I just came back from a convention of home inspectors, and the topic of the event was MOLD.

There were no less than 7 different firms with booths attempting to sell their laboratory services or mold detection equipment to home inspectors. There was even a company that trains and sells “mold sniffing dogs” to home inspectors for more than $10,000 each.

It is now obvious that the mold bandwagon is out of city traffic and on the freeway. Mold hyperbole is spreading fear of illness to the consumer and fear of missing out on the windfall to home inspectors.

On the drive home from convention I spent an interesting hour listening to a talk radio host interview a “mold specialist.” The confusing thing is that virtually no state licenses these “experts” so it is very difficult, even for me, to tell where the fear-mongering-marketing ends, and the real issues about mold begin.

There can be no doubt that some people get sick from long-term exposure to mold spores. Evidence of serious symptoms, (although the medical community is sure to point out it is “anecdotal” and not “scientific”), is incontrovertible by virtue of the shear volume of complaints.

In trying to come to an understanding of the arguments, the federal government is no help. In direct contravention to the mountains of anecdotal evidence, both the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control state that there is no causal link between the presence of toxic mold and health problems like allergic reactions, memory loss, or pulmonary hemorrhage. Their simple advice is: “If you see mold, get rid of it.”

The “getting rid of it” concept is agreed upon by all parties: Consumers, inspectors, scientists, and lawyers. It is the debate over the question of “who pays” for the removal and how the removal is performed that has made a cash-cow out of insurance companies.

THE FACTS ARE that mold spores are ubiquitous and grow virtually everywhere that moisture and cellulose material is present and the air is still. Since homes are built of “cellulose material” whenever there is a plumbing or roof leak, condensation occurs over extended periods, or flooding of any kind takes place, this material gets damp. If it stays that way for more than a few days, mold begins to grow. It’s a natural process that was taking place in 1803 just as frequently as it is in 2003.

I believe that the mold issue is more prevalent today because of:

  • The increase in the actual number of homes,
  • The aging of residential properties making them more prone to leaks,
  • The installation of air-conditioning in most homes in the last 30 years,
  • The use of untested and often failure prone building components that leak such as EIFS siding and polybutylene pipe, and
  • The current fear-filled-sales-plans of “mold experts.”

In addition, the fear-mongering makes great TV reports and newspaper copy. But I am certain that there is no real increase in the presence of mold in homes, just more problem solvers looking for business helped along by more reporters looking for a story.

In my view, panic is unwarranted. Mold is simply today’s fashionable crisis...…. Remember asbestos, radon, and lead-based paint?

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