Eugene C. Cole, DrPH – Research to Practice: Water Damage, Sewage, Mold & Public Health

Iaqradio+ Episode 542

Eugene C. Cole, DrPH

Research to Practice: Water Damage, Sewage, Mold & Public Health

Z-Man’s Blog

Research to Practice: Water Damage, Sewage, Mold & Public Health


Dr. Gene Cole is Director of Research for LRC Indoor Testing & Research, Cary, NC; and formerly Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Brigham Young University. He has 35 years of research experience, with a primary focus on the ecology of indoor and work environments, with special emphasis on identification and reduction of pollutant reservoirs and sources, bioaerosols, human exposure assessment and control, product evaluation, cleaning and restoration, mold and sewage remediation, and biocides.

Nuggets mined from today's episode:

For 10 years, prior to attending graduate school, Dr. Cole was a clinical microbiologist where he identified infectious agents that cause disease. His interest widened and he began also considering exposure scenarios and risks. He became interested in public health in grad school where he gained experience in research and investigation. After the legionella outbreak in Philadelphia, PA he began investigating legionella. He found that bacteria in airborne dust from soil found its way into cooling towers where it colonized and proliferated.

His first home inspection was for a Chapel Hill professor who was debilitated and couldn't work. His symptoms included muscle aches, fatigue, and respiratory problems. After 2 years of medical treatment he was feeling better when he became hypersensitive and was reacting to his home environment. He had a violent reaction to his daughter's new hair spray. The professor's lung disorder progressed to where it became life threatening. Along with a team, Dr. Cole moisture mapped the home, inspected the crawl space, HVAC system, etc. They found that the plumber never soldered the water pipe connection to the shower head. Unbeknownst, when showering water was being sprayed into the wall cavity. When the wall cavity was opened the drywall was black with mold and bacteria. When Dr. Cole suggested that the professor consider moving, the professor wasn't agreeable. Notable challenges are association and causation and behavioral changes (stubbornness).

Formaldehyde emission from building materials and products.

"Asbestos guns" hair dryers from the 1970s-80s that contained asbestos.

We learn as we go along from one another, from science, research, and practical experience. He has a unique ability to glean from science what the general population needs to know and then translate that information into good general advice on issues such as: moisture management, HVAC, carpeting, reducing cancer risks (diet, sunscreen).

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