A landmark court ruling in Texas awarded a family $32 million after finding that the family's insurance company mishandled the homeowner's claim for "stachybotrys" (black mold) damage. Similar cases are popping up all over the country, and the issue is being fueled by popular media such as Time magazine, MSNBC, and the Wall Street Journal.
As public awareness of indoor mold contamination continues to skyrocket, what can you do to help protect your home from mold invasion?
Mold is a relatively new issue in residential housing. In fact, the issue is so new that the plaintiff's lawyers in the Texas mold lawsuit could not introduce medical testimony on the health effects of mold because a Texas Supreme Court decision mandates a level of scientific proof that has not yet been reached.
Mold will likely never disappear altogether, but there are precautionary steps that can be taken to minimize your exposure. Here are a few tips to help prevent mold from taking over your house and health:
- 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 sources of exterior water penetration immediately.
- 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 of the home.
- Maintain low indoor humidity, ideally between 30-50% relative humidity. Humidity levels can be measured by hygrometers, which are available at local hardware stores.
- Look for mold behind cabinets or pictures on cold outside walls, where condensation can occur. Keep furniture away from outside walls.
- Check around air conditioners and furnaces for stagnant water. Keep these units serviced with regular cleaning of ducts and air filters.
For more information regarding stachybotrys, look at the information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.