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Can the Total Pollution Exclusion exclude coverage for damages arising out of fire?

Submitted by Jessica Gregory on 06 Sep, 2022

General Liability Insurance policies may contain an Endorsements titled “Total Pollution Exclusion”. Many of these Endorsements read as follows:


Exclusion f. under Paragraph 2., Exclusions of Section
I – Coverage A – Bodily Injury And Property
Damage Liability is replaced by the following:

This insurance does not apply to:

f. Pollution

(1) “Bodily injury” or “property damage” which
would not have occurred in whole or part but for
the actual, alleged or threatened discharge,
dispersal, seepage, migration, release or escape
of “pollutants” at any time.

(2) Any loss, cost or expense arising out of any:
(a) Request, demand, order or statutory or
regulatory requirement that any insured or
others test for, monitor, clean up, remove,
contain, treat, detoxify or neutralize, or in
any way respond to, or assess the effects of

The policies go on to define “pollutants” as:

“Pollutants” mean any solid, liquid, gaseous or
thermal irritant or contaminant, including smoke,
vapor, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals and
waste. Waste includes materials to be recycled,
reconditioned or reclaimed.

Based upon the plain language of the Endorsement and the definition of “pollutant”, it is arguable that the Endorsement excludes coverage for damages arising out fire/smoke. This argument is enhanced by the fact that the policy’s standard “Pollution” exclusion (Exclusion f.), contains an exception for damages arising out of heat, smoke, or fumes from a “hostile fire,” and the above “Total Pollution Exclusion”, which replaces Exclusion f., contains no such exception.

Additionally, there are other versions of the “Total Pollution Exclusion,” available, which do include the “hostile fire” exception.

Thus, if the version of the “Total Pollution Exclusion,” in your policy does not contain a “hostile fire” exception, there is a good faith argument that the policy does not provide coverage for damages arising out of fire/smoke.