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Water Today Title October 25, 2021

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Update 2019/1/1
Mould - Part 3


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By Gillian Ward

On a farm 165km north of Saskatoon, a slip of a woman with a soft, raspy voice spoke to WaterToday on the phone from her farm. At just 103 lbs, she is a shadow of her former self. In the past six years of non-stop coughing, her sleep has been constantly interrupted, both retinas have detached, she has lost muscle mass and mobility. To this day she is unable to perform simple tasks without stopping several times to catch her breath. She has experienced the loss of connective tissue in her knees, at first diagnosed as arthritis, painful swelling that keeps her from doing any farm work. Just telling her story exhausted her. She broke down weeping as she retraced the doctor visits, referrals to specialists and more specialists, having x-rays, antibiotics and steroids with no real relief for her symptoms.

Don and Trish Leis and their 16 year old daughter live in Regina, Saskatchewan. Don is a former officer in the Canadian Navy, and a former member of the RCMP, having passed the muster for each of those demanding occupations in his day. Today, Don needs to rest up before he can move a box of books to the next room. He told Water Today that as the physical and mental deterioration of his family raged like a house on fire, his wife unable to get out of bed to use the toilet, it was all he could do to talk his girls into living another day. His bride wasted away before his eyes, atrophied and stricken with bedsores, while their daughter at sixteen was not asking to go out with her friends, indeed, the teen asked her father daily to be relieved of living.

Philip Regier was a bright University student studying Computer Science in 2016/2017. The summer of 2017 he took a summer job at a provincial park with staff housing. Three months later he returned to his studies feeling as physically fit and normal as ever, but found himself unable to keep up with his classes. He got frustrated with himself for not being able to understand what had once come so naturally to him. He tried to talk to friends and family about his inability to concentrate, but none understood him. He told Water Today that even worse than losing his ability to think was how angry he felt with himself for what he could only describe as becoming "stupid". In October of 2017, he dropped out of University. Today he works an unskilled labour job. He says he would not wish this experience on his worst enemy.

The World Health Organization report Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environment (2016) cites Environmental factors contributing to illness as being responsible for 23% of premature deaths worldwide. The very young, the elderly, the immune compromised and malnourished are most sensitive to environmental illness, with the low and middle income brackets experiencing double the risk associated with high income. These risks are considered "modifiable", meaning there is reasonable potential for improvement given available technology, resources and social acceptance of the need for action.

Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety reported in 2007 "Facts about Mould" citing indoor air quality as a factor for serious health implications when any type of mould is present. As fungi , moulds release mycotoxins, a neurotoxin that is hazardous to anyone's health at a certain level, with mycotoxins being present even in dead mould and in its invisible, airborne spores. While scientists cannot yet agree as to what level of mycotoxins are safe for most people, it would be a grave mistake to assume that any level of mycotoxin in the home or workplace is safe. Those with first hand experience are convinced that ill effects accumulate with prolonged exposure and everyone we interviewed is afflicted with different symptoms.

The mystery illness is so baffling that our contributors have difficulty believing it themselves. While it is unproductive to look backward to lay blame, the survivors of mould infested environments have a common goal. Each one is committed to help others avoid their pain.


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