Mold is everywhere, every home and every commercial building contains mold spores. The type of mold, and the quantity of mold spores in the air determine if you have a problem that could pose health risks.
Molds require 3 things to grow. Food source, temperature, and water. Food sources, they can be just about anything, it will dine on drywall paper, glue in building materials, and wood. Mold will even grow on dust on a hard surface. Temperature, unfortunately, most molds grow at the temperature humans prefer, however they can still grow in near freezing temperatures, as well as much hotter temperatures. Lastly, moisture – and it is virtually always the final reason or catalyst for indoor mold problems, 70% rH (humidity) is the danger zone for mold growth though mold can procure its moisture source from wet building materials and not just the air it is in. Having these three conditions for 48-72 hours is where the problems typically begin, mold comes out of dormancy, reproduces, and sends millions more spores to repeat the cycle in other locations.
IAQ (indoor air quality) testing is how we determine what areas in the structure have a problem, how extensive it may be, and if there is an underlying condition in the structure that is currently promoting additional growth and advancement of the mold. For example, finding hyphal fragments (active spores) proves there are currently viable conditions promoting mold advancement. This tells us we have a water intrusion or humidity condition to seek out first and foremost.
When significant mold issues are proven within a structure through testing, proper Mold Abatement services are the only way to correct the condition.
First we’d like to define Abatement. Abatement by definition is the reduction or lessening of something. Mold Abatement, is the reduction or lessening of spore counts within your structure. In a nutshell, proper mold abatement is removing spores, not just “treating” the spores.
A common misconception is that if you kill spores, you are safe. That is not the case. People that will have reaction to spores, are reacting to the mycotoxins within the spores. Treating the spores with a disinfectant, renders the spores unable to reproduce, but it still leaves the physical entity present, and inside it are the mycotoxins. So “killing” mold spores only stops their ability to reproduce. It does not minimize health risks. When unsafe mold types and unsafe mold levels are found – the proper course of action is the removal of the mold spores – the abatement of mold spores.
Abatement is a very meticulous process. Keep in mind – what is happening is the collection and removal of microscopic organisms. All it takes is a single mis-step – and you can very easily cause more harm by spreading spores to unaffected areas.
The Mold Abatement Process
IAQ testing is always the first step, as well as the final step for clearance. IAQ test unequivocally provide the roadmap of the scope of work that must be performed in the various affected areas in a structure. Without them, you must fly blind.
Containment is the next crucial step. Proper containment means isolating affected areas from unaffected areas. This is achieved by erecting plastic barriers between areas, and keeping the affected area/s under negative air pressure. Negative air pressure is achieved by placing an air-scrubber, or fan inside the affected area that is now segregated, and venting it to the outside of that chamber. This creates a suction in the chamber, and air can no longer escape, any air leaks flow inward to the affected area, and thus you eliminate any chances of spores migrating from an affected area, to non-affected areas.
Removal of non-salvageable materials can now happen. All porous items that cannot be salvaged, carpet and padding, drywall, trim, etc – are removed, then bagged inside containment, then double bagged, and sealed, so that while they are transported through non contaminated areas – you are not sending spores out into the areas.
Abrasion & Sealing of salvageable porous materials is next. Items such as wood framing can be abrased mechanically via sanding or media blasting. You can’t simply wipe these surfaces as the spores on them will have penetrated and have the ability to immediately begin growth cycles again. After the materials are properly abrased, they must be sealed. Preferably with a paint based sealant that has mold and fungal inhibitors built in which will not allow growth to happen on those areas again for a period of time.
Abating airborne spores is the next step. Air-scrubbers fitted with commercial sized and graded HEPA filters, will process the air in the affected area and abate (remove) airborne mold spores. Many factors come into play in regards to how long air-scrubbers must be placed such as volume of areas, size of scrubbers, and airflow capacity of the scrubbers.
Secondary affected areas (areas that didn’t have actual growth happening, but do have elevated spore counts in the air) may now require extremely thorough flat surface and contents cleaning.
Finally, clearance testing. It is a second IAQ testing to get a post abatement spore count, and prove successful abatement.
Choosing a mold abatement company
In the previous section we have outlined the most widely industry accepted and proven means to properly repair mold problems. Unfortunately, for every 1 company that knows how to properly abate mold, there are 50 that have no idea and can cause much larger issues.
For example – there is actually a company in our area who abates mold by pressure washing the insides of structures. Keep in mind – water/moisture is what caused the mold problem in the first place. There are other firms that claim ozone, or hydroxyl generators, or spray treatments to kill mold will repair your problems, again, keep in mind that it is the physical entity, the spores themselves, that pose health risks, not whether they are dormant or alive. A dead spore can still pose a health risk. Finally, there are companies that follow some proper protocol, but ignore containment protocols and spread spores freely about a structure while making repairs.