Mold grows easily in conditions similar to those of post-Hurricane Katrina which include standing water, humid air and easily available mold nutrients according to American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) members. To address this, ASSE offers the following tips to consider on how to clean-up mold and minimize its adverse effects. Individual circumstances are often unique so there is no one-size fits all solution.
“The longer conditions remain, the more the mold growth can spread,” according to ASSE Regional Vice President James H. Morris, III, of Virginia Beach, VA, in his presentation titled “Considerations for Mold and Moisture Response in Schools.” “The sooner the problem can be addressed, the better.”
In his presentation (available for free for download) Morris notes that mold is all around and feeds off of most building materials and contents including cloth upholstered products, insulation, paper products, wood products, ceiling tiles, and carpet.
“Moisture is one of the key things needed for mold growth,” Morris adds. “Standing water, humid air, and wet surfaces help with mold growth which can cause allergic reactions for those sensitive to mold or other organisms. Also, contaminated water and surfaces may cause health problems if inhaled, ingested or through dermal contact.”
Mold, ASSE members note, is a group of microscopic fungi which also includes mildew and other organisms that rot materials on which they grow. Molds can often be invisible to the eye. A blotch of black, gray, white, red, orange, yellow, blue or violet fuzzy or slimy growth is usually the result of widespread mold growth. Besides infection and allergic reactions, excessive mold growth indoors can result in offensive, musty odors from the gases released by certain molds as they grow and die.
Addressing mold and moisture should be done first, Morris says, to reduce the risk to others who may need to work in the building. He notes that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that “surfaces wet longer than 48 hours with clean water should be considered to be potentially contaminated, and, any surfaces in contact with dirty water should be considered to be contaminated.’ ASSE also suggests people consult their state and local experts for more guidance regarding state and local laws and regulations when addressing mold.
Morris’ presentation also covers:
1) Considerations for the clean-up/assessing the risk;
2) Preferred qualifications needed to do the clean-up, such as hiring an Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC)-certified firm, and, for duct cleaning;
3) Types of personal protection equipment (PPE) needed for individuals cleaning up small, medium and large areas, such as gloves, goggles, respirators, disposable body clothing, foot coverings, etc.;
4) Key clean-up guideline resources;
5) Categories of water causing water damage – 1- clean, 2 – gray or 3- black;
6) Potential health effects;
7) Possible infectious agents in categories one and two water damage;
8) Possible noninfectious agents in categories one and two water damage;
9) Black water and what it contains such as silt, pesticides, toxic organic substances and more;
10) Bacterial agents;
11) Examples of other pathogenic organisms possible in category three water damage;
12) What should be thrown away and other key factors to look for before, during and after a clean-up;
13) Other hazards such as structural integrity, chemical mixtures, asbestos, etc.; and,
14) Key resources.
In addition, to lessen the chances of mold colony growth, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that
1) the humidity level be kept below 50%;
2) an air conditioner or dehumidifier be used during humid months (depending on the climate);
3) adequate ventilation, including exhaust fans, in the kitchen and bathrooms, be used;
4) to add mold inhibitors to paints before applying them;
5) bathrooms be cleaned with mold-killing products; and
6) not to put carpeting in bathrooms, basements, or other areas where moisture or water could be a concern.
For a free copy of Morris’ mold presentation please contact ASSE customer service at 847-699-2929. Also, the ASSE position statement on “Mold in the Indoor Working Environment” and ASSE’s mold canvass standard initiative, Z690, aimed at protecting mold remediation workers is available on ASSE’s Web site.