I first spoke with Dr. Jack Thrasher on a Saturday morning in October of 2008. He told me to call his office after seeing our family’s timeline of events I sent to him on the recommendation of an online friend.
I knew he was a toxicologist and a leader in the field of toxic mold, but had no idea how deeply he cared about those who were suffering its effects.
“This is a very serious situation,” he said as he addressed our continued illnesses and our recently remediated home.
Dr. Thrasher could have been engaging in any number of leisurely activities that Saturday morning. Instead, he spent time explaining the gravity of a home contaminated with toxic mold. “Do you follow?” he kept asking. (This was a trademark phrase of his, as I would later learn.)
We left our home that night. The following morning he arranged a conference call with Dr. Michael Gray, Chris, and myself. Two hours of their time graciously given on a Sunday morning.
As advised, we treated the home like a fire and never looked back. Like Dr. Thrasher, I became passionate about helping others sort through the hazards of toxic mold. I founded momsAWARE, relying heavily on the knowledge of Dr. Thrasher. He patiently answered my questions, granted interviews, and reviewed my work.
Dr. Thrasher received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in 1959 from California State University, Long Beach, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, Department of Anatomy in 1964. He taught medical students at both the University of Colorado and UCLA in cell biology, human anatomy, physiology, and embryology.
In 1966, Dr. Thrasher narrowed his focus to toxicology and then immunotoxicology in 1986. He published peer-reviewed research papers on the toxic effects of formaldehyde, organophosphate insecticides, chlorinated insecticides, solvents, isocyanates, hydrogen sulfide, and molds and bacteria in water-damaged homes and buildings.
Dr. Thrasher, along with Dr. Irene Grant, worked to compile an extensive list of scientific research connecting water-damaged buildings with adverse health effects. Dr. Thrasher allowed us to edit and publish the list at the momsAWARE website (see Mold Illness Studies).
Dr. Thrasher leaves a gaping hole in the environmental health community. I’ll never forget our conversation in 2008 when he said, “I’m 70 years old and I can’t retire. Too many people are suffering.”
Indeed, many are suffering and countless are without knowledge. Dr. Thrasher was dedicated to changing that reality. His personal motto as stated on his website says it best:
A clean environment and good health
are the most precious resources to leave our children.
I emailed Dr. Thrasher eleven days before he died about the tragic pesticide poisoning of a family in Texas from aluminum phosphide. He hadn’t heard about it, replying, “All I know is it is highly toxic.” When I told him four children had died, he responded with one word: “Horrible.”
I will deeply miss Dr. Thrasher and will forever be grateful for his willingness to invest in families like ours. When I started a podcast in the spring of 2016, Dr. Thrasher was the first person I wanted to interview. I will cherish our conversation. I asked him to reiterate what he told me in 2008 about his unwillingness to retire when so many people are suffering.
“I’ll be 80 years old coming up in August and I would like to retire someday. But I’m not going to retire until this issue is brought forth to the public and the public fully understands what is going on.”
I am confident many of us will continue Dr. Thrasher’s vision for educating the public.