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Minerva Award by Maria Shriver





March 13, 2007


I am an activist for promoting a safe and healthy environment for our children and all Americans.  This is my story about what happened to me when toxic mold was found in my apartment. This motivated me to make the public aware of what happens when mold is not properly cleaned up. 




Since 1998, I kept getting sick from chronic Sinus infections and Bronchitis, with rashes appearing on my face and body. Every few months, the pipes under my apartment leaked.  Management kept “fixing” them.  I kept getting sicker.  Then one day in the spring of 2001, I couldn’t get out of bed. The final episodes of my Bronchitis, Sinus Infections, and Asthmatic conditions kept me in bed sick for a couple of months with doctor visits and medicines that did not work.  I lost my health, my home, my two businesses, my personal belongings, my money and my ability to work.  Forced to leave, I lived at 25 addresses the next 5 years because my medical bills piled up and I went into credit card debt. 


It is nine years later, and my sicknesses continue.  My life had become a living nightmare.  It is not easy, but I am trying to get my life back.  I have been threatened, blackmailed, slandered against, and almost arrested.  Our lives have been devastated because toxic mold grew.  Families were hurt because of negligence and cost cutting in the name of money and profits. 


I won’t stop fighting to keep our children safe and protected.  I started my fight when the apartment complex decided to clean the toxic mold their way.  They said it cost too much money to clean it the Health Department’s way.  Just like in the story of “David and Goliath”, where David seemed to be too small to fight and win against a big giant, it was now “Diane and the Big Apartment Complex”. How could I fight this injustice?  I had one goal in mind when I became so sick – not to leave that apartment without the necessary testing to prove that it was uninhabitable.  I even stayed in my car.  I was worried about children who would move in after me.  I had just read about Bleeding Lung Disease in infants in Cincinnati.  I have a daughter and two granddaughters, and I could not let anybody, especially children, face sicknesses related to toxic mold.


In my case, at least families have gotten evacuated and some mold remediation was done.  We are still fighting for our medical expenses, property losses and suffering.  Laws have been passed in California.  But now we need action!  Our lives depend on it.




From 1998 through 2007, my illnesses included Acute Asthma, Allergic Rhinitis, Chronic Sinus Infections, Bronchitis, Rashes, Eye Irritation, Wheezing, Coughing, Tightness of Chest, Shortness of Breath, Fatigue, Loss of Memory, Hearing and Concentration, Stomach problems, Dizziness, Coughing up blood, Sleep Disorders, Headaches, Hair Loss, Itchy Eyes, Earaches and Infections. 


 I still continue with sleep disorders and sicknesses including severe Asthma that goes out of control with my lung capacity going way below normal.  Most days I hook myself up to a Nebulizer, use inhalers, monitor my lung capacity with a peak flow meter and take medicine.  I get Asthma attacks when certain triggers happen like smog or cigarette smoke.  But most of all, I am a “mold detector”, just like those dogs they train to detect mold.  My asthma attacks happen randomly when I least expect it.  I also do sinus irrigations for the sinus infections.  Rashes appear sometimes for weeks on my face, chest, stomach, back and arms.  I won’t even talk about the emotional distress.  When you get sick and are self-employed, even your medical insurance provider turns on you.  They raise your premiums and you keep lowering your benefits, because someone has to win. It sure isn’t me.  Much of the medicine was not generic, so I had to pay full price.   Fighting depression is an everyday occurrence and sometimes I walk in fear.  But I am determined to get healthy again.  I am going to get my life back.  Only God and persistence help in a battle like this.  My life depends on it.  Our future and our children’s lives depend on living in a safe and healthy environment.



By Diane Sabba, M.S.

Businesswoman, Environmental Activist for Toxic Mold Issues,

and Health and Fitness Leader