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Proper Home Maintenance Is the Best Defense Against Mold

Mold Is Not Covered under Standard Homeowners Insurance Policies

NEW YORK, November 28, 2005—When it comes to keeping your home mold-free, a strong offense is definitely your best defense, says the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

To prevent mold, eliminate moisture from your home and be on the lookout for signs of possible growth, such as musty smells or watermarks on walls and ceilings, suggests the I.I.I.

Caught early, mold can usually be removed by a thorough cleaning with bleach and water. To prevent mold from growing back, however, it is essential that the source of the moisture be eliminated and the affected area properly dried, cleaned and, if necessary, replaced. Also, remember to bag and dispose of any material with moldy residue such as rags, paper or debris.

Mold, like rot and insect infestation, is generally not covered by a homeowners insurance policy, says the I.I.I. Standard homeowners policies provide coverage for disasters that are sudden and accidental. They are not designed to cover the cost of cleaning and maintaining a home. If, however, mold is caused as a direct result of a covered peril such as a burst pipe, there could be coverage for the cost of eliminating the mold up to specific policy limits.

Mold damage from a flood is covered under flood insurance policies available through the National Flood Insurance program. However, flood damage typically is excluded from standard homeowners insurance policies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mold is everywhere. It grows throughout the year and can be found both indoors and outdoors. Outdoors, mold is commonly found in shady, damp areas and in soil. Indoors, it can be found where humidity and moisture levels are high, such as in basements, kitchens and bathrooms as well as on ceilings and wall interiors where water from leaky pipes, roofs or windows can accumulate. While most molds pose no threat to humans, the CDC warns that some varieties can produce hay fever-like allergic symptoms in people who are sensitive or allergic to mold. If you or your children have symptoms associated with mold, such as stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing or skin irritation, see a physician or health care provider. Keep in mind, that many symptoms associated with mold exposure are common to other illnesses.

To help prevent the growth of mold in your home, the I.I.I. suggests the following:

Reduce humidity in your home

Keep the humidity level in your home between 30 percent and 60 percent by using air conditioners or dehumidifiers.

Put exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms.

Don’t install carpets in damp areas such as basements or bathrooms.

Don’t let water accumulate under house plants.

Use mold-reducing products

Clean bathrooms with bleach or other mold-eliminating products.

Add mold inhibitors to paints before application.
Keep your home and belongings dry

Fix leaky pipes, faucets and hoses.

Keep gutters clean of leaves and other debris.

Maintain your roof to prevent water from seeping into your home.

Be careful after a flood or other water damage

Properly dry or remove soaked carpets, padding and upholstery within 24 to 48 hours after a flood to prevent mold growth. Anything that can’t be properly dried should be discarded.

Remove standing water as quickly as possible. Standing water is a breeding ground for microorganisms, which can become airborne and inhaled.

Wash and disinfect, with bleach or other mold-eliminating products, all areas that have been flooded. This includes walls, floors, closets and shelves, as well as heating and air-conditioning systems.

In areas with high concentrations of mold, such as many homes flooded by Hurricane Katrina, health officials recommend homeowners wear protective gear such as a mask and gloves, during mold cleanup.

If you have any questions regarding mold and homeowners insurance, contact your agent or company representative. They can provide information on how to maintain your home and may also be able to provide the name of an expert in mold remediation.

The I.I.I. is a nonprofit communications organization sponsored by the property/casualty insurance industry.

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