Information related to mold remediation and some recommendations for selecting a hygienist!
Mold in the living space of a structure can be a frightening thing. News media has portrayed many aspects of mold in a very bad light and in my opinion gone too far with its harmful portrayal. That being said, mold or fungi of any kind is not a welcome habitant for a healthy home.
Mold comes in many species, and its growth requirements and patterns vary widely. All mold types require three things to grow, in addition to the spore itself. These three things are: a food source, water, and time.
The first of the required elements for mold to grow is food. A common mold found on bread, for example, is Penicillium and can be used to make penicillin. Cryptococcosus Neoformans however is a type that is found on bat and pigeon dropping and can cause serious health issues, particularly in persons with compromised immune systems.
Another requirement for mold to start growing is water. This requirement is twofold, in that the moisture level on the material the mold is to grow on is important, and the humidity of the environment is also important. These two aspects usually go hand in hand when is come to a home or other living structure. Some species need only a small amount of moisture to grow, while others require a great deal of moisture to grow.
Finally, time is a factor is mold growth. Mold can take one to ten days to germinate from a spore. Once a spore has settled on a material, it will grow if the material is a favorable food source for that species, it has the needed moisture content and humidity, and it has these conditions for the time needed to germinate.
Harmful effects of mold can be caused by the spores themselves, but can be caused by micotoxins as well. Mycotoxins are a mold’s defense system, and are used to fight off organisms that encroach on its territory. Mold affects people in different ways and to different degrees. Some people can linger around high concentrations of mold growth with little to no noticeable effect, while others become ill with a very small amount in proximity to them. This seems to be allergenic in nature in that some people get very ill and others have no effect around the same exposure. However, some folks can develop sensitivity to mold where none existed before, so no exposure is best from a health stand point.
In the average home, there are a number of places to look for mold, even if no tragic water loss event has occurred. Windows, especially in areas that have a cold winter can show signs of mold at the sides of the window where condensation moisture can meet with and organic building material. Behind sink cabinets is another area where mold is commonly found. Plumbing gets cool when water passes through it, assuming it’s not the hot water line, and this cooling combined with higher humidity in the sink area can be all it takes for condensation to occur. Splash guards around sinks, although designed to prevent moisture on the walls and cabinets, are not always sufficient to provide the moisture protection needed to prevent the moisture levels required for mold to grow. The air conditioning drip pan and coils can harbor mold growth. Dust collecting on the coils is all the organic matter that is needed for growth to start, and the drip pan, if not draining properly, can be the source of a significant amount of humidity. Other more obvious areas are around tubs or showers, and where a sump pump is housed.
Mold should be removed by a professional, and there can be many methods of achieving the end result.
The first consideration is: How much mold is present? The amount of mold is one of the determining factors in deciding what kind of containment will be needed. Generally, if the mold coverage is under ten square feet, local containment and mold removal can be achieved, and no negative air containment is likely to be needed. However, if the mold coverage is greater than ten square feet, it will likely require full containment, with air scrubbers and negative air machines.
The second consideration is: Where is the mold located? The location of the growth is a large factor in determining the scope of work needed and the demolition required. Sometimes it is necessary to remove and unaffected building material in order to get to the source of the growth. This can be a difficult task, especially if the integrity of the containment is to be maintained. The integrity of the overall structure is an important factor as well.
The Third consideration is: Will part of the structure need to remain functional? Sometimes a structure or home will need to remain usable be residents or workers during the mitigation process. Entry points, exit points are determined for both our techs, as well as resident or workers related to the structure’s primary purpose. Heavily cordoned off areas may be required, as opposed to framing and plastic barriers.
The forth and most important consideration is: How can we maintain the safety of our mitigation techs and the residents or workers at the structure? Safety is a primary concern. For our crews, we supply personal protective equipment for use in the environment where the mold is being treated. This PPE can range depending on the scope of the project, the location where work will be performed, and the crew performing the work. Safety of the residents or workers at the structure is also a chief concern. Containment and protection from cross contamination are guarded against. In many cases the containment will have a decontamination area as an added protection against escaping mold spores and mycotoxins.
Testing by an industrial hygienist is an important factor in mold cleanup. Without clearance testing, even the most experienced mold remediation company cannot be sure 100% if the job is done and levels returned to normal. Pre testing is used to determine the extent of contamination of mold. The results of the pre testing can be used to determine what condition of mold an area or room has. Condition 1 is normal levels of fungal activity; this would be an unaffected area or one that has been successfully remediated. Condition 2 is elevated levels of fungal activity; this would be areas or rooms that have elevated spore counts and would relate to an area that is getting contaminated from another area or an incomplete remediation. Condition 3 is visible fungal growth; this is an area that has not been remediated and is the source of areas that would be considered Condition 2. Regardless of whether pre testing is done, clearance testing will be required to be sure the job is done. Condition 3 is usually easy to identify due to the visible nature of the issue, but Condition 2 is not visible and only testing can ensure that it does not exist in an area or room. It is important that the company doing the clearance testing be completely unbiased. If sample collection is done incorrectly, the results can be skewed and unreliable. For this reason it is recommended that the testing, and sample collection company not in any way be affiliated to the remediation company. If the sample collection and testing is done by the same company, it would be too easy to collect samples in areas less likely to give bad results, or miss interpret lab results if the testing itself is done “in house”. I personally recommend that a customer look for and pay for his own industrial hygienist. This keeps the remediation company completely removed from any connection to the hygienist and the resulting tests.
Call us today for a free estimate (614) 333-0688