After Margo Goff and her husband moved into their one-bedroom apartment in Carson City a month ago, they started noticing mold around the windows.
Soon Goff, who survived heart failure last year, began struggling with nausea, exhaustion, breathing problems and sinus infections, and a sore throat. She wiped down the mold every morning, but it would come back at night.
"This place is infiltrated with mold," Goff said.
The 55-year-old woman said she was embarrassed at first to talk about her health problems and memory lapses she has had lately. Goff and her husband, who is a full-time plumber, will move in a week, she said.
"You can't think," Goff said. "You can't discuss it; you think you sound crazy."
Then she heard that her neighbor downstairs had the same problems. Jackie Anderson, a three-year resident, said coming home at night is a nightmare. The backing on her dresser in her bedroom is fuzzy with green mold, and black mold seeps through the walls. She hasn't been able to sleep in the room because of the problems.
Anderson, like many of the residents at the Kelbourne Apartments on Jeanelle Street, gets state assistance for housing. Many residents get funds through the federal Housing and Urban Development Department or are seniors on fixed incomes.
Many residents at the complex are afraid to complain about the problems that have been going on for possibly 13 years, Anderson said. She said she has moved three times to different apartments in the facility to escape the mold.
Anderson called for city health inspections within the last week, but was told there was nothing the city could do about it. The news left Anderson and others frustrated.
Goff said that after surviving her own health problems, she believes it's her duty to advocate for others who are scared to speak up.
"I don't want to make trouble; this is way out of line," she said.
Nevada does not have state regulations regarding acceptable levels of mold. Property owners are not bound to fix the problems, even if it causes health issues.
"It's all based on what we can see," said Christi Smith, an environmental health specialist. "We verified there was some mold on the walls. It did appear there were water problems under the building."
The city, however, doesn't have an indoor air quality program. It can't test the air for mold spores or test samples of mold that seeps through walls and cinderblocks throughout the building.
All the city can do is ask the landlord to rectify the problem and provide suggestions about how to clean and eradicate the mold properly, Smith said.
"There are no laws that say they have to remediate the problem in certain ways," Smith said. "We can point them in the right direction and give them all the information they need to do it properly."
Former residents Alta Fox and Patti Jones said they were often sick during their three years at the complex. But since moving out, not only do they feel better, their houseplants started blooming again.
"I was sick almost every morning," Jones said. By the end of her stay at the Kelbourne complex, Jones was sleeping on her couch, away from the moldy bedroom.
Goff alerted the California-based owners of the complex, Edgewood Properties LLC, last week after health inspectors visited it. She received a letter from representative Jim Darst expressing concerns and offering to move her to another apartment or to a hotel temporarily until the problems could be fixed. Darst was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
Each apartment in the facility will be inspected today to assess the problem, Smith said.
Contact Jill Lufrano at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.