Find about our additional services and how we can help you

FAQ Encyclopedia Information:

Introduction

Indoor Air Quality Concerns

All of us face a variety of risks to our health as we go about our day-to-day lives. Driving in cars, flying in planes, engaging in recreational activities, and being exposed to environmental pollutants all pose varying degrees of risk. Some risks are simply unavoidable. Some we choose to accept because to do otherwise would restrict our ability to lead our lives the way we want. And some are risks we might decide to avoid if we had the opportunity to make informed choices. Indoor air pollution is one risk that you can do something about.

In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.

In addition, people who may be exposed to indoor air pollutants for the longest periods of time are often those most susceptible to the effects of indoor air pollution. Such groups include the young, the elderly, and the chronically ill, especially those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease.

Black Mold Associated With Health Problems

Although there are many varieties of mold that are benign or even beneficial (think of bleu cheese and penicillin), some are very toxic to humans and pets. Many common health problems, including some that are very severe, have been related to living or working in an environment that is contaminated with toxic mold. One of the worst is the black mold known as stachybotrys atra, a member of a family of molds that produce airborne mycotoxins which can cause serious breathing difficulties, memory and hearing loss, dizziness, flu like symptoms, and bleeding in the lungs.

How Severe Is The Problem?

A USA WEEKEND report ("MOLD: A Health Alert", Dec. 5, 1999) describes how, "people with prolonged exposure to mycotoxins from Stachybotrys and other fungi experienced chronic fatigue, loss of balance, irritability, memory loss and difficulty speaking." The article also mentions several other studies that describe the extent of the problem. In one Harvard study of 10,000 homes, mold was associated with a 50 to 100% increase in respiratory symptoms. A Mayo Clinic Study indicated that nearly all of the 37 million sufferers of chronic sinus infection may be able to attribute it to mold. Other studies mentioned in the article link mold to the 300% increase in asthma over the past 20 years.

Problem Signs

Mold and/or Mildew

Fungus that grows in damp, dark areas. Causes discoloration, musty smells and odors.

Musty Odors

This is the result of the decay process from mold, mildew, and dry rot.

Damp Spots on Walls

Sign that water has absorbed through wall block will have dark gray splotches in various places.

White Chalky Substance on Walls

Known as efflorescence, this is a chemical breakdown of the bonding agent that holds your walls together.
Sign of possible structural deterioration.

Cracked Walls

Sign that foundation has moved/shifted Should be inspected to determine the exact cause.

Peeling Paint

Sign that the wall has taken moisture inside, as Paint will not stick to a wet surface.

Rust on Appliances or Furniture

Look for rust on bottoms of furnaces, Water heaters, and other metal appliances for signs of dampness and water evaporation.

Dry Rot

Dark brown/black fungus. Grows on walls And other surfaces. Grows mostly on wooden surfaces, causing wood to decay.

Warped Paneling

Moisture will cause paneling to bow and discolor, commonly at the bottom portion of the paneling.

Mold Information

What is Mold

Molds are fungi. Molds grow throughout the natural and built environment. Tiny particles of mold are present in indoor and outdoor air. In nature, molds help break down dead materials and can be found growing on soil, foods, plant matter, and other items. Molds produce microscopic cells called "spores" which are very tiny and spread easily through the air. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) when they find the right conditions.

What does mold need to grow?

Mold only needs a few simple things to grow and multiply:

  • Moisture
  • Nutrients
  • Suitable place to grow

Controlling excess moisture is key to preventing and stopping indoor mold growth.

Should I be concerned about mold in my home?

Mold should not be permitted to grow and multiply indoors. When this happens, health problems can occur and building materials, goods and furnishings may be damaged.

Health Effects

Can mold make me and my family sick?

Mold can affect the health of people who are exposed to it. People are mainly exposed to mold by breathing spores or other tiny fragments. People can also be exposed through skin contact with mold contaminants (for example, by touching moldy surfaces) and by swallowing it. The type and severity of health effects that mold may produce are usually difficult to predict. The risks can vary greatly from one location to another, over time, and from person to person.

What symptoms might I see?

The most common health problems caused by indoor mold are allergy symptoms. Although other and more serious problems can occur, people exposed to mold commonly report problems such as:

  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Wheeze/breathing difficulties
  • Upper respiratory infections (including sinus)

Are the risks greater for some people?

There is wide variability in how different people are affected by indoor mold. However, the long term presence of indoor mold growth may eventually become unhealthy for anyone. The following types of people may be affected more severely and sooner than others:

  • Infants and children
  • Elderly people
  • Individuals with respiratory conditions or sensitivities such as allergies and asthma
  • Persons having weakened immune systems (HIV, chemotherapy, organ transplant)

People with these special health concerns should consult a medical professional if they feel their health is affected by indoor mold.

Are some molds more hazardous than others?

Some types of mold can produce chemical compounds (called mycotoxins) although they do not always do so. Molds that are able to produce toxins are common. In some circumstances, the toxins produced by indoor mold may cause health problems. However, all indoor mold growth is potentially harmful and should be removed promptly, no matter what types of mold is present or whether it can produce toxins.

Home Investigation

How do I tell if I have a mold problem?

Investigate, don't test. The most practical way to find a mold problem is by using your eyes to look for mold growth and by using your nose to locate the source of a suspicious odor. If you see mold or if there is an earthy or musty smell, you should assume a mold problem exists. Other clues are signs of excess moisture or the worsening of allergy-like symptoms.

  • Search areas with noticeable mold odors.
  • Look for visible mold growth. May appear cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery and have varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow, green. Mold often appears as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of building materials or furnishings.When mold is visible, testing is not recommended.
  • Look for signs of excess moisture or water damage. Look for water leaks, standing water, water stains, condensation problems. For example, do you see any watermarks or discoloration on walls, ceilings, carpet, woodwork or other building materials?
  • Search behind and underneath materials (carpet and pad, wallpaper, vinyl flooring, sink cabinets), furniture, or stored items (especially things placed near outside walls or on cold floors). Sometimes destructive techniques may be needed to inspect and clean enclosed spaces where mold and moisture are hidden; for example, opening up a wall cavity.

Should I test for mold?

We do not recommend testing for mold yourself. Instead, you should simply assume there is a problem whenever you see mold or smell mold odors. Testing should never take the place of visual inspection and it should never use up resources that are needed to correct moisture problems and remove all visible growth. Sometimes, mold growth is hidden and difficult to locate. In such cases, a combination of air (outdoor and indoor air samples) and bulk (material) samples may help determine the extent of contamination and where cleaning is needed. However, mold testing is rarely useful for trying to answer questions about health concerns.

Mold Clean-up and Removal

To clean up and remove indoor mold growth, follow steps 1-6 as they apply to your home.

1. Identify and fix the moisture problem - the most important step in solving a mold problem is to identify and correct the moisture sources that allowed the growth in the first place. Common indoor moisture sources include:

  • Flooding
  • Condensation - indoor humidity that is too high or surfaces that are too cold
  • Roof leaks
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Humidifier use
  • Firewood stored indoors
  • Line drying laundry indoors
  • Overflow from tubs, sinks, or toilets
  • Improper venting of combustion appliances
  • Movement through basement walls and slab
  • Inadequate venting of kitchen and bath humidity
  • Failure to vent clothes dryer exhaust outdoors - including electric dryers
  • House plants - watering them can generate large amounts of moisture

To keep indoor surfaces as dry as possible, try to maintain the home's relative humidity between 20-40 percent in the winter and less than 60 percent the rest of the year. You can purchase devices to measure relative humidity at some home supply stores. Ventilation, air circulation near cold surfaces, dehumidification, and efforts to minimize the production of moisture in the home are all very important in controlling high humidity that frequently causes mold growth in our cold climate.

2. Begin Drying All Wet Materials - as soon as possible, begin drying any materials that are wet. For severe moisture problems, use fans and dehumidifiers and move wet items away from walls and off floors. Check with equipment rental companies or restoration firms to see if you can rent fans and dehumidifiers.

3. Remove and Dispose of Mold Contaminated Materials - items which have absorbed moisture (porous materials) and which have mold growing on them need to be removed, bagged and thrown out. Such materials may include sheet rock, insulation, plaster, carpet/carpet pad, ceiling tiles, wood products (other than solid wood), and paper products. Likewise, any such porous materials that have contacted sewage should also be bagged and thrown away. Non-porous materials with surface mold growth may be saved if they are cleaned well and kept dry.

4. Clean Surfaces - surface mold growing on non-porous materials such as hard plastic, concrete, glass, metal, and solid wood can usually be cleaned. Cleaning must remove and capture the mold contamination, because dead spores and mold particles still cause health problems if they are left in place.

  • Thoroughly scrub all contaminated surfaces using a stiff brush, hot water and a non-ammonia soap/detergent or commercial cleaner
  • Collect excess cleaning liquid with a wet/dry vacuum, mop or sponge
  • Rinse area with clean water and collect excess rinse water

5. Disinfect Surfaces - after cleaning has removed all visible mold and other soiling from contaminated surfaces, a disinfectant may be used to kill mold missed by the cleaning. In the case of sewage contamination, disinfection must be performed. Contact your home inspector for advice.

  • Mix 1/4 to 1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water and apply to surfaces where mold growth was visible before cleaning. The solution can be applied with a spray bottle, garden sprayer, it can be sponged on, or applied by other methods.
  • Collect any run-off of bleach solution with a wet/ dry vacuum, sponge or mop. However, do not rinse or wipe the bleach solution off the areas being treated -- allow it to dry on the surface.

6. Remain on Mold Alert - Continue looking for signs of moisture problems or return of mold growth. Be particularly alert to moisture in areas of past growth. If mold returns, repeat cleaning steps and consider using a stronger solution to disinfect the area again. Regrowth may signal that the material should be removed or that moisture is not yet controlled.

Take Steps to Protect Yourself

The amount of mold particles in air can increase greatly when mold is disturbed. Consider using protective equipment when handling or working around mold contaminated materials. The following equipment can help minimize exposure to mold:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye goggles
  • Outer clothing (long sleeves and long pants) that can be easily removed in the work area and laundered or discarded
  • Medium-efficiency or high-efficiency filter dust mask (these can be found at safety equipment suppliers, hardware stores, or some other large stores that sell home repair supplies) -- at a minimum, use an N-95 or equivalent dust mask

Take Steps to Protect Others

Plan and perform all work to minimize the amount of dust generated. The following actions can help minimize the spread of mold spores:

  • Enclose all moldy materials in plastic (bags or sheets) before carrying through the home
  • Hang plastic sheeting to separate the work area from the rest of the home
  • Remove outer layer of work clothing in the work area and wash separately or bag
  • Damp clean the entire work area to pick up settled contaminants in dust

When can we rebuild?

Rebuilding and refurnishing must wait until all affected materials have been cleaned, disinfected and dried completely. Be patient and provide as much ventilation as you possibly can, it can take quite some time to completely dry out wet building materials.

News & Events/On line Training Classes

Educational Training Classes on line for Stationary Building Engineers

    1. What are the Operating Procedures on a chiller
    2. What are the Operating Procedures on a Boiler
    3. What preventive is need for a cooling tower
    4. What the different between a sprinkler wet and dry system
    5. What is a refrigeration cycle
We will provide training and answer all your questions partaking this course or subject matter only