Tourism industry urged to tackle mould

Tourists visiting the Cayman Islands from the United States will be very aware of any problems with moulds on buildings, a visiting lawyer has warned the tourism industry.

‘Tourists coming to your island are very aware of the problem of mould and we’re addressing it very aggressively in the United States,’ said Attorney at Law Frank Silva, visiting from Miami.

Referring to the economic costs associated with untreated mould he said, ‘It’s going to affect your business. Make no mistake about it. I guarantee it,’ he said.

Mr. Silva was speaking at a one day course titled ‘Mould Prevention and Remediation in Buildings’ at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel on Tuesday morning.

This was held to educate the tourism industry on the detection, presence and steps towards remediation of mould in buildings. The course was sponsored by the Department of Tourism and the Department of Environmental Health.

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Mr. Silva pointed out that only very recently an apartment renter was awarded close to $1 million in a United States court for having lived in a dwelling with mould in it.

Mr. Silva, a specialist in litigation and indoor environmental issues, pointed out that an initial problem with mould that appears to be small and manageable, may be a disaster costing millions.

‘Mould will continue to grow and spread if it is not dealt with professionally,’ he warned.

He said identifying the problem’s origin, cause and the mitigation of it are essential. Professionals may be needed to come in and ascertain the cause. This could be from cracks in concrete, snapped tension cables, failed welding joints, grading improperly installed or damaged roof systems, windows (the primary culprit), plumbing or mechanical systems.

Elimination of the moisture source needs to be done promptly and the impacted area should be remediated by quality professionals.

Mr. Silva stressed that professionals should be used, rather than just a handy man.

‘If you don’t hire professionals you’re throwing your money away,’ he asserted.

Part of this process involves notifying and protecting occupants of the building, along with employees.

‘Consult a certified industrial hygienist to tell occupants what they need to know. They can talk to them properly without instilling a panic,’ he said. Insurance companies should also be notified of what is happening.

All evidence of mould damage should be preserved. Consultants and experts should be retained to assist in the identification and other processes. The experts must document and photograph the cause and origin of the moisture as well as its migration path. All resulting property damages must be documented.

He pointed out that Melinda Ballard and her family were awarded $32 million in punitive damages because her insurance company took too long to handle her claim. She and her family began coughing up blood and suffering memory loss while living in their 22-room, 11,000-square-foot mansion outside of Texas. The house was contaminated with Stachybotrys chartarum (a deadly mould).

Mr. Silva advised attendees to seek an insurance policy that specifically and directly grants coverage for mould.

Director of Environmental Health Roydell Carter, in introducing the course, pointed out the importance of addressing the problem from a tourism point of view. The issue of mould became a national one following Hurricane Ivan’s visit last September, he said. DoEH worked with the public and private sector following the hurricane to ensure the proper management of mould and its remediation.

Dr. Janvier Gasana, Professor at Florida International University said prudent public health practice indicates removal from exposure through clean up or remediation and public education about the potential for harm.

He pointed out that while not all species of mould are toxigenic it is prudent to assume that when these moulds are found in excess indoors that they are treated as through they are toxin producing. It is not always cost effective to measure toxicity, so cautious practice regards the potential for toxicity as serious.

A four day seminar for Government departments on mould prevention and remediation in buildings is being held until July 9. This will involve building inspectors, project managers, builders and maintenance workers.

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