A talk with investigative journalist Arnold Mann about mold, environmental illness, and MCS
Published: October 12, 2011
It’s important to point out also, that the science today shows it doesn’t take an overwhelming amount of petrochemicals or mycotoxin from black mold to generate an environmental illness, that it can be a low-level exposure. Is that right?
Oftentimes people say, “Well, why are you sick and the person sitting next to you is not sick? And why is it that 80 percent of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, or Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance, victims are women?” There are reasons for this. Number one, some people are more susceptible by way of their genetics. There was one study that showed that estrogen seems to play a role. So there are a number of different factors that make some people more susceptible to this illness than others, but it does not invalidate the fact that they are sick.
How widespread does your research suggest that MCS and TILT are in the United States today?
There have been several studies, and very good ones. The National Academy of Sciences estimated that 2-3 percent of the country has been diagnosed with MCS. There’s 15 percent of the American public that could be experiencing a heightened sensitivity to chemicals. The big deal, though, lately a very good national study was done by Dr. Stanley Caress. In his study, 12 to 15 percent of adults report reactivity to everyday chemicals, 6 percent suffer from severe chemical sensitivity, and 3 percent have actually been diagnosed with MCS. I think the most shocking number that I came across: Dr. Caress did a study in metropolitan Atlanta and found that 2 percent of the metropolitan Atlanta adults were out of work because of MCS. That’s a knock-out.
If the science of this ever sunk in, we’d be living in very different built environments. Have you found that politically the deck is just stacked against us to get reform that recognizes these types of illnesses?
Yes. A lot of it is about money. It would be naive to say that everything’s going to change overnight and industry should just lie back and say, ‘Look. What can we do to help?’ That would be naive because industry would suffer. Since this thing started in the post-World War Two petrochemical revolution everybody’s been caught with their pants down. What do we do? There’s been some really bad behavior on the part of industry. Yes, there has. What’s keeping the science down? It’s not just the fact that the treatment of all these people would be so expensive, if in fact there were effective treatments for them. That’s very limited. The research, of course, needs to be done. The universities are funded to a great extent by business, as you know, by industry, by the insurance industry, the petroleum industry, the chemical industry, all of whom would suffer greatly. And those researchers who have tried to hang out a shingle at university saying, “I’m looking into environmental medicine,” usually have their funds cut and may even lose their jobs pretty quickly. But, especially in regards to mold, the insurance industry is looking at huge litigation. When this started in the late ‘90s, they all started circling their wagons.
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