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Mold may be responsible for illnesses at a Sunnyside school

When Suzanne Anderson, a teacher at Summit View Elementary School, found mold growing behind a poster in her classroom, she was alarmed.

Angela Cupis, the teacher who taught in Anderson’s classroom the previous year, said that she had an awful experience in the classroom. Cupis suffered from constant medical problems, which caused her absence for a large portion of the school year. She even had to be hospitalized and at one point, she was isolated while doctors attempted to figure out what was wrong with her.

“Once I was back at school and off my medication, it would take about two weeks before I would start getting sick again,” Cupis said.

At the conclusion of the school year, Cupis was laid off as a result of budget cuts.

What might seem like an obvious connection to mold and Cupis’ health problems is actually uncertain. Valerie Lopez-Miranda, the principal for the school, said that no mold had been detected in the classroom during Cupis’ tenure. Lopez-Miranda said that mold wasn’t discovered in the classroom until the start of the following school year. She said that the walls were bare and clean before severe rains during the summer fell in the area.

Additionally, a lot of experts are hesitant about saying that mold causes severe illnesses. Among the small amount of people who react to exposure to indoor mold, the most common reactions are respiratory problems, such as itchy eyes, sinusitis, runny nose, and asthma; and typically, those reactions are mild.

There is a widespread fear of “toxic mold”; however, according to Dr. Robert McLellan, the former president of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, said that it has not been proven that indoor mold can actually infect people with mycotoxins.

At Summit View Elementary, two classes, including Anderson’s, have been transferred from the wing where mold growth was found. The school will be moving a total of eight classes – two at a time – in order to remediate mold growth in Anderson’s classroom and water damage in the remaining seven classrooms.

“As far as we know, there were no illnesses due to mold,” Lopez-Miranda stated.

However, despite Lopez-Miranda’s claim, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any strange medical conditions occurring in students of the classroom in question.

“My daughter suffered from a lot of migraines, upset stomach, fever, chills, and would vomit,” Jerilyn Ugalde, the mother of a daughter who was a student in the classroom last year. “She easily missed more than 20 days last school year and her pediatrician could never figure out what was wrong,”

The student’s previous teacher, Cupis, said that she still recalls a musty odor in the classroom. She experienced severe headaches, she would have fevers as high as 105 degrees, and she experienced chills and was diagnosed with respiratory infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and kidney stones.

Mold Inspection & Testing Phoenix has years of experience performing mold assessments in Phoenix and the surrounding areas. We strongly recommend that Summit View Elementary School arrange for regular mold testing to ensure the safety of their students. To speak with an MI&T representative, call 623.242.2966.