While insurance carriers search for exclusions in their policies, the fact of the matter is that mold is too important to ignore and claims will continue to be brought where human health impacts are clear. These cases arise in construction matters, operation and maintenance of commercial buildings and are a significant issue for a commercial landlord, homeowner and prospective buyer and seller of residential real estate. Mold clearly causes health issues that dramatically impact the quality of people's lives. While it is newsworthy it is not new! It is not dissimilar to other indoor air issues such as second hand smoke, carbon monoxide, lead paint, asbestos, radon, and many others. The ability to prove these harms in courts is proving to be challenging as in any new practice area. But the larger problems of indoor air pollution persist and will continue to challenge us long after the mold cases are litigated.
The source of harm to humans is found in the cross between these pollution sources and ventilation. In short, while these pollution sources exist in our general environment (indoors and outdoors), they present varying degrees of problems to people depending upon the concentrations levels and duration of the exposure. So we might sit in traffic on a hot summer day exposed to automobile fumes and they may not affect you at all. The same car exhaust in a home would be fatal. The degree of harm or impact on the quality of life depends in some degree on and the vulnerability of the receptor. People react differently to indoor air pollution depending upon a number of factors including age and pre-existing medical condition.
The degree of the reaction and the timing of the reaction vary as well. It is not uncommon for people to develop heightened sensitivity to other indoor air pollution sources once exposed to mold or second hand smoke. As for mold, the ultimate source is moisture -- a broken pipe, bathroom moisture that leaks into the floor or tiles, improper drainage -- can be a source of mold. Mold is a living organism that is all around us and exists in all living things to some degree. However, heightened levels can be found due to improper ventilation or overwhelming moisture built up in the home.
A large effort has gone on for thirty years to weatherize homes to save on energy costs. Installing double- paned storm windows, caulking, insulation are all sound and prudent steps to tighten up the home to avoid heat loss in the winter. While this will assist you in heating bill payments, it has clearly been tied to increased exposure to indoor air pollutants. That same tightening reduces a home's natural infiltration by upwards to 30%. In the end, that means less fresh air. Operators of commercial buildings including municipalities, courthouses and even environmental agencies have faced enormous costs due to improper ventilation in buildings causing what has been commonly referred to as "sick building syndrome.
" The family of indoor air pollutants attributable to mold is called "biological contaminants." They include bacteria, molds, mildew, viruses, animal dander and cat salivia, dust mites and pollen. The growth of these biological contaminants is related to the relative humidity in the commercial or residential space. A relative humidity of 30-50% is recommended for homes.
Any standing water or wet surfaces serve as prime breeding ground for molds and mildew. To minimize mold growth, ventilate your home or building regularly using exhaust fans in common areas, kitchens, bathrooms, attics, storage spaces and basements. Mold can grow rapidly (within twenty-four hours if standing water is not dried). Any water damage to carpets and building materials especially sheet rock and other cellulose-based products need to be addressed immediately to mitigate any potential mold growth.
If growth persists, then your mold issue may be related to condensation, relative humidity or vapor pressure. If your property suffers flood damage or ice dam back ups or a broken pipe that goes unnoticed for several days if not weeks, disinfect water damaged furnishings and construction materials as soon as possible. Anything that cannot be dried should be discarded. You should recognize that even dry mold spores could continue to cause allergic type reactions.
Professionals should be contacted as procedures for clean up may require workers to wear respiratory protection Mold is a real problem. Juries have returned substantial verdicts in the past several years and litigation has proliferated. Many of you may have received a notice from your homeowner's insurance carrier disclaiming coverage for mold growth in your home.
Most policies do not cover you for such damages but some have and it is very important how the source of moisture was initiated and infiltrated your home or business.
Eno, Boulay, Martin & Donahue, LLP is a Lowell, Massachusetts law firm specializing in both business law and business solutions for clients in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The firm deals with issues relating to government regulation including state and federal tax collections issues, bankruptcy, business conveyancing and commercial transactions, environmental matters as well as business litigation. Call: 978-452-8902 or http\\www.ebmdattorneys.com