Neighbors worried mold makes dilapidated Leesburg-area home a health risk

By Christine – Sentinel Staff Writer

March 4, 2009

A dilapidated home in a Leesburg area mobile-home community has drawn concern from neighbors worried it may be a potential health risk.

Residents at the Mid-Lakes development off County Road 44 say a vacant manufactured home that sits between a cluster of occupied houses is filled with mold.

The community’s management, Equity Lifestyle Properties Inc., plans to demolish the home in the coming weeks. But residents are fearful the management won’t take the right precautions to eliminate health risks that could be associated with mold substances inside 168 Camellia Drive. Neighbors suspected mold after getting a whiff of a powerful odor when they approached the house.

“This is just horrible,” said resident Anna Primus, 72, who lives across the street from the home. “[Mold] spores could be driving through everything.”

Primus, who is allergic to mold, said she has received little information from management as to what measures they will take to properly remove any mold from the home before it’s razed. Her husband, Celso, 78, is recovering from lung-cancer treatments.

“My concern is that my husband just finished chemotherapy for lung cancer,” she said. “There’s so many debilitated people in this community that they can’t do this without any repercussions.”

But the development’s corporate management said residents are not at risk and that plans are in place to ensure state and federal guidelines are followed.

“We’re working diligently to getting that house removed. We’re taking any precautionary methods needed to removing that home,” said Jeff Fannon, vice president of operations for Equity’s eastern region. “To the best of my knowledge, the home does not pose any danger to residents.”

Fannon was unable to cite any specific precautions planned for the house.

But resident Jean Best, who lives next door to the abandoned home, isn’t convinced proper preventive measures will take place before the house is torn down.

She’s concerned that the lifestyle for most at Mid-Florida Lakes will be threatened if harmful substances enter the air. The development includes many seniors who often ride bikes or take a stroll through the narrow streets dotted by small manufactured homes.

“I don’t know what else we can do,” said Best, 70.

There are few details about specific substances that may exist within the house. If mold is present, the effect it can have on a person depends on the individual and the type of mold, said Philip Fairey, deputy director of the University of Central Florida‘s Florida Solar Energy Center in Brevard County.

“Certain people are very sensitive to spores and particles,” Fairey said. In addition, “there are certain kinds of it [mold] that have shown to be toxic in large … quantities.”

If mold has already filled the house, bulldozing the property may not solve the problem because the mold has likely grown in places outside, such as the ground beneath the home, he said.

Although Fairey was unable to say whether tearing down the home will have a major effect on surrounding neighbors, people with breathing issues might have problems.

“Anyone who has a pre-existing medical condition with lung disease or asthma or anything like that along their lives will probably be more impacted,” he said.

As for Primus, she hopes management will work with residents so she can feel confident that she and her husband are safe.

“It is very frustrating,” she said. “I don’t think they understand the seriousness of it.”

orlandosentinel.com

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