Was Brittany Murphy’s premature death due to Toxic Mold?

Simon Monjack and Brittany Murphy hugging

     Speculations have recently arisen once more on the true culprit behind Brittany Murphy’s death. A renowned actress, Murphy died in December 2009, due to pneumonia and anemia. Her husband, Simon Monjack died just 5 months later to the same complications. Now, years later and rumors have begun to resurface that mold could have played a part in the premature death of two young people.

     Murphy purchased the home she perished in from Brittney Spears back in 2003. Less than six years later, she collapsed on the bathroom floor after having flu-like symptoms. Her mother called 911 and rushed her to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where Murphy was pronounced dead. A few months later, the coroner confirmed she died from untreated pneumonia, anemia and drug intoxication from the over-the-counter medications and prescriptions Murphy was taking for her illness.

     Just a mere 154 days later, Monjack was found unresponsive in the same home as Murphy. He died of similar afflictions that took his wife, acute pneumonia and severe anemia. The similarities and proximity of both tragedies sparked concerns.

     “It is unusual to have two people die of similar circumstances with pneumonia,” Los Angeles County assistant chief coroner Ed Winter told ABC News at the time. “We’ve been looking at it and saying, ‘Something isn’t right.’ I’m not saying you can’t get pneumonia from mold, but we did all the tests on it—mold did not come up in the toxicology reports.”

     Some family members don’t seem to be so convinced. Monjack’s Mother, Linda Monjack, expressed to the Daily Mail that she had concerns of mold toxicity. She confirmed her son had found “severe mold” in thehome before he died and was hallucinating. She says, “All I know is that before Simon’s death, he was having hallucinations that things were crawling out of his skin.”

     According to Roger Neal, Murphy’s publicist, The home apparently was tested by “a well-respected company” for dangerous mold just two months before Murphy’s death.  

     It has been noted that Murphy would often plead to her husband to not go home. Monjack was quoted by the Hollywood Reporter stating, “Brittany absolutely hated the Rising Glen house. Every time we would drive up Sunset, Brit would say, ‘Please, can we stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel?’ I’d say: ‘Honey, you’ve got to be realistic. We have our house, a 10,000-square-foot home. We’re going to stay in it.’”

     Although the Los Angeles County Department of Health first considered mold as a possible cause of Murphy and Monjack’s fatal pneumonia, the cornor’s department stated that there were “no indicators” that mold was a factor in Murphy or Monjack’s deaths.

     Murphy’s mother, Sharon Murphy, at first believed it was “absurd” that reports circulated that mold could have been the culprit of this double tragedy. But then in December of 2011 she retracted her statement and claimed that toxic mold was the cause of her daughter and son-in-law’s death. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sharon filed a complaint against Steiner & Libo, the attorneys who represented her in an earlier lawsuit against the builders of Murphy’s Hollywood Hills home. She charged the firm with legal malpractice, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty for not properly informing her that—when she accepted the final settlement of her earlier lawsuit in January 2011—that she was giving up her right to sue for the wrongful deaths of her daughter and son-in-law due to the presence of mold in their 13-year-old home.

     No one can truly know what caused such a young couple to die from the same complications and within months of each other. Both the victims’ mothers believe it was toxic mold that pushed their children to mortality. All we can do now is help spread education, awareness and solidarity for those affected by mold. 

Mold Facts

  • According to the World Health organization in 2014, 7 million deaths per year are linked to indoor and outdoor air pollution
  • Over 20% of cases of asthma in the U.S are estimated to be attriburable to dampness and mold exposure in the mold according to EPA and Berkley National Laboratory, 2007.
  • At least 45 million buildings in the United States have unhealthy levels of mold.
  • Infants who are exposed to mold in their living environments are 3 times more likely to become asthmatic than those without mold exposure in their first year of life (Michael Pinto, 2018)
  • According to Dr. Scott McMahone, MD, “Most doctors do not have the training to identify mold illness. “Possibly every doctor in the United States is treating mold illness, and they just don’t realize it.”
  • Mold starts to grow just 24-48 hours after any kind of water damage (flood, pipe burst, leak)
  • A quarter of the population has a genetic pre-disposition that makes them more susceptible to mold illness. (Mold Sensitized, 2015)
  • Mycotoxins can spread and affect the immune system severely. These lead to health conditions like allergies, hypersensitivity, respiratory problems (asthma, wheezing, coughing); and some other severe ones like those of memory loss, depression, anxiety and reproductive problems among several others. (Rujuta Borkar, 2018)
  • The 2015 documentary “Moldy” explains that more than 50% of houses in America have mold issues.

Ways To Prevent Mold

  • Mold can only thrive in humid and damp spaces
  • Keep humidity levels below 50%
  • Clean surfaces regularly
  • Tend to the issue as soon as you suspect it