The Medical-Legal Aspects of Mold Contamination

Presented by Dr. Christine Oliver, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

Water intrusion and fungal growth can occur in any indoor environment.   At risk are single family and multi-family residential dwellings; commercial office buildings; schools, hospitals, and government buildings; and industrial facilities.  Populations at risk for adverse health effects differ depending on the setting.  The nature of the health effects themselves is similar across populations.  Both building occupants and mold remediation workers can be affected and must be protected.

Important to physicians and other health care professionals are a) identification of the source of the water; b) elimination of the source; c) proper remediation of damaged interior (and exterior) spaces; d) proper medical evaluation and treatment of those exposed; and e) in some cases, participation as treating health practitioners and/or experts in the field in medical-legal remedies for those with who have suffered adverse health effects such as asthma or hypersensitivity pneumonitis.  These remedies include tort litigation and workers’ compensation, as well as property damage claims.

Dr. Oliver will discuss each of these issues during the course of her presentation, with the exception of property damage claims.

About Dr. Oliver:

Dr. Oliver is President of Occupational Health Initiatives, Inc. in Brookline, MA.  She is an Associate Physician in the Department of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care Division) at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.  Board certified in occupational medicine and in internal medicine, Dr. Oliver’s primary specialty is Occupational and Environmental Medicine, with an emphasis on occupational and environmental lung disease.  At the MGH she evaluates and cares for patients with occupational and environmental illness and disease, including occupational asthma, interstitial lung disease, building-related health problems, and chemical sensitivities.  Dr. Oliver has done research and published in the area of occupational lung disease and she has testified before the United States Congress with regard to work-related health issues and risks.

For the past three decades an important focus of Dr. Oliver’s consulting work has been indoor air quality and related health effects.  She has lectured and published on this subject and she has been actively involved in indoor air quality assessments in a variety of settings.  These include health care facilities, courthouses and other government buildings, schools, and commercial office buildings.  Together with industrial hygienists, engineers, and human systems specialists she has worked to identify, characterize, and resolve air quality problems and their related health effects.  In 2009 she was a participant and presenter in the ASTM Johnson Conference on the standardization of mold response procedures.

An important component of Dr. Oliver’s clinical work has been in the area of fragrances and their related health effects, including causation and/or exacerbation of chemical sensitivities.  She has lectured on these topics, counselled patients and their families with regard to steps that can be taken to identify and remove fragranced products from their environment, and advocated for a fragrance-free policy in the clinic in which she works.