Four steps can stop mold from damaging your property
With the recent rain and flood damage in the Upstate comes mold. Whether it is the musty smells experienced in a damp basement or significant mold growth due to a water leak, mold can present health problems and be expensive to remediate.
Mold is naturally occurring within our environment, and we’re exposed to it every day. To further complicate the issue, our bodies are all different and each individual’s sensitivity to mold concentrations can vary. One thing is for certain: The influx of rain and storm damage will make mold an issue for property owners.
Mold requires three constituents to thrive: a food source, moisture and an acceptable temperature. Most commonly, mold growth occurs when water or moisture enters a material that is allowed to remain saturated for an extended period. When mold grows, it releases spores, which are then dispersed and allow the mold to spread.
The type of mold you may have can depend upon what region of the country you’re in, the amount of water or moisture, the type of food source and the temperature. The type of mold spores present and the airborne concentration is what creates adverse health effects such as respiratory symptoms, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, rhinosinusitis, bronchitis and respiratory infection.
The presence of mold growth and the source of water intrusion must first be identified to eliminate the potential for the mold growth to expand. Unless you stop the water infiltration, you will find it very difficult to stop the mold.
The first step is to stop the water. Repairs to the structure may be performed by a general contractor to fix a leaky roof or window, or a company that specializes in basements. A simple trip to the local hardware store for piping parts or adhesive may even be enough to stop the water leak.
Unlike asbestos or hazardous materials remediation, only about half of the states in the U.S. have mold guidelines, and many times mold contractors are not required to be licensed. Doing your homework to find a qualified contractor utilizing proper engineering controls is the most prudent way to eliminate mold growth.
Mold is most often remediated in four steps:
- Eliminate the water source.
- Dehumidify the impacted area and water-saturated materials to a relative humidity between 30-60 percent.
- Remove the water-damaged and mold-contaminated materials.
- Treat the affected area with a series of specialized cleaning solutions to kill any residual mold. This part of mold remediation is relatively simple, but often labor-intensive and dirty.
After the source of water intrusion is stopped and the mold is remediated, a final clearance inspection that includes air sampling is recommended. Confirmatory air sampling can consist of a number of sampling techniques dependent upon the circumstances, but in most cases sampling includes moisture readings and the collection of mold spore samples.
Mold spore samples are often collected by specialized air pumps that draw air in through a collection dish. This dish is submitted to a laboratory whereby trained analysts grow and identify the quantity and types of mold present. These results are often compared to mold samples collected outside of the structure to provide a relative threshold value.
Standards, or threshold limit values (TLVs), have not been established by the EPA for airborne concentration of mold or mold spores. A comparison of the indoor air concentrations to the exterior air concentrations of mold usually dictates the successful remediation of mold.
Preventive maintenance is the best defense against the potential for unwanted mold growth. This means keeping the basement dry, inspecting your gutters for clogs and fixing those leaky or rotten window seals. Once an area of water intrusion is discovered, the water-saturated material must be dried out within 24-48 hours of exposure to deter unwanted mold growth.
Keep it safe
- Re-wet materials with a mist of water to suppress spores, dust and debris.
- Wrap and seal the items that will be discarded in plastic bags or sheets to reduce the spread of spores.
- Provide natural or local exhaust ventilation during all cleaning steps.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke in work areas.
- Avoid breathing dusts.
- After an area has been cleaned and is completely dry, vacuum with a HEPA vacuum.
- The work area and areas used by remediation workers for egress should be cleaned with a damp cloth or mop and a detergent solution. Set up a decontamination area.
- Leave the area clean, dry and free of visible debris.
- After working, wash thoroughly, including hair, scalp and nails.