Saturday, February 28, 2009

Got Mold? Frequently Asked Questions About Mold

The Washington State Department of Health - Office of Environmental Health and Safety provides a webpage that answers many frequently asked questions about mold. Some of these are:

What are molds?

Molds are tiny microscopic organisms that digest organic matter and reproduce by releasing spores. Molds are a type of fungi and there are over 100,000 species. In nature, mold helps decompose or break-down leaves, wood and other plant debris. Molds become a problem when they go where they are not wanted and digest materials such as our homes.

What makes molds grow in my home?

Mold enters your home as tiny spores. The spores need moisture to begin growing, digesting and destroying. Molds can grow on almost any surface, including; wood, ceiling tiles, wallpaper, paints, carpet, sheet rock, and insulation. The mold grows best when there is lots of moisture from a leaky roof, high humidity, or flood. There is no way to get rid of all molds and mold spores from your home. But you can control mold growth by keeping your home dry.

Can I be exposed to mold?

When molds are disturbed, they release spores into the air. You can be exposed by breathing air containing these mold spores. You can also be exposed through touching moldy items, eating moldy food or accidental hand to mouth contact.

Do molds affect my health?

Most molds do not harm healthy people. But people who have allergies or asthma may be more sensitive to molds. Sensitive people may experience skin rash, running nose, eye irritation, cough, nasal congestion, aggravation of asthma or difficulty breathing. People with an immune suppression or underlying lung disease, may be at increased risk for infections from molds. A small number of molds produce toxins called mycotoxins. When people are exposed to high levels of mold mycotoxins they may suffer toxic effects, including fatigue, nausea, headaches, and irritation to the lungs and eyes. If you or your family members have health problems that you suspect are caused by exposure to mold, you should consult with your physician.

When is mold a problem?

You know you have mold when you smell the "musty" odor or see small black or white specks along your damp bathroom or basement walls. Some mold is hidden growing behind wall coverings or ceiling tiles. Even dry, dead mold can cause health problems, so always take precautions when you suspect mold.Mold is often found in areas where water has damaged building materials and furniture from flooding or plumbing leaks. Mold can also be found growing along walls where warm moist air condenses on cooler wall surfaces, such as inside cold exterior walls, behind dressers, headboards, and in closets where articles are stored against walls. Mold often grows in rooms with both high water usage and humidity, such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements. If you notice mold or know of water damaged areas in your home, it is time to take action to control its growth

For more answers to common questions about mold go to the Source:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Conditions That Promote Mold Growth

All of the conditions needed for mold growth (food sources and appropriate temperatures) are present in the indoor environment with the exception of adequate moisture as stated by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services - Epidemiology Section. Prevention of mold growth indoors can not be achieved without proper moisture control. The following are some of the moisture problems that cause indoor mold growth.

Water Intrusion

Rainwater can enter a building through leaks in walls, windows or the roof. Surface or ground water may enter when there is poor foundation drainage. Flooding can, of course, cause catastrophic intrusion. In buildings that have slab construction, water can seep or wick up through the cement floor causing mold to grow on carpet pads or carpet backing. The building envelope (walls, windows, floors , roof , etc.) must be well maintained to prevent water from coming in, both to prevent mold growth and to maintain the structural integrity of the building.

Water Vapor

When relative humidity (a temperature-dependent measure of water vapor in air) becomes elevated indoors, building materials and furnishings absorb the moisture. Those damp materials can then provide a good place for mold to grow. If there are no cold condensing surfaces and the relative humidity (RH) is maintained below 60 percent indoors, there will not be enough water in those materials for mold to grow. However, if the RH stays above 70 percent indoors for extended periods of time, mold will almost certainly grow.

In the summer, air conditioning can de-humidify indoor space. But if the system is too large or too small for the space it serves, the cooling system can create high humidity by cooling without removing water vapor. A properly sized and maintained system will dehumidify and cool a building.

When there are cold surfaces in a building, water vapor can condense on those surfaces, just as water condenses on the outside of a glass of ice water. Insulation of exterior walls can prevent condensation and mold growth during the winter.

You should always be mindful of indoor sources of water vapor that can be problematic. Clothes dryers must be vented to the outdoors. Unvented gas or kerosene space heaters can generate enormous amounts of water vapor (as well as other air contaminants), and should be used sparingly and never as a primary heat source. Always run the bathroom exhaust fan when showering or bathing, and make sure the vent is exhausted to outdoors. A properly vented kitchen exhaust fan can remove steam created during cooking.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Home Moisture Audit Overview

As per Environmental Health Watch - Moisture is both a blessing and a curse. When you have just what you need your health and the health of your buildings is ensured. But when you have too much, your buildings can fail in many ways that can not only damage the structure but affect your health and well-being. The information that follows is a tool to help you keep moisture in your house at acceptable and healthy levels.

The site has good information on moisture issues and problems and provides handy audit sheets. Go to the source for these sheets and more info

Friday, February 20, 2009

Children's Health Initiative: Toxic Mold

As per the United States Environmental Protection Agency: Outbreaks of the fungi Stachybotrys chartarum (S. chartarum) are under investigation for an association with the deaths of infants in Cleveland, Ohio, and serious health problems in other areas of the U.S. Although not widely found, Stachybotrys chartarum has been studied for the last 20 years. The following is documented.
  • Chartarum produces toxigenic spores that are potentially hazardous, especially when the air-conveyance system is involved.
  • Currently there are no EPA regulations or guidelines for evaluating potential health risks of chartarum contamination and remediation.
  • Chartarum is a greenish-black fungus that can grow on materials with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content (such as fiberboard, gypsum board, dust and lint).
  • The prevalence of chartarum contamination in indoor environments is unknown.
  • Sample collection of chartarum may be difficult due to the presence of other species of less toxic fungi.
  • Remediation of chartarum must be performed with much care to isolate and contain the spread of contamination and maintain the safety of the trained remediator.

This is Part I of V posts that will be on this subject. For additional information, visit the source at

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Controlling and Preventing Household Mold and Moisture Problems

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website provides a very informative report entitled " Controlling and Preventing Household Mold and Moisture Problems: Lessons Learned and Strategies for Disseminating Best Practices "

This Report to Congress describes ongoing and recently completed residential mold- and moisture-related work conducted by different offices within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The results of that work are presented, and the Department's strategies for reaching out to key groups with information about moisture control and mold prevention are discussed.

The complete report can be found at

Monday, February 16, 2009

Good Article on Mold and Fungi

A great article on mold and fungi recently appeared in The Marion Star. The Marion City Health Department frequently receives calls from the public regarding mold and the article provides information and answers. The complete article can be found at

Thursday, February 12, 2009

HVAC Cleaning and Remediation for Mold and Mildew

As per the NIOSH Interim Recommendations for the Cleaning and Remediation of Flood-Contaminated HVAC Systems: A Guide for Building Owners and Managers, the following are recommendations:

HVAC Cleaning and Remediation
  • Remove all flood-contaminated insulation surrounding and within HVAC systemcomponents. Discard these contaminated materials appropriately followingapplicable Federal, State, and local regulations.
  • Remove contaminated HVAC filter media and discard appropriately followingapplicable Federal, State, and local regulations.
  • After removing any insulation and filters, clean all flood-contaminated HVACsystem component surfaces with a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner to remove dirt,debris, and microorganisms. Pay special attention to filter racks, drain pans,bends and horizontal sections of air ducts where debris can collect.
  • After removing any insulation or debris, disinfect all HVAC system componentsurfaces while the HVAC system is not operating. Use a solution of 1 cup ofhousehold chlorine bleach in a gallon of water. Do not mix bleach with othercleaning products that contain ammonia.
  • Follow the disinfection procedure with a clean water rinse. Depending on theamount of debris present, it may be necessary to mechanically clean the HVACsystem component surfaces with a steam or a high-pressure washer beforeusing the disinfectant.
  • Note: Remove and discard HVAC system components that arecontaminated with flood water and cannot be effectively cleaned and disinfected. Replace them with new components.
  • After cleaning and disinfecting or replacing the HVAC system components,replace the insulation – preferably with an external (i.e. not in the air stream)smooth-surfaced insulation to help prevent debris and microorganisms fromcollecting in the future.
  • Make sure that the HVAC system fan has been removed and serviced (cleaned,disinfected, dried thoroughly, and tested) by a qualified professional before it isplaced back into the air-handling unit.
  • During the cleaning and remediation process, consider upgrading the HVACsystem filtration to the highest efficiency filters practical given the static pressureconstraints of the HVAC system fan. This step has been shown to be one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the long-term quality of the indoorenvironment, since it reduces the amount of airborne dusts and microorganisms.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mesothelioma Website Resource

Mesothelioma website is a website devoted to the needs of people diagnosed with mesothelioma. As per the website, " For those diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer of the lining of the lung (pleura) or the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum), finding a credible source of information about the disease itself and the medical options available, is of the highest priority. After years of research and synthesis of information, we have assembled a web site and packet for patients and their loved ones. We hope you find this web site helpful."

The website can be found at

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mold Prevention Strategies and Possible Health Effects in the Aftermath of Hurricanes and Major Floods

Extensive water damage after major hurricanes and floods increases the likelihood of mold contamination in buildings. This report provides information on how to limit exposure to mold and how to identify and prevent mold-related health effects. Where uncertainties in scientific knowledge exist, practical applications designed to be protective of a person's health are presented. Evidence is included about assessing exposure, clean-up and prevention, personal protective equipment, health effects, and public health strategies and recommendations. The recommendations assume that, in the aftermath of major hurricanes or floods, buildings wet for >48 hours will generally support visible and extensive mold growth and should be remediated, and excessive exposure to mold-contaminated materials can cause adverse health effects in susceptible persons regardless of the type of mold or the extent of contamination.

For the majority of persons, undisturbed mold is not a substantial health hazard. Mold is a greater hazard for persons with conditions such as impaired host defenses or mold allergies. To prevent exposure that could result in adverse health effects from disturbed mold, persons should 1) avoid areas where mold contamination is obvious; 2) use environmental controls; 3) use personal protective equipment; and 4) keep hands, skin, and clothing clean and free from mold-contaminated dust.

Clinical evaluation of suspected mold-related illness should follow conventional clinical guidelines. In addition, in the aftermath of extensive flooding, health-care providers should be watchful for unusual mold-related diseases. The development of a public health surveillance strategy among persons repopulating areas after extensive flooding is recommended to assess potential health effects and the effectiveness of prevention efforts. Such a surveillance program will help CDC and state and local public health officials refine the guidelines for exposure avoidance, personal protection, and clean-up and assist health departments to identify unrecognized hazards.

For entire article, please go to source below:


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Berkeley Lab, EPA Studies Confirm Large Public Health And Economic Impact of Dampness and Mold

Berkeley Lab, EPA Studies Confirm Large Public Health And Economic Impact of Dampness and Mold: They estimate that number of asthma cases attributable to exposure in home is 4.6 million, at $3.5 billion annual cost

A pair of studies to be published in the journal Indoor Air have quantified the considerable public health risks and economic consequences in the United States from building dampness and mold.

For complete article go to

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Checklist for Mold Remediation

As per the US EPA:

Investigate and evaluate moisture and mold problems

Please note that this checklist was designed to highlight key parts of a school or commercial building remediation and does not list all potential steps or problems.
  • PDF Version of the Checklist for Mold Remediation (PDF, 1 page, 20KB, About PDF)
  • Assess size of moldy area (square feet)
  • Consider the possibility of hidden mold
  • Clean up small mold problems and fix moisture problems before they become large problems
  • Select remediation manager for medium or large size mold problem \
  • Investigate areas associated with occupant complaints
  • Identify source(s) or cause of water or moisture problem(s)
  • Note type of water-damaged materials (wallboard, carpet, etc.)
  • Check inside air ducts and air handling unit
  • Throughout process, consult qualified professional if necessary or desired

Communicate with building occupants at all stages of process, as appropriate

  • Designate contact person for questions and comments about medium or large scale
  • remediation as needed

Plan Remediation

  • Adapt or modify remediation guidelines to fit your situation; use professional judgment
  • Plan to dry wet, non-moldy materials within 48 hours to prevent mold growth (see Table 1 and text)
  • Select cleanup methods for moldy items (see Table 2 and text)
  • Select Personal Protection Equipment - protect remediators (see Table 2 and text)
  • Select containment equipment - protect building, occupants (see Table 2 and text)
  • Select remediation personnel who have the experience and training needed to implement the remediation plan and use Personal Protective Equipment and containment as appropriate

Remediate moisture and mold problems

  • Fix moisture problem, implement repair plan and/or maintenance plan
  • Dry wet, non-moldy materials within 48 hours to prevent mold growth
  • Clean and dry mold materials (see Table 2 and text)
  • Discard moldy porous items that can't be cleaned (see Table 2 and text)

Questions to Consider Before Remediating

  • Are there existing moisture problems in the building?
  • Have building materials been wet more than 48 hours? (See Table 2 and text)
  • Are there hidden sources of water or is the humidity too high (high enough to cause condensation)?
  • Are building occupants reporting musty or moldy odors?
  • Are building occupants reporting health problems?
  • Are building materials or furnishings visibly damaged?
  • Has maintenance been delayed or the maintenance plan been altered?
  • Has the building been recently remodeled or has building use changed?
  • Is consultation with medical or health professionals indicated?

Avoid Exposure to and Contact with Mold

  • Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

For more information go to Source:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mold Prevention Tips From the CDC


As per the CDC website, these are tips to preventing mold:

Keep the humidity level in your home between 40% and 60%. Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months and in damp spaces, like basements.

Be sure your home has enough ventilation. Use exhaust fans which vent outside your home in the kitchen and bathroom. Make sure your clothes dryer vents outside your home.

Fix any leaks in your home’s roof, walls, or plumbing so mold does not have moisture to grow.

Clean up and dry out your home thoroughly and quickly (within 24–48 hours) after flooding.

Add mold inhibitors to paints before painting.

Clean bathrooms with mold-killing products.

Remove or replace carpets and upholstery that have been soaked and cannot be dried promptly.

Consider not using carpet in rooms or areas like bathrooms or basements that may have a lot of moisture.

To learn more about preventing mold in your home, see the Environmental Protection Agency's publication A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home at

Monday, February 2, 2009

Health Effects From Biological Contaminants

Health Effects From Biological Contaminants

As per the US EPA's website - Some biological contaminants trigger allergic reactions, including hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis, and some types of asthma. Infectious illnesses, such as influenza, measles, and chicken pox are transmitted through the air. Molds and mildews release disease-causing toxins. Symptoms of health problems caused by biological pollutants include sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, dizziness, lethargy, fever, and digestive problems.

Allergic reactions occur only after repeated exposure to a specific biological allergen. However, that reaction may occur immediately upon re-exposure or after multiple exposures over time. As a result, people who have noticed only mild allergic reactions, or no reactions at all, may suddenly find themselves very sensitive to particular allergens.

Some diseases, like humidifier fever, are associated with exposure to toxins from microorganisms that can grow in large building ventilation systems. However, these diseases can also be traced to microorganisms that grow in home heating and cooling systems and humidifiers. Children, elderly people, and people with breathing problems, allergies, and lung diseases are particularly susceptible to disease-causing biological agents in the indoor air.

Mold, dust mites, pet dander, and pest droppings or body parts can trigger asthma. Biological contaminants, including molds and pollens can cause allergic reactions for a significant portion of the population. Tuberculosis, measles, staphylococcus infections, Legionella and influenza are known to be transmitted by air.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Indoor Air Quality - Biological Contaminants

As per the US EPA website - Biological contaminants include bacteria, molds, mildew, viruses, animal dander and cat saliva, house dust, mites, cockroaches, and pollen (see more about Asthma triggers at There are many sources of these pollutants. Pollens originate from plants; viruses are transmitted by people and animals; bacteria are carried by people, animals, and soil and plant debris; and household pets are sources of saliva and animal dander. The protein in urine from rats and mice is a potent allergen. When it dries, it can become airborne. Contaminated central air handling systems can become breeding grounds for mold, mildew, and other sources of biological contaminants and can then distribute these contaminants through the home.

By controlling the relative humidity level in a home, the growth of some sources of biologicals can be minimized. A relative humidity of 30-50 percent is generally recommended for homes. Standing water, water-damaged materials, or wet surfaces also serve as a breeding ground for molds, mildews, bacteria, and insects. House dust mites, the source of one of the most powerful biological allergens, grow in damp, warm environments.

For more information go to the source