Mold and Indoor Air
Residential Buildings – School Buildings – Commercial Buildings
When considering indoor environments, mold(s) are unwelcome guests. They can cause a variety of problems both to physical structures (walls, siding, floors, carpeting, wood trim, etc.) and to human health (produce allergens, toxic substances, or cause infections).
Although mold has become a major source of worry related to health in the indoor environment, molds are actually an important part of the natural community. Mold(s) have been around for a very long time. Classified as part of the kingdom fungi, being neither plant nor animal but a little of both, they fulfill their role in nature as that of decomposer. Mold function in the breaking down of dead organic matter such as fallen trees and dead leaves.
There are literally thousands of species of molds. Molds are present everywhere. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores. In order for mold spores to grow, they need moisture, food (organic materials such as paper, wood, cellulose, etc.) and oxygen. Deprive mold of any one of these three components, you successfully stop mold from growing. The easiest component to control is moisture. “Control the moisture, control the mold!” You can kill the mold over and over again. As long as there is available moisture, the mold will return.
REMEDIATION GUIDELINES: FOLLOW THESE STEPS
- Stop the moisture. Fix any water leaks (including plumbing leaks) which would allow moisture to enter the facility and support mold growth.
- Dry out all materials that are porous (materials which would hold moisture such as carpet, sheetrock, wood flooring, wood trim, ceiling tiles, etc.) as quickly as possible. The longer the mold is allowed to grow, the more spores it may produce. The spores may spread the mold to other locations within the home.
- If you cannot dry the materials out completely, you should discard them as mold will grow in the pores of the material. If the damage occurred during a flood or a sewer backup, disinfect by spraying or wiping the area with a mixture of bleach and water. Mix 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. If disinfection is not possible, the materials should be discarded.
- It is important to limit your exposure and the exposure of others to the mold as you try to clean it up. The spores that are produced by many types of mold cause illness in humans ranging from mild headaches to allergic reactions to more serious conditions.
- Wear a respirator or mask to limit your exposure to airborne mold. An N-95 respirator is available at hardware stores, lumber yards and on the Internet.
- Wear rubber or latex gloves to protect your hands and arms. Avoid touching mold or moldy items with your bare hands. You may transfer the mold spores to your skin, clothing or other areas within the home.
- Wear goggles (without air vents) to protect your eyes. Avoid getting mold spores in your eyes. Avoid rubbing your eyes with gloved hands used for mold clean up.
- Scrub the surface with a mild detergent and water mixture to remove the mold.
- Dry the surface completely before trying to paint, stain or caulk.
- Do not try painting or caulking moldy surfaces as the mold will grow through the paint and caulk.
- If you cannot remove the mold completely or dry out the material(s) completely, you should consider discarding them and replacing them with new material(s).
Information about mold in the home, commercial properties or schools can be obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency at www.epa.gov.
If the mold clean-up project is larger than you are willing to tackle, contact a professional to clean up the mold.