Mold remediation is the process of removing mold and repairing mold-related damage in buildings. There are two important things to remember when dealing with mold: it is easier to prevent mold by controlling moisture and monitoring humidity levels; and when you face the mold danger, it is urgent that you take care of it immediately since it is harmful and is able to spread very fast. Studies have found that mold grows on materials that remain wet for 48 hours. A simple and easy way of preventing mold buildup is keeping moisture away by ventilating, ensuring there are no water leaks, and that the plumbing system is functioning well. Sinks, toilets, tubs, hot water heaters, roofs, and attics need to be checked for leaks. Windows and doors on exterior walls have to be tightly sealed. If the basement smells damp or musty, use a dehumidifier to prevent mold.
People can be exposed to mold through skin contact, inhalation, or ingestion. The majority of fungal spores have aerodynamic diameters of 2–10 µm, which allows particles to be deposited in the respiratory system. Prolonged exposure to high levels of mold can cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis – an immune-mediated disease also known as woodworker’s lung, malt worker’s lung and farmer’s lung disease.
The Department of Health has developed guidelines for cleaning up mold contamination. The following 4 basic steps are necessary for quickly remediating mold problems:
Step 1: Perform mold growth assessment
First, calculate the extent of the contamination. Assessing mold growth involves more than just looking at what is visible: mold can be an invisible threat. Behind any mold growth there is a moisture problem. Identifying the source of moisture will help you locate all mold, not just what is visible. Next, repair water leaks to prevent new growth by addressing the moisture source: fixing the plumbing system or sealing the windows, doors, and roofs.
Step 2: Remediate mold contamination
Remediation involves cleaning up existing mold-infected areas while avoiding exposure to mold. Calculating the scope of contamination is necessary: DIY project is possible for Level 1 (up to 10 square feet) and Level 2 remediation (from 10 to 30 square feet). For contamination areas larger than 30 square feet, only mold remediation specialists are qualified to perform the cleanup.
Step 3: Cleanup
The cleanup process is the same for Level 1 and Level 2 mold remediation and consists of these 5 steps:
1. Repair the water problem.
2. Isolate the contaminated area.
3. Clean. The cleaning process for Level 1 differs from Level 2 at this point. For Level 1, it is enough to clean the area with a damp cloth and a detergent solution. Level 2 requires vacuuming all the surfaces with a HEPA vacuum and then cleaning all surfaces with a damp cloth. Remove all wet and mold-damaged porous materials and discard them in plastic bags that are at least 6 millimeters thick, tie the bags closed. Wipe the outside of the bags with a damp cloth and a detergent solution prior to leaving the contamination area, and dispose of them in a regular trash can.
4. Visibility test. All areas should be visibly free of contamination and debris — no dust and dirt means no mold.
5. Dry. Cleaned materials should be dried to allow leftover moisture to evaporate. To speed up the drying process, use fans, dehumidifiers, or raise the indoor air temperature.
Step 4: Determine if the cleanup has been successful. The fact that there is no visible dust or dirt does not mean that you are done with your mold remediation project. The final step is to check if there are still signs of mold-damaged materials or moldy odors.
Minimizing exposure to mold involves administrative and engineering controls, and using PPE.
Administrative controls include identifying and restricting access to mold-contaminated areas and minimizing aerosol-generating activities by suppressing dust.
Engineering controls include ventilating mold-contaminated areas and using heavy equipment with sealed positive pressure, air-conditioned cabs that contain filtered air recirculation units to protect workers.
The main purpose of PPE in a mold-contaminated environment is the prevention of the inhalation and the ingestion of mold spores and eliminating the possibility of mold contact with skin and eyes. The minimum personal protection equipment for mold remediation includes goggles without vents, a respirator, a coverall, and rubber gloves.
Long gloves that extend to the middle of the forearm are recommended. When using the chlorine bleach or a strong cleaning solution, gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC are an ideal solution. When using a mild detergent or plain water, household rubber gloves can be used. Latex or non-latex medical examination gloves should be used if hands are likely to be in contact with infectious materials. The appropriate personal protective clothing (reusable or disposable) is recommended to minimize cross-contamination between work areas and clean areas. Tyvek coverall suits with attached hood and booties are perfect for mold remediation since they protect your whole body and are easy to put on and take off.
Safety glasses or goggles with open vent holes are not a good choice for a mold remediation project. To protect eyes, a full face respirator or goggles designed to prevent the entry of small particles are needed.
The best respirators for mold remediation include full face and half mask models: an N-95 Respirator Mask, an N-99 Respirator Mask, an N-100 Respirator Mask, a half-face respirator, and a full-face respirator. Some of the most popular brands that offer good protection against mold are 3M and Moldex.
You also need additional equipment for your mold remediation project: a vacuum with a HEPA filter and large sheets of heavy plastic to tape over doorways and air vents to prevent the spread of mold spores to other areas of the building. A negative air machine is also recommended to help with removing airborne mold.
When it comes to mold, the key is to implement a comprehensive moisture management strategy. For more info go to: https://www.cdc.gov/mold/cleanup.htm