An increasing number of toxic mold cases are being litigated each year, as a relatively new kind of “toxic tort” lawsuit brought against homebuilders and contractors. In April, a Virginia federal court jury awarded 4,350,000 to a marine and his wife who alleged that their off base housing, operated by Mid-Atlantic Military Communities, was contaminated with mold. The plaintiffs had sought $1.8 million in damages. In 2005, a California family that alleged that toxic mold had caused brain damage in their baby was awarded a record $22.6 million.
Earlier this year, OSHA cited the Salem, VA Medical Center for a serious violation for allowing employees to be exposed to indoor mold in a building occupied by a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility, “thereby creating unsafe and unhealthy working conditions,” reported Aspen Environmental Services. Such citations can lead to lawsuits.
Is indoor mold toxic? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has found that sufficient evidence exists to link exposure to indoor mold with “upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with “hypersensitivity pneumonitis” in susceptible individuals.
Limited evidence also suggests a link between indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children. However, the CDC has said there is no conclusive evidence that indoor mold is associated with many other health problems that some people believe it causes, such as pulmonary hemorrhage, memory loss and lack of energy.
In December 2016, an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, originally published in the Roanoke Times, detailed reported cases of mold-related illness, including a Roanoke family who fled their $442,000 home because the mother suffered what was described as “mold biotoxin disease.” “I thought I was dying,” she said. “ I was having such joint pain, chronic sinus problems, very bad headaches and dizziness, getting to the point where I could not walk. It was severe exhaustion.”
Prof. Wayne Gordon, vice chairman of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, told the Roanoke Times that “mold exposure can be associated with cognitive impairment that can range from minor memory loss to debilitating cognitive failure.”
Remember: every case is different, and case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Case results in one case do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case.