Toxic Mold Exposure

Types of claims

Toxic mold exposure claims can be divided into several categories. The first is toxic mold growth in the home as a result of water intrusion into the home due to construction or design defects. The second would be toxic mold growth caused by unforeseen incidents, such as burst water pipes or damage caused by a storm. The excessive moisture can cause the growth of toxic mold.

The homeowners' insurance company or renters' insurance may be responsible to cover the clean-up of physical damage to the home and any resulting mold problems. It may also be necessary to seek damages for personal injuries resulting from mold exposure-related illnesses or aggravation of an existing illness.

It is possible, although far less frequent, that the toxic mold exposure could occur at a place of employment. In these cases, the exposed employee may be eligible for a workers' compensation claim.

What about homeowners' insurance?

Many homeowners' insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for mold. If mold growth results from a covered loss, however, your insurance company should be responsible for remediation. If your homeowners' insurance company takes prompt and immediate action, it may not be responsible for health damage caused by exposure to toxic mold. If your insurance company ignores your claim or delays processing your claim causing additional damage, in some jurisdictions your insurance company will be liable for additional damages under the law of "bad faith."

To file a claim in Florida for first party bad faith, one must file a civil remedy notice with the Florida Department of Insurance. (Florida Department of Insurance Civil Remedy Notice form) A policyholder cannot obtain damages over and above coverage specified by the policy unless the insurance company has a chance to cure its bad faith within 60 days of receipt of a civil remedy notice. The civil remedy notice should be completed as soon as the insurance company denies or delays a claim. This process can be confusing and, if not done properly, can accomplish nothing.

Law Office of Paul B. Genet, P.A. is experienced in toxic mold cases. If you or any member of your household has noticed health problems that may be related to exposure to mold, you should contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation online or by calling 727.400.3010.

Initial presence of mold

If you have or had water intrusion or a water leak where the area in question was wet or remained uncorrected for more than 48 hours, chances are good that you will have some type of mold growth from the moisture. The mold that may develop may not be toxic but it important to first understand what molds are in general.

What are molds?

Molds are a type of fungi that feed on organic matter. Molds consist of long thin-branched groups of cells that intertwine to form the body of the fungus that is called the mycelium. The long, thin cells can go through many materials, but common building materials such as drywall, wallpaper and insulation, all which contain organic materials, are good sources of food for the molds. Mold growth requires a food source, appropriate temperature and humidity levels and moisture. The water source can be nothing more than a relatively minor water leak. Humidity levels in excess of 60 percent and temperatures between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for mold growth. Since the temperature and humidity in Florida usually fall within those ranges, weather conditions in Florida are typically ripe for mold growth.

Molds can be and are found almost everywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance when moisture is present. Outdoors, many molds live in the soil and play a key role in the breakdown of leaves, wood and other plant debris. Without molds we would all be struggling with large amounts of dead plant matter. Molds break down plant materials by digesting them, using the plant material for food.

How can mold affect people?

  • Sensitized individuals may exhibit symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation or wheezing.
  • People with serious allergies to molds may show signs of fever and shortness of breath.
  • People with chronic illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.
  • Even people without sensitivity to mold can experience a variety of health problems as a result of exposure to high levels of mold.

Why are molds now a problem?

Changes in home construction over the past 15 years have resulted in homes that are built with cheaper building materials that are more susceptible to mold growth, such as cellulose and fiberboard. In addition, homes that were constructed more than 10 to 15 years ago are generally not as “tight,” which makes for a home that is not as energy efficient but that provides for more cross-ventilation, allowing water moisture to dry more quickly. As a result, when excessive indoor mold growth occurs, there is insufficient commingling with outdoor air.

When excessive moisture is introduced into a home, mold growth is promoted. Molds grow and multiply as they feed upon the various food sources that constitute much of the building materials in a typical home. Mold spreads through the distribution of seeds that are called spores. Spores are smaller than the eye can see. The tip of a human hair is about 10 microns in size. Spores are about half that size. Mold spores travel much like dust, which all of us have in our home to some degree. The spores of some molds contain protective substances called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are poisonous substances emitted by mold to protect the mold spores from predators. Exposure to mycotoxins has been shown to have potential harmful health effects on humans.

The most common forms of mold that have been shown to have mycotoxins are:

  • Stachybotrys
  • Aspergillus
  • Penicillum

Stachybotrys, or “black mold,” is the best-known of the “toxic molds.” Exposure to high levels may cause significant health problems that may include but are not limited to headaches, bloody noses and possibly chronic respiratory illnesses. However, despite lacking the notoriety of Stachybotrys, exposure to high levels of Aspergillus and Penicillum can be just as harmful. Exposure to these molds can also cause serious respiratory problems. In addition, some mycotoxins have been considered carcinogens. The mycotoxins of Aspergillus Flavus is considered to be a potent carcinogen.

Is your mold toxic?

The only way to determine if your home is contaminated with toxic mold is to have it tested. The results of indoor air quality testing will confirm whether your home is being affected by toxic mold. If you or any member of your household has noticed health problems that even may be related to exposure to mold, you should contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation online or by calling 727.400.3010.

It is important to remember that you want to make sure that precautions are taken to not allow a contaminated area of your home to be allowed to spread to other areas that have not been exposed. Therefore, walls or other sealed areas of your home that are suspected of containing mold should not be opened or breached except by a qualified professional after proper containment procedures have been undertaken.

Preventing the spread of mold

If mold is a problem in your home, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.

  • Wash mold off hard surfaces and dry completely. Absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be replaced if they are contaminated with mold.
  • Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water.
  • Keep drip pans in your air conditioner, refrigerator, and dehumidifier clean and dry.
  • Use exhaust fans or open windows in kitchens and bathrooms when showering, cooking or using the dishwasher.
  • Vent clothes dryers to the outside.
  • Maintain low indoor humidity, ideally between 30-50 percent relative humidity. Humidity levels can be measured by hygrometers, which are available at local hardware stores.
  • Change your air-conditioning filters as needed (generally every 30-60 days).
  • Have your air-conditioning system serviced at least once a year.

Mold-based occupational illnesses

You may not realize it, but the buildings that we live and work in have the capacity to make people sick. A few agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have attempted to educate the public about the dangers of poor indoor air quality. But sick building syndrome and related illnesses receive far less attention than smoking, auto exhaust and other more well-known forms of air pollution.

The term "sick building syndrome" (SBS) can be described as a situation in which building occupants experience health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. In contrast, the term "building-related illness" (BRI) can be described as a situation when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.

Personal service from a Clearwater personal injury lawyer

If you or a family member has been injured because of someone else's negligent behavior, you may be entitled to a monetary award. Call Law Office of Paul B. Genet, P.A. at 727.400.3010 or contact us online for an experienced toxic mold exposure attorney in Clearwater.

There is no charge for your initial consultation.

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