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Insurance companies, landlords, homeowners—everyone recognizes potential health problems from exposure to toxic molds. One recent study found that household mold more than doubles children’s risk for asthma. What’s a parent to do? Answer: Educate yourself.
CDC is not a regulatory agency and does not have enforcement authority in local matters. Your local health department can enforce state and local health codes and may also have information on mold. Contact your state Indoor Air Quality office. Information to find your representative office is available at:
You can read the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, at:
This web site offers further indoor-air quality tools for schools:
Meridian Management, a major San Francisco residential property management company, used an illegal bedbug addendum in their leases that held tenants financially responsible for controlling and responding to a bed bug infestations, forced the tenant to indemnify the landlord for personal injury and property damage due to bedbugs, and forced the tenant to agree in advance that there was no reduction in services (rent rebate) if their unit became infested. Meridian used this lease addendum in buildings with known or existing bedbug problems and tried to bind new tenants to these illegal rules. As a result of the efforts of Class Counsel Eric L. Lifschitz, those lease provisions were stricken from existing leases and apartment rules and Meridian tenants that suffered bedbug infestations could collect $1,100 for reduction in housing services and up to $350 for property damage.
The Law Offices of Eric Lifschitz has been vigorously litigating Moriarty v. Laramar for two years solely on the issue of whether Plaintiff John Moriarty’s complaint should be stricken pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP statute. On May 21, 2012, Plaintiff John Moriarty filed suit against Laramar Management Corporation and 2363 Van Ness Avenue, LLC, alleging that Defendant’s failure to repair water intrusion and biological contamination forced him to give up his rent-controlled home of 20 years. On September 25, 2012, Defendant Laramar Management Corporation (“Laramar”) filed a special motion to strike Plaintiff’s Complaint as Defendant and its counsel asserted that the Complaint was based on protected activity.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Quidachay stated at the hearing on the motion: “The Court concludes that the Moving Parties failed to carry its burden to show that the Plaintiff’s Complaint arises out of protected activity. We went through this Complaint in detail, trying to see how this might be protected activity. And the drafter—our conclusion was that – and when I say our research attorney – counsel and myself, and then I went through it in detail and concurred. The drafters of the Complaint did an excellent job in making sure that this basically is an action that arises – that arises out of alleged breach of warranty of habitability. And I couldn’t find anything else in the complaint.” Defendant appealed the Superior Court’s denial of the motion to strike, using a portion of the SLAPP statute that permits this type of motion to be appealed before the conclusion of the case. After more than a year, a Court of Appeal affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion, concluding, as the Superior Court did, that Plaintiff’s lawsuit is not based on protected activity. Moriarty v. Laramar Management Corporation, et al., 224 Cal.App.4th 125. The first paragraph of the published opinion sums it up nicely: “Another appeal that, assuming it has no merit, will result in an inordinate delay of the plaintiff’s case and cause him to incur more unnecessary attorney fees. (See Grewal v. Jammu (2011) 191 Cal.App.4th 977, 1002-1003.) And no merit it has.” Moriarty, 224 Cal.App.4th at 125. The opinion details the fallacious arguments and questionable tactics used by Laramar, a massive property management company represented by one of California’s largest law firms, against a small tenant firm and its displaced tenant- client. The decision is a scathing rebuke of the misuse of the anti SLAPP statute. During the appellate oral argument, Laramar’s counsel and appellate specialist, Michael K. Johnson of Lewis, Brisbois, Brigaard & Smith, LLP, was admonished by the three judge panel that the appeal was “borderline frivolous.” Click here to listen to amusing audio of the oral argument.
Molds are fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. No one knows how many species of fungi exist but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more. Molds grow best in warm, damp, and humid conditions, and spread and reproduce by making spores. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, such as dry conditions, that do not support normal mold growth.
Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.
Molds are found in virtually every environment and can be detected, both indoors and outdoors, year round. Mold growth is encouraged by warm and humid conditions. Outdoors they can be found in shady, damp areas or places where leaves or other vegetation is decomposing. Indoors they can be found where humidity levels are high, such as basements or showers.
Sensitive individuals should avoid areas that are likely to have mold, such as compost piles, cut grass, and wooded areas. Inside homes, mold growth can be slowed by keeping humidity levels between 40% and 60%, and ventilating showers and cooking areas. If there is mold growth in your home, you should clean up the mold and fix the water problem. Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water.
If the area to be cleaned is more than 10 square feet, consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guide titled Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. Although focused on schools and commercial buildings, this document also applies to other building types. You can get it free by calling the EPA Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse at (800) 438-4318, or by going to the EPA web site: read it here.
Standards for judging what is an acceptable, tolerable, or normal quantity of mold have not been established. If you do decide to pay for environmental sampling for molds, before the work starts, you should ask the consultants who will do the work to establish criteria for interpreting the test results. They should tell you in advance what they will do or what recommendations they will make based on the sampling results. The results of samples taken in your unique situation cannot be interpreted without physical inspection of the contaminated area or without considering the building’s characteristics and the factors that led to the present condition.
You should first consult a family or general health care provider who will decide whether you need referral to a specialist. Such specialists might include an allergist who treats patients with mold allergies or an infectious disease physician who treats mold infections. If an infection is in the lungs, a pulmonary physician might be recommended. Patients who have been exposed to molds in their workplace may be referred to an occupational physician. CDC is not a clinical facility. CDC does not see patients, diagnose illness, provide treatment, prescribe medication, or provide referrals to health care providers.
If you feel your property owner, landlord, or builder has not been responsive to concerns you’ve expressed regarding mold exposure, you can contact your local board of health or housing authority. Applicable codes, insurance, inspection, legal, and similar issues about mold generally fall under state and local (not federal) jurisdiction. You could also review your lease or building contract and contact local or state government authorities, your insurance company, or an attorney to learn more about local codes and regulations and your legal rights. CDC does not have enforcement power in such matters, nor can we provide you with advice. You can contact your county or state health department about mold issues in your area to learn about what mold assessment and remediation services they may offer. You can find information on your state’s Indoor Air Quality program at https://www.cdc.gov/
If you believe you are ill because of exposure to mold in the building where you work, you should first consult your health care provider to determine the appropriate action to take to protect your health. Notify your employer and, if applicable, your union representative about your concern so that your employer can take action to clean up and prevent mold growth. To find out more about mold, remediation of mold, or workplace safety and health guidelines and regulations, you may also want to contact your local (city, county, or state) health department. You should also read the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Guidelines, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, at epa.gov/iaq/molds/mold_remediation.html
If you believe your children are ill because of exposure to mold in their school, first consult their health care provider to determine the appropriate medical action to take. Contact the school’s administration to express your concern and to ask that they remove the mold and prevent future mold growth. If needed, you could also contact the local school board.