Perspective on Mold—Hype and Corrective Action

Mold continues to be a big headache for property owners, managers, architects, engineers, and builders. The media blitz has created a very serious “perceived epidemic” to the general public. Before you jump into the sea of hysteria, you should educate yourself with the facts.

Mold is not a new public health or property damage issue. Mold has been around longer than the human race. Only through recent media attention has it been identified as a real problem. The problem is real but it can be prevented in many cases and is also manageable.

While excessive concentrations of mold can make people very sick and can cause severe property damage, it is normal for mold to exist in the ambient air. It is everywhere. Mold spores continually float in and out of houses and other environments and can lie dormant for years. Given the proper conditions, mold spores grow on building materials including wood, wallboard, concrete, and carpeting.

Excessive mold growth requires certain environmental conditions. The most important and controlling factor is moisture. Excess moisture in the home can be caused by leaking basements, roof leaks, and plumbing problems. Actively growing molds release spores and toxins which can cause allergic reactions and health problems. Relatively mild allergic symptoms include eye irritation, nasal stuffiness and wheezing. More severe reactions can include asthma, respiratory distress and a weakened immune system.

Most public health agencies do not recommend testing as the first step to solve a mold problem. If you can see or smell mold or mildew, you already have a problem. Identify the source of the moisture and correct it. Next, the affected areas should be cleaned and disinfected. Disinfection can be as easy as washing with a 10% bleach and water solution. Finally, thoroughly dry the affected area.

It can be dangerous to over-simplify the mold problem. When mold growth gets out of hand, it may be time to call an expert. Mold assessment, clean-up, and verification of clean-up should be performed by professionals.

Certain molds are known to be more toxic than others. Testing can identify the molds and provide an understanding of the severity of the problem or document the effectiveness of remediation. However, there are no specific exposure or remedial standards to indicate what level of mold contamination requires action and what level is acceptable.

Often mold contamination inside a living space is suspected but not seen. Sampling and testing of the indoor and outdoor air for viable (living) and non-viable (dormant) mold is used to determine if there is an elevated mold condition inside a living space which might be causing indoor air quality complaints or health-related symptoms.

The test results are used by you and your environmental professional to guide management decisions regarding the appropriate next steps to take whether it be mold abatement or cleaning. GEODesign can provide a trained environmental scientist to obtain bulk, wipe and air samples, obtain the appropriate testing, help you understand the results and provide recommendations.

Arm yourself with the facts on mold. Know how to react if mold “grows” to become a problem. Put the hysteria in perspective and manage mold before it becomes a problem.

© 2019 GEODesign, Inc.