Why is mold an important issue?
- Although mold has been around since earliest recorded history, recent media hype has raised everyone’s awareness and levels of concern. Prospective homebuyers are now, more than ever, worried that their new homes might have mold threats ranging from actual physical reactions to unfortunate market reactions.
- If anyone planning to spend considerable time within a building is known to be reactive to mold, it’s a good idea to have a complete mold inspection performed up front, as it often costs a lot of money to remediate for mold enough to help that person be comfortable and to protect their health. (We’ve seen those people who truly suffer spend a lot of time and money with asthma-allergy physicians trying to cope with symptoms that probably could have been avoided.)
- However, even if no one planning to spend time within a house is reactive, the presence of mold can ultimately have a very large effect on their pocket books … especially if it is later discovered through a home inspection while trying to sell.
- Ironically, we’ve watched many people become as concerned over future market reactions as with their actual health concerns. Either way, mold is a very important issue in the marketplace!
What causes mold to develop?
- Mold spores (the “seeds” that help mold proliferate) are ubiquitous. (They are everywhere.) They are simply hoping to find fertile environments to live and grow. Those environments must have food sources consisting of cellulose (anything with plant fibers, such as wood, paper, cardboard, etc.); must have at least 50% relative humidity in the air touching the food source or in the food source, itself; must be generally within the temperature range from 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit and must be essentially without sunlight.
- When all these conditions exist simultaneously, mold will develop.
What are the symptoms of mold reactions?
- Human reactions to different molds vary greatly according to the mold species and the individual’s sensitivities. The milder reactions can be itchy eyes and/or skin, or hay fever symptoms. More significant reactions include bronchial infections. The most significant reactions can include nerve damage that occurs sometimes even without the other symptoms.
- The vast majority of people exposed to various mold allergens may not even be aware of the presence of mold spores, MVOC’s (microbial volatile organic compounds), or small particles of the hyphae. Yet other people may be extremely sensitive and reactive.
- Usually, the most reactive people are those who generally suffer from allergies, asthma, COPD, or other lung issues, or compromised immune systems. Those people will often become “reactive” within a very short period of time spent in a space with high levels of mold allergens. In fact, they can be almost like the “canaries in cages” that were used in mines to detect gases.
How is mold identified?
- Mold is typically identified by acquiring aerosol samples (where measured amounts of air are drawn through filter membranes to trap all particulates) or by lift sampes (where particles on surfaces are transferred to adhesive tapes) to be later analyzed under microscopes by certified microbiologists.
- No one should label any possible bio growth substance as being “mold” until or unless a degreed microbiologist has identified it as such.
- Microbiologists can identify hundreds of different types of molds through well documented classifications data.
- Final mold reports typically tell the reader what types of mold are present and in what relative concentrations. The reports can also tell the reader whether the particular mold species found is “active”, “dormant”, or no longer “viable”.
- By gathering numerous samples within a building and at least one sample from exterior air, the mold analysis begins to form a picture of which mold spores may have floated into the building from the exterior versus which spores likely originated from colonies within the building.
- Based upon preliminary mold reports, the mold inspector and/or mitigation contractor can establish a meaningful protocol for discovering and eliminating not only the mold sources within a home; but also for finding and eliminating the environment that allowed the mold to proliferate in the first place.
How often is mold found and reported in typical homes?
- Our inspectors typically find and report at least some level of “possible bio-growth development” in about 30% of all homes we inspect. And while this doesn’t automatically mean that it must be further analyzed and/or remediated, it’s important to let prospective homeowners know about these conditions so they can make the decisions that best suit their circumstances.
- Just remember that mold can ALWAYS be remediated, and that the house can be made “safe”. It’s just that we don’t want our customers to be surprised by mold and any associated health risks or financial costs.
How is mold remediated?
- The most often cited specifications for mold remediation are included in the ANSI/IICRC S520 Mold Remediation Standard.
- This standard recommends that an independent mold inspector assess the level of remediation required and essentially write a “protocol” for the work to be done.
- Basically, those recommendations call for careful control of particulates in the air during the remediation processes to help avoid cross contamination, to protect the workers and the home’s occupants.
- All visible mold hyphae and enzyme staining should either be removed from the affected surfaces … or the materials with the affected surfaces should be replaced … whichever is most economically feasible.
- Where physical debridement (sanding, scraping, scrubbing, power blasting, etc.) cannot effectively remove all the enzyme staining, special bleaches can sometimes be used to restore original surface colors.
- HEPA vacuuming of all surfaces in the work area should be done before the negative air containment barriers are removed.
- Often, special microcides (poisons to help control molds) are sprayed onto the affected surfaces to help reduce the possibility of future mold development.
- Post closure retesting should be done by an independent mold inspector to help ensure that the IICRC S520 specifications were adequately followed.
How can mold problems be avoided?
- All enclosed home and building cavities and spaces without sunlight must be kept dry and well ventilated.
- Water leaks must be detected and eliminated as soon as possible.
- Condensation in walls, closets, attics, and crawl spaces should be avoided.
- Special instrumentation can be connected to ventilation fans that operate automatically whenever the air temperatures in confined spaces are above 68 degrees at the same time that relative air humidity is above 50%.
Who is qualified to do mold mitigations?
- Mold remediation is such a lucrative business in today’s economy that many unscrupulous and under-educated remediation contractors have popped up.
- Therefore, we make the following recommendations for hiring mold contractors … or even for allowing them to bid such work. As a minimum, they should have the following qualifications:
- Be listed as currently certified by the IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) or the ACAC (American Council for Accredited Certification)
- Be registered as a contractor within the state where the work will be done
- Carry General Business Liability Insurance
- Carry Contractor’s Pollution Liability Insurance
- Carry Workman’s Compensation Insurance for all employees
Who is qualified to perform mold inspections?
- Mold inspections involve understanding and following the guidelines for gathering samples and for describing the site conditions well enough to allow a well-educated analysis and report to be produced.
- Generally, all mold inspectors should be certified through an agency in the business of certifying mold inspectors.
- Mold inspectors are primarily sample gatherers who must be trained in the protocols required to meet the laboratory analysis needs.