Toxic mold, or more accurately, mold that produces mycotoxins, presents a lurking danger to many homeowners. The toxins from many common forms of mold can cause asthma, allergic reactions, and other unpleasant symptoms. To make matters worse, mold can be difficult and expensive to remove. The Toxic Mold section of FindLaw's Real Estate Center provides legal and health-related information about toxic mold exposure in the home or workplace. Included in this section are tips on how to assert your rights if you have suffered property damage or health problems caused by toxic mold and how to prevent mold from entering your house in the first place.
The Basics of Toxic Mold
Mold is everywhere, and most types of mold are harmless even if they smell bad or look disgusting. But toxic mold -- as its name implies -- is a big problem in some parts of the country, particularly when builders have not property accounted for the likelihood of mold development. The types of mold considered toxic are those that produce mycotoxins, which can cause a whole slew of health problems if not removed promptly. Removal itself can be very difficult, since it tends to spread rapidly and often requires the removal of carpet, floorboards, drywall, and other materials.
Toxic mold, as with all kinds of mold, enter the home as spores in the air and then thrive in areas that are damp and dark. In fact, many newer homes are airtight in order to improve energy efficiency; but this inhibits the ability of the building to dry out. If water leaks from a faulty pipe, for example, it will slowly soak into the surrounding materials without evaporating. Any mold spores in the vicinity will quickly take hold and multiply.
Do You Have a Mold Problem? Warning Signs
Although mold typically takes hold in the dark, often-unseen parts of your home, there are some warning signs that you may have a mold problem. Remember, the earlier it is detected, the easier it will be to clean up and the less likely you will be to suffer any health problems. The warning signs of possible mold infestation include:
- Visible mold growth (this sounds obvious, but make sure you know what it looks like)
- Water stains or discoloration on walls
- A "musty" odor
- Standing water or condensation on walls, floors, or windows
Health Effects of Toxic Mold
Certain kinds of mold give off "volatile organic compounds" (or VOCs) through their natural processes, which evaporate at room temperature and give off that telltale musty odor. The VOCs of some types of mold are toxic to humans and do not evaporate as easily. Since it's difficult to determine at the outset whether a mold is toxic, it's always a safe bet to investigate it and then remove it.
Some of the most common illnesses caused by mold exposure include the following:
- Allergies (a worsening of existing symptoms)
- Respiratory problems
- Burning and watering eyes
- Sore throat
- Skin rashes
The individuals most at risk of illnesses caused by mold exposure are those with allergies, a weakened immune system, or lung disease; the elderly; and young children.
How to Get Help
If you have been exposed to toxic mold in your home, you may be able to file a legal claim to collect damages. Determining who is responsible may be tricky, but that's where an attorney can be very helpful. Depending on the extent of the problem and injuries incurred, plaintiffs may claim damages for medical costs, clean-up and structural fixes, and even lost wages related to any illness related to the mold.
Learn more about toxic mold and its legal implications by clicking on one of the links below.