Mold Remediation: A Practical Approach

By October 30, 2008 No Comments

MARCOR Remediation, Inc.

The Environmental Support Zone

Three elements are required to support mold growth — water, food, and a stable environment. Aside from water leaks, water in this case can refer to high relative humidity. If humidity is higher that 60%, mold spores can grow spontaneously in the area, and carbon-based materials such as paper and wood products will absorb enough moisture to sustain growth. Food sources may include unconfined cellulose (paper, dust) and wood products. A stable environment for mold translates to no sunlight and limited airflow, with little or no heat.

Environmental Regulations

No environmental regulations currently exist for mold, and no regulations will be passed anytime soon regarding mold and indoor environmental quality (IEQ). But there is the possibility of some U.S. Public Health Service involvement. The industry and its regulators face the following major considerations:

· What is an acceptable level of indoor fungi?

· How will the levels be determined?

· What sampling protocol should be used? Air samples? Surface samples? Both?

(Most hygiene companies are doing air samples.)

A Warning Sign: Environmental Conditions and Human Responses

Mold is indicative of a system or structural problem within a building that can get worse if not treated. In a normal, healthy environment, the types and concentrations of fungal species found in indoor air should be identical to the outdoor air (indicating proper air circulation). Certain species are indicative of HVAC system or construction problems. Some produce mycotoxins and are currently regulated in hospital settings. By identifying the type of organism(s) present, the source of the problem can usually be determined. Examples include the following:

· Alternaria spp. – HVAC system problems

· Stachybotrys char. – water and rot conditions (very prevalent)

· Pencillium/Aspergillus spp. (almost exactly alike) – soil and wood rot

· Fusarium spp. – cellulose/water rot

People react to mold differently. Some may have no reaction, while others may be extremely sensitive. Mold spores in the air may cause an infection in a wound that can’t be treated with an antibiotic. Some healthy adults may contract severe or even life-threatening skin disorders such as the following:

· Aspergillosis (Aspergillus f.) – mouth and jaw infection

· Penicillium spp. – infection spread from the lungs (no relation to Penicillin)

· Histoplasmosis (Histoplasma Capsulatum) – infection of the mouth

· Fusarium spp. – general infection of the skin

· Alternaria spp. – infection of the scalp

· Cladosprorium h. – infection of the lower leg

When human health is at risk, failure to act can initiate stiff OSHA penalties (General Duty Clause) for the building owner. In addition, insurance companies are becoming increasingly willing to settle because of the impact on health.

Mold Remediation: The Practice

Negative-air containment systems, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respirators, and some work practices for mold remediation (e.g., use of HEPA-filtered vacuums and three-stage decontamination systems) are the same as those for asbestos abatement. However, just because a contractor’s crew is qualified to remove asbestos doesn’t mean the same personnel are qualified to remediate mold infestations. Specialized training and experience are essential. Up-to-date Certified Indoor Environment (CIE) credentials are recommended, but not required. This voluntary certification, administered by the NADCA, is highly respected and is so stringent that less than two-thirds of exam candidates pass the difficult test.

Every mold remediation project requires the following:

· Properly trained supervisors and technicians

· Effective work practices and procedures, including quality assurance

· Effective control and containment operations

· Rational clearance criteria and goals

Health and Safety training requirements include, but are not limited to, the following:

· Bio-level safety (BSL) – including procedures, protocols, protective measures, and how to recognize conditions of exposure to mold and fungi

· HAZWOPER – Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response

· AHERA – Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act

· Biocide agents – required if handling biocide; must have proof of training on file

· Blood-borne pathogens – need to understand infectious nature of materials being handled

· Hazards communication – need to understand the chemicals being dealt with

· Safe construction practices – plus tailgate safety meetings and other training specific to the individual project

The above article is intended to provide a general overview of mold remediation. For additional information about MARCOR’s nationwide mold seminars, to request a capabilities presentation or estimate, or simply to ask a question or share a comment, please feel free to send an email to, or call Steve Silicato toll free at 1-877-6-MARCOR.

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