Is Your Home Making You Ill?

mold picture in crawlspace

Floodco LLC is in the business of treating homes and buildings when they are a little bit under the weather or even needing advanced life support. This year we are dealing with a significant number of burst pipe floods, also fire and smoke damaged homes directly related to the extreme cold winter in Montana.

During any season, people suffering from allergies, asthma, sinus problems  suspect something in their home or workplace might be causing or aggravating their symptoms call us with questions about mold. If mold is identified in their home or work place, after correcting the problem, occupants report improvements in their health and quality of life, sometimes truly dramatic improvements.

This post is an attempt to clear up a few misperceptions people have about dealing with mold in the indoor environment. Some people think that removing mold involves simply killing it. Like sneaking up on the stuff before it hears you coming and then dispatching it, forever, with strong ‘box store’ chemicals recommended by the EPA. That is not really the way mold remediation is done.

Mold remediation isn’t about killing mold, it’s about removing it and the water causing the problem. Mostly it is also about cleaning to prevent the return of mold. Even if you “kill it,” dead mold is still allergenic and potentially toxic, according to the EPA. Leaving behind dead mold doesn’t solve the problem, even if it is covered with some encapsulating paint.

The governing authority of the mold remediation industry is IICRC. As described in the IICRC S520 Mold Remediation Standard, the purpose of mold remediation is to restore an affected property to a “normal” condition. Here’s what’s involved and you’ll see it’s really fairly uncomplicated.

  • First – The source of any water or moisture causing the mold to grow must be found and eliminated. There is no point in going further until this is done.               Fixing plumbing leaks or deficient ventilation is crucial.
  • Isolate the work area to contain any dust and spores disturbed during the cleaning and prevent workers spreading particulate into clean areas.
  • Remove affected materials that cannot be cleaned, such as sheetrock, insulation, carpet, carpet padding and other porous items.
  • Clean hard surfaces that can be cleaned such as wood, glass, metal, plastic, concrete, tile, etc., using HEPA vacuums and good, old-fashioned, elbow grease. Chemicals, including registered fungicides for cleaning and stain removing may be applied at this point.
  • Scrub the air with HEPA filters.
  • Verify that the work area no longer contains abnormal fungal material. Testing may be done to verify this microscopically.

Traditionally bleach products have been used to remove mold. The unfortunate thing about fungicides is that many of them are water-based, and the active ingredient evaporates relatively quickly. Bleach for example, is about 2% sodium hypochlorite and 98% water. When you use bleach for mold remediation, the sodium hypochlorite evaporates rapidly, leaving behind Water. Nice, you’ve just added water to a water problem. Spores will settle on dampened surfaces left behind, germinate and begin to feed on any dead mold not removed, and grow back again.

Caution is necessary with fungicide application inside homes. Not only are you adding an additional toxin to your home or workplace, you may also be stimulating the mold to produce more of the very thing most people should worry about when they have a mold problem: mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are the toxins some molds produce and release into their and your surroundings. There is strong evidence that chronic exposure to mycotoxins is a bad thing for humans. Research has also shown that mycotoxin production can actually be stimulated by certain fungicides.

There are a few circumstances when biocides are prudent and should be applied. If bacteria is a concern, such as after sewage spills, grey or black water floods, and in certain circumstance involving individuals with compromised immune systems. Most mold remediation jobs should minimize harsh chemicals as biological killing agents.

Finally, there’s an approach used by some contractors and homeowners which applies antimicrobial encapsulating paints to surfaces during remediation. This is an unnecessary and wasteful step. Most of the antimicrobial value of these paints dissipates in a matter of months, leaving behind nutrients to support or accelerate future fungal growth – if the right amount of moisture is again present. In all cases, the mold won’t return without moisture. So adding a coating isn’t necessary if the materials are thoroughly dried. If a food source is again moistened, mold will return no matter how much antimicrobial paint is applied to the food source.

In summary, there’s only one truly effective antifungal. It works effectively each and every time producing no adverse reactions. It never dissipates. It’s called DRY. As in, no water. The standard for drying of wood, for instance, is 10% or less.

In other words, keep all things in your indoor environment clean and dry, and you don’t need more harsh chemicals, and you won’t need to hire us. But if you should find yourself trying to figure out how to proceed when your home comes down with a ’mold infection’, we’re here to help. Call 406 892-1717.