Read about the Certified Mold
Inspectors & Contractors Institute in this Wall Street Journal
article, Feb. 12, 2004.
For other news articles, visit:
Complaints Rise as Newcomers Flock
Into Fungus-Removal Work; How to Get Rid of It Yourself
Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
months ago, David Barr was repairing heating and air-conditioning units in
New York City. But he decided a better future lay in mold. "I think there's
a good growth opportunity," he says.
Now Mr. Barr is a mold inspector and remediator who
charges about $125 to test mold in people's homes. He took a $1,000
home-study course he found on the Internet and passed a multiple-choice
exam, plus a quiz over the phone. He even has a mold-inspector badge, issued
by a group called the Certified Mold Inspectors &
Contractors Institute. "We did a lot of research and study," during
the course, says Mr. Barr, who feels he is qualified to do mold cleanup.
[underlining and color added for emphasis].
As individual homeowners try to get a grip on their mold
problems, state attorneys general and consumer groups say they are seeing a
stream of complaints about botched cleanup jobs done by inexperienced
workers. The problem has gotten serious enough that several states are
working on regulations and licensing requirements for mold-inspection and
If the moldy area in your home is less than 10 square feet you can
usually clean it up yourself. Here are some tips on getting rid of
the fuzzy stuff -- and for making sure it doesn't grow back.
• First, fix the leak or
whatever is causing moisture. If you don't, the fungus is likely
to grow back.
• Don gloves, goggles
and a mask. If the mold is on a hard surface, like ceramic tile,
scrub the area with detergent and water and dry completely.
• Remove any absorbent
or porous materials that are moldy—such as ceiling tiles and
carpet—in a sealed plastic bag to prevent spreading mold spores.
• Keep indoor moisture
below 60% relative humidity to prevent mold from growing back.
• Run the bathroom fan
or open the window when showering. Use exhaust fans or open
windows whenever cooking or running the dishwasher.
• Vent appliances
that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers, stoves and kerosene
heaters to the outside where possible.
Sources: epa.gov, WSJ research
Currently, there are no federal or state regulations, and
mold companies aren't required to be licensed or certified.
"My nail technician is more regulated" than mold cleaners,
says Melinda Ballard, head of Policyholders of America, a nonprofit group in
Austin, Texas. "There's something wrong with that." Ms. Ballard started the
organization, which helps people file insurance claims, after winning a
mold-related lawsuit against an insurer.
Such suits helped give rise to a flood of mold claims and
to so-called mold remediation -- an industry that was virtually nonexistent
a few years ago. Lured by the promise of fatter paychecks, workers with
minimal training soon started billing themselves as mold remediators. There
are now between 10,000 and 20,000 mold-removal companies in the country,
according to the Indoor Air Quality Association, which offers a mold-cleanup
Mold remediation can cost anywhere from several hundred
dollars to more than $100,000 depending on the scope of the problem. And
since almost every major insurer now excludes mold from standard policies,
many consumers must pay out of their own pockets.
The proliferation of new companies has led to a number of
horror stories. When Kase Velasco's kitchen sink started leaking, his
insurer dispatched a company to clean up the water and black mold that had
spread on the wall behind the sink. Mr. Velasco, his wife, and two children
packed up and moved out of their Houston home and into a nearby apartment
while the mold cleanup company took apart their house to eradicate the
If you need an expert to clean up mold in your home, here are some
steps to help find a reliable one:
• Check a firm's
complaint record with local consumer affairs agencies and Better
• Ask for examples of
removal experience and check references.
• To avoid conflicts
of interest, don't hire the same company to do both the inspection
Seven months, and about $22,000 in insurance money later,
the family moved back. So did the mold. A round of testing showed mold
levels were actually higher than when they left. He learned that the company
hired to get rid of the mold had been in the roofing business just six
"All they were was glorified demolition guys," says Mr.
Velasco, a commercial-real-estate developer, who declined to name the
Mold Relief Inc., a nonprofit organization in Norman,
Okla., that offers assistance to families affected by indoor mold, has
received dozens of complaints from California to Oklahoma to Virginia about
improper inspections or cleanup jobs. "I get calls from everywhere," says
Elisa Larkin, executive director of Mold Relief. Companies come in to
people's homes, she says, "and a week later there's mushrooms growing in the
Last month, Mold Restoration Inc., a mold-remediation
company, agreed to pay upward of $800,000 for restitution to consumers in a
settlement of a lawsuit brought two years go by then Texas Attorney General
John Cornyn on behalf of half a dozen consumers. The suit alleged that the
company left homeowners with unfinished restoration work meant to correct
severe mold. An attorney for Mold Restoration says the company didn't admit
any wrongdoing. Since June of 2002 the Attorney General's office has
received nearly 200 other complaints against various mold-remediation
At least two states -- Louisiana and Texas -- have enacted
legislation that would require some form of licensing or registration for
anyone involved with mold inspection, analysis or cleanup, though much of
the details are still being worked out.
Several other states, and at least one federal lawmaker,
have introduced bills that seek to research and establish standards
regarding mold identification and remediation.
Part of the problem with trying to establish regulatory
practices around mold is there are no standards for acceptable levels of
mold inside a home. Molds are part of the natural environment and can be
found practically everywhere. Different people have different sensitivities
to molds. When testing is done, it usually just compares the levels and
types of mold spores found inside the home with those on the outside.
If the moldy area is less than 10 square feet, you can
usually clean it up yourself. If the moldy area is larger, or if you smell
mold but can't see it, you should hire someone to do the cleanup. Experts
advise that homeowners check with local consumer affairs agencies and the
Better Business Bureau before engaging a testing or remediation company. Ask
a company for examples of removal experience and check references. And avoid
conflicts of interest by not hiring the same company to do both the
inspection and remediation.
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