The headline on the news article could not have been welcome:
“Parents claim school is making Colorado Springs students sick, but building tests negative for toxic mold.”
The article, appearing in the Colorado Springs Gazette in mid-May, said the children were diagnosed with chronic inflammatory response syndrome, which their parents believed is related to toxic mold in the charter elementary they attended.
Not surprisingly, the parents pulled their children from the school last fall.
They did so despite repeated tests for mold spores by two independent companies that showed no to low mold counts. The tests results were all well within limits set by the World Health Organization and were, in fact, better than the outside air quality, the school told the Gazette.
Just what, if anything, went wrong here is better left to the mold and health experts.
What is important to know is that insurance policies for schools nowadays often exclude mold coverage.
Mold and mildew are types of fungi that are found both indoors and outdoors and can be found wherever there is a buildup of moisture, leaks or condensation that cause surfaces to be damp. Mold spores give off a damp, musty odor and leave stains in places like bathrooms or basements. Mold can lead to asthma, respiratory problems and allergic reactions in both children and adults.
Obviously, mold is nothing new. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are up to 300,000 species of mold and they exist virtually everywhere in North America.
Some mold spores are considered toxic. However, there is much debate whether toxic molds inside homes or buildings can cause serious human health problems.
According to the CDC, most documented cases of such health problems involve people who ate moldy food. On the other hand, people with compromised immune systems can be prone to lung infections brought on by inhaling mold spores.
So, what should a school administrator do?
First, make sure your maintenance crews remain ever-vigilant about mold. A contamination can be costly to clean up and most property and general liability insurance policies don’t offer much coverage, if any at all.
Indeed, as a general rule, most insurers will exclude coverage for mold contamination associated with long-term leakage, moisture or water intrusion from a construction defect, wear and tear, deferred maintenance or poor repairs.
Policies that do offer coverage will offer scant limits, typically far less than remediation costs.
The other option to consider is an environmental insurance policy, which can include coverage for mold as part of the definition of “pollutants” or “pollution conditions.” But, as you might imagine, that gets complicated, too, and is typically available only as an enhancement.
Joaquin Escobar, an Insurance Advisor at CCIG, handles the risk management and insurance needs of commercial childcare and school accounts. Reach him at 720-212-2054 or Joaquin.Escobar@thinkccig.com.
CCIG is a Denver-area insurance brokerage with personal and business insurance clients nationwide. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We also help you lower your long-term cost of insurance with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.