Mold Issues

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Growing problem
Mold in your home can have both physical and financial consequences

ESCONDIDO – It was only a simple leak in a line leading to the refrigerator's ice maker, but the damage left from the dripping water will nag Sharon and Mike Kramer for years to come.

Help for mold trouble may be a phone call or mouse click away

Uncertainty surrounds many aspects of indoor mold, including its health effects, safe removal and standards to prove it's been cleaned up.

The murky knowledge combined with increasing awareness among consumers of the menacing fungi prompted California lawmakers to pass two pieces of mold legislation in 2001.

The results are still pending.

Goals of the Toxic Mold Protection Act include determining whether it's feasible to adopt exposure limits for indoor molds. In addition, it would set up guidelines for assessing the health threat, removing mold and disclosing the presence of mold when renting or selling property.

So far, the Department of Health Services has worked on the feasibility of developing exposure limits for mold.

Researchers have found this is not scientifically possible due to the variety of molds and the different allergens, volatile organic compounds and enzymes and other substances produced, said Sandy McNeel, a research scientist with the health department.

"You can't draw a bright line that says above this amount is unhealthy or unsafe and below this amount is safe for most people," she said. Research on mold stands in contrast to knowledge on individual chemicals. Lead, for example, has been researched for decades, and scientists are clear on health problems that occur with certain levels of lead exposure, McNeel said.

The report on mold exposure limits is still in the pipeline awaiting approval before it can be released, according to McNeel. A volunteer mold task force will create the various guidelines the act designates. Members will include scientists, building owners, construction professionals, public health personnel and property owners. Formation of the task force also been delayed because of funding issues. The act was passed without money appropriated for its activities, McNeel said.

The health department manages a "mold fund" of donated dollars to support its mold-related activities. The account had $211 in it as of last month, she said.

Another 2001 California bill that was supposed to yield an easy-to-understand comprehensive overview of the science of mold also has been delayed.

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