Adjusters and managers recognize that most home and business insurance policies have caps on the amount paid to deal with mold remediation.
In the early 2000s, the mold remediation industry was still fairly new. Although some state regulations regarding mold remediation later developed, no federal mold remediation rules ever saw the light of day. The lack of government control has left industry to set its own acceptable standards for the proper way to deal with mold contamination.
Who sets the rules for mold remediation?
In the absence of overarching federal control over the growing industry, numerous government agencies, industry associations, and private organizations have come forward with their mold control recommendations. Most state regulations have focused on some form of accreditation or licensing for companies or individuals involved in mold inspections or fungal contamination control in buildings. The notable exception to this trend is the state of Texas regulations, which detail acceptable and unacceptable practices for mold remediation.
Over the past 20 years, many groups have offered their approach to mold remediation. These included organizations such as:
- American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH),
- American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA),
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
- Health Canada,
- Certification from the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC),
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),
- National Organization of Mold Remediators and Inspectors (NORMI), and
- The New York City Department of Health.
The main difficulty with this approach is that even government agencies only provided “advice”. Without the force of law, people had to choose which recommendations they would follow; or follow none. In response, many people reviewed the various guidance documents to identify specific points of consensus.
The wide acceptance of the common intersection points of many reference materials has had a direct impact on insurance and legal liabilities associated with mold remediation. Consensus areas from multiple documents quickly evolved into a de facto standard of care for the industry. This provided insurance companies and their customers with an essentially level playing field regarding what was acceptable practice for mold remediation in the event of a covered loss.
Mold remediation is always essential to remediation
Today, the mold control standard of care has been solidified and clarified for over two decades. However, many consultants and contractors have limited knowledge of industry reference materials and follow a standard procedure or practice for all mold projects without understanding if that particular approach meets the standard of care.
As many fungal contamination control experts leave the industry, the past issues of people not understanding or following the industry standard of care are repeating themselves for the second or third time, creating a serious problem. potential for insurers. An agent or expert who unwittingly recommends a contractor whose work is outside of what has been determined to be acceptable industry practice could be liable for more than the covered loss.
The greatest risk in this area is the proliferation of remediation procedures based on some form of treatment of fungal contamination rather than its removal. There is constant promotion of products from industry practitioners that spray, mist, mist or foam to remove mold. However, one of the fundamental principles of mold control that all leading literature and private mold experts agree on is the need to physically remove fungal contaminants.
This is a critical point, as the documents that make up the current standard of care consistently emphasize physical removal as the primary means of mold remediation. A good example can be found in Section 4.4 of the current edition of the ANSI/IICRC S520-2015 standard for professional mold remediation:
Physical removal of mold contamination is the primary means of remediation. Mold contamination must be physically removed from the structure, systems and contents to return them to State 1. Attempts to kill, encapsulate or inhibit mold instead of properly eliminating the source will not are generally not adequate.
The requirement for physical removal of fungal contamination is still the most attacked point within the industry. Many people claim that fungal contamination can be adequately mitigated by area fogging methods to neutralize fungal matter or, in rare cases, even claim to chemically break down the physical components. While the advertising verbiage for such products uses terms such as “kill”, “destroy”, “eliminate”, “disintegrate” or “erase”, they avoid the S520 key phrase, to “physically remove” the mold.
A wide range of products are currently sold as remedial alternatives. Some of the more common types of equipment and chemicals promoted for mold remediation that do not require physical removal include ultraviolet light, infrared light, chlorine dioxide, hydrogen peroxide, ozone, sodium hypochlorite (that’s to say, bleach) and a wide variety of essential oils.
These products can be applied via sprayers, magnetic sprayers, ionized sprayers, binary ionization technology (bit) sprayers, “dry” particle sprayers, vaporizers, foggers, dry foggers, foamers, injectors, light robotic “droids”, ozone generators, hydroxyl radicals. machines, and others that are currently sold as mold remediation devices. While these products and dispensing systems can often be helpful during a mold remediation process, none of them are an adequate substitute for physical mold remediation.
Learn from past mistakes
Marketing materials describing the benefits of controlling mold contamination inside a wall cavity with a system that avoids removing and replacing drywall can be compelling. Such approaches can be a process that an owner or business manager is willing to bet on, but should never be recommended or endorsed by anyone related to the claim on the insurance side. Encouraging improper mold remediation, or even seeming to recommend such practices, could easily lead the customer to include the insurance company in legal action when remediation efforts fail and result in adverse health effects to occupants. .
Despite the protections for insurers built into standard policy language regarding fungal contamination, it is still essential that experts understand that there is no “magic” approach to mold remediation that eliminates the difficult task. physical mold removal.
Unfortunately, if mold contamination is on porous building materials, any remediation performed to current industry standards of care will require the removal of those finished surfaces. Trying to help the insured keep project costs within the covered amount by directing them to some sort of remedial approach not recognized by the current standard of care is of no benefit to the insured. or the insurance company.
The key thing to remember is that chemicals and other treatments can be used in conjunction with physical removal, but never as a substitute for true remediation.
Jacob Kooistra is an Environmental Specialist with Wonder Makers Environmental, Inc., a manufacturing and environmental consulting firm specializing in the identification and control of all types of indoor contaminants. It helps building owners and occupants solve problems related to mould, lead, asbestos and chemicals. Contact him at [email protected].
Michael A. Pinto is the Managing Director of Wonder Makers Environmental, Inc. and has over four decades of experience helping organizations identify and correct workplace safety and environmental hazards. He is the author of several textbooks and over 245 articles on various aspects of indoor air quality. Contact him at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are those of the authors.
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