Guide to Mold Remediation
Where there is moisture, there is most likely going to be mold. This can become a problem if it is growing indoors. Indoor mold can cause serious health risks if not taken care of right away. Check out PE Facts to learn how to eliminate mold for good!
Mold remediation projects that have recently been shutting down office buildings and schools have brought a lot of attention to the potential dangers of interior mold contamination. Scientists have a basic knowledge of the hazards of interior mold and how to prevent them, but they still have much to learn. There are an increasing number of resources for information on this topic.
Molds fall within the non-green plant-like organism category of the fungus family, along with mushrooms, mildew, smuts, rusts and yeast. The common characteristic that all fungal matter share is the capability to grow without sunlight. Due to this ability, molds can grow almost anywhere, on almost anything as long as oxygen and moisture are present.
Numerous forms of mold exist. According to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) "Mold Remediation in School's and Commercial Buildings" resource, "All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds can produce allergens that can trigger allergic reactions or even asthma attacks in people allergic to mold. Others are known to produce potent toxins and/or irritants."
There are presently no Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) assigned for airborne concentrations of mold or mold spores. There is also no EPA or Occupational Safety Health and Administration (OSHA) requirements or standards for airborne mold contaminants. Under the Indoor Air Quality heading on the OSHA website it references a sampling procedure for fungi (PathCon Technical Bulletin 2.4, A Suggested Air Sampling Strategy for Microorganisms in Office Settings). The protocol states, "Fungal amplification (excessive levels of mold) should be considered when the indoor concentration is above 200 colony forming units per cubic meter of air and substantially exceeds that detected in the outdoor air."
It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores indoors, but the most effective way to battle indoor mold growth is to control the amount of moisture present. When there is excessive moisture or water indoors, you can typically find mold. In buildings with a mold problem, the source of moisture must be eliminated in order to remediate the mold.
Any water-damaged areas should be dried within 24-48 hours to stop mold growth before it starts. Porous and absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles, wallboard or cellulose and fiberglass insulation, which have been damaged by water should be thrown away and replaced. Get rid of any books and papers that are not important. To remove water from carpeting, use a water extraction vacuum along with dehumidifiers and fans to accelerate the drying process. If the carpet becomes moldy, it will most likely need to be replaced. Nonporous materials can be wiped with a mild detergent or vacuumed and left to dry.
To prevent moisture and mold growth, you must identify and repair leaks and other sources of water as soon as possible. Reducing indoor humidity to between 30 and 50 percent can greatly reduce mold growth. Some ways to do this is to vent bathrooms, dryers and other sources of moisture; use an exhaust fan when cooking or dishwashing; use dehumidifiers and air conditioners; and increase ventilation.
Adding insulation to floors, piping, roofing, exterior walls, and windows can help decrease condensation. Do not install carpeting in areas where there is a constant moisture problem, such as near sinks, drinking fountains, or floors with frequents leaking or flooding.
The initial step in identifying a contamination problem is a visual inspection. You should visually assess the amount of water damage and mold growth. This assessment is important in determining remedial strategies.
Visual inspection of ventilation systems should also be done. In doing this you should check for damp conditions and overall cleanliness of the system. Porous materials should be inspected extra carefully.
Special equipment may be used to view spaces in ductwork or behind walls—or a moisture meter to detect moisture in building materials—to help identify hidden sources of mold growth and the extent of water damage.
A great resource for anyone with a mold problem is the EPA's remediation guide for schools and commercial buildings. It provides detailed explanations and suggestion for how to remove mold in a variety of situations.
Mold should be eliminated as soon as it is identified. Areas with small portions of mold should be cleaned using soap or detergent and allowed to completely dry. A HEPA vacuum can be used to clean furniture, carpeting, books or other materials after they have been thoroughly dried.
While cleaning small areas, an N95 respirator, goggles and gloves should be worn. For large mold remediation jobs, when there is going to be long-term exposure or high levels of airborne dust and mold spores, the EPA recommends wearing a full-face, powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) equipped with HEPA filters along with disposable coveralls, gloves and shoe covers. The cleaned area should be completely dried. Any sponges, rags, or other equipment used to clean the mold should be disposed of when finished.
If the mold reappears soon after the cleaning, it is probably an indication of a leak, excess humidity, or some other underlying problem. Any underlying water problem must be fixed before you can successfully eliminate the mold. If the mold problem is extensive, professional help may be necessary.
Please Note: The information contained in this publication is intended for general information purposes only. This publication is not a substitute for review of the applicable government regulations and standards, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the cited regulation or consult with an attorney.