Mold and most fungi are present everywhere, indoors and outdoor environments. Most are usually dormant until water is added to the area. Water not only will add to the conditions needed for fungal microbes to grow (temperature, light, moisture), but it also brings more contamination through the carrying of new spores from other areas.
In any disaster situation, consumers need to be aware of fly-by-night operators preying on unsuspecting and uninformed victims. The best way to prevent your being taken advantage of is to arm yourself with knowledge, I which we hope to help you here.
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Contractors should work according to established industry standards and guidelines, including but not limited to organizations listed on our links page.
Exposure to mold has become an increasing concern with the general public, as it effects our health, and most, but not all people will exhibit flu like symptoms, or have an allergic reaction to mycotoxins caused by mold or mold spores. Some mild and others severe, sometimes causing permanent effects, or complicating current health condition, aggravation of asthma, and can cause infections. Studies on the effects of mold on the human body are still inconclusive, but thought that the body’s immune system reacts to these mycotoxins. In addition, these studies show that different people will react differently to the mycotoxins from the many strains of mold and mold spores.
The many strains of mold are, but not exclusive of; Stachybotrys, Aspergillus, Penicillium (the mold Penicillin is derived from), Fusarium, Trichoderma, and Memnoniella are to name a few. They all produce mycotoxins, and these mycotoxins have been identified as being toxic fungal metabolites. These mycotoxins are so lightweight, that with even the slightest air current they can stay afloat indefinitely.
On a more serous note, the diagnosis of pulmonary hemorrhage/hemosiderosis in infants is found generally in children less than six months old, and it is believed that Stachybotrys is the leading cause. Pulmonary hemosiderosis is an uncommon condition that results from bleeding in the lungs.
Stachybotrys, also known as Stachybotrys atra, Stachybotrys Chartarum, is black in color, and is the most widely researched concerning its effects and contamination rate in an indoor environment. It is more common, and has been unduly branded by the media, and the general public should ignore these labels, as they are designed to invoke fear and hysteria.
Sick Building Syndrome, is the condition where there is some form of contaminant that effects the health of the occupants. Even though there are many different types of contaminants, any of them, as well as the mycotoxins from mold can get into the HVAC system and easily spread throughout the entirety of the building depending where the vents reach out. The occupants begin to exhibit symptoms through prolonged exposure, and the building will need to be reconditioned to remove and prevent further contamination. This label is usually attached to larger high rise buildings, but mold in a family home can be labeled a sick building too.
We all should address common household sources of mold, such as mold found in bathroom tubs with household cleaners, and moldy food should be discarded, as these could result in a larger problem if left untreated. Be aware of all areas in your home that could be a potential problem due to frequent moisture, or water damage.
Odor is a prevalent companion for most molds. In a home or building that is contaminated, you will notice a musty odor that will become stronger as you get closer to the source. To look for mold, follow the nose, it knows. A word of caution, it is recommended that you wear some type of respiratory protection while performing this action.
Molds need moisture, temperature, and lighting, but also it needs to eat, and there are many building materials that will support mold growth. Yes as we need food, water, and shelter, mold also needs these things, and most any silicon based building material, (wood, sheet rock, carpet backing, some tile and tile grout, most clothing fabrics, etc…), will suffice for mold food.
The first and most important step is to repair and remove the moisture problem. This is most important, as if you do not take care of the cause, the problem will return. In addition, if you do not remove the moisture properly, you can spread the problem in other areas. As noted above, mycotoxins, or mold spores can remain in the air indefinitely under ideal air currents. So if a home were contaminated with mold, it would not be wise to install a bunch of air movers in the contaminated area, unless the area is properly contained with an approved containment barrier.
Then you should decide to have a Certified Indoor Environmentalist should take an air quality pre-test (Reference: EPA p. 25; NYGC 2.4). The Certified Indoor Environmentalist should be a disinterested third party, as this keeps any problems to a minimum. They can be sub-contracted through the contractor, the insurance company, or the consumer.
The inspection should be slow, methodical and done with extreme care so as not to disturb any contaminated areas any more than necessary. Banging on walls, or even stomping on a carpet can put millions of spores into the air. The inspection will dictate what areas will need to be removed, cleaned, and sealed.
The results of any pre-test will be used to compare against any post-test following the contamination being removed, but, before it is dried. The results of these tests should only take a day or two depending on the lab and their schedule. There are only a few such labs in America that does such testing, but there are many Certified Indoor Environmentalists that can perform professional testing.
As soon as any pre-test and inspection is complete, the repair and removal of the contaminated areas should start. The effected areas should be removed as soon as possible! I cannot express this too much, as the longer you wait, the further the damage spreads, and the higher risk you take with your health. Any Technician involved with the removal of contaminated materials should be wearing proper equipment, so as to protect their health.
Materials effected, should be properly bagged and removed from the area to be disposed. Depending on the size and type of contamination, dictates the methods for removal. These range from, but not limited to: the small area only needing a respirator, and small containing areas; to the big gumbo requiring a full body suit, respirator, negative air containment with a decontamination chamber, special tools, and a HEPA filtration system.
Extensive contamination of mycotoxins, particularly if heating, ventilating, air conditioning (HVAC) systems, or when large occupied spaces are involved, should be assessed by an Certified Indoor Environmentalist, and remediated by personnel with proper training and ample experience in handling environmentally contaminated materials.
Once the contamination has been removed, you will need an air quality post-test and inspection by the Certified Indoor Environmentalist. This test and inspection will determine if the area is safe for human habitation, and will usually be compared with outside air quality, and the pre-test. This test and inspection is most important, as the results are critical in the remediation process. (Reference: NYCG 2.3, 2.4)
After the test results and inspection have cleared the areas, these areas need to be dried. Here we can now put air movement on the remaining areas within the containment. The area will need to be dried quickly, and monitored daily to inspected for new growth.
Once the areas are dried, the remaining areas need to be properly sealed. There is the basic misconception that any sealer will do, but this is wrong, as there are a lot of sealers on the market that are water based. There are specially designed sealers that will do the job, but require again proper ventilation and equipment to be applied.
Now we are ready to reconstruct the areas that were removed. Once this is done, all is left is to prevent it from happening again.