Mold is with us now and always will be. There's no way of avoiding or, at least, not sometimes noticing it -- especially since it has become the litigator's delight. At a recent lawyer's seminar held in Las Vegas, a banner across the stage read, "MOLD IS GOLD." And they meant it.

In a toxic mold seminar, the law offices of Edward H. Cross & Associates included the following:

"The recognition of the problem is not new. The Old Testament warns of the problem and provides remediation advice that is uncannily similar to the most current published guidelines.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: If (the priest) finds greenish or reddish streaks of mildew in the walls which seem to be beneath the surface of the wall, he shall close up the house seven days, and return the seventh day to look. If the spots have spread in the wall, than the priest shall order the removal of the spotted section of the wall and the material must be thrown into a defiled place without the city. Then he shall order the insides of the walls scraped thoroughly, and the scrapings thrown in a defiled place without the city. Other stones shall be brought to replace those that have been removed, new mortar used, and the house replastered. But if the spots appear again...the house is defiled (and) he shall order the destruction of the house -- all its stones, timbers, and mortar shall be thrown in a defiled place without the city. -- Leviticus 14:38"

Moisture emanating from beneath this floor stained the wood, which is an indication of possible mold intrusion.

Legal practice areas

Litigation. The number of lawsuits and the damage amounts being sought continue to grow. In Santa Ana, Calif., one of largest mold-related lawsuits in the country involves 510 residents in a condominium complex. The case is being lodged against 125 builders and the plaintiffs are asking for $37 million in damages. The economic cost is staggering, particularly after two years of inspections, depositions and failed mediation.

The Insurance Information Institute says the average claim for mold-related damage ranges from $15,000 to $30,000, with more than $3 billion dollars paid out in 2002 alone.

At this point, most of the claims are from Texas, where more than 200,000 claims have been filed.

A moisture-discolored floor must be torn out to confirm whether or not mold is present.
Cause and effect. First, let me outline some of the accepted facts about mold. There are more then 100,000 known species, 1,000 of which are common to the United States. What causes mold? For mold spores to develop, there must be a source of water, a suitable meal and moderately warm temperature. Mold spores are ubiquitous in the air and happily land on wet spots. If in the presence of a cellulose-based food source -- such as wood, drywall, paper, etc. -- they will grow continually.

The effect of this mold spore growth is to contaminate the surrounding air supply. In practically all cases, the contamination affects or creates allergies that manifest themselves in burning eyes, headaches and cold symptoms. It is believed they may even bring on asthmatic conditions.

The really bad guy among mold varieties is a green-black mold called stachybotrys. However, the black mold commonly found around bathroom tiles is not stachbotrys.

At least 11 states introduced or passed mold-related legislation in 2002 and 2003. California passed its Toxic Mold Act in 2002. The Federal Government on June 27, 2002, introduced H.R. 5040, The United States Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act.

Application of phenolphthalein confirms the presence of moisture in this substrate, a potential precursor to mold growth.
A great source of practical information may be obtained via the Internet at www.epa.gov/iaq/molds. This Web page includes Mold Guides and Mold Remediation for Indoor Air Quality guidelines. The bulletin MOLD/MOISTURE covers Mold Resources; A Brief Guide To Mold, Moisture and Your Home; and Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings.

Another fine informational source is the New York City Department of Health. They have published Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments. In the Guidelines, the document reviews five different levels of mold abatement.

Another recommended source is The Health House, accessible on the Web at www.healthhouse.org. The Health House project is a national education program created by the American Lung Association in Minnesota.

There are a number of Web sites from which you may purchase mold test kits but, because I have had no experience with any them, I decline to list them in this article. Also a good source of mold-related information is the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), which can be accessed on the Internet at www.agc.org.

I've seen mold-related problems with vinyl flooring, wood flooring and ceramic tile. In every case, moisture was present. And in every case, litigation resulted.

If you do nothing else to protect air quality and avoid mold complaints, make sure your work goes in on dry substrates. In the case of ceramic showers, you are at the mercy of the plumbing and, most of all, drywall backings. I suggest strongly that flexible caulking be used in showers at floor-wall joints.

Lastly, the anti-microbial chemicals now being used in ceramic installation products and flooring adhesives are usually tested for long-term efficacy, as mold infestation does not occur over night. In my humble opinion, the jury is still out on whose choice of anti-microbial chemicals will do the best job. Perhaps time will tell.

Until a fool-proof means of eliminating mold is developed, I can only offer you my best advice for sidestepping mold related problems. Specifically, STAY DRY!