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Could Your Home Be Making You Sick?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Is your home making you sick? The answer might be yes.

Lead, mold, radon, asbestos - they can all lead to serious health issues. And they are in plenty of homes right here in our area.

The World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency call it "sick building syndrome."

People suffer from eye, nose and throat irritation, rashes, stuffiness, dry cough and fatigue - to name just a few of the symptoms.

At just 22-years-old Lindsey Jarvis is battling some serious health problems.

"I get really shaky. I'd have muscle weakness at times and couldn't stand up and an ongoing list," says Jarvis.

That list is a long one. Jarvis has suffered from asthma, acid reflux, bronchitis, severe headaches and nausea. Her weight plummeted. She dropped 50 pounds in just six months.

Jarvis and her family sought any medical opinion they could find.

"We'd go to this doctor and we'd go to this specialist and the word we kept hearing from people was we're baffled," recounts Jarvis's mother Jodi Torkoly.

Then one day, someone made a suggestion. Check the home where Jarvis has been living.

Susan Koeppen: "Did you think that this house had any sort of problems?"

Torkoly: "No not in a million years. Never thought there was something wrong with the house."

Dan Howard is a leading environmental inspector. He was hired by Jarvis's parents to investigate her home.

What he found was an eye opener; the basement was full of toxic mold. And it was off the charts.

According to Howard, "we start to get concerned about people's health at 2,000 spores per cubic meter. This one had so much mold it had overload. They couldn't count how much was there. That's at least 250,000 spores per cubic meter. "

And there were other problems, like a carbon monoxide issue from the furnace and pipes leaking natural gas.

"Every time the furnace turns on, it's a heat machine. But in this case it was taking the mold, the carbon monoxide, the natural gas and sending it to every level of the home for her to breathe. There was no safe place in the house," says Howard.

Experts say you may have a sick home if you feel better when you are on vacation or out of the house.

You have symptoms, but can't find a cause for your illness. You find yourself increasing medications for allergies.

These all sound very familiar to Lindsey Jarvis.

Koeppen: "Did it ever dawn on you that it could be your house making you sick?

Jarvis: "Not really, no."

Her home is now sealed up. The door to the basement taped shut, the vents covered as she and her parents try to figure out what to do next.

This family is learning that hard way that cleaning up mold is neither easy nor cheap. And most insurance policies do not cover damages related to mold.

More information:
Q: How much do environmental inspections cost?
A: About $500 for a home.

Q: How do you find an environmental inspector?
A: You want to find someone who is an expert in environmental inspection - not just someone who is a home inspector. You need to ask if they are certified and trained to inspect a home for things like mold and radon.

Check for inspectors at the Environmental Solutions Association:

Environmental Inspector Dan Howard:

Pa. DEP Bureau of Radon:

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