Vicksburg teachers blame illnesses on mold

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

VICKSBURG, Mich. (WOOD) — A group of teachers from a Vicksburg elementary school has hired an attorney and an environmental expert, arguing that mold has been making them sick.

Earlier this year, Vicksburg Community Schools said air quality tests found everything was fine at Sunset Lake Elementary, but the teachers say mold and elevated levels of carbon dioxide have led to a variety of health problems, including strokes, migraines and infertility issues.

“What they realized is that more than half of the teaching staff at this building are suffering from these conditions,” attorney Shari Pollesch, who is representing the teachers, said.

She said the teachers started looking into it after one of them had a stroke and then another one when she returned to work.

She said the teachers are remaining anonymous out of fear of retribution from the district.

The teachers also hired Michael Pinto with Kalamazoo-based Wondermakers Environmental to review the district’s testing.

“We looked at the same data and we believe that it’s very clear that there is some mold problems in the school,” Pinto said.

Pinto said he was at the building for meetings and noticed mold growth on a ventilation system pipe along with evidence of roof leaks. He added that a poor ventilation system can lead to higher levels of carbon dioxide.

“(There is) a growing body of data that shows that both elevated levels of carbon dioxide and elevated levels of small particulate can have a whole range of health issues on the human body,” Pinto said.

>>PDFs: Teachers’ complaints | Teachers’ support documents

The school district is replacing carpeting as part of a plan to address concerns.

Vicksburg schools says all air quality tests have “come back negative for harmful levels of toxicity” and the findings “met or exceeded state and federal guidelines.”

“We have not found any link between the building and any serious health condition,” Superintendent Keevin O’Neill said in a Monday statement. “We are committed. If there is a connection between any harmful environmental condition and any building, we want to know, and we will correct it.”

>>PDF: Release from district

The teachers say they are not calling for a lawsuit but want the district make repairs.

Pollesch said the teachers are also concerned about the potential impact the building could be having on the health of students.

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