Sad frustrated middle aged woman photo

by John P. Thomas
Health Impact News

If I was to announce that my house just burned down to the ground and I lost all my possessions, there would be an outpouring of sympathy and offers of help. If I also said I didn’t have any insurance, then people would provide shelter and there would undoubtedly be donations to a Go-Fund-Me page to help me start life again.

However, if I announced that my house has gotten water damaged, mold has set in, and it is making me so sick that I have to leave it behind along with everything I own in order to preserve my life, there would be little support for me or help for my losses. People might say kind things, but they would probably be thinking… 

“Wow that’s really extreme! I never heard of such a thing.”

“Why can’t you just buy a gallon of bleach and wash everything – I am sure you could clean it up.”

 “I never get sick when I am around mold – it’s really not a problem to be concerned about.” 

“Can’t you just take some Benadryl for your allergy?” 

“Maybe your problem is something else – like stress – maybe you should visit a psychiatrist.”

In the first case with the fire, it is easy to see when a building burns down and everything is destroyed. The evidence that proves the building is no longer inhabitable is seen in the heaps of ashes.

In the second case with a water-damaged building and mold growth, the building still stands, and the evidence that it is unsafe for human habitation is not clear to the casual observer.

It might smell bad, or there might be black and green stains growing on the walls and on possessions, however, most people mistakenly still believe this is all harmless.

A Propaganda Campaign is being used to Make us Believe Indoor Mold is Harmless 

The belief that indoor mold is harmless is the direct result of a nationwide propaganda campaign that has been quietly going on for nearly 20 years.

Mold propaganda has been patterned after the program used by Big Tobacco, which successfully convinced Americans to believe that there was no health risk linked to tobacco use.

The Scope of this Article

This article will expose the propaganda that most Americans have been led to believe about mold, which is the lie, “mold that grows in water-damaged buildings is harmless.”

Indoor mold can be extremely harmful to many people – even life-threatening. I will describe mold illness which is called Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) in this article, and explain who is at risk.

I will also identify those who set the propaganda campaign in motion, how they created a faulty risk assessment model to “prove” that indoor mold is harmless, and how toxicology consultants have been using this flawed science in court to reject the claims of mold-injured people who are seeking damages from those who caused their exposure.

Future articles will show how the California judicial system has been used to intimidate a vocal whistleblower who has dared to speak out about the flawed science and the special interest groups who created it, and how expert witnesses are using the model in court without indicating that they are the authors of the documents.

Sharon Kramer was sued and framed for libel with the intent of using the courts to permanently shut her up. She has been fighting back in the courts since 2005 to preserve her free speech right to expose the practices of toxicology consultants who are misleading judges and juries with their testimony based on their “junk science” [1] risk assessment model. [2]

Sharon Kramer’s 14-year encounter with the California court system has been marked by numerous judicial errors, case fixing, record tampering and even threats from the court.

She has been jailed and had liens placed against her home for speaking out against fraudulent science, and for complaining about criminal activity in the California court system.

Despite the intimidation, she continues to talk about the two junk science toxicology reports, and the activity of the courts which are protecting special interest groups and denying justice to mold-injured people.

Mold Illness is called Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome

Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) is a diagnosable medical condition that results from exposure to water-damaged buildings. It is not an allergic reaction limited to a runny nose and red/dry eyes. [3]

It is a chronic immune system reaction that is caused by inflammation. It affects multiple body systems and consists of many symptoms. There is a lot of variability from person to person, but those who suffer may face life-threatening conditions.

In short, people become seriously ill when they are exposed to water-damaged buildings where there are fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes, and mycobacteria. These living organisms are not the whole problem — it is also the toxic chemicals (biotoxins) these organisms produce. [3]

The biotoxins they produce include: inflammagens from fungal fragments; beta glucans, mannans, hemolysins, spriocyclic drimanes, and microbial volatile organic compounds.

These toxic substances cause illness in people whose bodies are unable to control inflammatory responses, who have genetic susceptibility, and who have abnormal inflammatory events when they are exposed. [3]

Do You Live or Work in a Musty/moldy smelling building?
Do Your Children Attend school in a Musty/moldy smelling building?

Not everyone who is exposed to moldy indoor environments develops CIRS. These are symptoms of CIRS. This list has been compiled from several sources. It is a guide to those who are wondering if their exposure to musty/moldy smelling buildings might be the cause of their health problems.

Symptoms of CIRS could include:

Fatigue, weakness, aches, muscle cramps, unusual pain, ice pick pain, headache, light sensitivity, red eyes, blurred vision, tearing, sinus problems, chronic cough, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, diarrhea, joint pain, morning stiffness, memory issues, focus/concentration issues, word recollection issues, decreased ability to learn new knowledge, confusion, disorientation, skin sensitivity, mood swings, appetite swings, sweats (especially night sweats), temperature regulation or dysregulation problems, excessive thirst, increased urination, static shocks, numbness, tingling, vertigo, metallic taste, tremors, multiple chemical sensitivities. [4, 5]

People may also be diagnosed with other illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and depression, however, there are tests that can be used to establish if CIRS is the underlying cause of symptoms. [5]

In addition to symptoms, the Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) test is used to confirm CIRS. It measures one of the neurological functions of vision called contrast. People with CIRS will have a decreased ability to perceive changes in visual contrast. This is an important marker that needs to be combined with symptoms and a history of exposure to water-damaged buildings prior to diagnosis. [6]

There is an online VCS screening test that people can take to help assess their health status with respect to mold. [6]

How many People will become Sick from Indoor Mold Exposure?

Research conducted by one of the world’s most well-known mold researchers and physician, Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, M.D., has consistently shown that 24% of people who are repeatedly exposed to water-damaged buildings will become sick. [5, 7]

The 24% figure was also obtained by a CDC’s NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) study. [8] 

The NIOSH study compared the health status of employees at a water-damaged high school in New Orleans with a control high school in Ohio without water-damage.

The study showed that 24% of the staff in New Orleans had symptoms of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). [7,8]

How do Buildings get Water-Damaged?

Anytime water is allowed to go where it should never be present in a building there will be water related damage and almost always mold growth. Common sources of water intrusion include:

  • Faulty construction of crawl spaces, flat roofs or fake stucco cladding without adequate caulking;
  • Basements exposed to surrounding soil that is saturated with water;
  • Unexpected leaks from frozen pipes or old washing machine hoses;
  • Neglected repairs of leaking roofs, windows and doors; or 
  • Mold remediation programs that did not protect the building from the spread of toxic materials during mold removal and clean-up. [9,10]

Water-Damage also can occur in Closed Buildings When Moisture Levels are High

Water doesn’t have to pour into a building to damage it. Excessive moisture in the air can saturate porous materials and condense out of the air on cold hard surfaces when moisture cannot escape. 

Starting in the 1980s, concerns over energy efficiency led architects and building contractors to start producing airtight buildings. They wrapped buildings in plastic sheets to stop all drafts. The unanticipated consequence was that the plastic trapped moisture inside and prevented the buildings from breathing.

They installed whole house air-conditioning, which when used instead of opening windows tends to elevate indoor moisture levels.

To save money, builders also switched to the use of less expensive particle board, cardboard type sheathing, and the use of paper covered sheetrock.

Mold loves to grow in closed moist environments. It loves to eat wet particle board, the paper on sheetrock, and other cellulose building materials.

As a result, buildings became giant Petri dishes that were perfect for growing mold – and mold began to quietly grow.

Commonly, water-damaged buildings will have a moldy musty smell, but not always. The musty smell of mold in new buildings may be masked by the smell of new paint and new carpet, and not noticed for many months or until residents start getting sick.

Propaganda Campaign Denies the Existence of CIRS

If we know so much about the risks of developing CIRS from spending extended amounts of time in moldy buildings, and we know how buildings become moldy, then why does mold related illness (CIRS) remain controversial and off the radar screen of most conventional physicians and federal policy makers in the United States?

The answer is simple. A propaganda campaign was implemented in 2001 to “teach” physicians and to “educate” judges that mold in water-damage buildings could never reach a level that would be harmful to human health. [11]

The Insurance industry and the building construction industry were the primary beneficiaries of the campaign. The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), and the US Chamber of Commerce organized the campaign.

Various US government agencies hid their administrative heads in the sand while the campaign was unfolded across America and even supported it by refusing to do their own independent research. The California judiciary enabled the marketing of propaganda through judicial corruption, faulty decisions, and fraudulent record keeping.

The details of how these various groups implemented the propaganda campaign will be discussed in detail in future articles. At this point I simply will explain why it became a high priority.

Why was it so Important to Develop a Mold Propaganda Campaign? 

The short answer is “fear of losing money!”

A major court case shook the insurance and construction industries when it was settled in 2001.

A wealthy woman named Linda Ballard built a brand new mansion in Texas, which became totally permeated with highly toxic mold.

A jury awarded her 32 million dollars. The mansion had to be torn down. Her husband, who was an investment banker, had to retire because of memory loss, and their 3-year-old child developed serious cognitive impairments. [2, 12]

Insurance companies and building construction businesses were shocked and quickly became afraid that the new generation of airtight buildings would lead to a rapid increase in number of insurance claims and lawsuits for mold damage. 

Distribution of Propaganda Masquerading as Science

ACOEM logo

A plan was hatched to stop the potential landslide of lawsuits. A propaganda document masquerading as science would be created and distributed throughout the United States.

Two documents were prepared — one for physicians and the other for lawyers, judges, and the general public.

According to Sharon Kramer, this is how the documents came into being:

In 2001 the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) made arrangements with GlobalTox to prepare a scientific report about the health risks of mold in water-damaged buildings.

Dr. Bruce Kelman of GlobalTox was joined by Dr. Brian Harden who had retired as an Assistant Surgeon General of the United States and Deputy Director of NIOSH. Dr. Andrew Sackson of UCLA was also brought in to author this position statement.

The US Chamber of Commerce then hired GlobalTox consultants to produce a simplified version of the ACOEM position paper.

Less than a year later, on July 17, 2003, the simplified version of the position statement was released to the public at a major fanfare presentation in Washington, D.C. Their risk assessment model was shared with people representing building, insurance, real-estate, and mortgage companies. [2]

These documents were then used by toxicology experts in court proceeding throughout the United States to defend insurance companies and builders from personal injury lawsuits. The documents were hailed as undeniable proof that mold inside of water-damaged buildings is not harmful. 

It appears these documents have also been used by federal agencies to shape and limit the reach of their mold related policies and to deny the full extent of harm that can be caused by exposure to water-damaged buildings. 

As a result, physicians throughout the United States have been falsely informed about the harmful effects of mold from water-damaged buildings.

They do not recognize CIRS (biotoxin illness), and thus do not provide proper treatment for their patients. 

Those who are responsible for approving or denying claims of harm caused by mold exposure continue to use the flawed junk science contained in these reports to deny injury claims.

As a result, people are left to languish and even die from mold illness, while the assets of businesses and government agencies are protected. 

The report prepared under the sponsorship of ACOEM was entitled, “Position Paper on Mold, Adverse Human Health Effects Associated with Molds in the Indoor Environment.” The paper can be summarized in a single sentence: 

Scientific evidence does not support the proposition that human health has been adversely affected by inhaled mycotoxins in the home, school or office environment. [13]

The risk assessment model was based on a single rodent study that exposed lab animals to a single high dose of inhaled mold. The animals did not get sick or die when mold was shoved down their throats.

The conclusion made by the authors of the report was not logical or scientifically valid – it was nothing more than flawed propaganda. If rats didn’t get sick from one high dose of mold, then humans who experience continual low level exposure from living or working in moldy indoor spaces could never get sick.

Thousands of Research Studies Stand in Opposition to the Flawed Research Papers

The 2002 ACOEM paper was revised in 2011 after extreme criticism from the medical and scientific communities.

Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker commented on the revised document. He stated:

Finally, after many months of extensive review, ACOEM 2011 is here. I hoped to find something in the new version of the artificial paper, ACOEM 2002 that would benefit society.

I am sorely disappointed.

The sad truth is that there is nothing in the article that would assist the public with understanding the mechanisms of exposure and the possible association with illness.

Rather, ACOEM, an entity that purports to exist in the interest of public health, is publishing a statement with the sole purpose of being a document defense consultants can point to as they try to help the insurance industry defeat valid claims of individuals who have become ill following exposure to water-damaged buildings (WDB).

When a professional association is making a policy statement, the comments of the organization ideally are meant to help the public in some way, not hurt them. ACOEM 2011 has nothing to help injured persons.

So many people expected that ACOEM 2011 would actually say something scientifically valid, intellectually honest and new. The old report was criticized mercilessly (as well it should have been) as flawed science, dispensed with a lack of thoroughness and lack of transparency.

Stated plainly: ACOEM 2002 was nothing more than junk science. As we see, so is ACOEM 2011.

There is no room for (1) absence of thoroughness; (2) absence of rigor; and (3) absence of transparency in public documents that will be read by patients and those physicians who are charged with the sacred duty of treating the sick.

We swore an oath to do so; we didn’t swear an oath to protect assets of insurance companies.

Once again we see the same unreferenced (and wholly incorrect) opinion about chronic exposures: “A cumulative dose delivered over a period of hours, days or weeks is expected to be less acutely toxic than a bolus dose.”

Expected by whom? There is no basis in truth to the idea that repeat exposures suppress the subsequent inflammatory response. Actually, just the reverse is true. With re-exposure, “sicker, quicker.” [1]

The Flawed Science Still will not Die

So here we are, in 2019, after the existence of CIRS has been clearly established, after the genetic markers for CIRS have been identified, and after the Visual Contrast Sensitivity test has been perfected to a 98.5% accuracy rate. [7]

Yet, attorneys representing insurance companies and construction companies still hire consultants to promote the 2002/2011 ACOEM risk assessment model as if it accurately reflected the current scientific picture.

It wasn’t accurate in 2002 or in 2011, and it certainly isn’t accurate today. It was even silently removed from the ACOEM website in 2015. [14]

Why isn’t this Junk Science Officially Retracted and Permanently Withdrawn?

The answer to this question will be presented in the next articles.

The articles will provide additional details about how the propaganda campaign unfolded and how the legal system is protecting the flawed science and those who promote it, while the courts continue to terrorize Sharon Kramer with non-stop persecution to the point where she now fears for her security and her life.

More about Sharon Kramer:

One Woman’s Relentless Pursuit of the Truth as a Toxic Mold Whistle-blower

Toxic Mold Whistleblower Fears for Her Life: “I Exposed One of the Biggest Frauds in America and it Continues to be Hidden”

About the Author

John P. Thomas is a health writer for Health Impact News. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


[1] “ACOEM 2011 Report Review,” Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, M.D., 3/9/2011. 

[2] I interviewed Sharon Kramer by phone on 2/12/2019. 

[3] “Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome Acquired After Exposure to Water-Damaged Buildings (CIRS-WDB),” Dr. Robin Thomson, 

[4] “Is Toxic Mold Exposure the Cause of Your Symptoms?” Jill Carnahan, MD, Retrieved 2/8/2019. 

[5] “CIRS -Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome,” Retrieved 2/8/2019. 

[6] “VCS Test – Visual Contrast Sensitivity,” Surviving Mold, Retrieved 2/26/2019. 

[7] I interviewed Dr. Richie Shoemaker, M.D., by phone on 2/11/2019.

[8] Gregory Thomas, MD, MS; Nancy Clark Burton, PhD, MPH, CIH, Charles Mueller, MS; Elena Page, MD, MPH; “Comparison of Mold Exposures, Work-related Symptoms, and Visual Contrast Sensitivity between Employees at a Severely Water-damaged School and Employees at a School without Significant Water-Damage,” Health Hazard Evaluation Report HETA 2005-0135-3116, Alcee Fortier Senior High School, New Orleans, Louisiana, September 2010. 

[9] “What is a Water Damaged Building?” Surviving Mold, Retrieved 2/8/2019. 

[10] “Water Damage Statistics” Retrieved 2/8/2019. 

[11] “Amid Suits Over Mold, Experts Wear Two Hats,” David Armstrong, Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2007. 

[12] “Ballard from the Beginning,” Retrieved 2/27/2019. 


[14] “American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Mold Policy Paper,” Moe Bedard, Mold Facts, Mold Safe Solutions, Oct 24, 2016.