Groups Call on Congress for New Mold Research

Reflecting new concerns about possible health effects from mold, a Congressional subcommittee held hearings July 18 on “Mold: A Growing Problem.”

Submitting testimony on behalf of the apartment industry, the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) and National Apartment Association (NAA) stressed that rental housing providers are committed to environmentally safe housing, but that the nation needs better science to effectively deal with the problem of mold. They also urged Congress to take action to avoid an insurance and financial crisis as a result of mold claims.

In its testimony, NMHC/NAA noted that mold is a complex issue because mold is everywhere and there are literally thousands of different types of mold. Unfortunately, there is currently no consensus among scientists about which molds affect human health and at what exposure levels.

Furthermore, according to medical research, not everyone will react adversely to mold. The vast majority of human interaction with mold is benign and harmless. In the relatively small number of cases in which someone does react to mold, it is usually a mild to moderate allergic reaction. Severe allergic reactions are rare, and medical research has not been able to confirm whether other serious health effects attributed to mold are, indeed, actually caused by mold. Because of this, NMHC/NAA told Congress that any health standards that are set need to be based on sound science.

The groups explained that an increasingly aggressive plaintiffs’ bar is pursuing thousands of complaints nationally.

In response, insurers are excluding coverage for mold damage in homes, apartments, office buildings, schools and libraries leaving owners and cities responsible even when mold results from a covered event. NMHC/NAA called on Congress to establish a blue-ribbon task force of insurance firms, state insurance commissioners, the real estate industry and the medical/academic community to study the situation and make recommendations to avoid a possible insurance crisis.

Finally, they also urged Congress to charge the National Academy of Engineering with examining building practices and developing guidelines to help the real estate industry better understand how design and material selection can help prevent excessive moisture build up.

NMHC/NAA reiterated the apartment industry’s commitment to providing a safe environment for residents and explained how residents need to form a partnership with apartment owners and managers to prevent mold problems.