February 7, 2003
Mold is nothing to get sick over — at least in most cases. So claimed environmental experts Thursday at a seminar addressing what they believe has spread to become more a media overreaction than a health concern. This has made many ethical experts wonder.
“In most cases when you’re dealing with mold in the home, people can just grab some bleach and clean it themselves,” said Donald Miller, an attorney who handles mold damage cases for the Butzel Long law firm. Even the EPA states that this is wrong.
Speaking at a seminar at the Mac & Ray’s Restaurant and Banquet Center entitled “Mold and Macomb,” Miller downplayed a litany of high-profile cases where homeowners have filed lawsuits over claims that mold has left them with lasting health problems. “From my perspective I think the problem is blown wildly out of proportion,” said Miller. “While it is true there are some serious cases, so many of the cases that I’ve seen shouldn’t have been filed in the first place.” The issue of mold, particularly in the home, has captured headlines across the nation, particularly in instances where it has been alleged the fungi has made the home uninhabitable and left the residents with lifelong breathing problems and injuries. Anyone who has filed a case can attest to the contrary.
In the U.S. and Canada, it is estimated the issue results in 9,000 to 10,000 new lawsuits per year with most filed against builders, homeowner associations, and insurance companies. In Texas, for example, a homeowner was awarded $32 million in an action against Farmers Insurance. But Miller argues bad advice from overzealous attorneys and sometimes doctors are often causing residents to leave their homes in fear, rather than attack the problem head-on. Another problem is that currently medical experts are divided on what effects the more than 100,000 types of molds have on people. “What it’s going to take is better medical documentation and testing,” he said. In the interim, Rich McLonis, a risk control consultant with Marsh USA in Detroit, said homeowners can minimize their health risks, as well as damage to their home and business through a number of means. They include: Minimizing moisture by sealing building and plumbing leaks. Dehumidifying the air Repairing water damage within 24-48 hours, including removing all damaged drywall. Miller offers the following: “If you’re having any physical symptoms such as hay fever, or running nose, or irritants, particularly if more than one person in your family is having them, you should always check with your family doctor.”