Your Mold Questions Answered
What is mold?
Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.
How much does mold remediation cost?
There are many factors of mold growth and mold removal that affect the overall cost of remediation, including the location and type of the mold, the size of the problem, and the kind of remediation that is necessary. Check out our pricing page for more information.
Is mold remediation covered by insurance?
It depends. If you have a significant mold problem, typically, your insurance will not cover it. Mold takes time to develop, and many insurance carriers believe that if you are maintaining your property, you should catch any mold issues in their infancy and normally they are happy to come to the rescue in those cases. An example would be, you leave for a two-week vacation and when you return you find that the water heater leaked and you have some mold starting to grow on the walls – that should be covered. But, if you own a home with a leaky roof and windows, and after several years of ignoring the problem, you decide to file a claim and ask for full mold remediation including all new windows and replace the roof, you are probably out of luck – your insurance would likely cite poor maintenance and neglect. Some national insurance carriers have excluded mold from coverage altogether.
Did you know that the state of Connecticut requires homeowner’s policies to cover hidden mold for up to $10,000?
There are exceptions for problems that were ignored or are a result of deferred maintenance.
Is black mold toxic?
There are over 100,000 species of mold and more than 20,000 are black in color. This is why we don’t identify mold by the color – we identify mold through testing. Just because mold is black does not mean it is toxic. So then, what about toxic mold…
…Stachybotrys Chartarum. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? Stachybotrys is a greenish-black toxic mold that grows particularly well in high-cellulose material such as straw, hay, wet leaves, drywall, carpet, wallpaper, fiber-board, ceiling tiles, thermal insulation, etc. Before drying, Stachybotrys is wet and slightly slimy to touch. The toxic mold grows in areas where the relative humidity is above 55% and needs a constant water source in order to thrive. This type of mold is thought to be a possible cause of the “sick building syndrome” and a multitude of “building-related illnesses”. Children’s exposure to this mold is thought most likely to cause pulmonary hemosiderosis (bleeding in the lungs).
Can mold cause health problems?
Molds are usually not a problem indoors unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis).
Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Research on mold and its health effects is ongoing.
Can I take care of mold myself?
If you are dealing with a small area that does not require professional remediation, maybe you can clean up your own mold problem. Professional cleaners or remediators may use methods and products not available to consumers. Mold may cause staining and cosmetic damage. It may not be possible to clean an item so that its original appearance is restored.
Tips and Techniques for Mold Removal
- Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely.
- Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely.
- Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. Mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials, so the mold may be difficult or impossible to remove completely.
- Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold. Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces. Clean up the mold and dry the surfaces before painting. Paint applied over moldy surfaces is likely to peel.
- If you are unsure about how to clean an item, or if the item is expensive or of sentimental value, you may wish to consult a specialist. Specialists in furniture repair, restoration, painting, art restoration and conservation, carpet and rug cleaning, water damage, and fire or water restoration are commonly listed in phone books. Be sure to ask for and check references. Look for specialists who are affiliated with professional organizations.
If the project is more than a few square feet or you are hesitant to try it on your own, remember that Professional Remediators:
- Use moisture sensors and specialized equipment to ensure items and materials are completely dry;
- Have access and experience in using biocides, antimicrobial solutions, and botanical cleaning products that might not be readily available to consumers;
- We are trained and certified to recognize what can be salvaged and what should be replaced; and,
- Use containment, pressure differential, and specialty equipment like HEPA filtered vacuums and air scrubbers to prevent exposure and cross-contamination.
How do I control the spread of mold?
Moisture is the number one enemy of every structure and mold is always a moisture problem. You must completely fix the water or moisture problem, perform or have a professional perform the mold removal. After completion, visible mold and moldy odors should not be present (note that mold may cause staining and cosmetic damage). Revisit the site/area shortly after cleanup and it should show no signs of water damage or mold growth. It is beneficial to monitor the area in the future as well to catch any future problems before they get too bad.
If I find mold, should I have it tested?
In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building’s compliance with federal mold standards. Surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated and should be compared to samples taken before the project is begun.
Testing may be important if a medical doctor confirms and identifies certain molds that are affecting an occupant’s health. Testing can substantiate either the presence of these certain molds or if they are not present in the indoor environment.
If someone’s health IS being affected by the presence of mold in the indoor environment, property owners should consider hiring an indoor environmental professional like a Certified Industrial Hygienist. We know and work with some great one’s and can make that referral.
What's the big deal with mold?
Do you remember the lawsuits and hysteria surrounding the mold problems of Erin Brockovich, the Ballards in Texas, and even Ed McMahon with his sheepdog, Muffin?
“Black Mold” was called the “next asbestos” — and the media frenzy was on. But today, we just don’t hear very much about mold, do we? Did it go away? Is it no longer a problem? Have we now decided that it won’t kill us and that it is safe?
In the 1980s, our building techniques changed. At that time, the driving force was a concern over increasing energy costs and so, as a result, we tightened up our buildings to reduce energy loss. Weather-stripping was a hot commodity and lowering the thermostat became the new status symbol of the energy conservationist. The unintended consequence of these tighter buildings was to create petri dishes where indoor air quality contaminants, like mold and bacteria, would have an environment in which to proliferate. Trapped air became toxic air. SBS (Sick Building Syndrome) and BRI (Building Related Illness) were some of the first indicators that we had a problem and then, before we could turn around, it became a legal issue. Those who were especially sensitive to mold issues, like the Ballards, McMahon, et al, became the focal point of the media.
Yes, some people still get very sick from mold, but I believe what we have found is that the numbers are significantly lower than we first believed, and, therefore, the hysteria has subsided.
But, is mold safe now?
Well, with that said, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that people still get very sick from mold contamination and that some people, maybe a smaller group than we first thought, are highly sensitive to many IAQ contaminants, including mold.
It’s not that mold has become safer, it’s that the instances of serious health problems are being more reasonably dealt with. Doctors, like members of the AAEM (American Association of Environmental Medicine), are becoming more aware of potential environmental issues. The mold industry is being more careful and better trained to evaluate and deal with these issues. States are now licensing mold professionals to be sure they are following best practices and credible trade associations, like NORMI™, are being formed to support those professionals.
Professional assessors and remediators recognize that three classes are especially susceptible to health problems because of mold: The elderly, the very young, and the immune-suppressed. Care should be taken to understand the reality of the symptoms associated with mold contamination and the proper techniques for building isolation containment, establishing negative pressure, and using PPE (personal protective equipment). These processes can protect even the most sensitive individuals and should be incorporated where building occupants or workers may be exposed to elevated levels of mold contamination.
In short, the mold industry has experienced the same progression as the asbestos industry did years ago. Initially, asbestos was considered “deadly” and removal, or abatement, seemed to be the only option. Later, as more information became available, encapsulation-in-place became an option, deemed more reasonable and cost-effective. As a result, asbestos hysteria subsided.
Unlike asbestos, mold is a natural substance that only becomes a problem when it is trapped in a welcoming indoor environment. Control the environment with the proper sanitization protocol and you can control or eliminate mold growth. When that is done, most people can live in that clean environment without concerns for their health or the health of their families.
The more we learn about how to live healthier lives indoors, the safer those environments become.
Disaster Happens. We can FIX it!
Previous based on an article by Doug Hoffman, CEO of the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors (NORMI)