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The Facts About

The myth of mold related health risks has tainted America’s legal system and insurance market with million dollar lawsuits and paranoia over exposure to a harmless substance found throughout the environment. But science shows that most mold found in buildings is a simple byproduct of water and modern construction materials that is easily contained and generally harmless.

“In spite of the three-ring-circus treatment it gets in the media, mold is just mold, ” said Dave Golden, director of commercial lines for the National Association of Independent Insurers, speaking at the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers’ winter meeting
in Chicago. “It’s been around forever, it’s easily remediated, and its health
threat has been greatly exaggerated and
virtually unproven by scientific fact.”

Most interior mold is a byproduct of
water reacting with modern construction
materials such as drywall paper, carpeting,
wallpaper backings and particle board.
Although the existence of the
simple fungus has been documented
since biblical days, modern structures,
which are sealed to keep in heat in the
winter and cool air from air conditioners
in the summer, encourage the growth of mold.

Because mold can’t grow without a
source of water typically from slow leaking
pipes or seepage it’s usually
simple to remove the source and clean
up the mold. “Mold is often a maintenance
issue,” Golden noted. “If you get
rid of the water, you get rid of the

Beyond cleanup issues, mold’s affect on
health has been greatly exaggerated by
the media and the trial bar and an
industry of expert witnesses, remediation
“experts,” mold testers and “public”
adjusters has grown up around the
myth. And while the mold lawsuit trend
started with homeowners coverage,
exposures exist in everything from landlord/
tenant to construction defect.
In spite of the hype, however, there is no
scientific documentation on the harmfulness
of mold. “Although there could
be individuals who might have allergic
reactions to the presence of mold, or
have preexisting conditions aggravated
by inhaling mold, the ‘toxic’ label is
clearly unproven,” he said. “Mold is not
the ‘new asbestos.”’

The insurance industry has treated the
coverage of mold coverage on a case by case
basis. Because insurance provides
financial protection against fortuitous
events which are sudden, accidental
and unexpected a policy could cover
mold cleanup if the mold resulted from
flooding or a ruptured pipe. “But the
insurance policy is not a maintenance contract,” Golden noted. “Simple home
upkeep is not covered, and many mold
cases arise from long standing water
exposures, not fortuitous events.”

Insurers are facing mold head on by
clarifying coverage, with options regarding
mold coverage or exclusion, improving
their claims-handling process by
making water damage a top priority and
by providing public information on
mold and its prevention to reduce customer

Education Is Key

But more needs to be done. “Education
is key to debunking the mold myth,”
Golden noted. “Everyone from homeowners
to legislators and regulators need
to separate the facts from the hype.”

Among other sources, Golden cited a
recent study by The American College
of Occupational and Environmental
Medicine, which holds that “current scientific
evidence does not support the
proposition that human health has been
adversely affected by inhaled mycotoxins
(mold) in home, school, or office

About the Author

NAB, based in suburban Chicago, is a
property/casualty insurance company
trade association. Its 715 member companies
write more than $98 billion in
annual premium and more than 31 percent
of the nation’s property/casualty

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