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School's Mold Spray Program Under Criminal Investigation
(Beyond Pesticides, January 28, 2003)
A criminal investigation is looking at the company and the pesticide used to spray the Samuel Staples Elementary School in Easton, CT in an attempt to control its mold problem, according to a January 22 article in the Fairfield Minuteman. The school hired Microb Phase Laboratories, which claimed to have extensively used a product called Microb Shield for the past three years. Yet according to the article, federal and local law enforcement officials stated that the company was not licensed to spray the product and its manufacturer, AEGIS Environmental, stated that it has never sold the product to Microb Phase.

An investigation is currently underway to determine what was sprayed. Officials are also looking into other names the company has used, such as Air Tech Environmental Services, and other areas it has been hired to work around the Atlantic northeast, including possibly schools in New York and New Jersey. The Easton Police Department and the U.S. EPA's Criminal Investigation Division for New England are involved in the criminal investigation.

Questions were raised when a Staples School Building Committee began looking into whether the school's ceiling tiles needed to be removed because of years of water damage, yet tests for microbial and fungal growth came up with very low readings for live mold. Some of the committee members then began looking into Microb Phase and trying to identify the chemicals it uses.

When comparing tests on the ceiling tile and the MSDS' for the chemicals Microb Phase stated it used, things did not add up, according to the independent consultant Gil Cormier, who was hired by the committee. Mr. Cormier was quoted as stating "The type of product is siloxane based and provides a coating resistance for microbial growth, but doesn't kill or provide disinfectant properties. But that's one ingredient. There may be others with disinfectant properties not listed." Although live mold readings were low, Mr. Cormier still recommended the removal of the tiles because nonviable mold spores can potentially cause building occupants to have allergic reactions.

A parent of two children at the elementary school, Sheila Ozalis, took her seven-year-old daughter out of the school last year after she suffered from respiratory problems, joint pain, stomachaches and headaches and three consecutive trips to the emergency room. Ms. Ozalis later took her son out of the school when he began suffering from sinus infections and a chronic cough. The children's health have improved remarkably since transferring them to a private school.

Dr. Christopher Michos, the Easton Health Director, told the paper "There is no evidence of health concerns at this time to teachers, students and staff."

For more information, see Beyond Pesticides' Children and Schools Issue pages and Beyond Pesticides fact sheet When Mold Attacks: Strategies to prevent, detect and control mode in your home.