In 2001, in the wake of increased concerns over deleterious health impacts of multicellular fungi, or mold, found in indoor environments, the California Legislature enacted a comprehensive protection scheme called the Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001 (“the Act”). The law directed the former Department of Health Services (now the Department of Public Health, or “DPH”) to investigate the feasibility of establishing permissible mold exposure limits in indoor environments, which would potentially then lead to remediation requirements, disclosure obligations and lawsuits. The mysteriousness of mold and its rumored potential to cause severe health impacts caused nervous anticipation among real estate professionals.
Looking back now, 10 years later, the Act looks like much ado about nothing. Though the most recent update found on the DPH website is dated July 2008, it looks as though the Act remains stuck in the research stage, far from implementation, with inadequate funding to perform adequate additional research. Aside from lack of funding, the underlying roadblock to Act implementation seems to be the inherent difficulty of acquiring adequate scientific data.
According to reports published by the DPH on its website, the scientific results have not yet adequately shown the relative role played by mold versus the various other contaminants that are common in complex damp indoor environments (such as bacteria, dust mites, cockroaches, and irritant chemicals released by degradation of wet building materials). As for funding, in its latest-published implementation update (July 2008), the DPH stated, “DHS will proceed with implementation when funding is in place to address the bill requirements.” Considering the state of the economy in general and the State budget specifically, it seems unlikely that there has been much movement in Act-implementation since this update was published.
Scott M. Toussaint, Real Estate Group