Toxic Mold Overview
Toxic mold problems in homes and commercial buildings have dramatically increased in recent years. Many of these problems result in legal claims. Experts and lawyers who handle mold-related claims give various reasons for this increase. Such reasons include the increased emphasis on making buildings airtight, quick construction, faulty building techniques and materials, and increasingly complex building designs.
While many people have heard of "black mold," various mold strains can cause ill health effects to residents and occupants in homes, businesses, and places of employment.
If you feel that you have been exposed to toxic mold in your home or business, you may wish to contact an attorney or law firm specializing in mold-related claims to discuss your situation and protect your legal rights. You may also want to contact a mold assessor that can determine the nature of your mold problem. They may recommend that you hire a mold remediator. Mold remediators are qualified to remove mold and make recommendations as to how to handle any mold problem.
Continue reading for an overview of toxic mold.
What Causes Toxic Mold in Homes and Buildings?
Mold spores are everywhere in the natural environment. They enter homes and buildings through windows, open doors, pets, or by attachment to people. Once the spore is in the home or building, it must have abundant moisture, a food source, and a certain temperature range in order to grow.
Moisture infiltration is the main cause of building mold. Moisture may come from a wide variety of sources. Many modern homes and buildings are very airtight, which is great for efficiency but not so great for allowing the structure to dry. Therefore, mold can develop from poor ventilation and increased humidity levels.
For example, once moisture gets in through a pipe leak, faulty windows, roof leaks, or other sources, the water cannot evaporate. This creates a moisture problem and can sometimes result in water damage.
Mold is drawn to the moisture of poorly ventilated places, such as a laundry room, crawl spaces, a dishwasher, or a shower. It may grow on wet materials such as wood, insulation, ceiling tiles, and carpeting. It thrives in places having high humidity. A buildup of rainwater in gutters or a damp basement can be perfect breeding grounds for mold. In spaces where humidifiers are used, poor ventilation can cause the rapid development of mold.
It's important to identify the growth of mold early.
Mold - Warning Signs
There are a variety of warning signs that should lead a person to investigate a home or commercial building for potential mold infestation. The earlier an investigation takes place, the better the possibility that a home or building owner can reduce possible damages and adverse health effects caused by mold exposure.
The earlier you identify a mold problem, the lesser the likelihood of resulting health problems and the greater the likelihood of success in any mold remediation attempts.
The following are some warning signs that may indicate the presence of dangerous mold or mold growth:
- Visible mold growth, such as what occurs with mildew
- Discoloration or water stains on internally facing walls or ceilings
- Discoloration or water stains on externally facing walls
- Areas of standing water or condensation on floors, walls, or windowsills
- Musty smell
- Water damage, which can appear on drywall and present as water leaks and occur as a result of leaky pipes
Types of Mold
Many types of mold may occur in homes and office buildings, while some sources say there are over 100,000 different species. Some mold species are considered harmless, while others can cause potentially serious adverse health effects.
The most common mold types found in homes and offices are:
- Stachybotrys atra
Why is Mold Harmful to Humans?
Certain molds produce volatile organic compounds ("VOCs") or toxins as byproducts of their metabolism. VOCs generally evaporate at room temperature. In fact, when a person smells a "musty" odor, they are actually smelling volatile organic compounds.
Some VOCs produce adverse health effects in certain predisposed individuals. In contrast to VOCs, toxins do not evaporate easily, and some are considered very dangerous to humans.
Regardless of whether a particular strain of mold produces VOCs or toxins, all molds should be considered potential health risks, and the presence of mold should lead to an investigation, cleaning, and/or removal.
Mycotoxins are particularly a problem. They are naturally occurring toxic compounds produced by certain types of fungi. Stachybotrys chartarum is the biggest offender within the arena of mycotoxins. It is a greenish-black mold, while it is often more commonly referred to as “black mold." Often growing on materials with a high cellulose content, it can cause serious illnesses in many people.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), people with compromised immune systems and allergies, including those with asthma, are most vulnerable to the negative effects of mold exposure.
Illnesses Caused by Mold Exposure
Some of the most common illnesses associated with mold exposure are:
- Worsening of allergies
- Respiratory problems
- Nasal and sinus congestion
- Burning and watering eyes
- Worsening asthma symptoms
- Sore throat
- Flu-like symptoms
- Skin irritation
Mold Exposure Illnesses: Who is Most at Risk?
It is generally accepted that those who are most at risk of illness from mold exposure include:
- People with allergies
- People with conditions or diseases that weaken immune defenses
- People with lung disease
- The elderly
- Young children
Property Damage Caused by Mold
Mold doesn't just cause illnesses in people. It can also cause significant damage to property.
Mold can eat away at the materials in any structure, including concrete, wood, and paper. It can even cause deterioration to glue. It can also eat away at carpeting, wallpaper, and tiles.
It's important to identify the signs of mold earlier. It's not just illnesses that you need to worry about. The structural integrity of a space can be compromised by mold. When the signs of mold have been identified, it's important that you contact a mold assessor to determine the nature of the problem.
An assessor will determine whether you need to hire a mold remediator. A mold remediator is qualified to handle removal of the mold and make determinations about what is necessary to solve your mold problem.
Toxic Mold - Get Help Now
Mold will grow when there is excessive moisture in a home or commercial building. Adverse health effects and clean-up costs after mold exposure can be devastating. While the growth of mold can be prevented in many ways, such as with proper ventilation, dehumidifiers, and open windows, it may still become a problem despite these efforts.
If you discover a mold problem in your home, business, or place of employment, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your situation and explore your legal options. Mold cases often involve complex scientific evidence, and there could be a time limit on filing a claim.
Speaking with an experienced attorney as soon as possible is the best way to ensure that your legal rights are protected. You should also consider speaking with a mold assessor or mold remediator, as they can assist with the other aspects of any mold problem.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.