Chances are you've never heard of "mold remediation." Most homeowners haven't.

Should you be among unfortunate homeowners all too familiar with the label, you never want to hear the expensive, time-consuming, complicated term again.

You may eventually come face to face with airborne molds if you live along hurricane pathways or experience even minor water invasion from leaky pipes, windows or gutters. The term is indeed worth knowing.

Mold remediators are experts who work on-site to rid homes of this omnipresent problem once household mold has been identified.

Often clad in spore-tight clothing and respirators and armed with high-tech gear as well as assorted equipment from drying agents to pry bars and saws, this new contractor industry sprang up quickly once the health risks of mold became clear.

But the niche business carries "buyer beware" caveats.

States such as Texas have moved to oversee the mold remediation business to assure taxpayers that firms they chose to remove harmful molds meet minimal requirements to get the job done.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has licensed mold remediation firms since May 2004. The department Web site lists 152 licensed contractors to serve the entire state. With Hurricane Rita causing tens of millions in dollars of water damage, the market for mold assistance is huge.

In addition to certifying a company's mold removal skills, Texas requires that the homeowner be given a certificate of "mold damage remediation" by the contractor. It verifies the work has been completed in accordance with state guidelines.

Of course, the removal of mold is no guarantee it won't return. If the homeowner doesn't remedy a leak or water source or keep humidity levels to mold-unfriendly levels, chances are good mold will return again. It is virtually impossible to completely remove molds because the spores are airborne and thus always present.

Not all states have such licensing programs in place. Mold is a frequent topic for state health departments, but in many cases homeowners are directed to "licensed contractors," although a roster of such contractors is not shown.

Consumers should check state health department Web sites or call local health departments with questions about mold remediation or recommended firms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on mold remediation and general mold information but does not list mold remediation by state.