Potentially toxic fungus at troubled Fresno condo complex

FRESNO, Calif.

Action News first reported about foreclosure proceedings in January and a follow-up uncovered the new problems.

Several residents have reported illnesses and breathing problems after noticing something black growing in their units. They thought it might be toxic black mold, but test results in one apartment show a different problem -- a black fungus that's also potentially toxic.

A black growth has taken over the ceiling in the garage of this unit at the Tuscany Villas condominium complex.

"And this is after I've cleaned three or four times," the resident said. "I got Tilex and wiped it all down and it would just come back."

It's in the bedroom too, and with water dripping in the kitchen every time the shower's on, the residents are worried it'll show up there soon. The resident didn't want to be named since he still lives in the complex, but he's worried about his family's health. "My daughter, she's been having headaches," he said.

Vannessa Carrillo sees the black growth in her bathroom and in her bedroom, where the paint has been chipped away and a new layer can't cover the dark color. "The white paint that you see is basically covered with the mold that's under it," she said.

Residents thought the growth was black mold, which is very toxic to humans. But while lab results from Alpure Environmental of Fresno show unusual mold conditions, they also show no evidence of black mold.

Testers did find a large amount of aspergillus, though, which is a fungus often mistaken for black mold. Scientists say it's an allergen and it can be toxic, but it's far less dangerous than black mold.

The apartment manager didn't want to talk to Action News, but when I asked him if he warned potential renters about the problem, he said no. In fact, a painter at the complex told me he's under orders to just paint over the black fungus. One former resident says he's not surprised.

"If you ask me, he's a slum lord," said the man who wanted to be identified only as Anthony. A lawyer for Tuscany Villas said the owners didn't want to comment.

The rental units are up for foreclosure auction on Monday, but foreclosures experts said it'll be hard to find a buyer.

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