Toxic mold flourishes as modern household affliction. (On First Reading).
Mold is being blamed for causing serious health problems, ranging from allergic reactions and infections to eye and lung irritations. But whether mold indisputably poses substantial health risks remains controversial.
Just like asbestos in the 1980s, reports of dangers associated with mold contamination have swept the nation and fueled the creation of a multimillion dollar industry.
But with a lack of regulation from the federal government and states, fraud is widespread. Panic over mold has stirred families to move into tents in their backyards. One family had the local fire department burn their house to the ground.
States are responding to the possible health implications of mold infestations. California enacted the Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001 (SB 732), which addresses exposure limits and remediation. The New Jersey Legislature passed SR 77 urging the commissioners of Health and Senior Services and Community Affairs to help residents identify and deal with toxic mold infestations.
Congress is considering the United States Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act of 2002 or the Melina bill (HR 5040). Among other things, the proposal directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to jointly study the health effects of indoor mold growth and toxic mold. The EPA is charged with developing standards relating to indoor mold growth and sponsoring public education programs in conjunction with NIH and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Health effects represent the tip of the iceberg of mold infestation. The insurance industry is bearing a huge burden. In Texas, the settlement of the first major lawsuit in 1999, created an insurance frenzy, causing a 1300 percent increase in residential mold insurance claims over a one-year period. The rise in claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute, helped propel $9 billion in losses for homeowner insurers in 2001. Insurance companies are no longer offering coverage to new homebuyers in many areas and are not renewing policy holders with claim histories.
Insurance commissioners in 34 states and the District of Columbia have approved provisions that allow insurers to restrict mold coverage to limited cases.