MOLD: Facility Managers Take Note: The Concerns Are Real, So Get Educated

February 1, 2002
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Mold is very much in the news these days. Media frenzy surrounding multi-million dollar lawsuits has resulted in fairly widespread panic about the dangers of "Black Mold."

Facility managers and/or building maintenance professionals better get informed because they may find themselves facing a mold problem, and getting informed now can head off some major headaches. It can cost your facility plenty in liability costs as well as in remediation expenses if you don't know what you're doing.

What's the problem? On the one hand, building occupants claim adverse health effects from exposure to "Toxic" molds. On the other hand, insurance companies cry foul, saying that mold poses no real danger beyond driving up insurance costs. Many mold remediation companies are making millions. Every day mold remediators are being sued and forced out of business. Who can make sense of all this conflicting evidence?

Fact: Experts agree that most molds are not dangerous.
Fact: The Center for Disease Control says that if you have visible mold growing in your facility, it should be removed. If there is no danger, why remove it?
Fact: Molds, which are not dangerous to the general population, can cause severe allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, and dangerous infections in persons with compromised immune systems. Mold colonies growing indoors cause eventual breakdown of the building structure, and prolonged exposure to even benign molds can cause otherwise un-allergic people to develop sensitivities leading to unpleasant and sometimes serious symptoms.
Fact: Insurance costs are rising. One major insurance company claims it is spending $1.60 for every $1 it takes in water damage premiums. Another says it is paying $1.76 on the dollar.
Fact: Whether these figures are inflated, insurance company CEO's and stockholders will not put up with a loss statement like that for long.
Probability: Premiums will go up, coverage will go down. For example, Texas insurance commissioner Jose Montemayor proposes capping coverage for water damage in homes to $5,000.

What does this mean for the insured? Any facility with a small leak will likely collect the limit for its losses, need it or not, while a legitimate large water intrusion will have completely inadequate coverage.

Fact: Insurance companies report average payouts of $45,000 $55,000 per claim.
Fact: Reputable remediation companies report job averages of closer to $12,000 per.
Why the wide variance in cost? In this unregulated industry characterized by lack of education, training, and standards, anyone can call himself a mold remediator. Anyone with a printer can issue a certificate saying "Certified Remediator."
Fact: Contractors following improper procedures not only do not adequately remove the molds, but they can actually exacerbate the problem by spreading contamination.

Because of contractors' shoddy workmanship and lack of training, insurance companies are often paying for the same job twice and three times in an effort to get it done correctly. And it's not only the contractors who are behind on the education curve. Many consultants, under-trained and wary of litigation, are recommending extensive (and often unnecessary) removal of structure. Insurance adjusters are unable to keep proper tabs on projects, which stretch into months when they should take days. Indecision, delays, and inadequate containment protocols are the norm; aggravated contamination and lengthy hotel stays for the building occupants are the expensive results.

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