By Hayden Alfano. Mold has long been a hot-button issue in the remodeling industry. Recently, it's moved into the national news. Next stop: the United States Congress.
In June, HR-5040, the U.S. Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act, was introduced into committee. The bill's sponsor, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), became interested in the issue after one of his staff members moved into a home that had a mold problem. The staffer's daughter suffered health problems that are believed to be caused by the mold. According to Jonathan Newton, a congressional fellow in Conyers' office, Conyers and his staff began researching the problem after that incident, and he says, "we got a lot of feedback that showed there wasn't a consensus nationwide as to things like what levels of mold are toxic and what steps need to be taken."
The legislation aims to accomplish several things. Among those, the most important to the remodeling industry is the implementation of standards that would affect codes that govern building construction and upkeep. "This is a great idea," says Les Cunningham, president and CEO of Business Networks and a longtime consultant to the remodeling industry.
Cunningham explains that the lack of standards means that what is acceptable is a very subjective matter. As a result, a remodeler has no idea as to what he can do to avoid a potential lawsuit nor can he predict the results of that litigation. "Not having standards is killing us," Cunningham says.
Kevin McNulty, NARI executive vice president, says that his organization encourages "further research to determine the actual effects of exposure to mold." He added that NARI is currently putting together guidelines for its member contractors on mold, as well as on asbestos and lead. Those should be available some time this month.
The bill also calls for government-sponsored studies that would definitively determine what kinds, if any, of mold are toxic and the effect they have on living creatures. It would also earmark funds for insurance for those harmed by mold, especially people who were exposed in schools and other public buildings.