Molds are a group of tiny organisms that are a member of the fungus family. They generally reproduce by means of spores (similar to seeds) and are found everywhere – in both indoor and outdoor environments. While molds are an essential part of the ecosystem that break down organic material and can be beneficial, under certain conditions, some molds can be allergenic, infectious, or toxic to humans and other animals. Growth and spread of mold and mildew in indoor environments (buildings) are typically caused by water intrusion and/or elevated moisture/humidity levels. This can cause a breakdown in building materials and may present unique health risks to inhabitants, e.g. sinus and respiratory issues are among the most common.
The mold removal process usually includes utilizing containment (to avoid cross-contamination) and the use of specialty equipment like HEPA-filtered air scrubbers and vacuums. Some materials may be sanitized (or cleaned in place) but damaged or wet building materials most likely will need to be removed and some materials may need to be dried to avoid future growth.
The National Standard for Mold Remediation is
(and addressing the moisture source). Remediators should not mist or fog disinfectants or sanitizers in an attempt to “kill” mold in lieu of source removal. Attempts to “kill” mold in lieu of physical removal disregard the fact that the body cannot tell the difference between LIVE and DEAD mold, spores, and hyphal fragments. If not removed, it can put property owners and future occupants at risk. Property owners will have to assume responsibility and occupants with allergies or sensitivities may STILL BE AFFECTED.
The National Standard for mold removal was developed by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC) in conjunction with experts in building science, professional mold assessors, certified remediation professionals, and indoor environmental professionals.
Common places to find mold growth:
- Under the kitchen sink
Common causes of mold growth:
- Leaky roofs
- Pipe Leaks
- Shower/bath steam
Where Does Mold Hide?
As they say, mold is ubiquitous, meaning it is found everywhere — or I should say, mold hides everywhere, sometimes in plain sight, but unseen. When we come in from outside, mold spores follow. When we open the window for fresh air, mold spores float right in. Even in commercial environments where fresh air make-up brings air into the air conditioning system, mold spores are an inevitable uninvited guest.
Given the right temperature, moisture or humidity level, and food source, these mold spores begin to grow, causing the indoor environment to smell musty. If you can smell mold, you can be sure that it is growing somewhere even if you don’t know where. Since some people can be highly allergic to mold, it’s important to know how to reduce contamination levels.
Four Often Overlooked Areas
- Mold hides in places that you can’t reach. Every horizontal surface receives mold spores that have settled out. If there is dust on a surface, it probably contains mold spores, but regular, thorough cleaning will reduce the possibility of mold growth. Focus especially on the higher areas that are hard to reach, like crown moldings, door jambs, kitchen cabinets, and bookcases.
- Mold hides in places that you can’t see. That dark closet full of winter clothes or a storage space full of boxes is great places for mold to grow. I spoke with an elderly woman the other day who pulls out her refrigerator every week to clean behind it because she is so concerned about mold growing back there. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not a great incubator for mold.
- Mold hides wherever it is wet. There are places around homes and buildings that hold water that you may never have thought about. Refrigerators and freezers have a shallow pan underneath the motor that may have water in it. A small undetected leak on the icemaker line or at the shut-off valve under a sink might produce enough water to help mold grow. Have you checked the washing machine connection lately to make sure it is tight and not dripping?
- Mold hides where there is poor air circulation. Behind dressers or filing cabinets jammed up against walls, in utility closets overflowing with boxes, and in closets that have no ventilation, mold is more likely to grow. Periodically check these areas to reduce the possibility that mold contamination will proliferate.
Mold is so ubiquitous that its presence in homes and buildings is inevitable. Add these four areas to your regular cleaning routines, and you’ll find the mold where it hides. When you do find mold, address it immediately and seek professional assistance for a cleaner and healthier indoor environment.
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)
Will Dead Mold Hurt Me?
People often ask, “Will ‘dead mold’ hurt me?” This is a great question because there are some processes in the marketplace that make claims about killing mold “in place” and suggest that the resulting mold debris does not need to be removed. This is incorrect.
Most often, this position is taken by “mold” companies that utilize a style of fogging or airless spraying that delivers chemicals to the surface and claim to be able to access mold wherever it is and kill it, either under pressure or not. The assumption is made that once the mold is killed, it does not need to be removed. This process is cheaper and faster than traditional mold removal. Though cheaper and faster isn’t necessarily effective. In this case, it isn’t effective unless the process also includes removing the mold debris from the surfaces and air.
For many years, people have been tested by doctors for allergies and, through the testing process, find they are allergic to mold. The process is called “prick-testing,” and in it, a mold spore is injected just under the skin, and if the patient reacts to mold with a rash or itching, it is determined that he or she is sensitive to mold and probably has developed, or will develop mold allergies.
The spore in allergy testing is a dead, not viable, mold spore. What that simply means is that people react to mold whether it is dead or alive. So, why would you want to leave dead mold in place?
The Industrial Hygiene Field Operations Manual (IHFOM) produced a mold-removal guideline document for the Navy, which says “killing mold is not sufficient because residual biomass can still elicit allergenic responses from sensitive individuals [and] mold must be removed.”
The IICRC emphasizes that even dead mold remains toxigenic and allergic. Further, research has shown that the mycotoxins (mold poisons) produced by some molds are being produced on the surface of the spore and continue to move into the air even if the mold is non-viable (dead). Why would you want to leave the debris?
Mold, when dead, can also become a food source for other microbes. And, if it becomes aerosolized (suspended in air), it can become problematic for the person who is sensitive to molds. Many clients who seek information about mold are already sensitive to environmental issues, so why would you leave a potential allergen in the environment? You wouldn’t.
Disaster Happens. We can FIX it!