In the last decade, mold and its health issues have received increased attention from health educators and the public. Presently the EPA Guidelines are the standard for the industry.
Mold spores cannot be seen with the human eye, but they are present. Mold spores are the basis for mold reproduction. Mold spores exist in homes or buildings even with low humidity levels. It is sufficiently low humidity levels and/or a lack of cellulose-based materials that prevent the growth of most mold species.
Mold will grow at 60% humidity or greater or if there is water intrusion in the presence of degradable cellulose based materials such as wood and paper. Mycelial fragements (spore endoskeleton fragements) can cause allergic reactions. Some species of mold such as (but not limited to) Stachybotrys can cause serious health complications in people.
Molds are a member of the fungi family. This family also includes edible mushrooms. Fungi do not require sunlight to grow. Mold species have varied growth requirements and appearance. Molds possess hyphae-branches not visible to the human eye. Spores grow on hyphae and are so light they can become airborne.
In a home, mold spores are always in the air. In a building there is always a continual flow of air from bottom to top (for example, exiting through the ridge vents). Thus, when moisture is introduced for a sufficient time period and level, the air borne spores will start growing, reproducing, spreading, and degrading many common household items and/or the structure.
Mold requires sufficiently high humidity levels or moisture intrusion in the presence of spores. Some mold species, such as Stachybotrys, require free standing water.
These materials are mold’s nutrient source. Cellulose-based materials include wood, paper, cardboard, boxes, upholstery, glues, etc. Mold breaks down cellulose-based materials into glucose, a basic sugar.
Alternaria mold is often found in kitchens and bathrooms around the faucets and sinks. It acts as an allergen.
Aspergillis, Penicillium, Stachybotrys, and Fusarium are molds commonly found in water-damaged buildings. These molds require higher levels of moisture than the common indoor and outdoor molds, and they are linked to much more severe health effects.
This is a fairly common mold type. It is commonly found in buildings with burst pipes, damaged foundation, porous foundations etc. It is common in old, abandoned or foreclosed properties. Penicillium mold grows within 48-72 hours after a water intrusion. Aflavatoxin, a carcinogen, can be a biproduct of this mold’s growth cycle. It is also an allergen.
Asperigllus and Penicillium are the more common molds found in water-damaged buildings.
Fusarium produces toxins called mycotoxins which can cause memory loss, headaches, fever, and even death. It requires high levels of moisture to grow. It is often found in the vicinity of standing water or regular water intrusions into a facility.
The Egyptians used yeast to bake bread and to produce beer and wine. Edible mushrooms have been eaten for thousands of years. Cheeses are made with the aid of specific molds. In more modern times, penicillium was used to create penicillin, an antibiotic.
In the Bible, Leviticus contains instructions on how to deal with a moldy home. Ancient peoples knew not to eat moldy food or grain because it would cause illness even death. In the mid 1800s, the Irish exodus to the U.S. was in great part due to the Potato Famine which was caused by mold attacking the potato crop, a staple part of the Irish diet.
A risk assessment is the process of entering a building to ascertain the potential severity of mold levels prior to remediation. It is the basis for setting up a mold remediation plan and includes a visual inspection, client interview, gathering a description of how the situation is occurring, often taking photos, and determining who and how the location is normally used, evaluating the basic state of the contents, and conducting pre remediation testing with indoor and outdoor air sampling recommended and often taking physical samples.