A MOTHER'S FIGHT
Do you have black mold in your house?
How would you know?
Veronica Vera Jackson suspected it.
Her young son Anthony was having respiratory problems.
She says it got so bad, he couldn't run across the room without wheezing.
And she says it mainly happened inside her apartment.
At the time, she was staying at the Autumn Creek Apartments in Chandler.
She says she complained and they did open up the walls.
She says there was black all over parts of the insulation.
So, Veronica had three companies inspect for mold.
I took the results to Michael Buettner, a national mold expert who owns Respircare Analytical.
His company had analyzed one of those reports.
All three found high levels of airborne Stachybotrys, also known as black mold.
Buettner says the levels are "abnormally high".
And while he couldn't comment about Anthony's health issues, Buettner did say generally "someone exposed to this level would probably have symptoms."
Veronica says Anthony tested positive for mold allergies.
She says the apartment owners, PEM Real Estate, would not make repairs.
So she decided to break her lease and move out to protect her child.
That was more than a year ago.
Since then, the complex owners have been after Veronica to pay penalties, now up to $3,200.
And she says her credit is affected.
PEM Real Estate did offer Veronica a new apartment and $500 for moving costs.
But they wanted her to sign a release holding them harmless in the future.
She declined the offer and let me know.
We tried working with the business for months.
And we got nowhere.
Veronica says PEM Real Estate recently told her they removed the negative entry on her credit reports.
But at the time this story was published, she says the entry is still there.
Veronica says while her son has asthma, he is much better now and she does not regret breaking that lease.
Click here for more on your rights as a renter and how to let the landlord know about problems like mold.
DO YOU HAVE MOLD IN YOUR HOME?
While there's not a lot of rain in Arizona, you could still have serious mold issues in your home.
Michael Buettner with Respircare Analytical says it takes just 48 hours of your drywall or ceiling tiles being wet to create a mold problem.
How many of us have had small leaks in the ceiling that went unnoticed?
Buettner says it's crucial, "if you have a leak and find it on Tuesday, don't wait until Saturday to repair it."
Most homes have some mold that would not be a health concern.
But it's Stachybotrys, also known as black mold, that gets the most attention as a health concern.
And it could cause respiratory issues depending on the person's health, concentration of the mold and exposure.
Signs of a possible problem include: sneezing and coughing, a strong musty smell, and the appearance of dark or black spots.
But Buettner says don't be fooled.
Those black spots could also just be dirt or soot.
He agrees with the government that not all homes need to be tested for mold, even if you suspect it.
Click here for the Environmental Protection Agency's view on mold testing.
Click here for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's mold concerns.
Mild detergent can be used to clean bathrooms and hard surfaces.
Buettner is mostly concerned about paper products, like dry wall, ceiling tiles, cardboard etc. since it could grow and be a bigger issue.
He says testing is important to document for insurance reasons, for doctors concerns or in case you're buying a new house, with a hidden problem.
And Buettner warns not to bother with those very inexpensive mold tests sold in local stores.
Since most homes have some mold, he says most of the tests will come back positive and yet it may not be a concern.
Click here to find a certified mold inspector through the American Council for Accredited Certification.