House Democrats suspect that mold in the House of Representatives is causing headaches and lightheadedness during the work day.
During a hearing of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, said she has been experiencing the symptoms, though she joked that it might also be due to having to listen to her Republican colleagues.
Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, said she, too, has been experiencing dizziness and lightheadedness since she started working in the House.
The Department of Administration, which has purview over all state buildings, sent a certified industrial hygienist to the nearly 60-year-old building earlier this month after basement staffers complained about headaches and light-headedness during their work day.
ADOA’s risk management team, however, found nothing concerning.
That still didn’t sit well with several members of the committee, who argued that the visual inspection and air quality measurements could have missed the problem.
Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, urged the department to keep searching.
“I’m glad that this initial assessment was done, but it does not give me any confidence there’s not mold in the building. We need to go much further than this test,” she said.
Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, the committee chairman, noted that the report is only a first step, and the investigation isn’t over.
Fernandez noted that, while the complaint was only recently filed, Democrat staffers have complained for much longer.
She said because it’s a health issue, the House has an obligation to act quickly.
“We’ve got our precious staff down there. We’re worried about them,” she said.
ADOA’s legislative liaison, Elizabeth Bartholomew, told the committee that to get to the bottom of the issue, they would likely have to start pulling out walls.
But she also added that “just because we didn’t find any mold, that doesn’t necessarily mean the investigation is over.”
“They checked the room, they checked the bathroom, they checked behind the ice machine,” Bartholomew said.
The problems that may exist in the building are not confined to the basement – or to staffers.
Blanc said she gets a headache every morning.
“They go away on weekends,” Blanc said, quipping, “I’d like to blame my colleagues on the other end of the aisle.”
She said the building clearly needs a more thorough inspection, not just looking at what is evident on the surface, and this time by someone who is a certified expert in the field of toxic mold. And that, said Blanc, needs to include an actual test of the air for mold and toxins.
Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed in this article.