Most people do not associate their work with dangers of becoming ill except for worries about catching a cold or the flu from a co-worker who comes to work sick. However, workplaces can pose serious risks of occupational illnesses, like cancers or serious respiratory illnesses, if workers are exposed to hazardous substances. Unfortunately, toxic mold is one of these dangers that causes workers to suffer long-term conditions that can result in them missing work and needing to file claims for workers’ compensation benefits. For some, their disease could progress to a level where they become permanently disabled or die.

What Is Toxic Mold?

Mold is a form of fungus that surrounds us everywhere—both outside and inside our homes, schools, commercial buildings, and workplaces. It grows best in damp, humid, and warm environments. While molds play an important role in breaking down organic materials like leaves, trees, and dead animals, they can be harmful to buildings and people. There are over one thousand types of molds growing indoors, and many of them are not dangerous to our health. However, when certain molds are present in high enough concentrations, they can become toxic and cause health problems for workers. Two common toxic molds are:

  • Stachybotrys chartarum. This is also known as black mold and is a greenish-black fungus that grows in moist environments. It is most often found in flood-damaged buildings.
  • Aspergillis. This is a family of molds and not all of them are toxic. While aspergillis is not as dangerous as black mold, it is more common and can cause very serious and chronic respiratory problems for workers.

Molds can travel into buildings in many ways, like through windows and doors, on workers’ clothes and shoes, and through air conditioning, heating, and ventilation systems. Some common areas of workplaces where mold can be found include:

  • Bathrooms
  • Basements
  • Potted plants
  • Leaks in roofs, plumbing, and windows
  • Flooded areas
  • Wallpaper
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Drywall
  • Cardboard
  • Carpets
  • Upholstery
  • Paint
  • Insulation
  • Dust

Which Workers Are at Highest Risk of Toxic Mold Exposure?

Because toxic mold can grow virtually anywhere, workers in any industry or profession are in danger of being exposed to this substance, including those who work in schools, hospitals, office buildings, and factories. However, workers who are employed at the following workplaces face the most risk:

  • Antique shops
  • Saunas
  • Greenhouses
  • Farms
  • Mills
  • Flower shops
  • Construction sites

Medical Conditions Workers Could Develop From Toxic Mold

Not everyone will become ill due to exposure to toxic molds, and those who develop medical problems may find that their symptoms develop over weeks or longer. Workers who have asthma, other lung conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), compromised immune systems, and other pre-existing illnesses are at greater risk of developing medical complications due to toxic mold exposure. Common health problems they can suffer include:

  • Allergies. A worker could experience nasal stuffiness, irritation of his eyes, coughing, wheezing, and skin irritations. In more serious cases, an employee might develop flu-like symptoms, fever, or shortness of breath.
  • Asthma. Workers exposed to toxic mold can develop asthma if their airways become inflamed. This is a chronic condition that can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the person’s chest.
  • Aspergillosis. This is also referred to as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis ("ABPA"). It can produce symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing up brownish flecks or bloody mucus, fever, and a general feeling of weakness. In more serious cases, the mold can invade and damage a person’s body tissues—often in the lungs, but also in other organs. APBA can be a chronic debilitating condition that can cause a person to become permanently disabled or die.
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This is a condition causing lung inflammation in workers who develop immune system sensitization to inhaled organic dust. It can cause permanent lung damage if untreated or misdiagnosed.

Do you believe you developed one of these conditions from exposure to toxic mold at work? If so, you may be shocked when your employer denies your workers’ compensation claim based on a pre-existing condition or for other reasons. I have been helping workers like you fight for the benefits they deserve for over 20 years. Start an online chat to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn how I can assist you.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer