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June 2012

Fungus "Amungus" Part 3: I have a water leak in my home or business. Now what should I do?

Stephen-Badger Posted by Stephen Badger

Now you have results from the air sampling that was taken to determine if you have a mold problem. But what do all those names and numbers really mean?

As outlined in Part 1 of this series there are several types of mold that are common to our region of the United States and show up regularly on air samples. Their presence alone does not mean that you have a mold problem. Common types of mold include Cladosporium, Aspergillus/Penicillium, Basidospores and Epicoccum. These molds tend to grow on sheetrock, wood, cloth, plants, and unfinished floors.

One type of mold in particular received a great deal of bad press in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina. After the flood waters receded in Louisiana and Mississippi, news reports of “Black Mold” filled the airways. This type of mold is called Stachybotris and is also found in our part of the country and tends to take root after building materials have remained wet for a long period of time. If your report identifies this type of mold it is generally indicative of a long term water problem and not just a single incident that was taken care of quickly. This mold can make people sick because of the mycotoxins they emit so remediation should be performed by professionals.

To determine if an actual mold “problem” exists, the interior air samples need to be compared with air samples that were taken outside of the potentially contaminated area. These samples will tell you how much of the mold inside your residence/building came from the outside environment. As a rule of thumb, an area is considered contaminated if the inside mold concentrations exceed ten times the outside levels.

Remediation of a mold contaminated area must be done carefully to prevent spreading the mold to other areas. Specific protocols need to be developed to determine removal locations, building materials to be removed, isolation procedures and how to determine if the remediation was a success. Always use fully insured remediation companies to cover any unforeseen damages created during the process.

Air samples should be taken by an independent party after the remediation is completed to compare with previous samples and the outside air. The remediation is not complete until the mold levels in the area are statistically similar to outside air sources.


Fungus "Amungus" Part 2: I have a water leak in my home or business. Now what should I do?

Stephen-Badger Posted by Stephen Badger

Once you have decided to have your home or office tested for mold it is important to understand the different types of mold testing that are available and their limitations.

#1                 

"Tape” or “surface” testing is accomplished by placing a special tape onto a flat surface to measure the amount of mold within a given surface area. The tape samples are then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Typically, results are given in terms of “low”, “moderate”, or “high” but do not tell you how much you are breathing in. Some insurance companies require this type of sampling to verify cleanliness after a mold abatement company has completed their work. Because nothing is known of the area before any contamination took place it is impossible to determine what is “clean” and therefore results are subjective.

#2

“Agar” or “plate” testing can be accomplished by purchasing an agar plate(s) at a local “big box” store, opening the lid for a certain amount of time, and then sending the sealed plate(s) to a lab for analyses. The biggest benefit of this type of testing is cost as it can be performed by anyone without special equipment. However, results are subjective as only the mold spores that randomly fall on the agar plate are identified.

#3

The third type of testing used to determine if mold contamination is present is “air testing”. This process is typically performed by an individual who has been trained as specialized equipment is needed and calculations are usually necessary to interpret results. The hygienist should typically inspect the suspect area looking for visible mold growth, areas of water infiltration, and other sources that may be contributing to the amount of mold in the air. The air sampling is typically done using a vacuum pump. Mold spores in the air will be deposited on agar plates or tape cassettes which are sent to a laboratory for analyses. The location of the air coming into the potentially contaminated area must also be tested to make sure that the mold found on the samples is not from the outside. The biggest limitation of this type of testing is the cost. The hygienist will charge for his/her time as well as the cost of the analyses. Make sure that any hygienist you hire has “Professional Liability Insurance” and that the laboratory performing the analyses is accredited. Insist on seeing proof of both before work starts.

Part three of this series will deal with the interpretation of testing results and identification of different types of mold.


The Fungus "Amungus" Part 1: There's a water leak in my home or business. Now what?

Stephen-Badger Posted by Stephen Badger

You have just discovered four inches of water in your office, or finished basement, after a heavy rain storm – and now you have no idea what to do – or even where to start. The first, and most important thing is:  Don’t panic.

In Part 1 of this series I will explain what mold is, how it gets into your home or business, and basic measures that eliminate or control the growth of mold.

Mold is a microscopic, living organism – a fungus – that exists throughout all parts of the world.  Recent studies have identified 400,000 different types of mold, but only about 50 are found locally.  Occasionally, rare species are found in the Northeast, but these are typically brought into the area as contamination on produce, machinery or shipping containers. 

Only a few molds cause serious health issues in most people.  The “reactions” or “allergies” that some people have to mold result from mold by-products, known as “mycotoxins”.  In addition, these “by-products” cause the smells that are associated with mold.  In order to grow mold needs three things:

  1. Mold (or mold spores) must be present – As stated above, mold is found everywhere and it travels through the air in its spore form.  Mold is found even in the cleanest of homes and offices.  Do-it-yourself test kits for mold merely confirm that mold is present.  If air testing is needed to determine whether an area is contaminated with mold, it should be done by a trained professional using calibrated equipment.
  2. Food source – Different types of mold will “eat” different types of materials. Some  prefer sheetrock and others grow best on wood products or cloth.  These food sources can never be eliminated completely so to prevent mold growth it is critical to control the third element- moisture.
  3. Moisture -- Mold has a very difficult time growing when the relative humidity is less than 50%; it needs moisture, like humans do, for digestion and other life functions.  By eliminating leaks, removing accumulated moisture, and reducing the relative humidity – mold growth can be stopped.

When mold does not get enough moisture it reverts to a spore form. This means that even when moisture is eliminated; the mold spores are still there – staying viable until moisture levels rise enough to allow growth. 

Part 2 of this series will cover testing to determine if you really have a mold problem.


Enjoy the Summer Safely

Henry Reynolds Posted by Henry Reynolds


It may be hard to visualize this, considering the recent rain we’ve seen in the northeast, but it's the time of the year when we should be working outside and enjoying the warm weather.  Landscapers, gardeners, arborists, and the construction tradesmen are busy, but hopefully we can also enjoy a round of golf, yard work, or other recreational activity. Protecting the skin and eyes against the sun is one of the best things you can do to protect your future health.  Solar radiation is strongest between 10:00am and 3:00pm, so it’s especially important to protect your skin against the sun during these hours.

Heat cramps, exhaustion, and heat stroke also pose a threat to outdoor workers in the summer season.  These maladies are combined under the term “heat illness”.  According to OSHA, “The body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn't enough. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken. Heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.” Check out their online resource entitled, “OSHA’s Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness.”

Here are some hints to reduce your risk: 

  • Limit your time in the sun when possible.  If the job requires workers to be exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods, then ensure they take appropriate breaks in shaded areas.  Try at least a few minutes in the shade each hour.
  • Liberally apply sunscreen on the face, neck, hands, forearms, ears, and any other unprotected skin area. Use a product with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 or more.  Put sunscreen on before heading outside and you may have to apply more during the day.
  • Eye damage can also result from prolonged exposure to the sun.  Always wear sunglasses that filter out at least 90 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays.
  • Wearing a hat will also reduce exposure to the sun and reduce dehydration as the day wears on.
  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Monitor employees regularly; look for signs of dehydration or over exposure. 

Additional prevention and treatment information is available from the Mayo Clinic or your preferred medical provider.  Enjoy the summer weather, but always respect the power of Mother Nature.