A cure for the common mold: From understanding it to abating it

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A common theme in some of our past newsletters has been preventing water leaks and water intrusion into your home. In this article, we will focus on mold and some of the issues you can anticipate when it is discovered in your home or business. What is mold? Truth be told, I had to look back to an introductory biology textbook to refresh myself on the world of mold. Mold, referred to as “fungi” if in a class, are an important part of the nutrient cycle and food chains. As decomposers, they are responsible for the breakdown of dead plants and animals into less complex nutrients, allowing for re-absorption into the food chain. While just about everyone can recognize this is an important component of the food cycle, no one wants to see mold in their home.

Mold growth can not only be an unsightly nuisance, but can occasionally cause respiratory complications and, if left untreated long enough, can cause structural damage (think rotting wood). Why is it growing? Mold typically requires a substrate (food) and moisture to grow, hence it is found in nearly every climate in the world. Indoors, mold spores will not adhere and grow unless there is significant moisture. If there are pipe breaks, points of water seepage and condensation, this may provide the ideal atmosphere. It is important to routinely look over walls and flooring surfaces, as well as water and drainage pipes for changes in coloration and texture. Remember, the surface on which the mold is growing is most likely its food source, so don’t leave it growing in place long-term.

Chances are if you see visible mold, the water damage has been present for some time. What should you do about it? First, consider contacting your insurance carrier. You should always make an informed decision on whether or not the areas of damage and the size of moldy areas warrant an insurance claim. Should you decide to notify your insurance carrier, they may have preferred vendors and consultants who can assist you in abating the mold in a responsible manner.

Additionally, the use of an environmental consultant or industrial hygienist can determine if the air quality was adversely affected due to the mold. A multi-disciplined firm will have the expertise to look for both primary and secondary sources of water contributing to mold growth. Well-trained inspectors may be able to identify the presence of primary, secondary and tertiary mold species to assist you in determining the life cycle and time frame of the established mold growth. This may be important for determining long-term growth versus short-term growth.

When abating mold, your contractor should follow some basic guidelines: Always wear the appropriate respiratory protection to prevent undue harm. Try to isolate impacted areas from other rooms. Use tarps, poly plastic, or other means to prevent cross-contamination when demolishing mold-impacted surfaces. Wear long sleeve shirts and pants when working with mold-impacted surfaces to avoid unnecessary dermal contact.

Dehumidify work areas. Removing excess moisture will prevent future re-growth. Consider hiring a consultant to conduct post-remediation air sampling. Indoor mold content should be evaluated in comparison to ambient outdoor air. This is typically within the realm of an environmental consultant. Rebuild as needed. Kevin M. Taylor is an environmental consultant with 15 years of experience. He holds a M.S in GeoSciences – Hydrogeology and a B.S. in Biology from Stony Brook University. The last 10 years of his career have been focused on the investigation and management of pollution-based claims on behalf of some of the largest insurance carriers in the Northeast. Have questions? Kevin can be reached at ktaylor@h2m.com.