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Steve Basile’s Story

I was a Prop-maker at Downey Studio’s on the feature ‘The Islands’ in November and December of 2004, and working there changed my life forever. I remember when I first got there the stage was real damp, the stage was water leaking from the roof, leaking and I worked at the big hanger in the back.

If we had to go to the bathroom we had to go way in the back in this hallway that was pitch black and they had these extension cord lights all hooked up and you could see this black mold ad green and it was just really disgusting. It was like going to downtown subway bathroom in New York that has been abandoned for 30 years. There were no lights, no ventilation. After I was there a couple weeks I started coughing, sneezing and had respiratory problems. My breathing just wasn’t normal. And every new person that came on, it was weird, because you could see the same thing happening to them. With myself after a few weeks I was itching and scratching my arms and hands.

A couple weeks after I started working there they brought in a pot-a potty so we wouldn’t have to use the dungeon bathroom. After a couple more weeks they didn’t tell anybody what they were doing but they started painting over the mold and garbage there on the walls and the particles were flying everywhere floating in the air. Instead of scrapping all of it off they were doing a cosmetic thing for looks.

Scotty Waldon, my partner and I were hanging these hoist for the elevators so we had to go up to the ceiling and anchored them in and around the I-beams it was pitch black and when we’d come down our whole bodies were covered with black, there was mold everywhere.  And I would come home and Skye, my wife (exposing her to the molds) would have to wash my clothes on a daily basis because they were so bad. We were in between houses and living in a fifth wheel at the time. And I would hang my coat by the door and set my boots by the couch. I didn’t wash my boots, and my coat she washed once a week. It was a small quarters we lived in. So I took what I was working in home.

I remember when we got there on the north side of the hanger there was this one big area covered with polyethylene and blocked off and locked off and we were told if we even peaked in there we would get fired. And one time we walked around side to try and peak in to see what was in there. That morning in Dec. we noticed there were a bunch of land movers that came in and they were doing excavating and a couple days later we came to work and it was all gone. I usually would come to work about 5:15 and there was a simi- truck back there and there were these guys in hazmat suits taking dirt and then they disappeared and were gone.

When I first got there we had several big lockers and everybody pitched in money and we would fill it with crackers and chips and all kinds of goodies. On Thanksgiving we had deep fried a turkey and had a big spread for everybody. It was really good but all of a sudden we noticed there were no ants or bugs. Usually when you get a bunch of prop-makers together with their food they leave plates and food all over and there’s critters. There were no days off. People would say that they had family coming in for Thanksgiving and they wanted to take off but they would say will take your box with you.

Lots of people were getting sick and we just thought it was because it as winter and people were getting the flu and colds. We just dealt with it because if you requested one day off they would tell you that you were laid off.

The air was always filled with a cloud of particles no matter where you were. They were a light and dark color, like a cloud. At times Scott Waldon my partner and I had to get up in the ceiling structure to hang hoists and we were covered with a black powder like substance that would make us cough over and over. In the bathrooms there was different types of fungus light and dark everywhere, with a very strong musty smell everywhere. There were also pods of standing water. Asbestos, bathrooms were disgusting, no electricity, pray painting in work area with no ventilation and we were not issued breathing aspirates.

On December 18th we were doing graveyard shift and they brought some trusses in and I went to pick up a sticker off some juices were bringing in for a sub-floor. I hurt my back really bad and it was my last day there. I went through therapy for my back and was off work for a while. During this time on my hands the skin just falls apart, they started peeling like a snake.

Since I worked there in 2004 I have had coughing, runny nose, my hand peel like a snake shedding its skin. Nose bleeds hard to stop, very bad headaches, diarrhea, shortness of breath, Sore throat, congestion, sinus infections, little bumps in my mouth, depression, and little pimple like bumps that started as early as 2-3 weeks after starting the show and still have some of them. Starting while was working there sometimes I wake up choking in middle of the night. Till have effects all the time.

One thing we all thought was strange is that we had food there every day (it wasn’t the cleanest set up) food left out, etc, And there were no bugs at all, anywhere, no ants, no cockroaches, not even spider webs up high anywhere. We used to joke about it.

Lots of people were getting sick and we just thought it was because it as winter and people were getting the flu and colds. We just dealt with it because if you requested one day off they would tell you that you were laid off.

Today, April 2008 I still get nosebleeds and I have to take an extra pair of jeans to work because like this morning I will just be sitting there and I have diarrhea and have to clean up and change my pants. It is embarrassing! Sometime I get so depressed I don’t want to do nothing or talk to anybody. I get headaches all the time almost like a migraine. My hands are still messed up. When I get the nosebleeds someone looks at me and says heh, dude your nose is bleeding.

Skye, my wife has constant nasal problems and periodically and right now has bumps on her throat from my clothes, boots and coat.

But when I get a job I have to work to pay the mortgage. I can’t just quit.