Molds can be found almost anywhere. They can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. This includes wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.
Molds reproduce by making spores that usually cannot be seen without magnification. Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. Molds gradually destroy the things they grow on.
Molds will often grow in damp or wet areas indoors. Common sites for indoor mold growth include bathroom tile, basement walls, areas around windows where moisture condenses, and near leaky water fountains or sinks. Common sources or causes of water or moisture problems include roof leaks, deferred maintenance, condensation associated with high humidity or cold spots in the building, localized flooding due to plumbing failures or heavy rains, slow leaks in plumbing fixtures, and malfunction or poor design of humidification systems. Uncontrolled humidity can also be a source of moisture leading to mold growth, particularly in hot, humid climates.
When moisture problems occur and mold growth results, building occupants may begin to report odors and a variety of health problems, such as headaches, breathing difficulties, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and aggravation of asthma symptoms; all of these symptoms could potentially be associated with mold exposure.
All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, toxins that may cause reactions in humans. The types and severity of symptoms depend in part on the types of mold present, the extent of an individual’s exposure, the ages of the individuals, and their existing sensitivities or allergies. Specific reactions to mold growth can include the following:
- Allergic Reactions: Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic reactions to mold are common – these reactions can be immediate or delayed. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Mold spores and fragments can produce allergic reactions in sensitive individuals regardless of whether the mold is dead or alive. Repeated or single exposure to mold or mold spores may cause previously non-sensitive individuals to become sensitive. Repeated exposure has the potential to increase sensitivity.
- Asthma: Molds can trigger asthma attacks in persons who are allergic (sensitized) to molds. The irritants produced by molds may also worsen asthma in non-allergic (non-sensitized) people.
- Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis: Hypersensitivity pneumonitis may develop following either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) exposure to molds. The disease resembles bacterial pneumonia and is uncommon.
- Irritant Effects: Mold exposure can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, and sometimes can create a burning sensation in these areas.
- Opportunistic Infections: People with weakened immune systems (i.e., immune-compromised or immune-suppressed individuals) may be more vulnerable to infections by molds (as well as more vulnerable than healthy persons to mold toxins).
In addition to asbestos and lead training, our staff maintains Mold Awareness training. There are no Federal standards for mold, though the EPA has published a guideline for remediating mold in schools and commercial buildings. Although there are no Federal or State standards for what levels of exposure to molds present significant health risks. Star treats mold remediation projects much like asbestos or lead abatement projects. The same procedures for environmental control and safety are applied.
Moisture control is the first step to mold control. Molds need both food and water to survive. Since molds can digest most things, water is the factor that limits mold growth. It is important to dry water-damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth. If moisture is not being controlled, mold remediation will only be a temporary solution. Once the moisture is controlled, we use antimicrobial detergent to clean hard surfaces and then encapsulate with a fungicidal protective coating.
A visual inspection of the area that has been remediated should show no evidence of present or past mold growth. There should be no moldy or musty odors associated with the building, because these odors suggest that mold continues to grow.