April - Black Mold: How do we Combat It?
Black Mold: How do we Combat It?
Mold is the newest health problem that we are charged to combat. What is it, how does it affect us and what do we do about it? These are the questions that are being asked by all who deal with mold.
According to the B & L Management Alert newsletter, the Environmental Protection Agency PA reports that black mold has the potential to cause allergic and hypersensitivity diseases, along with other health problems. Management of this hazard is crucial. In fact, an epidemic is underway in the insurance industry for claims involving mold, fungi, and mycotoxins. The result is contamination of "moldy" buildings and resulting lawsuits are on the rise.
Actual lawsuits that have have been filed:
- Two employees of United Airlines against the City of Denver, Colorado, in the millions of dollars, for mold in the International Airport.
- Parents in a Florida school district have filed a lawsuit for millions of dollars for mold in school buildings.
- In San Antonio, a judge has given the "green light" to file suit against the city for failing to clean mold in a city building.
WHAT IS MOLD?
There are more than 100,000 species of mold and 1,000 of these are present in the U.S. Mold is everywhere--indoors and outdoors. The most common types that we see are cladosporium, penicillin and Aspergillius.
Mold is most likely to grow where there is dampness, such as in bathrooms and basements and anywhere there is water damage or high humidity. Most often the mold is confined to spaces where water is close.
HOW DOES IT AFFECT US?
Most types of mold that are routinely encountered are not hazardous to healthy individuals. However, too much exposure to mold may cause or worsen conditions such as asthma, hay fever or other allergies. The most common symptoms of overexposure are cough, congestion, runny noses, eye irritation and aggravation of asthma. It depends upon the amount of the exposure and the person's vulnerability, but more serious health effects -- such as fever and breathing problems -- can occur, but are unusual.
HOW DO WE REMOVE IT?
There is no cheap or simple way to test the mold in buildings or homes to find out the types that are present and whether they are airborne. An environmental consultant and a laboratory specializing in microbiology would have to be called. This could cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to determine the type. It is more important to get rid of the mold rather than find out about the type.
The most effective way to treat the mold is to find the underlying water damage or source of dampness. Then correct this problem and clean the area. The persons cleaning the mold should be free of allergies and symptoms. Small areas of mold should be cleaned using a detergent/soapy solution or a good household cleaner. Obviously, gloves should be worn during the cleaning process. The cleaned area should be thoroughly dried. Dispose of any rags or sponges used in the cleaning. If the mold is extensive, it might require calling a professional abatement company for advice.
PREVENTION OF MOLD
- Find the source of the dampness and repair it.
- Reduce humidity by venting bathrooms, dryers and other moisture-generating sources, with air conditioners and/or dehumidifiers.
- Increase ventilation by using by using exhaust fans when cooking, dishwashing and cleaning.
- Prevent condensation by reducing the potential for condensation on cold surfaces such as windows, pipes, exterior walls, roofs or floors by adding insulation.
When we see that mold is forming, or is already present, we should take action to find out the source, get it corrected, and clean and dry the area. If this doesn't stop the growth, then the source wasn't corrected and the need to redo the process is necessary.
US Environmental Protection Agency
NY City -- Dept. of health and Mental Hygiene
Ted Gordon is the Risk Management/Loss Control Manager for the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. His office is located in the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, in Verona, MS. His telephone number is 662-566-2201.