When it’s not just seasonal allergies
Most kids react to a bad situation like a rubber ball – they just bounce right back.
However, when they come home from daycare with red eyes and the sniffles (and it’s not because they’re being bullied), you’ve got to wonder if there’s an external cause to their symptoms.
You’ve tried the humidifier. You’ve tried the medications. Nothing’s working. What’s left?
Mold is one of those silent triggers that can take a while to pin down. Kids like to play in spaces that adults would never think to go, and these are places where mold can tend to accumulate; they also crawl around and put things in their mouths that they shouldn’t. They’ve even found mold growing in popular children’s toys recently. This leaves them open to a lot more toxic exposure than grown-ups.
So what happens if they’re exposed to something toxic like mold or mildew? What happens then?
What is mold?
Mold and mildew are types of fungi that are found both indoors and outdoors – they can be found wherever there is a buildup of moisture, leaks or condensation that cause surfaces to be damp. Oftentimes when we clean a buildup of moisture, we don’t fix the cause of the problem (say, a leaky pipe or an air conditioner that keeps building up condensation), so the water keeps coming back, which leads to mold growth.
Mold grows anywhere there is moisture by producing spores; you’ll notice a damp, musty odor or stains in places like bathrooms or basements. Whenever there are small, dark corners where water accumulates, you can bet there will be mold there as well.
Mold can lead to asthma, respiratory problems and allergic reactions in both children and adults. These allergic reactions can include hay fever-like responses. Mold can also irritate the throat lining and lungs. These reactions can cause any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Itchy eyes
- Skin rash
- Nose or throat irritation
- Eye irritation
- Dry, hacking cough
- Nasal and sinus congestion
Because these reactions are so innocuous, many people chalk them up to normal seasonal allergies and forget about them. However, it’s very important to consider the possibility that mold is present if your child is returning from daycare or school with these symptoms and the rest of your family is fine.
Research is still being conducted as to whether there is further damage being done by sicknesses such as “Toxic Mold Syndrome” or “Sick Building Syndrome,” which have been brought up in legal cases. Studies seem to indicate that allergic responses, rather than toxic, are the fundamental cause of these illnesses.
Toxic tort cases – proof
To prove a toxic tort case, as with any personal injury claim, you must illustrate that:
- You were owed a legal duty by the day care center or school, as they were obligated to provide your child with a safe space, free of mold and other toxins;
- That legal duty was breached by the daycare when it failed to keep its facility safe for your child;
- The breach caused harm to your child. You have to show that the breach was a direct or proximate cause of whatever harm your child suffered. (“This is referred to as “causation,” and this is typically the most difficult part to prove in a toxic tort claim.)
- Show that your child suffered some sort of harm and exactly how much.
Causation is critical in toxic tort claims. Tying the mold back to your child’s injury will be the most difficult part to prove, because you will have to prove that but for that toxic exposure, she would not have suffered. That mold had to be the immediate cause of her injuries. This is called the “but for” test. So, but for that mold, your child would be perfectly fine.
Also, think about how many things your child encounters in a single day. Can you imagine how many tests it will take to figure out exactly which piece of mold in exactly which part of the daycare center it was that caused her to fall ill? …That is, if it was mold.
Getting past the causation hurdle
Just because it’s difficult to prove causation doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. There are some very effective ways to prove it:
- Strong medical testimony from health care experts
- Evidence of exposure
- Establish evidence of illness in others who have had a similar rate of exposure
- Product recalls
Illustrative help like photographs, expert testimony, records and charts can assist you in nailing down a timeline and figuring out when your child was exposed to the toxin. For example, Texas courts in particular require expert testimony establishing causation when proving toxic torts in personal injury cases or they will dismiss the case.
These cases can balloon quickly, requiring experts of many varieties, and can rack up fees if you’re not careful. It’s best to be prepared from the outset.
If you or your child has had to deal with mold issues, check out these great resources: