New Orleans, LA – Louisiana has a mold problem, but not all remediation contractors are part of the solution, and the state doesn’t want to admit it.
Mold ran Russell and Pamela Vicknair out of their house. In 2002, a sewer pipe under their Baker home burst. State Farm, their insurer, sent out inspectors and, according to the Vicknairs, confirmed that mold rendered their house uninhabitable.
… and the ugly
Regardless of what one thinks of the mold remediation business, mold itself is no hoax. And things have gotten worse recently, Ray says, because modern construction creates ideal mold habitat. Energy-efficient windows and doors are vapor-sealed, inexpensive vinyl wallpapers and faux-stucco surfaces do not breathe and air conditioning creates low pressure that sucks moisture into building cavities.
But if the presence of mold is fairly clear-cut, the threat posed and proper course of remediation remain hotly contested.
The health effects of toxic molds can be serious. Of the 200-odd harmful strains, so-called “black mold”-Stachybotrys atra-is the chief boogeyman. It has been linked to memory loss and pulmonary hemorrhage by civil litigators and mold remediators. But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says science has yet to prove such a connection.
Ray says all molds pose a structural threat to buildings. “The purpose of mold is to decompose cellulose material,” he says. “It basically turns a building into a compost pile, even if there are no health effects.”
So when, exactly, does mold become a problem? The CDC claims there are no accepted standards for how to test for mold, and also claim that no one knows what quantity of mold is safe even though they have been studying this more many years.
The best-accepted standards for when you should pay money to deal with mold come from a 1993 report by the New York City health department, although many experts dispute the credibility of this and feel it is misleading and downplays the problem and mitigation. It recommends a fairly non-scientific approach: if you can see or smell mold, you’ve got trouble, which is not true at all. Many times, mold cannot be seen nor does it produce an odor, except for a few species.
The media often produces opiniated updates on this manner, as well as people who stand to profit from this directly.