Craig Whittaker founded Environmental Solutions Group in 2002 to provide impartial evaluation of properties relative to environmental health. A doctoral member of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, he is frequently asked to speak about toxins in the home and has conducted hundreds of assessments in a wide variety of building types.
I was surprised upon reading a recent study about medical misdiagnoses published by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The researchers found that aspergillosis, a fungal infection of the lung, is one of the top four misdiagnosed conditions resulting in a preventable death in the intensive care unit of hospitals in the United States. According to the study, as many as 13,000 people die in the U.S. each year due to a missed diagnosis of aspergillosis.
This information was both interesting and sad. The former because in our business we encounter high levels of airborne Aspergillus fungus in damp buildings nearly every day. We warn people to wear respiratory protection if they insist on being in the building, but many people do not welcome or heed our advice.
Knowing that 13,000 people are likely to die each year from a preventable disease that has been misdiagnosed is sad. That’s up to 37 people dying from aspergillosis every day.
More recently, Aspergillus received some press in the media over the tainted steroids from a compounding lab in Massachusetts. It turned out that another fungus not previously known for making people sick is believed to be the cause of over 400 people becoming ill. It’s interesting, however, that Aspergillus was the fungus investigators ruled out first.