Erin Brockovich.” The mystery health effects show how difficult it can be for authorities to detect substances that sicken some people, or even to identify the causes of environmental illnesses.
Sandy Crawford, 39 and a vice president at a movie production company, and her family first returned to their home, a single-story ranch house on a quiet cul-de-sac in Granada Hills, on Feb. 19. They thought their troubles were over after more than a month in two adjoining hotel rooms. They had tired of eating cold cereal and microwaved eggs for breakfast. They wanted to resume hiking with their kids and dogs in the hills above their home and to quit driving an extra 20 miles to their hotel at the end of each day.
Before moving back home, Sandy and husband Alan, 46, an audio engineer, hired professional cleaners to scrub the house—twice. They opened doors and windows to air out the house, and ran air filters continuously for two days.
The next day, their 3-year-old son Diesel woke up and said he couldn’t breathe. Before leaving their home in January, the whole family experienced respiratory issues from bronchitis to asthma attacks that required visits to urgent care. Diesel and the others were free of symptoms while in the hotel.
In the following days, Sandy started having abdominal pain. Chancellor, the 11-year-old, began coughing up brown phlegm. His nose, throat and eyes hurt. The Crawfords had the gas company install air filters on their home heating and air conditioning system on Feb. 22. The next day Chancellor was too sick to go to school.
With a couple of days left before the SoCal Gas funding for relocation housing was to end, they returned to their hotel on Feb 23. They returned to their home a second time on the evening of Feb. 25, the day their housing subsidy was set to expire. Housing subsidies were subsequently extended, but the court last week rejected a further extension. Within an hour of returning home the second time, however, Diesel said he wasn’t feeling well.
Diesel Crawford’s nose bled upon returning home after the Aliso Canyon leak. Credit: Sandy Crawford
“I looked up at him, and there was just blood pouring down his face,” Sandy Crawford said, describing Diesel’s nosebleed.
Determining the cause of such ongoing illnesses is crucial for addressing the immediate and potential long-term health effects, according to public health authorities. No one knows what is causing the symptoms. Not everyone living near Aliso Canyon is affected, but for many residents, nothing short of leaving the area seems to make them go away.
“The symptoms that they are having now are difficult to determine in terms of what their origins may be,” said Cyrus Rangan, director of the Bureau of Toxicology and Environmental Assessment for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
One cause of persisting illnesses may be an oily mist that was released from the leaking well, known as SS-25. In mid-December, residents started reporting an oily residue on their cars, patios and yards. Before it became a gas storage unit, Aliso Canyon was an oil reservoir. Trace amounts of oil remained underground and are believed to have surfaced with the leaking gas.
“It appears that the substance was forced out of well SS-25 in the form of liquid droplets, along with the flow of natural gas emanating from the well,” wrote LA County Public Health Interim Director Cynthia Harding in a March 6 letter to LA County Supervisors.
The droplets may have entered nearby homes and may be responsible for ongoing health effects, according to one independent expert.
“You are essentially getting very small droplets that become an aerosol that can then penetrate indoors and conceivably would deposit on substrates, surfaces and in walls,” said Michael Jerrett, professor and chairman of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. “If that were the case, you could be looking at the delivery of toxic materials into the homes.”
Another possibility is the formation of “secondary aerosols,” volatile organic gases that, once emitted from the well, undergo chemical reactions in the atmosphere, Jerrett said. These reactions could result in conversion of the gases into particles that penetrate homes and lodge themselves into carpets, walls and other surfaces.
Vaporized oil droplets or secondary organic aerosols are the most likely source of “something that would have biologically meaningful capacity to deliver a dose and still be toxic and potentially capable of eliciting some of the effects that people are reporting,” Jerrett said.
Officials with the Los Angeles County Health Department initially said the oily mist did not pose a significant threat.
Tests of residue deposited by the mist determined it consisted of “relatively long-chain hydrocarbons found in crude oil,” the department’s Harding wrote in her letter to county supervisors. “Based on the chemical composition and physical state of the residue, it presents minimal risk.”
County health officials have since spoken with Jerrett and are giving his theory of vaporized droplets and aerosols serious consideration.
“Chemical transformation is something we are considering,” said Angelo Bellomo, deputy director of the department’s protection division. “We’re continuing to talk with [Jerrett] because we think his work is very important to helping us understand what could be going on.”
Jerrett began independent in-home air testing two weeks ago. Preliminary results found elevated levels of benzene and hexane in two of seven homes tested, although it is unknown whether the levels are high enough to pose a health concern, according to a statement by the county health department on Saturday.
The department is working with Jerrett and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor Air Quality Program to develop its own in-home testing, to begin late this week. When completed, results of both sets of in-home tests will go far beyond the tests SoCal Gas did last week that checked only for methane and mercaptans, a class of odorants added to natural gas to help in detecting leaks.
Another possibility is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome (MCSS), in which people become sensitive to toxins at very low levels of exposure—levels that would not typically elicit an adverse reaction.
“If people have experienced the insult originally, then it may not take the same levels of exposure that would be a problem in a healthy person,” said Rodney Dietert a professor of immunotoxicology at Cornell University. “It can seem to be precipitated by fairly low doses.”
Health department officials, however, say MCSS is a theory that hasn’t been proven.
“We don’t really have that kind of evidence that would suggest that people would be exposed to these compounds and then have this sort of elevated level of sensitivity at a later time,” Rangan said.
Rangan’s view corresponds with that of the American Medical Association.
“A report presented to the American Medical Association in 1991 from one of its advisory councils found no scientific evidence that supports the contention that Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome (MCSS) is a significant cause of disease,” AMA spokesman Robert Mills said. Until “accurate, reproducible, and well-controlled studies are available, the AMA Council on Science and Public Health believes that multiple chemical sensitivity should not be considered a recognized clinical syndrome.”
Dietert said much of the controversy over MCSS reflects the medical profession’s lack of understanding of how different people respond to chemical exposures at different levels.
“If we’re not smart enough to figure out all the things that go into it, it doesn’t take away from the fact that they are experiencing those symptoms,” Dietert said.
While causes aren’t well understood, people with MCSS typically have some loss of function of barrier tissues such as mucous membranes in the nose, he said. That allows chemicals from the environment to more easily penetrate underlying body tissue.
“How you get to that from a gas leak event is still a bit of an open question,” Dietert said.
Before determining whether chemical sensitivity is to blame, it’s important to know more about what residents are being exposed to when they return to their homes, said Janette Hope, a physician in Santa Barbara, Calif., who treats patients for chemical sensitivity and is the past president of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine.
“I would definitely want to make sure that their home and indoor air quality and outdoor environments are clean and safe for them before I would describe it as simply chemical sensitivity to very low levels,” Hope said. “I would need to be confident that they weren’t being exposed to toxic levels, and I don’t know if that has been looked at.”
LA County Health Department officials are seeking an extension of several more weeks to complete their indoor air monitoring.
If the Crawfords’ dogs, who have been at home since their relocation approval ran out a month ago, are any indicator, something still may not be right. Betty, the family’s 4-year-old boxer, has thrown up five times since returning home. Blade, the 4-year-old Chihuahua, recently started panting excessively, coughing and having trouble breathing.
The Crawford family, in more carefree times. Credit: Sandy Crawford
As health experts try to determine the cause of the lingering illnesses, residents are unsure what to do. The Crawfords had their home cleaned a third time, took down the curtains, threw out a carpet and replaced a mattress and all of their sheets, all at their own expense. They tried moving back home a third time last Monday.
Although no one got sick again, the family left Wednesday after a radon detector registered an elevated level of the radioactive gas, which can cause cancer after long exposure. There’s little evidence of elevated radon in the neighborhood, and the Crawfords say they don’t know what to make of the reading.
“I don’t really know if we are going to go home and be safe again,” Sandy Crawford said. “It’s the one place that you are supposed to be able to go and feel safe and you don’t.