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Written By: Robert E. Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, President and Henry P. Shotwell, Ph.D., CIH
March 20, 2020
Controlling Mold Growth in Buildings
In background quantities, molds can be found everywhere—in outdoor air, water, our homes, our clothing and even on our pets. They are present in such small numbers that they don’t trigger reactions in humans, except in ultra-sensitive individuals.
But when molds find the right combination of moisture, food, and temperature, (and each species of mold needs a unique combination of food, moisture and temperature for optimum growth) they can propagate explosively. Removing any one of these three life essentials, will prevent their growth and make adverse reactions in building occupants unlikely.
The Growth of Mold Potential
When evaluating the growth potential for mold inside a building, it is absolutely essential to measure the type and amount of mold in the air outside the building, as well as inside. Normally, the amount and type of mold inside are about the same (or less) than found outdoors. If the indoor level is considerably higher than outdoors, this indicates a likely problem inside: a leaky roof, condensation on water pipes, drainage problems, or some other source of moisture inside the building. Of course, since molds can use wood and sheetrock paper for food, and many of them are most productive at room temperature, the one factor that controls mold growth indoors is moisture – without it the growth of mold cannot proceed.
Identifying, Isolating and Controlling
So, if a building has a mold problem, or seems likely to, how can it be fixed? In some buildings, the source of moisture can be identified, isolated and controlled. But in others, the whole building promotes mold growth. Sometimes seasonal conditions (heavy rains, prolonged hot or cold periods, floods and the like) allow heat and moisture to get trapped, especially in “energy-efficient” structures, and the whole building becomes an incubator. Controlling water (and thus moisture) is the single most effective means of preventing mold growth. In coastal areas and areas of prolonged high humidity, controlling the inflow of warm, moist air can be challenging. In these conditions, dehumidification is likely the best approach – REMEMBER THAT AIR CONDITIONERS ALSO ACT AS DEHUMIDIFIERS.
Regular inspection of building areas known to be damp or wet and immediate removal of the wetness through absorbent materials and de-humidifiers must be part of a good preventive maintenance program. Annual cleaning of air intakes, diffusers, drain pans, and filter boxes, as well as the use of fungicidal paints, regular carpet cleaning and the immediate removal of moldy spots on walls, floorboards, ceiling tiles or other surfaces, are equally important factors.
Finally, the building management has to have the authority to respond immediately to conditions that promote mold growth. The response must be fast and effective if Building-Related Disease (BRD) or Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is to be avoided.
Controlling mold growth in buildings can be difficult when the right combination of moisture, food, and the temperature has enabled mold to propagate. Contact us for mold investigations, mold testing/sampling of air and surfaces, and controlling mold in your building, or expert witness if litigation is involved or anticipated. Give us a call or use jour online form to get in touch. We will be looking forward to helping you.
Our primary service areas for controlling mold growth in buildings: prevention and control strategies, mold testing/sampling and consulting are New Jersey NJ, New York NY, (New York City), Pennsylvania PA, Connecticut CT, Delaware DE, Massachusetts, (Boston) MA, Rhode Island RI, Washington DC, Wisconsin WI, Maryland MD, Michigan MI, Illinois (Chicago) IL, Virginia VA, Indiana IN, Georgia (Atlanta) GA, Alabama AL, North Carolina NC, South Carolina SC, Tennessee TN, Texas (Dallas, Ft Worth) TX, Oklahoma OK, DC, Arkansas AR, Florida FL. We can service most other areas of the U.S. but with some added travel charges.