What is mold?
We have probably all encountered mold at one time or another. It might have been in the shower, or on a stale piece of bread or wet drywall. Mold is a microscopic life form found in all parts of the world. It is part of the natural decay process of organic materials. There are many different species of mold, and while they are diverse, they share some common characteristics:
- Molds require an organic food source. The most common food source indoors is cellulose, which is found in building materials such as wood and drywall.
- Molds require oxygen, so they do not grow under water.
- Molds require moisture. To prevent mold, buildings must be kept dry.
- Molds are spread by tiny particles called “spores.”
Why is it a problem?
- The colored, fuzzy growth on the surface of a wall, floor, ceiling or other indoor surface is obviously very objectionable.
- Active mold colonies usually emit a very unpleasant, musty odor.
- Because the job of mold is to digest, decay and recycle dead organic matter, it will eventually destroy whatever surface it grows on.
- Exposure to mold spores can cause mild to severe allergic reactions, depending on individual sensitivity.
What is a reasonable and safe response?
The best way to deal with mold is to prevent it from happening. If the drying of wet building materials is commenced within 24 hours (assuming clean water), the chances of preventing mold growth are excellent. If building materials remain wet, it is inevitable that mold will start to grow. Therefore, addressing and eliminating moisture problems is the critical first step. Simply put, “Got Moisture? Got Mold!”
However, once mold is present, drying is not enough. Moldy materials must be either removed or decontaminated. This process is called remediation, which means “to remedy” or “to cure.” Proper remediation procedures will be determined by the size, scope and nature of the mold contamination.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a helpful guidebook for homeowners about the cleanup and prevention of mold problems in homes. This booklet, entitled A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home, can help you decide when you can handle mold cleanup yourself and when you should call a professional. The booklet is available on the EPA website at www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/moldguide.html.
Address the issues promptly
Just how far reaching the effects of mold may be is yet to be determined. What is clear is that living or working in a moldy home or building is ill advised. The obvious response is to address water intrusion issues promptly and thoroughly, before mold has a chance to grow. ServiceMaster Restoration by Desert Dry in the Phoenix area is one of the industry leaders in professional water damage mitigation and restoration services and stands ready to serve you.
Our mold technicians are IICRC certified to handle the problems associated with your loss.
If you suspect you may have mold, call today for a complete inspection and estimate.
Typical Mold Remediation Process
- Identify the source. Without first identifying the conditions that encouraged mold growth, ServiceMaster Restoration by Desert Dry cannot succeed. Depending on the situation, the initial mold inspection may be performed by an industrial hygienist. If visible mold is present and the source of the contamination has been determined an industrial hygienist may not be needed yet. If there is a question about the origin and scope of the loss a hygienist may be consulted for clarification.
- Identify the extent. Next, it is important to identify the extent of the mold growth and water damage. Often this involves the use of moisture meters, thermal imaging and other specialized equipment. Air quality sampling can also be employed to identify the extent of the contamination.
- Containment. During the mold removal and remediation process the mold spores will often become disturbed and aerosolized. This can lead to cross contamination and create a situation much worse than the original problem. ServiceMaster uses specialized techniques to contain the area. This involves the use of HEPA filtration, negative air machines and plastic sheeting.
- Removal. After containment is in place, the mold damaged materials are removed. Often this includes the removal of porous materials such as sheetrock, upholstered furniture, carpeting, insulation, cabinets, etc.
- Decontamination. Non-porous or semi-porous materials such as wood framing, metal, plastic and concrete can be cleaned in place. HEPA vacuuming, wire brushing, sanding and other cleaning techniques are utilized to remove all remaining mold spores from the contaminated area. Often, an antimicrobial solution is applied to the remaining materials as well.
- Clearance Testing. Upon completion of the mold remediation and removal project a final clearance inspection is performed. ServiceMaster works with a third party inspection company (certified industrial hygienist) to verify that no mold is present through air sampling, surface sampling and other various tests.
Different types of mold
Alternaria: Extremely widespread and common spore. Common in soil, dead plants, and foodstuffs. It is often found indoors growing on cellulosic materials and as settled dust on carpets, textiles, etc. Potential opportunistic human pathogen. Commonly recognized as type 1 (hay fever) and type 3 (hypersensitivity pneumonitis).
Chaetomium: Commonly found on a variety of substances containing cellulose including paper and plant compost. It can readily be found on the damp or water damaged paper in sheetrock. The thermpohilic, neurotropic nature of this organism suggests it is potentially aggressive. No toxic diseases have been documented to date.
Cladosporium: Commonly found on dead plants, woody plants, food, straw, soil, paint and textiles. Common cause of extrinsic asthma (immediate-type hypersensitivity: type 1). Acute symptoms include edema and bronchiospasms; chronic cases may develop Pulmonary emphysema.
Curvularia It may cause corneal infections, mycetoma and infections in immune compromised hosts.
Dicyma: No information is currently available with regarding the health effects of this mold. It is commonly found on woody materials, cardboard, paper and other cellulosic Materials.
Fusarium: A common soil fungus. It is found on a wide variety of plants. The fungus also has been found in humidifiers. Symptoms may occur either through ingestion of Contaminated foods or inhalation of spores. In severe cases, the fungus can produce hemorrhagic syndrome in humans. This is characterized by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dermatitis, and extensive internal bleeding. Frequently involved in eye, skin, and nail infections.
Ganoderma: Considered a basidiospore. Edible in mushroom form and a very important in the food industries.
Hyphae: Tubular, thread-like pieces of the fungal organism. Cannot be identified as to what genus they originated from.
Other basidiospores: Spores from one of the major classes of fung that include, for example, the mushrooms, shelf fungi, and puffballs.
Penicillium / Aspergillus: This group is considered common to indoor environments. It is widespread in the soil and on plants and is also considered a common contaminant of food. It has a musty odor. It is commonly being implicated in pulmonary disease in immunocompromised hosts. It has also been reported to cause skin infections. Many species produce mycotoxins, which may be associated with disease in humans and other animals. Toxin production is dependent on the strain, or on the food source on which it grows. Some of these toxins have been found to be carcinogenic in animal species. Several toxins are considered potential human carcinogens.
Pithomyces: Grows on dead grass and plants. Prolonged exposure can cause facial eczema. Causes type 2 allergies (hayfever type symptoms, asthma).
Rhizopus / Mucor: It may cause mucorosis in immune compromised individuals. The sites of infection are the lung, sinus, brain, eye, and skin. Infection may have multiple sites.
Stachybotrys: This is a slow growing, dark mold that grows well on cellulosic (paper-containing) building materials. It can produce a number of different macrocyclic trichothecenes which have been descirbed as being toxic to humans and animals. Individuals with chronic exposure to the toxins produced by this mold report cold and flu-like symptoms, sore throats, headaches, fatigue, dermatitis, itching and burning sensations of the eyes and nose, and general malaise. This mold is rarely found in outdoor samples, and it is usually not found in indoor air samples unless the colony is dry is then physically disturbed.
Ulocladium: Isolated from dead plants, cellulose materials, and textiles. Causes type 2 allergies (hayfever, flu-like symptoms).