If you do a search on “stories of mold” on the internet, you will find many horrible stories about people becoming seriously ill and having a hard time recovering. Of people having to leave their homes and most everything in them. Of people having terrible financial issues. Buildings that have become contaminated with mold, from single-family homes to condominium complexes to multimillion dollar high-rise office buildings can cause sick occupants, significant outcry, unfavorable publicity, and costly decontamination to restore them for public use. While these stories are certainly real, most of the time, mold stories do not end as badly that.
Molds are a naturally occurring, microscopic type of fungi. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that there are more than 1.5 million species. Many are innocuous to humans, but some can cause allergic reactions and asthma. Others can create endotoxins or mycotoxins which can result in serious health issues. Molds can hang out on materials made from organic materials; just adding the correct temperature and some moisture will result in proliferation of the mold and complaints from building occupants.
How Mold Spreads
Molds spread by producing spores that easily become airborne (especially when disturbed), travel, and then settle. If the spores land on an organic material, including dust, colonies will develop and ingest the organic material as soon as water and the right temperature are present. The newly created colonies then produce more spores, and the cycle continues.
Mold Food Sources
Common Building Materials
There are many building materials that can act as a food source for mold. Here are a few:
- Ceiling tiles
- Wall board or gypsum panels
- The glue used to bind glass fibers for fiberglass
- Cellulose insulation
- Wood and wood products
- Wallpaper and wallpaper glue
- Paper or paper on products
Common Household Items
While the list below is relatively short, you will find these things aplenty in any building:
- Food and paper food containers
- Fabric items such as curtains, upholstery, or bedspreads
- Books and paperwork
- Paper products
- Organic soils, plant leaves, or plant debris
Top Three Ways Mold Contamination Occurs
The most common ways that mold contamination occurs in buildings are:
- Allowing organic building materials to get wet (and not dried out enough) during construction
- Using building methods that allow moisture to accumulate in the structure of the building
- Occurrence of water leaks such as those from floods, pipes, condensation, roof leaks, and elevated humidity levels within the building space
Preventing Mold Growth
The key to preventing mold outbreaks in a building is to control moisture and prevent organic
building materials from becoming wet. Designing buildings for moisture control and using mold resistant building materials can eliminate the need for costly abatement of water damaged- and mold-contaminated building materials after your building projects are complete. Also, if there is a water event such as a lead or a flood, prompt remediation is critical to prevent mold contamination from developing.
With the correct approach, mold stories can, and often do, have a good ending.
Suspect a Mold Contamination?
If the point of prevention has passed, what can you do? If someone is experiencing symptoms that may be caused by mold, you see or smell mold in the building, or you recently had a water leak, you are already at the first phase of the mold inspection process: recognition. The next step is evaluating what you suspect and then controlling the growth of the mold. Click here to read our blog on the mold inspection process. There you will learn about the proper process for figuring out your mold issue in preparation for abatement. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides tips for building owners to clean up an area less than 10 square feet and has a more comprehensive guide for cleaning up areas larger than that. Keep in mind that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that remediation workers be properly trained and that the services of industrial hygienists, or other environmental health and safety professionals, be retained to help ensure a safe and thorough process. If you are attempting to clean up your own mold issues, be sure to check out the EPA website. If you do choose to hire professionals to help you, please be sure to check that they have proper credentials such as Certified Microbial Consultants and Certified Industrial Hygiene staff.
RPF Environmental has all the credentials and expertise to assist you with understanding your mold issues and will help develop a plan for remediation if a mold problem is found. Check out our mold services here. With the correct approach, mold stories can, and often do, have a good ending.
Call us at 603-942-5432 today to find out how we can support your industrial hygiene control program.