Iowan Fears His Cancer Caused By Moldy State Building, Demands Answers

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- There doesn't seem to be any disagreement from state leaders that something has to be done about the leaking, moldy state office buildings. But to no surprise, they've had tremendous disagreement on how to fix the issues.

Related: Leaky Capitol Dome Could Pour On Problems for Taxpayers

Rod Van Wyk gave 35 years of his life to public service in law enforcement in Ankeny. Now, he’s sick.

The 65-year-old said since he retired, he’s faced a number of health problems. He had a stroke the day after Christmas in 2014. Then last May, he wasn’t feeling so well.

“They sent me in for some tests and they found enlarged lymph nodes. I was later diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Van Wyk said.

He finished chemo and radiation on Dec. 10 of last year, and he’s now in remission. But that’s not where his health issues stop.

“There’s been some other issues with kidney stones and heart issues. Things I didn’t expect. I’m 65-years-old, I’m no spring chicken anymore, but I expected to be a little bit healthier than this.”

Van Wyk worked at one of the four buildings state leaders say are in much need of improvements: The Iowa Capitol, State Historical Building, Wallace Building and now the law enforcement academy on Camp Dodge in Johnston.

Van Wyk said he knew there was mold and moisture problem “simply because we had a myriad of leaky pipes and leaky roofs.”  He went on to describe that there would be turkey pans below the leaking panels to catch the water.

As the building got older, he said the issues happened more frequently. But everyone was aware of it.

Should state officials get the remaining workers out of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy until they can assure employees they are safe? Let Dave Price know here. 

“There were attempts to get it rectified, I believe. Supervisors were looking out after their people, but that’s all part of an appropriation process to take care of these things. For some reason there seemed to never be enough money to take care of it all,” Van Wyk said.

He said money was spent to fix an asbestos problem, which is still a problem that he knows of. He said money was also spent on a lead problem, which was taken care of.

“Every time there’s been something, in my opinion, it’s always been a Band-Aid approach,” Van Wyk said. “My feeling is if you’re going to build something and own it, you should probably take care of it. If you’re going to live in your home you don’t want it falling down.”

Van Wyk said he’s still trying to figure out the root causes of his illnesses, specifically if there is any relationship to what they found in the academy.

He said his case is not unique.

“One instructor died from a rare lung ailment. A secretary just retired that has exactly the same rare lung disease that worked in proximity with him,” Van Wyk said.

While he’s not directly linking the buildings’ issues to his health and the health of his coworkers, wants to know “if the mold is as bad as they say it is in that building, why are they housing people there?”

Academy director Judy Bradshaw said she wants to pull people out of there.

Van Wyk agrees.

“I think there are enough unknowns and enough connections that it would be better to take them out of there than to keep them in there.”

He said he’s willing to talk about such a private issue as health so he can get some answers.

“I’m not really here to have anyone feel sorry for me,” he said. “What I would really like to see is some competence in state government. Why do we have sick buildings? Why are they sick and why hasn’t it been taken care of?”

And hopefully, he’ll get some answers. Van Wyk sent a letter to Bradshaw requesting mold testing information of the academy building now and from the past. He said he wants to see the information for himself.

“I was a cop for 35 years, and I hate to say this because it’s probably going to confirm some stereotypes for people, but basically you become pretty skeptical about everything,” he said. “Maybe this stuff at the academy has something to do with some of the health problems I’m having. Maybe it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, oh well.”

Up next…

We learned about the power of an Iowan’s handshake and how it can extend our global reach on Part 2.

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