In the state of Washington, there are no guidelines or laws, which force home inspectors to report findings of mold. Due to this Teresa McCormick who is a microbiologist for the United States Army has suffered immense financial losses not to mention becoming very ill due to the amount of mold, which went intentionally unreported when she purchased her home. To this day home inspectors (except for a few) argue and lobby against the reporting of mold infestation. Below is what Teresa authored and proposed to her state legislators. Unfortunately the corporate interests and inspector organizations lobbied effectively against this proposal and to this date, no one purchasing a house will be told if it contains mold.
ARGUMENTS FOR HOME INSPECTORS REPORTING OF VISIBLE MOLD
Large amounts of mold in homes have been associated with infection, irritation, allergy and toxic reactions amongst residents. This has been recognized by both the EPA and OSHA. EPA has long recognized the phenomenon of Sick Building Syndrome.
The percentage of the population possessing the HLA DR gene which is associated with diminished ability to clear toxins from the body is approximately 25 percent. The variants in the MET gene which doubles the risk of Autism are found in 47 percent of the population. This gene modulates the nervous system, gut and immune system. The activity of the MET gene is affected by oxidative stress- the damage one sees with excessive exposure to toxins. Environmental toxins and the inability to clear them are associated with the 1000 percent increase in autism. The steep rise in autism parallels the use of Oriented Strand Board in homes beginning in 1979. OSB is tested for off gassing of Volatile Organic Compounds when dry but not when moist. Moisture almost always results in the growth of mold even in the most expensive OSB used in homes.
CDC has delineated persons who are known to be more susceptible to mold in their 2005 Post Katrina Report. These include adults over 65, children under 12, pregnant females, immunosuppressed patients including those with cancer, transplant patients, arthritis patients, asthmatics and HIV patients. This growing portion of the population would be unaware of large amounts of mold in their attics and crawlspaces of the homes they purchase or rent unless reported by the home inspector. The risk management idea that mold need not be reported because it only affects a few sensitive people and the costs to our major industries would be too great reeks of Social Darwinism where we should not care about the minority or disabled. It is wrong on the basic principles our nation is founded on and it is wrong that it is only a few sensitive people. In some cases we do not know when or if we might fall into one these groups, but surely we all realize we will be, with any luck, 65 some day. RISK MANAGEMENT SHOULD BE CENTERED ON PREVENTION THROUGH REPORTING VISIBLE MOLD WHEN FOUND NOT COVERING UP THE FACT THAT IT EXISTS WITH THE IDEA THAT IT DOES NOT CAUSE STRUCTURAL CONCERNS.
The WSDA mold guidance document for home inspectors is false. The statement that mold and mildew do not cause structural concerns may have been taken as a simple typographical error omitting the word “surface” before mold except that the WSDA official overseeing home inspections is currently teaching home inspectors along with Jeff Morrell, who is also paid by the Wood Products Association, that mold need not be reported on home inspections as there are no structural concerns. The same WSDA agent overseeing home inspections is then attending meetings of the American Lung Association and stating that mold and mildew rots everything it grows on and is a hazard and needs to be removed. These efforts to lessen the importance of mold by our State match nationwide efforts. It is no coincidence that Weyerhaeuser the largest builder in the Western States is located in Washington and is the subject of a mold class action lawsuit. Their concerns with mold first began in 2002 when many of their newly constructed homes were found to fill rapidly with mold.
Physicians treating asthmatic or neurologically impacted patients are fearful of speaking openly about the issue of mold and health for fear of loosing grants, their medical licenses and their employment at Universities funded by big industries. Most publications showing associations between mold and health are published in Europe and Brazil. These peer reviewed publications showing the dangers of molds and mycotoxins exceed the publications by the PhD and MD group associated with Veritox by a thousand fold or more, yet the Veritox or ACOEM papers are flaunted nationwide where mold concerns are raised. While the CEO of Weyerhaeuser was amassing huge amounts of personal wealth to the tune of 13 million a year during the sub prime fiasco enabling the sale of thousands of Weyerhaeuser shoddily constructed homes to be sold, the cover up went on with the assistance of many high powered legislators and governors, while others were apparently kept in the dark. IT IS TIME FOR THIS COVER UP TO END. Our future is at stake.
The Kingdom of Fungi consists of three basic groups the mushrooms or basidiomycetes, yeasts and molds. Yeasts are single celled fungi that reproduce by budding and molds are mycelia producing fungi that reproduce both sexually by fruiting bodies and asexually by means of conidia. Some fungi are dimorphic and produce both yeasts phases and mycelial growth patterns depending on environmental factors. There are many mycelia producing Fungi or molds that cause soft rot in wood. One of the most common is Chaetomium. It was the most common genus found in New Orleans both above and below the water level in damaged homes after Katrina. There is no way a home inspector has the means of telling this soft rot fungi or mold or other soft rot fungi or molds from surface growing molds on a visual inspection. The differentiation of these molds is performed by trained mycologists using microscopic means. These organisms often grow totally through a sheet of OSB, destroying the internal structure and strength long before the white softened areas appear.
No proven causation and no standard does not equate with No Harm. Many toxic and carcinogenic agents including alcohol and tobacco only have an association with illnesses such as lung cancer, COPD, Asthma and fetal alcohol syndrome. There is no minimum standard or LD50 associated with tobacco smoke, yet the precautionary principle has led us to regulate tobacco out of public places and warn against alcohol during pregnancy because of an association. Mold is a known trigger for asthma.
From the American Lung Association of Washington:
More than 5,000 people are hospitalized every year- more than 100 every week- as a direct result of asthma; more than half the hospitalizations are paid for by Medicare or Medicaid. About 48,000 adults with asthma make at least one emergency department visit per year. 100,000 make at least one urgent visit to see their doctors for worsening asthma symptoms each year. Direct medical costs for asthma in Washington are about $240 million per each year. Youth with asthma miss school because of their condition, and those with more severe asthma symptoms are less likely to have high academic achievement than youth with few symptoms or those without asthma. About 120,000 Washington youth are currently affected by asthma. Between 1995 through 2002, more than a thousand claims were paid by state worker compensation funds for work-related asthma totaling $12 million. In total, asthma costs more than $400 million every year in medical expenditures and lost productivity for the state. Washington’s asthma prevalence has been identified by CDC as one of the highest in the nation- both youth and adult prevalence are significantly greater than national averages.
The chronic inflammation resulting from long term inhalation of mold spores has an association with many other chronic conditions such as thyroid, heart, liver, joint and kidney disease. Cytokine release by macrophages which results from fungal exposure can cause goiter. Chaetomium and Stachybotyrus are both associated with demylination of the nerves and development of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Many molds produce neurotoxins. The rate of Multiple Sclerosis is very high in the northwest and Canada. Washington also sports the dubious distinction of highest rate of death by Alzheimer’s disease another neurological disorder. Toxicological studies have demonstrated that inhalation versus other routes of entry with trichothene exposure tends to have greater toxicity at lower doses.
There are existing standards for reporting the amounts of visible mold given by OSHA. These parallel reporting by New York City Standards. Why is it that the standards exist for the workplace where mainly adult brains exist for 8 hour periods while ignoring the homes where the most vulnerable of neurological damage can occur in the developing brains of children under 5 years of age exist for 24 hours per day? Autism syndrome has been reported in approximately 25% of children examined by Dr. Kaye Kilburn for toxic mold exposure versus <1% in the general population of the same age group.
Mold victims are victimized twice. Not only are mold victims faced with the huge financial burdens of health problems, home repair problems but if they feel they have no other choice but to seek legal help, they are again victimized by the legal system. Few victims receive if they do reach a court room after long delayed settlements enough money to pay for attorney’s fees and home repairs and medical costs. Often they are left homeless with no means to pay for very costly legal bills while their health concerns go untreated. The only way to prevent this is by reporting mold when it is present so that the consequences can be avoided and attorneys are not enriched at the cost to the innocent.
The cost belongs to the seller or builder who is the cause of the moisture problems either through poor maintenance or poor building practices. It does not belong with the innocent purchaser of the property or unknowing renter. Becoming ill should not be the first indication that there is a mold problem. Although the State claims it is the responsibility of the seller to report mold, the seller can claim he never went into the attic or the crawlspace. The purchaser who is relying on the standard of the industry in that most inspectors are reporting mold has no idea he or she may or may not (at the discretion of the inspector) be told about the presence of mold. THE BUYER AND THE TENANT HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW OF VISIBLE MOLD.
The present mold guidance policy which has been in existence since March of 2003 and is little known in the real estate community or apparently in the inspection community is counter to existing legislation. Chapter 59.18 RCW Residential landlord-tenant act Finding 2005c465: “The legislature finds that residents of the state face preventable exposures to mold in their homes, apartments, and schools. Exposure to mold, and the toxins they produce, have been found to have adverse health effects, including loss of memory and impairment of the ability to think coherently and function in a job, and may cause fatigue, nausea, and headaches.
As steps can be taken by landlords and tenants to minimize exposure to indoor mold, and as the reduction of exposure to mold in buildings could reduce the rising number of mold-related claims submitted to insurance companies and increase the availability of coverage, the legislature supports providing tenants and landlords with information designed to minimize the public’s exposure to mold.” [2005c465.]
It is not the concern for liability of the inspector or the protection of the insurance company that the guidance policy was put in place. What would be the larger suit, that of a harmed child or that of an inspector who did erroneously report mold? The policy was put in place to protect the Wood Products and Building Industry for the sale of a known poor product and known shoddy construction and to prevent the slowdown in the sale of homes. Protection of the inspector’s liability is a ruse for surely reporting mold is a preventative measure of what would be a much larger lawsuit. Expenditures for medical insurance companies often occur for the remaining of the victims lives through asthma care and other long term illnesses so surely the cost to insurance companies can not be the reason for the do not report mold policy.
A Home when it becomes uninhabitable is not just an economic loss like a stock or bond. To the greater majority of Americans, when a home is lost all the hopes and aspirations of that family is lost. The children will not have a safe place to eat, sleep or study. Grandparents are separated from their extended families at a time when they need them the most. The dreams of saving for a college education are lost not just because of health issues when children are neurologically damaged, but because of the overwhelming burden of legal fees, health care, repairs and remediation. Families are split apart by economic crises and often blame each other. This crisis means little to someone with a 13 million dollar income or seven homes cared for by others.
Washington State has the dubious distinction of being the highest state in the nation for breast cancer. Aflatoxins have been found to induce malignant changes in human breast tissue. Cyclosporin (a mycotoxin ) causes breast cancer in humans. Breast cancer has been induced in rats exposed to T2 toxin of the mold Fusarium. Many of the mycotoxins produced by molds found in moldy home are also used as immunosupressants for transplant patients to prevent their own body moldy homes are more prone to infections of all kinds be they pulmonary or urinary tract infections. Surely the precautionary principle alone here should allow that we report the presence of large amounts of visible mold in areas not normally seen by habitants such as crawlspaces and attics.
In the medical field we work by a few golden rules. One of them is never withhold information from a Physician that could impact the care of his patient. Even where a policy or rule exists using this golden rule fills in the blanks where common sense and empathy should prevail. If a patient is on an antibiotic not normally reported by written rules, and if the organism infecting his blood or spinal fluid is resistant to that antibiotic, it is crucial that we immediately notify the physician. Someone’s life is at risk. It is not much different in the arena of the home inspection profession. Even if the State comes up with a decision to protect big business interests over human life, it is hoped the profession will side with empathy, common sense and justice for their customers. Listening to the inspectors here I can only see for the large part that does occur. Eliminating the conflicts of interest such as realtor recommendations of inspectors will open for all the ability to make these choices more freely. I only hope that I have given what I can to an educated decision on your recommendations.
Thank you all sincerely for this opportunity.