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Editorial Comment: Getting the Facts Straight Now

March 10, 2002
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It seems that the Insurance Industry is gearing up for its 'War on Mold,' given the happenings in Texas these days. There, state Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor appointed a 19-member Advisory Task Force for Mold-Related Claims.

The Texas panel is expected to advise the insurance industry on how to respond to claims for water and mold damage. Its members represent indoor air quality experts, consumers, bankers, real estate agents, builders, contractors, adjusters and insurers.

This comes on the heels of a declaration by homeowner insurance companies that they would no longer write comprehensive homeowners insurance coverage in Texas because of the rising cost of mold-related damages. In December, one leading home insurer set a $5,000 limit for remediation of mold resulting from a covered water loss.

However, that action fails on a very elemental way: It does not consider the causes and prevention of and proper remediation for mold-related damage and health concerns.

What's going on here? Simply put, money talks and the insurance industry fears the expensive escalation of mold-related litigation. Consider the California case where medical experts testified that health problems suffered by residents of a private 3,000 square foot home resulted from exposure to mold. The plaintiffs won a $978,000 settlement in that case; $628,000 of it paid by the insurance carrier.

In Texas, the insurance industry wants to shut down the problem of mold related damage by placing a monetary cap on the problem. And just like mold in the walls of damp home, the Texas insurance mentality is going to spread. It's equally obvious that the insurance industry isn't seeking advice from the cleaning industry.

Where does this place the cleaning industry? Where cleaners have always been, at the front lines. After all, who will be called in to clean up those mold-infested homes and businesses? The professional cleaner will. So it comes as no surprise that the cleaning industry has taken up the education mantel.

Most recently, the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) unveiled two ambitious, well-conceived certification programs: The Applied Microbial Remediation Technician (AMRT) and the Applied Microbial Remediation Specialist (AMRS) certifications.

IICRC president Lee Zimmerman called the program "one of most ambitious and well-researched certification categories and exams ever compiled by an IICRC Task Force." We couldn't agree more. The course covers mold and sewage remediation, both of which are major concerns for IICRC registrants and their clients, and it meets IICRC objectives of comprehensive coverage of subject matter combined with actual hands-on training.

What our industry has done is systematically address the issue of mold remediation and prevention by taking it on directly, and bringing the educational underpinnings of the issue directly to the cleaners themselves. It's a move we salute, and encourage.

Last summer, drying equipment supplier Dri-Eaz re-emphasized those industry truisms by holding its first three-day training course in mold remediation; in September, distributor Jon-Don, Inc. conducted its first Restoration Symposium for flood damage repair professionals.

The cleaning industry has always been aware of mold, and understanding of the intricacies of mold remediation and prevention. With improved construction techniques keeping our homes better insulated and sealed from the outside world, it's time for the insurance industry to consider the ramifications of mold remediation and prevention on a more basic level: Prevention. It's an area the cleaning industry has a lot of experience it.

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