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I See Mold -Now What?

If you have had water intrusion in your home or building that went unnoticed or untreated for a period of time, or if humidity is to too high, mold is very likely to grow in the affected areas. Once the water problem has been corrected there's a good chance mold is present - now what?

Don't Panic

Be calm and EDUCATE yourself before you do anything - even before calling your Insurance Agent or contractor - keep reading!

Follow the Guidelines  Although there are no standards to remove mold, there ARE guidelines you can refer to. You should refer to them before you let just anyone remove the mold or let anyone tell you that you do or do not have a mold problem. The best source of information is the IICRC S520 Proposed Standards on Mold Remediation. A copy of this may be obtained through the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) or on the web at: http://www.iaqa.org/ or at www.IICRC.com.

Do Your Homework

Be informed before you call your insurance agent or hire a contractor to "remove" mold contamination. Consult with a qualified person that is certified through a recognized association such as the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) or Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC), maintains their certification and stays current with mold removal. Consumers should interview the person who claims to be a mold specialist BEFORE they hire them to perform mold remediation. The more you pay does not mean the more you get.

With the number of lawsuits against insurance companies and contractors due to improper mold remediation, arm yourself with information before you make a decision.

DO NOT use Chlorine bleach to remove mold on porous surfaces such as drywall, studs, joists or sub-floors. It is not an effective or lasting killer of mold and mold spores. Chlorine bleach is ineffective in killing mold for the following reasons:

1. Short time kill - Chlorine will evaporate quickly and does not have a long contact time. Some mold and bacteria need a minimum of thirty minutes contact time with an antimicrobial to be eliminated. 2. Evaporation – The chlorine in bleach evaporates within 10 minutes after spraying. If the area is not dry when the chlorine evaporates or if moisture is still in the contaminated area (humidity, outside air dampness), you could actually be causing more mold to grow than you started with! 3. Bleach is 93% - 98% Water – When the chlorine evaporates, water/moisture is left behind. Water and moisture is a main contributor to the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. In situations where bleach was used to remove mold, the mold re-grew and regenerated twice as much as before the bleach was applied. 4. Corrosion - Chlorine can accelerate the deterioration of some materials. 5. Off Gassing - Chlorine bleach off-gasses for a period of time and can be harmful to some people. It has been known to cause pulmonary embolisms in low resistant and susceptible people. 6. The "Old Way" of doing things - Bleach is an old method used for some bacteria and mold. It is the only product people have known for years. Some strains (now associated with indoor air quality issues) are resistant to bleach. If you must use bleach, use it on non-porous surfaces such as tile or concrete only.

Mold 101:moldPimg2

Mold has to have the following before it can grow:

1. Moisture Surface to Grow on (food source)

2. Desirable Temperature (70 degrees and above) although some molds can grow in colder climates

3. Oxygen/Carbon Dioxide. In reality, certain types of mold can grow in just about any environment and any temperature as long as there is a food source. Mold can grow on just about any kind of material including glass, steel, metal, tile, etc. when there is something organic on these surfaces to feed on such as skin, dirt, shampoo, oils, paint, primer, etc.

Toxic Mold - The Bad Mold...

The definition of “toxic mold” or “black mold” is a term coined by the media. Certain types of molds emit chemical mycotoxin poisons that can cause serious human health diseases. Toxic mold doesn't cause health problems in all people. If two people are exposed to the same mold in the same space, one might have negative health effects while the other person has none. That's what makes mold such a mystery and consequently makes it hard to develop standards for mold.

What are Mycotoxins? (Myco = Fungus / Toxin = Poison)

It's taken quite a bit of research to get a simplified answer to “What are Mycotoxins?” So let me try this analogy. Mycotoxins are the scent the mold produces on the food it is eating to keep other molds from invading its food source. For example, one species of mold is enjoying a left over hamburger and it doesn't want to share the hamburger with other molds so the mold will emit (or inject) its mycotoxin(s) into the hamburger to keep other molds from joining in on its feast. But if another, stronger strain of mold invades the food it too can emit mycotoxins and start to grow on the food sources as well. Now, picture this, you've just cut off that piece of moldy cheese or bread and are making a delectable sandwich, but your delectable ingredients (bread/cheese) is infected with a mycotoxin - Will you get sick from eating the infected cheese? Who knows, it depends on how susceptible you are to the mycotoxin.

What Makes that Musty Smell?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) - that's what. When you smell that “musty-moldy” odor, it's the VOC's you smell. VOC's are often considered irritants to mucus membranes; however, they are also capable of both short-term and long-term adverse health effects. If you do smell these odors, it's a sure sign mold is growing somewhere. However, some molds like Aspergillious-Penicillium produce off-gassing (VOC's) all the time. You can call Bernhardt's for an assessment of the problem and recommendations to remove the problem.

What are Mold Spores?

Mold reproduces by making spores. Like the dandelion, when mold is disturbed either by spraying it, wiping it off, brushing against it, etc., mold spores become airborne and will hover in the air until they find a food source. Once the spores find a food source they will begin to colonize (grow).

The Bottom Line: The bottom line is, if you think you have a mold problem in your living or working environment, you have the potential of experiencing negative health effects. According to the EPA and CDC, mold can be especially harmful to infants, elderly, people with asthma or mold allergies or immuno-compromised people. The EPA also states that:  All molds have the potential to cause health effects.  Find out for sure if your environment is safe or not by calling Bernhardt's at: 847-520-8320 for more information.

Mold Educational Facts: We all know what mold is, right? It's green, it stinks and we just use bleach to make it go away. Wrong! Mold is in a fungi group that also includes mildew, yeast and algae. Mold and mildew are terms that are often used interchangeably. We think of mildew as the pretty color stuff that grows on our bathroom tile and mold is the stuff that grows on our bread, cheese, clothes, wood and drywall. There are over 100,000 strains of mold that are known to exist in the U.S. Mold comes in many different colors and shapes. Just because mold is black does not mean it is toxic.

The only way to know what kind of mold you have is to hire an Industrial Hygienist or a Certified Mold Inspector to take swab samples of the visible mold and/or take air samples. The hygienist will send the samples to a certified laboratory where they will culture the mold to determine what type of mold it is. The air samples will reveal how much mold and what kind of mold are in the air. Don't be fooled if someone looks at the mold and say's “oh, that's such n' such type of mold”.

No one can 100% definitively know what kind of mold it is without having the mold analyzed by a laboratory. Mold actually is a good thing - when it's growing outside. Without mold, our planet would be over taken by leaves, trees, dead animals, etc. Mold enters our homes and buildings via doorways, windows, vents, etc. The problem with mold occurs when there is more mold inside than outside. It is easy to determine if you have a mold problem when you can see it, but in many cases you don't see it. You may smell it or feel back when you are in a home or building where there is too much mold in the indoor air. Spores can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin or ingested on our food. Some people are more susceptible than others, one person may become debilitated by exposure to mold in the home, another person sharing the same environment is essentially unaffected. Infants, the elderly and anyone with immune system deficiencies due to disease, chemotherapy, etc. are particularly susceptible to serious illness following exposure to microbial contamination.

Many species of black mold and mildew (or the mycotoxins they produce) can cause or aggravate a number of ailments. Common effects from molds such as stachybotrys atra, penecillium, cladosporium and several strains of aspergillius, are asthma, pneumonitis, upper respiratory problems, sinusitis, dry cough, skin rashes, stomach upset, headaches, disorientation and bloody noses. Numerous other species of mold and mildew are also toxic, and many mycotoxins are known carcinogens. Severe exposures can lead to internal bleeding, kidney and liver failure and pulmonary emphysema. Such health risks due to the presence of mold in a dwelling are a serious concern to occupants, and can pose potential liability for owners of rental properties. Contamination of residential properties by toxic mold and mildew is becoming more and more prevalent. Although mankind has been aware for thousands of years that mold thrives in damp conditions, only recently have we begun to understand how dramatically its presence can impact us.

Toxic mold and mildew is not discerning, affecting both old and new buildings.The odor or appearance of mold can signal a variety of problems. The moisture that gives life to fungal growth in older buildings can be either a moisture problem created by tenant's use, or water intrusion due to leaky components, or both. In new construction, it could also indicate the existence of construction defects. " I Don't Remember Mold Being a Concern Twenty Years Ago" Molds and mildew are everywhere in our environment, and in nature, they perform the very important function of breaking down organic matter. These microbes need very little to survive and thrive: air, moisture (liquid water isn't necessary, most species propagate with only 40%-60% relative humidity), and food. Fungi are especially fond of building materials like sheetrock and wood, carpets, and enjoy soft goods such as furniture and clothes. Every home offers a smorgasbord for eager spores!

There are a number of reasons for the increasing problem of mold and mildew in our homes, not the least of which is the fact that Title 24 to the United States Code of Federal Regulations, relating to energy conservation, brought new construction methods and materials, meaning that buildings don't "breathe" as freely, trapping moisture vapors inside the building.   Most newer homes are built on concrete slabs, which emit moisture for several years as they cure, and because they are porous, moisture from the soil beneath the slab also vaporizes into the living space. Leaky roofs, windows, and plumbing, whether caused by poor construction or lack of timely repairs, often result in colonization of mold and mildew spores. The microbial spores become airborne, spreading inside wall cavities, behind cabinets and wallpaper, and through ventilation systems. When moisture and temperature conditions are favorable, widespread contamination can occur in a surprisingly short time.

What's Next ? The toxic mold environmental risk may be one of the next major real estate “due diligence” concerns, especially in property development areas where major flooding has occurred. The problem is that this not only includes known residential and commercial flood areas incidents, but also numerous minor water releases due to plumbing failures, conductive condensation, house water leaks and accidents. The toxic mold concern could also be a problem where fires occurred at residential properties. The second major concern is that one might not be able to permanently eliminate the entire toxic mold from the structure.

There also remains a great propensity for future reoccurrence. The health risk/hazard could be back again. Therefore, we must recommend that great care be exercised to remove and dispose of all products, which have been contaminated by the toxic mold contaminated. This recommendation is supported by the Department of Health Administrations in many states. The third concern is that States’ Health Departments will consider ambiguous and genetic disposition as a response to the publics’ inquiries. There will be some people, especially children, that will exhibit more adverse reactions, including death, lung tissue damage, and memory loss, than other persons exposed to the toxic mold. This may depend on the chemical sensitivity, genetic disposition, predisposing health history (such as allergies, asthma, smoking, etc.).

For some, the exposure to the toxic mold spores may just be a “health risk” and to others, it may be a real “health hazard” (potential life-threatening and loss of “quality of life”.) Whether a potential liability concern is a risk or hazard will be paramount in defining the critical level of due diligence and disclosure response by responsible parties. There are already several major lawsuits concerning toxic mold exposure in residential and commercial buildings throughout the United States. Currently, most health organizations consider exposure to Stachybotrys mold as a health hazard. Also, keep in mind that most responses leading to testing, investigations, and abatement of the Stachybotrys toxic mold are due directly to occupant complaints or documented detrimental health effects. Stachybotrys mold may evolve to a point where it is regarded with the same cautions, response and liability concerns as those attributed to lead-base paint and asbestos. Health hazards and risks associated with concern to exposure to Stachybotrys are currently considered as short-term effects. Exposure to radon gas in houses is considered a long-term health risk and is not considered a short-term hazard.

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