Jennifer Brea is shown pursuing mold avoidance in the movie “Unrest.”
By Lisa Petrison, Ph.D.
Following are the stories of more than 50 individuals who have been reported to have experienced chronic health effects subsequent to being exposed to mold problems.
For more stories about mold illness and mold avoidance, see the section of the Paradigm Change website on How I Survived Toxic Mold.
Another article is called 12 Celebrities Whose Lives Were Impacted By Mold.
Muhammad Ali and his wife lived for more than five years in a home in Louisville, KY, before suing the people who built it, stating that it had “roof and chimney leaks, mold, poor insulation and improper connection of a waterline.” Several years later, Ali died of respiratory issues associated with Parkinson’s disease. Whether his health issues were related to the mold exposure in the home is unknown.
Dave Asprey is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who spent 15 years and $300,000 recovering from illness experienced subsequent to a Stachybotrys exposure in his home. His Bulletproof blog essays and videos frequently focus on the debilitating effects of toxins in food, and his coffee and other food products are guaranteed to be low in mycotoxins. He also frequently has addressed the topic of environmental toxic mold. His documentary movie on the negative effects of environmental toxic mold illness – titled “Moldy” – was released in June 2015.
James Baber is a successful executive management consultant who discussed his experience of being made sick by toxic mold in a podcast interview with Dave Asprey in early 2015. The exposure was in a brand-new, LEEDS-certified, very expensive apartment in New York City overlooking Central Park. After many specialists failed to determine the cause of his health issues, James figured it out himself. He is now much recovered.
The first person to bring the dangers of household toxic mold to mainstream attention was Melinda Ballard, who received a court judgment of $32 million (including damages) against her insurance company in 2001. Melinda (a former PR executive), her husband and their young son all were made very sick by the mold in their luxurious mansion in Dripping Springs, Texas. The family’s story was featured in The New York Times in 2001 and on the CBS news program 48 Hours in 2002. Melinda Ballard died in 2013 at age 55, of causes that were not publicly disclosed.
Alethea Black is an award-winning fiction writer who became ill subsequent to a mold exposure in her home. She wrote about her experiences attempting to recover from her health issues in a fictionalized memoir called You’ve Been So Lucky Already and in an essay called “How To Lose Everything In Twelve Easy Steps.”
Big Edie and Little Edie Beale
Big Edie Beale and her daughter Little Edie Beale were the eccentric and reclusive aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. They were featured in the classic documentary “Grey Gardens” as well as in two follow-up films, “The Beales of Grey Gardens” and “That Summer.” They also have been the subjects of a Broadway musical and an HBO film starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. The question of whether and how the Beales may have been affected by the large amounts of mold reported to have been present in the decaying East Hampton mansion where they lived during the early 1970’s is discussed in the Paradigm Change blog article, “Did The Mold At Grey Gardens Affect Big Edie and Little Edie Beale?”
Kurt and Lee Ann Billings
Kurt and Lee Ann Billings are journalists who became gravely ill from a mold exposure while living in New Orleans immediately subsequent to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They wrote about their recovery experiences and about the topic of toxic mold in general in a book, Mold: The War Within. They say that they are now recovered from their illness.
Jennifer Brea was a Ph.D. student at Harvard University when she became disabled with ME/CFS. Some of her experiences with mold avoidance – including spending two weeks camping in the desert near Moab and then living in a tent in her backyard upon her return home to New Jersey – are featured in her award-winning documentary film “Unrest.”
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich revealed to the world her own environmental problem when the home she purchased near Los Angeles turned out to be full of Stachybotrys. She received a settlement of more than $400,000 in 2003 to clean it up. The story was covered by CBS News and by ABC News.
Jane Brody is a longtime health reporter for The New York Times. In 2014, she wrote a story for the paper called “Don’t Catch What Ails Your House,” detailing mold problems that her family had experienced with their vacation home in the Catskills. She said that her husband was especially sensitive to the mold and experienced severe fatigue every time he visited, and that her sister-in-law got headaches and sinus problems from it.
Jill Carnahan, M.D.
Dr. Jill Carnahan was hit with two serious health challenges in her 20’s and early 30’s – very aggressive breast cancer and then Crohn’s disease. She managed to recover from both of those, but then was hit with a third major challenge when her Boulder, Colorado, office developed a major mold problem subsequent to the 2013 flooding issues in the town. After moving her office and focusing on recovery using a variety of natural treatments, she says that her health is now better than ever. She has shared her mold story and approach to addressing mold illness issues in many video and podcast interviews.
Kathryn Chastain-Treat became very ill almost immediately after starting a new job, even though her colleagues in the building were not nearly as affected. Her book, Allergic to Life, discusses her subsequent severe hyperreactivities to a toxic mold as well as to a wide variety of chemicals. She also blogged about her experiences. Kathryn died following a massive stroke in December 2014.
Trina Clark was working as a very popular QVC model when she suffered a toxic mold exposure at work, losing her health and her career. She became disabled in late 2009 and since has been working hard to avoid mold and move toward recovery. This video tells her story. (Photo credit: Nikicham Photography/Shannon McMahon.)
Jared and his family were made sick by toxic mold in their home when he was in early high school. After moving out of the home and pursuing treatment, Jared worked to draw attention to the problem of mold by speaking about his family’s experiences to local government officials in their town of Naples, Florida. Discouraged about his illness, Jared took his own life on August 16, 2015. He was only 17.
The Fabry Family
Andrea Fabry, her husband and their nine children all were made very ill (each in different ways) as a result of living in a moldy Colorado home. The family moved to a small rental house in a rural area of Arizona in 2008, leaving all their possessions behind. Andrea’s natural living blog It Takes Time details the family’s experiences as they have moved back toward health. She also shares information about healthful living choices on her not-for-profit website momsAWARE and in monthly Toxic Talk Tuesday broadcasts with her husband, radio talk show host Chris Fabry. The family’s mold nightmare was featured in a news segment on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in 2009. Their Just So line of super-pure soaps and other products is designed specifically for people with chemical sensitivities.
Scott became suddenly and violently ill with neuroimmune disease in 1997. Over the next decade, he several times thought that he was on the road to permanent wellness only to relapse. In 2008, a variety of blood tests as well as the ERMI revealed that he was living in an apartment contaminated with substantial amounts of Stachybotrys and other molds, and he moved out. He says he currently is 90% recovered and credits a wide variety of treatments as having been helpful to him, with mold avoidance as “an important piece of the puzzle.” Scott has frequently written about toxic mold on his website, Better Health Guy. He also wrote an article about treatment of toxic mold illness for the established alternative medicine publication Townsend Letter.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
In 1899, author Charlotte Perkins Gilman published a short story called “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Gilman suffered from neurasthenia, a Victorian-era condition that is thought by many doctors today to have been a version of ME/CFS (though unfortunately misattributed to psychological rather than physiological causes). Many people who read this story come away with the belief that the narrator was being affected by toxins from mold growing under the wallpaper in her bedroom. Take a look at it and see what you think.
Louis Gossett Jr.
Louis Gossett Jr. discovered a major mold issue in his Malibu, California, home in 2008. He said that while he was living in the home, he became very ill with mysterious symptoms and his doctor suggested that he had only six months to live. He also blamed the death of his pets on the mold. After addressing the problems with the house and getting medical treatment, and then later being treated for both kidney cancer and prostate cancer, Gossett recovered his health and has continued to have an active acting career. He discussed his mold experience in detail in an interview in 2010.
Actress and human rights activist Bianca Jagger did battle for a number of years with the landlord of her rent-stabilized New York City apartment, which she said had a severe toxic mold problem that made her seriously ill. New York Magazine covered the story in 2004. In 2007, The Washington Post reported that a court decision focusing on Jagger’s non-status as a permanent resident of the U.S. had resulted in her being evicted from the apartment and forced to pay back rent and her landlord’s legal fees. More details of her health issues are included in the introduction of Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker’s book Mold Warriors.
Dr. Joseph P. Klein, M.D.
Joe Klein, an orthopedic surgeon, became hyperreactive to tiny amounts of Stachybotrys toxins after a bathroom renovation in his southern California home in the early 2000’s uncovered a colony of the mold growing inside the wall. He lived in a tent in his backyard for a week, then abandoned his house and possessions and stayed in 40 different hotel rooms attempting to get clear of the toxins. He also became hyperreactive to smoke, interfering with his ability to work in the operating room. More than a dozen years later, he continued to do well as long as he scrupulously avoided certain mold toxins and smoke. His website (developed in 2001-2002 and now archived) details his experiences.
Chris Kresser runs a top-ranked biohacker health site focusing on ancestral health, Paleo nutrition, and functional and integrative medicine. He discussed his own mold-related health issues in 2015 in a video interview with Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker and in an article called “Five Things You Should Know About Toxic Mold Illness.”
Jeri McClure Kurre
Jeri is an ME/CFS patient who began pursuing mold avoidance in 2011 with a tent camping trip to Death Valley. In 2012, she presented her recovery story to the CFS Advisory Committee (to the Department of Human Health & Services). She says she now is basically recovered from her illness.
Kathi became disabled with ME/CFS when working as a speech therapist in a noticeably moldy school that she knew bothered her. She then became aware of her hyperreactivity to toxic mold and began avoiding it. She presented her testimony to the CFS Advisory Committee in 2011.
Sara Riley Mattson
Sara Riley Mattson is a musician who began pursuing mold avoidance to address her chronic illness issues in 2015. Some of her avoidance experiences are described in her album Envy of the Agile Heart and her book Camp Like A Girl.
Ed McMahon (longtime co-host of “The Tonight Show”) received a $7.2 million settlement from his insurance company in 2003 to pay for property and health damages incurred as a result of improper remediation of mold issues after a pipe burst in his 8000-square-foot Beverly Hills home. McMahon said that toxic mold spread throughout the home, sickening both him and his wife and killing their dog, Muffin. The LA Times and many other news outlets covered the story.
Giles Meehan acquired myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.) shortly after graduating from the University of Cambridge and starting work in the U.K. as a structural engineer. He was sick for many years and then after recovering some of his health developed a well-respected video series called “Get Well From M.E.” He attained further health improvements after starting mold avoidance in 2012 and released two videos about the topic in 2013 and 2014.
Dr. Joseph Mercola and Erin Elizabeth
Bestselling author and popular natural health blogger Joe Mercola became interested in the topic of toxic mold after he spent $30,000 remediating a problem with it in his own home. He has posted several articles and videos on the topic, interviewing experts such as mold illness physician and researcher Ritchie Shoemaker; toxicologist Jack Thrasher; and authors/mold victims Kurt and Lee Ann Billings. His partner Erin Elizabeth has discussed her belief that some of her own health problems may be related to mold issues on her popular Facebook page Erin at Health Nut News.
Brittany Murphy and Simon Monjack
Actress Brittany Murphy died in December 2009 at age 32 of a flu-like illness caused by Staphyloccoccus aureus, a very common bacteria that a healthy system should be able to keep in check. Five months later, her husband Simon Monjack died of the exact same thing. It later was revealed that their house had a very severe toxic mold problem, and a forensic pathologist suggested that it was reasonable to think that the mold likely was a factor in the deaths.
Lisa Nagy, M.D.
Dr. Lisa Nagy graduated from Cornell Medical School and was working as a physician in L.A. when she was made sick by a mold exposure from a large fish tank that was built into the wall of her home. The exposure caused her to become sensitive to chemicals and to EMF’s, as well as to have many other symptoms. She is now much recovered and spends her time educating other physicians about environmental illness issues as well as treating patients.
Journalist Jill Neimark (who has suffered from mold-related illness, Lyme disease and MCS) became ill while living in a particularly bad apartment in New York City. In 2014, she published a thought-provoking essay in Aeon (an online literary magazine) about how she was changed for the better both physically and spiritually as a result of several years of frequent tent camping in order to avoid small amounts of toxic mold as well as chemical toxins. Jill is a contributing editor to Discover magazine and also is a published poet, novelist and children’s book author.
Ted and Shemane Nugent
Rock musician Ted Nugent, his wife Shemane and their son Rocco all lived for many years in a Stachybotrys exposure in their Michigan home. Finally in 2003, after they all were quite ill, they figured out what the problem was and moved away, leaving every single one of their possessions behind. Nearly a decade later, Shemane (a fitness instructor, screenwriter and TV show host) began discussing her family’s experiences with toxic mold.
In Fall 2018, Olivia Paregol began college as a freshman at the University of Maryland in College Park. During the first few months of school, the dorm where she was living made news as having a severe mold problem, and many of the students living in the building reported respiratory symptoms and other illness issues. Just before Thanksgiving, Olivia died of an adenovirus infection. Her parents stated that they believed that the mold in the dorm had played a role in her death.
Steve and Karen Porath
The Poraths got so fed up with the mold in their Foresthill, California, home that they arranged to have the fire department burn it down – leaving all their possessions (even their son’s baby book) inside. The home was found to have massive amounts of Stachybotrys mold and dangerous bacteria, due in part to faulty pipes spewing sewage underneath their home. The Poraths blamed their son’s developmental delays and their own health problems on the microbial growth. The Sacramento Bee (pictured), as well as People magazine and The Washington Post, covered the story in 2001/2002.
Julie Rehmeyer is a science journalist with ME/CFS who has discussed the improvements in her health subsequent to pursuing mold avoidance in publications such as American Scientist, The Washington Post, and O: The Oprah Magazine. Her memoir about her experiences – called Shadowlands – was published in 2017.
Bryan Rosner has written five books on recovering from Lyme disease and also publishes many other authors’ health books through his company BioMed Publishing Company. In 2017, he was continuing to experience major health problems and realized that both his house and his location (in the Lake Tahoe area) were problems for him. He and his family spent 2018 seeking out pristine areas while living in an RV, following Erik Johnson’s approach to mold avoidance. He summarized his health improvements in a blog article called “I’m A New Man.”
A.M. Runyan first started experiencing health symptoms while in high school. Her health deteriorated dramatically soon after she graduated from college, subsequent to a Lyme infection and an exposure to a very moldy building. In Spring 2013, she moved from Massachusetts to the western half of the U.S. and began telecommuting to her existing job for health reasons. She is the author of the book Gifted and Sick, which focuses on the unique challenges that especially high-functioning people face when they become afflicted with chronic multisystemic illnesses. She also has a treatment website.
Suzanne Somers and Alan Hamel
Best-selling health author and actress Suzanne Somers wrote extensively about the dangers of toxic mold in her newest book, Tox-Sick: From Toxic to Not Sick. Suzanne and her husband Alan Hamel both became very ill a number of years ago after moving into a luxurious rental home that turned out to be filled with Stachybotrys – he experienced severe neurological problems and she contracted the fungal infection Valley Fever (misdiagnosed as cancer). Later, Suzanne’s granddaughter became very sick from a mold exposure and subsequent Lyme infection. After getting away from the exposures and detoxing intensively for an extended period of time, all three are now much improved.
Pat Sullivan is a software entrepreneur and creator of the best-selling ACT! selling contact manager program. A longtime sufferer of chronic illness, he published a book called Wellness Piece by Piece: How a Successful Entrepreneur Discovered the Pieces to His Chronic Health Puzzle in 2005 and also founded the supplement company Jigsaw Health. Subsequently he concluded that mold illness was a substantial part of his health issues and blogged extensively about the topic. He now is feeling healthy and living a normal life, he reports.
Singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor reported missing almost three years of school starting in sixth grade due to mold in her school in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Part of her family ultimately moved three hours away so that she could resume her schooling.
Joey became very ill with sudden-onset M.E. just after graduating from UC Berkeley and starting work as a business consultant. He is the co-founder of My Patient Match (formerly HealClick), a forum for patients with chronic neuroimmune disorders, and reported improvements in his symptoms as a result of living in a mold-resistant trailer in the southwestern U.S. desert. Information about his story is available in this Forbes article and in a Health Rising blog post.
Lucy Wicks is a Member of Parliament (MP) in Australia. After she and her family members all became ill from a mold exposure, she made it her mission to draw attention to the problem of mold-related illness and talked extensively about her experiences in the media. A Parliamentary Report into the issue of biotoxin-related illnesses soon followed.
Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in her book The First Four Years about feeling ill when inside the claim shanty where she and her husband, Almanzo, moved a year after they got married. Laura and Almanzo then became deathly ill with diptheria while living in the house, and both of them (especially Almanzo) never really fully recovered their health. A popular Paradigm Change blog article discusses whether mold may have played a role.
Michael Roland Williams
Michael Roland Williams had graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and was living in Dallas when he was hit with a life-changing toxic mold exposure. His film “Black Mold Exposure” – which includes interviews with mold experts and other mold patients – was released in 2009.
Serena Williams & Venus Williams
In 2013, tennis champion Serena Williams blogged about a major mold problem in the south Florida home that she shared with her sister Venus Williams. Both sisters had been having health problems that interfered with their tennis play – Serena with bouts of fatigue and periodic viral infections and Venus with Sjogren’s syndrome. Since moving from the home, both sisters have remained among the world’s leading tennis players and are reportedly doing well in terms of their health.
Claire Wineland gained a large Internet following in high school as a result of her frank and funny blog about growing up with cystic fibrosis. At age 21, while she was on the waiting list for a lung transplant, Claire’s health began to decline precipitously. She was diagnosed as having fungal balls in her lungs and realized that she was living in a moldy apartment, and so she moved out. Although she eventually recovered enough of her health to obtain the lung transplant, she died a week after the surgery.
Jonathan Lee Wright
Jonathan Wright was working as a professional photographer when he became ill as a result of living in a moldy home in Colorado in 2000. He recovered his ability to function as a result of practicing mold avoidance with a camping lifestyle. He gave a speech to the U.S. House of Representatives during a staff press briefing supporting Mycotic Disease Awareness Week in 2004, and his story was written up in the Denver Post. He also is profiled in Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker’s book, Mold Warriors.
Kourtney Kardashian with her children.
Other well-known individuals who have made news over issues related to mold infestations have included Jennifer Aniston, Lou Ferrigno, Star Jones, Michael Jordan, Kourtney Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow and Katrina Parker.
Lisa Petrison is the executive director of Paradigm Change.
Updated December 17, 2018.