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What Is Toxic Mold?

Anyone who has bought, sold, or rented property has heard of toxic mold. Sometimes called “black mold," it is the nightmare of property owners and tenants alike. A mold infestation can destroy property values, cause health issues, and even lead to death.

Toxic mold has a variety of causes. Removing it is difficult and expensive once a colony develops in a residence. If you suspect the presence of mold in your home, you should consult an attorney right away.

What Is Toxic Mold?

Toxic mold, or “black mold," actually refers to several different mold species. The ones that do the most harm are Stachybotrys chartarum and toxigenic Aspergillus. Mold is common in all environments, indoors and outdoors. Mildew, mushrooms, and moldy bread are all sources of mold spores. Toxic mold produces a toxin called “mycotoxin," which causes allergic reactions and respiratory illness in people.

Like any organism, mold needs the right conditions to survive. Toxic mold needs:

  • Dampness, often due to water leaks or cracked foundations
  • Nutrients, namely cellulose, with untreated wood, drywall, and particle board serving as excellent food sources for mold
  • Warmth, as mold can only grow within a narrow temperature range

Very cold or very hot temperatures kill the spores, so these types of mold thrive in warm, damp environments like bathrooms, kitchens, and walls. Mold growth occurs in hard-to-see spaces, so it's difficult to notice until the mold problem is well-established.

Signs of Mold Growth

The best way to avoid mold injury is prevention. This means spotting mold before it is out of control. Some signs of mold in your home include:

  • Water damage on internal walls, indicating a water leak
  • A musty or sour smell, especially in cabinets or enclosed spaces
  • Condensation and dark areas in windows, around doorframes, or on other surfaces

Symptoms of Mold Injury

Mold exposure can be hard to diagnose because the health effects resemble other allergies and respiratory illnesses. There are a few nonspecific tests for exposure to mycotoxin. Some symptoms of mold allergies include:

  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Headaches
  • Sniffling, sneezing, and a runny nose
  • Skin rash
  • Asthma and respiratory infections
  • Fungal skin infections secondary to mold exposure

Despite dramatic findings in early mold injury cases, there is no evidence that black mold causes more serious illness, such as memory loss, psychiatric disorders, or pulmonary hemorrhage. The damage caused by toxic mold is due to the toxins in the spores and the difficulty of removing the mold from the property.

Proving a Toxic Mold Claim

Making a toxic mold claim is harder than it seems. A mold lawsuit may involve builders, landlords, prior tenants or owners, and building materials suppliers. Proving liability for the property damage that led to the mold infestation can be a lawsuit by itself. Another legal matter is showing that your health problems are due to mold issues and not pollen allergies or dust.

Toxic Mold Property Damage

The presence of toxic mold means a water leak or other water intrusion into your home. It can also indicate the presence of substandard building materials or poor construction, allowing water into the property.

Additionally, mold colonies, whether they are toxic to humans or benign, produce waste products that destroy the wood and drywall. After mold remediation, your home may still need structural repair to correct whatever let the water into the property.

Professional mold inspectors will use air samplers to test for mold spores in the air. If the percentage of spores is above a certain level, the house needs remediation. You can use the test results for your toxic mold claim.

Toxic Mold Personal Injury

If your doctor has said your allergies are mold-related, you will receive a series of specific allergy tests to determine what type of mold is causing your reaction. The doctor may recommend allergy shots to reduce sensitivity. If you have secondary infections, such as skin or respiratory problems, your doctor will also treat those.

There is no evidence that black mold or any other mold species causes more serious illness. If you believe toxic mold exposure has aggravated any underlying illness, or if you or a loved one are immunocompromised, you should discuss this with your doctor. Your attorney will need medical bills and records to establish the connection between the appearance of the mold and your symptoms.

Liability in Toxic Mold Cases

Determining the cause of toxic mold intrusion is difficult. If you have black mold in your own home, you should review your homeowner's insurance policy. Some insurance companies have exclusions for black mold unless you take certain steps before filing a claim. A toxic mold attorney can advise you on how to proceed.

You should have received a mold disclosure statement with your lease if you are a renter. This disclosure describes any prior remediation and known or suspected mold hazards. In some states, such as Florida, this may include reports of flooding or mold in nearby houses. Some of the individuals or entities who may be at fault in your mold case include:

  • Contractors and suppliers for using substandard or untreated materials in construction. Mold-resistant wood and drywall are preferable in construction.
  • Architects and designers who failed to provide adequate drainage or slope driveways or gutters properly. An example would be a walkway that drains into a basement.
  • The manufacturers of prefabricated supplies, such as window casements, door frames, or chimney assemblies. If they are poorly built or contain flaws, they can leak into the surrounding structure, even if the building itself is intact.
  • Previous homeowners, renters, or landlords who fail to disclose damage or mold. Because toxic mold is hard to spot, residents should report all water damage and mold infestation. A previous owner or renter who ignored minor water damage or painted over a few spots may be liable for later damage and injury.

Rented homes have a warranty of habitability. For renters, it means your apartment or condominium is suitable for living. If mold has made your property unlivable, the landlord or property owner is responsible. Homeowners need legal advice to determine liability for their claims.

Finding a Toxic Mold Attorney

You should start in your neighborhood if you need a toxic mold case evaluation. Toxic mold lawyers are best at mold litigation in their own backyards. They can give you the best advice for cleanup costs and remediation and will know how to address your legal issues. If there are no toxic mold law offices near you, a personal injury attorney can provide legal advice on your claim.

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