Read about the
Certified Mold Inspectors & Contractors Institute [now known as
Professional Certification Institute]
in this Wall Street
Journal article, Feb. 12, 2004.
The Future Is in Mold
Complaints Rise as
Newcomers Flock Into Fungus-Removal Work; How to Get Rid of It Yourself
Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Seven 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
[now know as Professional Certification 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
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 -remediation companies.
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.
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
"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 training program.
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 fungus.
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 Business Bureau.
• 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 and remediation.
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 months before.
"All they were was glorified demolition
guys," says Mr. Velasco, a commercial-real-estate developer, who declined
to name the company.
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 carpet."
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 companies.
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
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.