Can Mold Kill?

Did Mold Kill Brittany Murphy and Her Husband? LA Health Officials Inspecting the Actress’ House

When Brittany Murphy Died, the LA Coroner’s Office Wanted to Check the House for Mold, but Her Mother Refused.


When I heard about Brittany Murphy’s death a few months ago, from her symptoms and the way she died, the first thing I thought of was Legionnaire’s disease brought on by mold. Legionnaire’s disease is contracted from droplets of water infected with mold. Brittany Murphy was found unconscious and dying in the bathroom of her LA home after taking a shower. She had also been complaining of similar symptoms to Legionnaire’s disease a week before she died.

Now, her husband Simon Monjack has also died, only five months after Brittany Murphy’s death, and from the same symptoms of respiratory problems and supposed heart attack. At her death Murphy was 32 years old and, at his death, Monjack was 39. Murphy’s death was ruled ‘natural causes’ and Monjack’s autopsy is ongoing, but was it mold that really killed both her and her husband?

Legionnaire’s disease first got its name in the late 1970s when, at a convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia, 32 legionnaire’s died and another 221 people were taken ill. The deaths and illnesses were traced back to mold in the air conditioning and hot water tanks in the hotel. The hotel closed down soon after. It usually kills older people or those with damaged immune symptoms, but can also kill younger people over a longer period of time.

At the time, I read a lot about the American Legion case as I was fascinated so many people had died so quickly due to something no one had ever heard of before. That’s why, when I read about Brittany Murphy’s death, her symptoms and her losing consciousness while taking a shower, it immediately reminded me of the American Legionnaire’s deaths and I may not have been far wrong.

In Brittany Murphy’s case, she and her husband were living in an older house in the Hollywood Hills. If you’ve spent any time in LA or been to any of these homes, you’ll know many were built in the 30s and 40s and often have old water tanks and air conditioning units. With home owners not cleaning their water tanks or air conditioning units as well as they should, mold can build up in the system and threaten people’s lives.

At the time, knowing what I knew about Murphy’s death, it surprised me it was ruled as ‘natural causes’ or a heart attack, as it’s rare for someone so young and healthy to die that way. Particularly when, the previous week, Murphy had been hospitalized for symptoms of shortness of breath and abdominal pain – both associated with Legionnaire’s Disease,as well as other illnesses connected to mold.

It also appears the LA Coroner’s Office were suspicious at the time, as they asked to check out the home for mold, but Murphy’s mother refused them admittance. Now however that Murphy’s husband, Simon Monjack, has died from the same symptoms, the likelihood of mold being the cause is concerning the California Department of Public Health even more and they’re planning on inspecting the home for mold.

Whether it was Legionnaire’s Disease or some other type of mold-related illness that killed Brittany Murphy and her husband, Simon Monjack, or something entirely different, we’ll have to wait and see. If I was the betting type though, my money would be on mold before anything else and certainly not on ‘natural causes’ or a heart attack.