Environmental Exposure Risks for Commercial Property Owners

Whether purchasing your first storefront or expanding to a new location, it’s important to think about disruptive factors that could potentially affect operations. Beyond sources of revenue, consider environment exposure risks facing your property.

Environment exposure risks are often unseen but should be anticipated, from asbestos discovered during renovations to bacteria in the water supply. Unfortunately, general liability and commercial property policies exclude these exposure risks, leaving you responsible for the full cost of remediation and related customer lawsuits.

Pollution and environmental liability coverage helps close this gap. Learn more about managing your potential risks.

Types of Environmental Exposure Risks

When you can’t see a risk, that doesn’t mean your commercial property is unaffected. You should be prepared to face common instances through your business plan and insurance.

Toxic Mold Growth

The presence of mold can involve extensive cleanup and costly repairs. Mold growth may also result in lawsuits from customers concerning exposure.


If you’ve purchased an older property, you could encounter asbestos when you start revitalizing the building. Similar to mold, asbestos needs to be removed and risks of exposure addressed.  

Bacterial Exposure

From apartment buildings to shopping centers, large entities can experience exposure risks through water, HVAC systems, storage solutions and construction. Customers or residents may be exposed to legionella bacteria or fungi through the water supply and damaged building materials.

Chemical Exposure

High levels of chemicals used improperly can create an environmental hazard. Chemical exposure might stem from:

  • How cleaning and maintenance products are stored
  • Decomposing older building materials once made with formaldehyde
  • Gas-powered appliances and heaters
  • Radon, a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas that causes lung cancer
  • Pesticide use on crops and to maintain grounds
  • Use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

Chemical exposure may also emerge during excavation and new construction.

Construction and Renovations

New construction can rehabilitate or completely transform a building, yet it can also become a nightmare for owners. A negligent crew may accidentally hit a sewer line, causing lead paint, asbestos or mold particles to enter the air or disrupt the building’s structural integrity.

Poorly Stored Chemicals

When storage recommendations are ignored, workers and customers can become exposed to the pollutants contained in fuels and oil, chlorine, pesticides and cleaning products. Improper storage also has the potential to result in a fire or explosion.

Along with these common scenarios, other potential environmental exposure risks for commercial properties include:

  • Incorrect waste and materials disposal, leading to accumulation and exposure.
  • Contamination from company and third-party delivery vehicles and storage tanks, which can result in chemical exposure and groundwater contamination.
  • Improper pesticide application, causing a drift effect through a community or region.

Even if the risk comes from a third-party source or existed before you purchased the property, you may still be found responsible for exposing residents, clients and workers.

How to Anticipate Environmental Exposure Risks

A separate insurance policy, Pollution and Environmental Liability extends coverage to bodily injury, property damage, cleanup and prevention costs for exposure risks. All businesses face these risks in varying degrees; taking out a policy can help anticipate and cover risks that general liability and commercial property insurance exclude.

As you’re shopping for coverage, be prepared to discuss:

  • Existing and potential environmental exposure risks
  • Cleanup procedures in the event of exposure
  • Current storage procedures, including where and how you store chemicals and strategies for identifying hazardous substances

Work with an agent at HUB/Ion Insurance to ensure your business has adequate coverage against environmental exposure risks. To get started, contact us today.