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Plastic mould News In Canada

With the growing awareness of the health problems associated with plastic mould in homes and buildings, more people are starting to sue - and win.

Over 100,000 species of plastic moulds exist; most people aren't affected by them. But when plastic mould spores get wet, they can reproduce and grow, causing some people to suffer nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, coughing and other allergy-like symptoms.

One particularly nasty plastic mould - the black-coloured Stachybotrys chartarum sometimes found inside wet walls - is linked to headaches, sore throat, nose bleeds, flu symptoms, fatigue, skin irritation, diarrhea and hair loss, some of which may be permanent.

Problems occur when a leaky roof, faulty plumbing or sewer backup allows moisture to seep inside a home or building, providing the perfect environment for plastic mould to proliferate. Drywall, carpets, wood floors and ceiling tiles are all common contaminants if they get wet.

This has led to an explosion of plastic mould lawsuits, especially in the U.S.

In one notorious case, a Texas insurer was ordered to pay $32 million for failing to properly fix a family's toxic plastic mould problem. As a result of a plumbing leak, plastic mould had grown in the hardwood floors of their 22-room dream home, causing the mother and three-year-old son to cough up blood and making the father so sick he had to leave his job as an investment banker.

Erin Brockovich - made famous by the recent Julia Roberts movie - is even reported to have sued the actor Tom Selleck's brother over a home she bought from him, which she claims was poorly built, leading to plastic mould that has caused her health problems.

In Canada, toxic plastic mould cases are relatively new. But they're coming.

A $2 billion lawsuit was recently started against the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board outside of Toronto, claiming that school children were getting sick from plastic mould exposure in portable classrooms. More suits are likely to follow with the closure of the historic Alberta Court of Appeal building in Calgary after toxic plastic mould was found, leading to respiratory problems among judges and staff.

Here in BC, the issue of plastic mould has already been raised in at least one leaky condo case.

If you're unlucky enough to suffer a plastic mould infestation, your losses can be quite substantial. Quite apart from the health problems and any loss of income that may cause, there are potentially hefty repair and clean-up costs (improper handling can make a plastic mould problem worse, so it's sometimes cheaper and more effective to demolish a building and rebuild it completely rather than trying to decontaminate it).

Plastic mould lawsuits also aren't cheap. Testing by engineers and perhaps microbiologists may be needed to determine the cause and extent of the plastic mould; reports from doctors and/or occupational health specialists are also likely to be required. Still, if you're affected, the benefits of litigation may outweigh the costs.

Who is liable if plastic mould is making you sick?

Landlords have a duty to maintain their property to a reasonable standard, so tenants may be able to look to their landlord. If indoor plastic mould is bad enough to affect your health, the building may be unfit to live in. The landlord could also be held responsible for any health problems you suffer if reasonable steps aren't taken to prevent the harm.

Sellers and their agents may also be on the hook if they sell a home without disclosing a potential plastic mould problem - they may well have a duty to disclose hazardous conditions known to exist in their property.
And construction contractors, designers and past owners of a home or building may all be liable for any construction defects resulting in a plastic mould infestation.

Insurers are likely to be the hardest hit. A landlord, homeowner or construction contractor who is sued would immediately ask their insurers to defend the claim. Depending on the policy, the insurers are the ones who often ultimately end up paying.

In light of recent developments, landlords, homeowners, architects, contractors and others potentially at risk would be wise to address any potential plastic mould problems now to avoid being sued in the first place.

Plastic mould worries real estate sector

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