" I Don't Remember Mold Being a Concern Twenty Years Ago"
Molds and mildew are everywhere in our environment, and in nature, they perform the very important function of breaking down organic matter. These microbes need very little to survive and thrive: air, moisture (liquid water isn't necessary, most species propagate with only 40%-60% relative humidity), and food. Fungi are especially fond of building materials like sheetrock and wood, carpets, and enjoy soft goods such as furniture and clothes. Every home offers a smorgasbord for eager spores!
There are a number of reasons for the increasing problem of mold and mildew in our homes, not the least of which is the fact that Title 24 to the United States Code of Federal Regulations, relating to energy conservation, brought new construction methods and materials, meaning that buildings don't "breathe" as freely, trapping moisture vapors inside the building. Most newer homes are built on concrete slabs, which emit moisture for several years as they cure, and because they are porous, moisture from the soil beneath the slab also vaporizes into the living space. Leaky roofs, windows, and plumbing, whether caused by poor construction or lack of timely repairs, often result in colonization of mold and mildew spores. The microbial spores become airborne, spreading inside wall cavities, behind cabinets and wallpaper, and through ventilation systems. When moisture and temperature conditions are favorable, widespread contamination can occur in a surprisingly short time.
What's Next ?
The toxic mold environmental risk may be one of the next major real estate “due diligence” concerns, especially in property development areas where major flooding has occurred. The problem is that this not only includes known residential and commercial flood areas incidents, but also numerous minor water releases due to plumbing failures, conductive condensation, house water leaks and accidents. The toxic mold concern could also be a problem where fires occurred at residential properties.
The second major concern is that one might not be able to permanently eliminate the entire toxic mold from the structure. There also remains a great propensity for future reoccurrence. The health risk/hazard could be back again. Therefore, we must recommend that great care be exercised to remove and dispose of all products, which have been contaminated by the toxic mold contaminated. This recommendation is supported by the Department of Health Administrations in many states.
The third concern is that States’ Health Departments will consider ambiguous and genetic disposition as a response to the publics’ inquiries. There will be some people, especially children, that will exhibit more adverse reactions, including death, lung tissue damage, and memory loss, than other persons exposed to the toxic mold. This may depend on the chemical sensitivity, genetic disposition, predisposing health history (such as allergies, asthma, smoking, etc.). For some, the exposure to the toxic mold spores may just be a “health risk” and to others, it may be a real “health hazard” (potential life-threatening and loss of “quality of life”.) Whether a potential liability concern is a risk or hazard will be paramount in defining the critical level of due diligence and disclosure response by responsible parties. There are already several major lawsuits concerning toxic mold exposure in residential and commercial buildings throughout the United States. Currently, most health organizations consider exposure to Stachybotrys mold as a health hazard.
Also, keep in mind that most responses leading to testing, investigations, and abatement of the Stachybotrys toxic mold are due directly to occupant complaints or documented detrimental health effects. Stachybotrys mold may evolve to a point where it is regarded with the same cautions, response and liability concerns as those attributed to lead-base paint and asbestos. Health hazards and risks associated with concern to exposure to Stachybotrys are currently considered as short-term effects. Exposure to radon gas in houses is considered a long-term health risk and is not considered a short-term hazard.
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