Makersfield, CA – Family members of 30-year-old Athena Rodman know that black mold from her home killed her. Rodman’s 6-year-old son, Anthony, was shocked to find her dead body in the living room of their apartment Saturday. This is the second reported death in Bakersfield from mycotoxin poisoning in the past three months.
“It didn’t seem real until I went over there and watched my best friend being brought out of her house in a body bag,” said Jennifer McFarlane.
Friends and family said toxic mold inside Rodman’s apartment is to blame. “She had a respiratory infection. She had an infection through her whole body,” said Rodman’s mother, Barbara Hoffman. “The doctors believe it was from mold that was in her apartment that was never taken care of. I saw mold on the walls. The one bedroom was the worst.”
Family members state that the death could have been prevented. Family members said they approached the apartment management about the situation, but didn’t receive a response until Rodman was hospitalized in March for breathing problems.
“She didn’t have any heart problems, it was all respiratory, so that kind of points in that direction,” said Jeremy Najera, a fellow co-worker. Rodman was a volunteer at Kern’s Community Action Partnership, and her coworkers held a Build-A-Burrito fundraiser to raise money for Rodman’s son.
“This was her livelihood, she lived for this,” said Najera. “She lived to be an advocate for children, not just her son, but all the children – the community at large.” Her co-workers raised money for Rodman’s Thursday. The fundraiser raised more than $800, but family members and friends said nothing can bring back their loved one.
In defense, the management at Oak Creek Apartments claims they believe Rodman’s death is not from the mold, but her weight played a factor in the respiratory problems she was suffering. Others are skeptical since Rodman suffered no health related problems from her weight. The symptoms were all signs of mycotoxicosis; systemic fungal infection, caused from exposure to mycotoxins due to opportunistic mold growing as a result from water damage. This can happen from anything as common as a roof leak or defective construction; and within 24 to 48 hours, mycotoxin producing molds can begin to proliferate.
Illness and death from mold has become such a nationwide health crisis that it is being excluded in insurance policies and covered up by unscrupulous real estate sellers and landlords.