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Toxic Mould rules needed urgently

Toxic Mould rules needed now more urgently than ever

The Government must urgently issue full guidelines to the public and building repairers on how to safely remove the toxic mould stachybotrys from leaky buildings, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.

Ms Kedgley's call follows publicity today that New Zealand scientists have, for the first time, proven the link between stachybotrys and health problems suffered by some leaky building residents.

The research, led by Landcare Research microbiologist Dr Nick Waipara, confirms that stachybotrys growing in water-damaged homes around New Zealand is dangerous to humans and may also affect animals. Dr Waipara says stachybotrys has been confirmed in 170 homes but that toxic rot is likely to be growing in any home which has been poorly constructed and leaks, or in old damp homes.

Ms Kedgley said the Government had continually denied there was a stachybotrys problem in New Zealand, saying in the House there had been only one confirmed case. "This research undermines the Government's denials on the subject in response to parliamentary questions from the Greens. The Government must act now, as it has a responsibility for public health. It cannot keep burying its head in the sand," she said.

"All builders and home owners must be urgently informed of the proper guidelines for the identification and removal of stachybotrys and other toxic moulds, and they should be required to use them. Stachybotrys has the potential to be the next asbestos." Ms Kedgley said the Government should also agree to fund further investigation of stachybotrys in New Zealand by HortResearch and Landcare Research. The research was on hold while applications for more funding were made.

The United States and Canada have been grappling with toxic mould problems for several years, with stachybotrys linked to serious illness and even deaths in the United States. A major United States insurer recently reported a drastic increase in the frequency of claims involving mould from only 12 claims in 1999, to 10,000 claims in 2001. Ms Kedgley warned a similar crisis could emerge here.

Ms Kedgley has been publicly calling on the Government to urgently issue toxic mould guidelines to homeowners and workers since just after the leaky building crisis broke in the media. While some guidelines had been drawn up by OSH, they needed to be broadened and widely disseminated, Ms Kedgley said. The guidelines should include requirements that people removing the mould wear protective or disposable clothing, gloves and masks; and must be properly trained. Susceptible people should move out while the work was done. In severe cases, only accredited mould remediators should be used, Ms Kedgley said.

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