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Controlling Mold Growth in Buildings: Prevention and Control Strategies

If you need assistance with controlling mold/mildew growth in buildings as discussed in this article call us at 1-800-344-4414 or email us at info@atlenv.com for details and a free estimate.

Written by Robert E. Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, President and Henry P. Shotwell, Ph.D., CIH, Vice President

November 5, 2018, Updated June 2019

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 the three 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) as found outdoors. If the indoor level is considerably higher than outdoors, this indicates a likely problem inside: a leaky roof, condensation on water pipes or some other source of moisture inside the building. Of course, since molds can use wood and wallboard for food, and many of them are most productive at room temperature, the one factor that controls mold growth indoors is the moisture supply. Without its growth 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 inflows is the single most effective means of controlling mold growth. In coastal areas and areas of prolonged high humidity, controlling the inflow of warm, moist air can be challenging. Try air conditioning for starters!

Preventative Maintenance

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, and filter boxes, as well as the use of fungicidal paints, regular carpet cleaning and the immediate removal of moldy spots on walls, floorboards 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 Illness or Sick Building Syndrome is to be avoided.

Controlling mold growth in buildings can be a task when the right combination of moisture, food, and the temperature has enabled mold to propagate explosively. 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 our online form to get in touch. We will be looking forward to helping you.

Our primary service areas for Mold Testing/Sampling and Consulting are: NJ, NY, NYC, PA, CT, DE, (Boston) MA, RI, Wash DC, WI, MD, MI, (Chicago) IL, VA, IN, (Atlanta) GA, AL, NC, SC, TN, (Dallas, Ft Worth) TX, OK, DC, AR, we can service most other areas of the U.S. but with some added travel charges.

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