November 9, 2001 - Fungus Lawsuits, Web Sites, Seminars Spreading Like Mold
CHICAGO - There's a lot of competition in the worry sweepstakes these days, but mold continues to hold its own on the personal-health anxiety scale.
In the last year, these ancient fungi have sprung out of nowhere to worry the real estate world, even though most mold is harmless to humans.
But there are some questionable varieties, and their presence in our homes and apartments has led homeowners and tenants to sue their builders, landlords, real estate agents and anyone else they can think of because they say their houses are making them sick.
The mold mess is a complex tangle of reputable research, junk science and panic.
Although exposure to certain kinds of mold has been firmly linked to allergic reactions in certain individuals, there's much disagreement over whether it can trigger far more serious health problems, as many contend.
Not that this has slowed the litigation: Mold cases are beginning to rival construction-defect claims in number and magnitude, according to the Independent Insurance Agents of America, a trade group.
Clearly, it's a topic on a lot of people's minds. We're not even at halftime yet, but here's a scorecard of some recent activity, great and small.
The business world is starting to realize just how much it doesn't know about the mold world. Sites and seminars on the topic are spreading faster than that fuzzy stuff on the leftovers in your refrigerator. Sample:
The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies introduced in September an extensive Web site, MoldUpdate.com, that's dedicated to mold information and litigation news for its industry.
It's not all lawsuits and medical bills. Mold may be changing the ways we build our houses.
For instance, a California couple is building an 11,000-square-foot "antimicrobial home," containing products made from carbon and stainless steel that have been coated with a compound that's touted to reduce the growth of bacterial mold and fungus.
In Madison, Wis., building-products trade groups are collaborating on a demonstration house that will be a laboratory for testing products and building techniques that resist moisture intrusion, the source of mold infestations. It will be open for public tours in about two months. Details are available at www.buildabetterhome.com.
In Dallas, Pulte Homes, the country's largest builder, unveiled a new line of houses last week whose heating and ventilation features will reduce the potential for mold infestations, the company says. There are no plans at this point to make them part of Pulte's line in Chicago, according to a company spokeman.
It's probably not a coincidence that these houses are in Texas, where mold has literally become a shouting issue as the insurance industry and consumer groups have wrangled over proposed limitations for coverage.
Just what constitutes "mold toxicity" continues to be the million-dollar question. Recently California passed the Toxic Mold Protection Act, which has been hailed as a major step toward establishing standards.
Under the law, home sellers and landlords would have to disclose mold in a property whenever it exceeded those standards. But don't hold your breath. The state's health department has until July 2003 just to issue a "progress report" for determining those limits.
In all Sick Building Syndrome cases it is essential that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the incident in question, and to enable physicians or other expert witnesses to thoroughly evaluate any injuries. If you or a loved one is a victim of injury as a result of exposure to toxic mold, call now at or CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT A CASE FORM. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don't delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires.