Got Mold?Dec 17, 2021
One of the outcomes of the now seemingly never-ending pandemic (thanks Omicron!) is that many of us are much more aware of the importance of air quality, especially indoors. And this matters as we typically spend about 90% of our time inside. Understandably, more people, especially older adults, are asking questions about the quality of air filtration systems. But we ought to focus on a far greater risk and one that has been with us well before COVID-19: toxic mold.
The Significant and Increasing Dangers of Toxic Mold
Thousands of people struggle with toxic mold in the United States and the health and financial consequences can be dire. Part of the challenge is that mold can be hard to find: hidden behind walls, buried under flooring and lurking in air ducts. Chronic mold exposure can have a wide-ranging impact on multiple organ systems, including the respiratory and nervous system, as well as on cardiovascular and reproductive health. The health impact can linger beyond primary periods of exposure making it difficult to fully understand the impact of the toxins. On top of it, mold damage is not something typically covered by homeowners insurance. Climate change experts anticipate mold risks to grow with the increased flooding due to climate change and the associated increased cases of water damage to homes and mold growth.
Mold found growing in the Baehr’s kitchen (Source: CNBC via Baehr family)
As featured in a recent video segment by CNBC, Kristina & Evan Baehr and their four kids were forced out of their home due to toxic mold. A faulty roof repair and improper construction allowed in moisture, and a poorly installed heating, ventilation and air conditioning system exacerbated the problem. Unbeknownst to them, they were living in an environment ideal for microbial growth. The family struggled with health issues for years – Kristina quit her job to focus on her and her children’s health – before they were able to identify the problem. Financially, addressing the problem through demolition, repair and reconstruction, along with relocation costs, medical copays and out-of-pocket treatment expenses has wiped out their savings.
Kristina Baehr has found a new purpose through this challenge: help others trying to recover from mold exposure. She recently co-founded a new law practice, Just Well Law, to help people recover from the entities who made them sick. Mold has been identified in all types of residences ranging from single family housing to apartments. Considering the millions of cases of asthma in the U.S. and the disease’s relationship to dampness, the problem of toxic mold in our living environments is probably more pervasive than many of us realize.
Regularly Assess Your Home
The risk of mold is another reason to regularly assess your living environment. In the case of inspecting for mold, it is particularly important to have an independent inspector do the evaluation. If mold is of particular concern or if your health or that of loved one is compromised, you may wish to bring in a mold specialist from the beginning. The peace of mind may be well worth it. In addition, it is important to be particularly attune to the impacts of major storms and floods. There may be more lasting damage and risk from a recent weather event than you may think.
Utilize home inspectors with at least some experience with mold and who have no conflict of interest
Of course, the proper assessment of home goes far beyond looking for mold. It factors in the total annual cost of your home ranging from capital expenditures to utility expenses to insurance costs. It looks at the appropriateness of your home for your current chapter in life, including the location of the master bedroom, number of stairs and potential falls risks, especially in the bathroom. A proper assessment also considers the role your place has facilitating social connections and staying physically active. In some cases, your house may be adequate, but the neighborhood has deteriorated and a change is best.
But Does Your Home Love You?
Many of us have a strong emotional connection to our homes. Many of us love our homes and the memories associated with them. But, as Bill Thomas says, the problem is that many of our homes may not love us. In fact, in the case of the Baehr’s, their house was slowly killing them. If we’re not thriving in our current home, it may be time to find a new one. Your life may depend on it.
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