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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dry cleaners battle mold.

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Although the media furor over mold claims appears to have subsided somewhat, the impact of mold-related losses remains. For insurers, the challenge continues to be identifying viable solutions to the mold problem, beyond simply limiting coverage for mold losses. For clothing and fabric items, restoration offers a cost-effective alternative to replacement.

As demonstrated in a study commissioned by the Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network in 2002, it is possible to successfully salvage and restore clothing and other fabric items affected by mold growth contamination. Although mold spores commonly are found in the environment, mold growth on fabric items can lead to odors, discoloration, and even deterioration of fibers.

The study found that garment quality, can be preserved with sufficient response, handling, and cleaning techniques, creating significant savings for insurance companies. It is important for insurance adjusters and restoration contractors to understand that clothing does not automatically need to be discarded simply because it was hi a moldy environment. Even if the textiles and fabric items were contaminated by mold, they often can be cleaned of mold spore contamination.

Proper Protocols

Health risks are associated with mold claims. Direct contact, inhalation, or ingestion of spores, fragments, or gasses can cause a range of effects from irritation to allergic reaction or infection, even toxicosis. Taking the proper precautions is an absolute necessity to ensure that mold contamination does not spread and have a potentially devastating impact on those in the immediate vicinity.

Dealing with the homeowner at a loss site with mold contamination is an important consideration, hr such situations, homeowners often are overwhelmed by the accident or disaster itself. When the issue of mold is raised, insureds have been conditioned to fear the worst. A trained professional can address concerns and provide a step-by-step overview of the cleaning process and what homeowners can expect. Such information can allay fears and set an appropriate tone for the entire process.



Professional restoration dry cleaners also should invest in, use, and properly maintain personal protective equipment, such as masks and respirators, gloves, and Tyvek suits. These precautions, when deemed necessary according to established protocol, enable the team to determine the scope of the job and begin processing items safely.

Just as important as having protective equipment is the understanding of when and how to use it. Not all situations require full protective gear. In fact, only the most severe cases demand such extraordinary measures. Care and concern for insureds must be weighed, as well as the cost to the insurance company. When required, protective gear not only protects the team working on-site, it protects the contractor's insurer liability and workers' compensation issues.

At the most basic level, the restoration process uses solvents to break down the mold and extract it. Mold spores secrete mycotoxins to protect their territories. These mycotoxins can be poisonous and remain in the mold spore cells even when the mold itself is no longer living. Dead mold particles also can cause allergic reactions, which is why it is so important not to just kill the mold, but to remove it.

At the dry-cleaning plant, affected items first are kept away from normal processing, then separated into those that are launderable and those that require dry-cleaning. Launderable items can be cleaned with special mildicide additives, which then must be extracted. Those garments and textiles requiring dry-cleaning are processed using solvents and a constant distillation method. Solvents break down the mold membrane walls so that the germicide can attack and kill the spores. Constant distillation ensures that the cleaning solvent itself does not remain contaminated.

As with any service, experience and qualifications must be considered. Mold jobs, in particular, necessitate a higher level of training and technical expertise than most retail dry cleaners are equipped to process or interested in handling. At a loss site involving mold, a qualified, professional restoration dry cleaner will be best equipped to help an adjuster save time and control severity.

Wayne Wudyka is president and CEO of the Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network, a nationwide organization of dry cleaners who specialize in restoring clothing, textiles, and fabric items. Contact CRDN at www.CRDN.com.

Source Citation:Wudyka, Wayne. "Dry cleaners battle mold." Claims 52.5 (May 2004): S34(1). Academic OneFile. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 20 Sept. 2009
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