Planet Mold

The latest environmental hazard in Dallas and the country is displacing homeowners, covering walls and pets, and making lawyers even richer. Welcome to the weird world of "black mold."

Ultimately, Naishtat argues the state needs to set standards with teeth, but in the meantime, he'll settle for the tests, which he guesses will cost about $1,000 per school--a cost the school districts will most likely have to bear. And if those schools uncover mold infestations as a result of the test, who will pay for the cleanup?

"I guess they'll have to sit down with their school campus advisory councils and representatives of the Texas Department of Health and decide what type of corrective action to take," Naishtat says.

Stahl says he supports the legislation, but he's not sure how much money he'd need to monitor the testing. As things are now, he can barely answer his phone.

Joanna Windham suspects that the toxic mold growing in her Turtle Creek condo is making her and her dogs, Mickey and Dallas, sick.
Joanna Windham suspects that the toxic mold growing in her Turtle Creek condo is making her and her dogs, Mickey and Dallas, sick.
Joanna Windham suspects that the toxic mold growing in her Turtle Creek condo is making her and her dogs, Mickey and Dallas, sick.
Photos by Mark Graham
Joanna Windham suspects that the toxic mold growing in her Turtle Creek condo is making her and her dogs, Mickey and Dallas, sick.

"I'm sure it would be hundreds of thousands of dollars," he says, adding "that's just a guess." In the past, Stahl has asked his superiors for money to expand his four-person staff, but the requests are always turned down. "There's just not enough money."

If Joanna Windham had any money, she says she would move out of her Turtle Creek condo, which she has rented for the last 14 years. She would also abandon the place on a short-term basis, but she doesn't know anyone who can put her up, along with her two dogs and two cats. Instead, she'll have to stay put.

For now, Mr. Mildew can't tell Windham what type of mold she has growing in her air conditioner vent or, for that matter, whether it is toxic. To determine that, he'll have to come back and thoroughly test the place. It could be weeks before those results are in. Until then, Windham will just have to wait and wonder, just like everyone else who finds themselves living on Planet Mold. Windham has, however, begun meeting with attorneys, and there is one thing she's sure about.

"If I have to move somewhere," Windham says, "somebody's going to pay for it."

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