Rutgers fungus expert Joan Bennett had always been a skeptic of "sick building syndrome" – the notion the air in a building can be so toxic it makes people sick. Then the home she owned in New Orleans was flooded by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. While others would mourn their losses, Bennett got busy taking swabs of mold, intent on studying them back in New Jersey, where she and her husband had temporarily relocated. In collecting them, however, she said she immediately felt ill, despite wearing gloves, a mask and protective gear. The dizziness, headaches and nausea she experienced made her open to the possibility that small amounts of mold can harm people. "The odor just made me feel horrible, and I thought, "Aha!" Maybe there’s something in these gasses," said Bennett, now a professor of plant biology and pathology at Rutgers. "I became a convert."
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